Humor in a New Reading of Clarice Lispector Author(s): Valérie C. Lastinger Source: Hispania, Vol. 72, No. 1 (Mar., 1989), pp.
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Vale'rieC. Lastinger, Universityof Georgia Valerie University Georgia
Humor in a New Reading of Clarice Lispector
of Clarice Lispector, in particularLagos de familia, to start with two premises. The first is that the Brazilianauthorowes much to the French existentialist Jean-PaulSartre and to Albert Camus. The second is that in each short story, Lispector tells the experience of an epiphany.Indeed, the general atmosphere
t is traditional whenone studiesthe work implies that the main character is presented
alone, hopelessly separated from the others, be they human or animal.Thus, as Massaud Moises has explained,"thedialoguesbetween characters become absurd games, devoid of communication the pointthat there is finally to no continuity between questions and answers" (272). Because she is seen often primarilyas a oriented writer, little attention philosophically has been given to the way Lispector incessantly plays with her characters, as well as with her readers. Fitz regrets that humor is "anaspect of Lispector's fiction that has been largely overlooked"(17). Indeed, the reader is at first so overwhelmed by the intensity of the character's inner dilemma that he gives very little thought to the humor of the situation or of the dialogue. Moreover, the difficulty encountered by the reader in grasping fully the details of "what is happening,"or, more accurately, of "what is not happening," does not allowhim to waste anytime decoding humorous messages. But for the careful reader, Clarice Lispector's humorvery soon becomes obvious. Certainly the use of the absurd and the special type of comedy that often goes along with it has already been explained by Camus'sinfluence. However, humor is a constant factor in Lispector's work, and it is not always related to the theory of absurdity. In this study, I will speak of the role of humor in Lispector's work. I will do so by focusing on theoretical definitions of humor before applyingthem to Lispector.In the analysis of the short stories, I will concentrate primarilyon one, "The Chicken,"heretofore often neglected by critics. Of course, there are manytheories of what
not only in the philosophicalperspective of Sartre and Lispector, but also in many of the aesthetic techniquesrecommendedby Sartre. It is commonplace to point out the use in Lispector's work of the style indirect libre, of first person narrative, and the elimination of anything that would be non-authentic. Thus the plot is always very slight, if not non-existent, in order to conform to the authentic experience, which is for Sartre simple and devoid of traditional heroic action. So when MariaLuisa Nunes says about Lagos de familia that "narrated monologue projects consciousness as a screen on which a series of thoughts and feelings appear,"(176) she summarizes the philosophicalas well as the aesthetic debt that Lispector has contracted toward the French philosopher.The plot consists not of external actions, which are reduced most of the time to a mere dailyevent, but of the interior state of self-awareness reached by the main character. This awareness, generally depicted as an epiphany, is often seen as one of the main characteristics of Lispector. Earl E. Fitz, for example, understands this epiphany as the linkbetween allthe stories of Lagosdefamilia, since each one of them is "focusing relentlessly on the inner drama of human beings undergoing some kind of disruptive experience" (107). Becoming central, this theme
ofLagos defamilia suggeststhatofLaNausee,
HUMOR IN A NEW READING OF CLARICELISPECTOR
constituteshumor:fromAristotleto Freud, humoris definedin various manners it is and still a notionover whichthe debateis open. Humorprovesto be a very difficult concept to explainrationally. havequotedhere the I names of Aristotleand Freudbecause both addressdifferent sides of the question.Aristotle tries to conceivewhatmakesa sentence or a situation and a funny to provide definition of the concept,whileFreudexplainseachinstanceofhumor the contextofeachspecific in element. But in Lagosdefamilia, the humor does not exist between the characters,but between the readers and the text: for my purpose,since I do not havedirectaccess to the mindof all of Lispector's readers, it is Aristotle's positionthat will be most useful. In the wordsof Norman Holland, ArisN. in totle'stheory
we laugh at the contrast between the thing presented and the way it is presented.... Aristotle opens up the question of the literary form (25).
Gruner calls "thesuperiority laughter":
The psychological reaction-immediate, sudden, and usually unconscious- is a favorablecomparisonof one's own safe, comfortable self with the low estate of the unfortunateloser (57).
In a literarytext this type of humorworks two ways:the superiority be that of the can author-who laughtsat her readers-, or that of a certaincategoryof "knowledgeable readers"-who then laughat the ignorant ones-. This is particularly relevant the for who knewliterary studyof Lispector, theory of different verywellandwas aware the many that be to techniques could manipulated create a case of "superiority Forthe preslaughter." ent study,I will dividethe comicmode into three categories: comedy of situation, of of techideas, and of manipulation narrative niques.These three categorieswill refer to the definitions humor of givenabove:the notions of off-centerandsuperiority.
