Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 639

The reader is left to ponder what God, Little Flower, Marcel Pretre, and the author are about. Clearly, the significance of the story does not lie in the story line. The action is so minimal as to qualify it for the designation “antistory.” However, this lack of action is typical...

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The reader is left to ponder what God, Little Flower, Marcel Pretre, and the author are about. Clearly, the significance of the story does not lie in the story line. The action is so minimal as to qualify it for the designation “antistory.” However, this lack of action is typical of the stories of Clarice Lispector and does not constitute an oversight or flaw in the construction of the narrative. She has a purpose to her writing that is far more important to her than recounting the adventures of fictional characters: The story exists as a vehicle through which to demonstrate her philosophical convictions.

Lispector, a thoroughgoing existentialist, explores in her stories the pain of ambiguity experienced by her fictional characters. Trivial moments generate confrontations with self-discovery that are wrenchingly sad, revealing to the characters their weakness in fearing freedom and the absurdity of human existence. The very triviality of the event, coupled with its profound impact, lends a grotesque incongruity to the moment and generates a flash of insight into the existentialist ambiguity of the human condition, which has been labeled the Absurd.

Marcel Pretre, explorer, hunter, and man of the world, moves from civilized, conventional surroundings into the equatorial jungle. This journey takes him into a setting of lush, rampant vegetation, where the jungle, the humidity, and the heat suggest the pervasive force of nature as one explores more and more deeply within the uncivilized jungle, and symbolically within the human personality. However, Pretre ignores the lush presence of the untamed jungle as he probes deeper and deeper. When, in the deepest interior of the jungle, he discovers the ultimate human creature, the smallest woman in the world, Pretre feels awed almost to the point of giddiness at actually confronting nature’s rarest product, a truly unique creation. Nature has derived this ultimate creature from a succession of smaller and smaller pygmies. Pretre has a sense that he has “arrived at the end of the line.” He is enchanted by her rarity, charmed by her strangeness, and attracted to her as “a woman such as the delights of the most exquisite dream had never equaled.”

Little Flower is the totally natural person, one who has never suffered the anguish of having to make choices and impose restrictions. She lives wholly in concord with her impulses and emotions, and she cares not at all for the acceptance or the indifference of humanity because she scarcely comprehends the existence of the rest of the world. When Marcel sends her picture and description to the newspaper for publication in the Sunday supplement, he treats her as a curiosity for the amusement of the bored weekend reader. He describes her as “black as a monkey,” and the picture he sends makes her look much like a dog. The identification with animal characteristics emphasizes the identification of Little Flower with nature, as well as her difference from the civilized people reading the paper. Her differences evoke in certain readers of the newspaper article a recognition of the uniqueness of each person, and the consequent alienation of every person from others. Readers are forced into moments of insight that strip away the conventional amenities and force them to recognize their own character and the implications of their own condition within the scope of civilized humanity.

The comment of the old woman at the end of the story gains force as one realizes that the author is suggesting that God (or Nature) knows what He is about in forcing people from time to time to acknowledge their natural feelings. Failure to acknowledge and fulfill these impulses and emotions represents a choice to restrict and thwart one’s own personality, leading to a loss of touch with one’s own self and a failure, because of weakness and fear, to achieve one’s full potential.

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