The Smallest Woman in the World Analysis
by Clarice Lispector

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Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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The author employs limited physical description but detailed omniscience when she explores the thoughts and feelings of the characters in the story. She describes the characters sometimes from the internal perspective of their thoughts and feelings, and at other times simply by describing their behavior, letting the reader determine the implications.

Lispector uses humor as a contrast to the overarching themes of failure and isolation that inform the story. An example of her humor occurs in the scene in which Little Flower scratches herself “where one never scratches,” while the explorer is regarding her with awestruck adoration, and he modestly averts his gaze.

The author uses symbolism constantly. The jungle, the animal references, the newspaper supplement, the explorer and his long search leading to his discovery, his helmet, his notes, the treetop home, and the name Little Flower are all conspicuous symbols in this story. Lispector’s intense exploration of the emotional moments of crisis and discovery, and the contrast of this intensity with the surface calm of the action, give the story a special focus on the inner conflict of the characters. None of the characters is particularly well developed. They are all, except for Little Flower, intended to represent deep psychological complexities, and the author forces recognition of their ambiguities and the meaning, or meaninglessness, of their existence.