* * *
on is Expanding thisidea,thiscontrast provokedby the meansof a discrepancy between the normand a statementor situation: is it whena comment off-centered it might is that becomecomical. series ofexperiments A conducted Daniel Kahneman DaleT. Miller and by was publishedin an article entitled "Norm Theory: Comparing Realityto Its Alternative."The two psychologistsdid not study humorspecifically, indeed,muchof their but experimentalmaterialwas humorous,because all of it was off-centered, distantfrom the normby whichwe so often reason. For example,they noted
when an observation departs from the normalcovariation of cause and effect, the discrepancyis usually attributed to the effect rather than to the cause. Thus, a child may be described as "big for her age" but not "as young for her size," and students may be described as overachievers, not as undertalented (144).
inversion of a cliche-the
From this observation,we can conclude thatto produce comical a effect, one does not need to transform message (there is no the difference between a childwho is youngfor her size or one who is big for her age), but simplyto departfromthe normative thought; or rather,the linguistic formwith whichto this expressit. ForLispector, departure very often takes place at a semioticlevel, by the
Besides this definition based on the offcenter notion, anotherfactorof interest to of my studyis the problem what CharlesR.
It may at first seem shockingto speak abouta comedyof situation a studyof an in author who attractsmostof the critics' attentionbecauseof the philosophical presentation of her characters. However, manya story of from Lagosdefamiliawouldprompt laughter the reader the contextof "traditional" in comic literature.A carefulreadingof some of the selections in LaCos familia will illustrate de the comicmode as explored Lispector. by "TheSmallestWoman the World" in employs all the effects of comedy used by Rabelais Voltaire the genreof the philoor in tale. The resemblance betweenVolsophical taire's is Micromegas particularly appropriate of here, becauseof the appearance giantsand dwarfs, and the context of the "scientific" and goals of Micromegas of MarcelPretre. The omnipresent tone of "TheSmallcynical est Woman" bears resemblance that also to of Micromegas: important the theme of possession is achieved the mainly through vocabulary of the newspaperreaders and their superiortone, but stays at this level of the tone. As in Voltaire's tale, the size of the characters a humorous is of allegory different human attitudes. the During firstpartof "The SmallestWoman," readeris led to think the of the small creatureas the essence of all human nature from lost contact beings;human withcivilization: is "As she black a monkey" as of (89). The readeris toldat the opening the
HISPANIA 72 MARCH 1989
story that her discoverywas like finding"a ing of ham sandwiches,more as a proofof box inside anotherbox, inside yet another their enthusiasm thanbecausethey felt any box,"(88) suggestingthat if we look with appetite"(76). All the participants seem to will enoughzealinsideourselves,we canresume be weak,greedy(thesentence:"We have that primary state of happiness.The image no talk about business today,... this is of the returnto initialunionwith natureis Mother'sbirthday" comes up three times), with keepinga decent tone to broughtforth by the fact that the smallest preoccupied woman pregnant pregnancy is the afternoon,even (the mirroring the party throughout the imageof a box in a box). thoughthey hate each other.All of a sudden The comic elements are omnipresent however, is not possible:the narrator in this re"The SmallestWoman": false feelingof veals the old lady'sthoughtsof despite for the the superiorityof the readers of the Sunday her family, allowing readerto takea posithe reac- tion of superioritytowardthe characters. paper; shortfocusesoneachfamily's tion which catches each one of them red- They are worse than anything narrator the handed theyquickly as claim of ownership the hadhintedat; the old ladytells us: the woman; ironyof the defensethey put up How couldshe havegiven life to those grinning,spineless, in frontof the savagehuman naturethey feel and indulgent creatures? The rancor groaned in her hasbeenexposedinthem,suchas themother empty breast. A bunch of communists, that's what they who proceedsto the washing dressingof were--communists. She looked at them with senile and scorn (80). her son "asif cleanliness mightgiveemphasis to a tranquilizing As she thinksthat, the old lady spits on (93). superficiality" But the maincomical effectcomeswhenthe explorer the floor to markher disgust. The comical cancommunicate the "true" with the effecthere relies on the one handon the dishuman, one whois "trueto nature," to learnthat crepancy between the hypocritical atmosonly she, too, is primarily preoccupied material phere of harmonyand the candor of the by possession:"itis so nice to possess, so nice mother'sgesture: how shockingto have to to possess. The explorer blinkedseveral endure action theverypersonyoucome the of times"(95). She admires Marcel in Pretrehis to honor... But on the other hand,it is also becausethe motheris not clearly superficiality,his civilized varnish--sym- humorous bolizedby his ringandhis boots. conscious having of spat.The narrator, giving In "Happy the Birthday," setting of the her point of view, says: "... she suddenly is party to honor the Grandmother a very thought,as if she had spat" (80, my emformal unfriendly allmembers the phasis).Therefollows longparagraph and one: of a telling familyare gathered, dressed in their best of her inner thoughts;and then, when the clothes, not to show respect to the old lady, pointof view changesbackto the daughter, butto impresseachother.The atmosphere the readerknowsthatthe motherdidindeed is calledoutthe mortified tense, everyonebeing"fullof past offenses" spit:"'Mother!' Zilda. theirwivesandchildren 'What you doing,Mother?"' (75).Allthe brothers, are (80). So the are sittingin the chairs"placed againstthe children,who have come to honorthe old wall,"(75) as if in a gallery,or maybeas to lady'seighty-ninth are birthday, insultedby protect themselves from being shot in the the meansof the very thingthey pretendto back.The scene is silent,rigid,andso is the envy in her- her age: it is onlybecauseshe heroineof the day, describedas a puppet. is senile that she acts out her thoughts. Her daughter seems to take care of her as if In "TheChicken," comedyof situation this she was nothing an emptybody: but is also very strongly used. Here for example fromthe story,as the chicken, In order to speed the preparation, she had dressed the is a quotation old lady immediately after lunch. She had fastened her whichis to be the Sunday dinner's main(omchainroundher neck and, pinningher brooch in position, ponent, flies out of the kitchenforcingthe she had then sprayedher with a little cologne to hide the to family chase her: smell- before
seating her at the head of the table The master of the house, remindinghimselfof the twofold necessity of sporadicallyengaging in sport and of getting the family some lunch appeared resplendent in a pair of swimmingtrunks, and resolved to follow the path traced by the chicken (50).
The partystartsin anatmosphere hypoof critical happiness, despitethe oldlady's presence: "theycontinued enjoythe partyby to themselves,andtheystartedonthe firsthelp- The choiceof the wordstwofold, resplen-
HUMOR IN A NEW READING OF CLARICELISPECTOR
dent, master of the house and sporadi- thathe was"afellow... whowasnotunattracthe the cally reinforces comicnatureof the situ- tive,"she decides to abandon idea of an betweenthe level affairand "shrugsher shoulders" (36): the ation,basedon the contrast of left of expressionandthe socialcondition the onlyinterpretation is then a comical one. and farmer'sfamily.This contrastis maintained The detailis off-center yet so visiblethat the the purpose: reader throughout story, whose tone parodies it seems to havea comical that of a breathtaking hunt in a junglewith imagineseither the seducernoticingthe fly suchtermsas "asavagestruggle survival," on the bosomhe admires,or the woman for dis"the man,... a naturalhunter." When the creetlytryingto chase it away. farmerfinallycapturesthe bird, it is "imBeyond this first level of comedy, lies (50), as a another stratumof humor,the comedy of mediatelycarriedoff in triumph" have trophywouldbe. The humorof the situation ideas.Somecriticssuchas DennisSeniff is enhanced by someonewho is, most of deploredthat such primacy given to the also be the time, very well hidden ... the narrator. philosophical work: orientation Lispector's of It is important understand the comic The philosophicperspective on Clarice's work ... fails to that is out component brought not merelyby the to emphasize that its primaryconcern is not the problem choice of wordsof the narrator, also by of being itself per se, which is the majorpreoccupation but the situation,whichwouldbe amusing inde- of ontological philosophy,but the acceptance of a particular state of existence (161). of pendently the narrator's pointof view. In the case of "The Chicken," setting is in However,it does not matter whether this the itselfa traditionally humorous the reader philosophical one: workis too aspectof Lispector's can picturea ridiculous man (wearing swim- emphasizedby the critics, it is present in mingtrunks),a littleout of shape(he knows Lagosdefamilia, andthe fact that Lispector he shouldexercise more often), chasinga chooses to criticizehumorously French the chicken(who usuallysymbolizesstupidity), existentialists one more indication the is of on the roofof a barn. concernshe hadfor theirideology. Humor is I toolsofphilosophers, But, eventhough havechosento examine one of the mostefficient the comedyof situation a storyuponwhich fromVoltaire Sartre,andit is onlynormal in to littlehasbeenwritten,thiselementis present that Lispector woulduse it. as wellin storieswhichareusually In the light of existentialist it presented philosophy, as Lispector's mostprofound ones. Forexam- is interesting noticethatevenGiovanni to Ponof ple, in "TheDaydreams a DrunkWoman," tiero, one of the criticswho has best shown the protagonist as Massaud Moisesnotes, the link between Lispectorand the French is, in milieulike [an] philosophers does not mention theirstartling "submerged an existential In aquatic creature in [its] naturalelement" difference. France,there are very few (if her hero(272). The woman accompanies husband any) examplesof femaleexistentialist at a businessdinner. Backathome,sherecalls ines. This fact, whichis perhaps understandlike or how, as she hadreachedin her drunkenness ablein maleauthors Camus Sartre,is, that specialexistentialist fromthe feministleader awareness,"above at best, surprising the roundness of her low-cut dress ... [a] fly Simonede Beauvoir. of her existentialist All had settled on her bare bosom"(36). The heroesaremale;if she indeed presentsfemale the suffer comedy of the situationis reinforcedby protagonists, latterdo nothowever the fact that the womanhas just relatedthe fromthe same philosophical tormentas their factthather husband's businesspartner "had male counterparts. is interesting point It to pressed his foot againsthers beneath the out that Beauvoircommentsin great detail in existentialists herfictional table,andabovethe tablehis face waswatch- thelackoffemale of She ing her" (35-36). The juxtaposition these writings. statesinLa Force des choses two eventscreatesa comical situation: the thatthe maindrivein herfictional as workis the husband's friendtries to seduce the woman, theory of the authentic,to whichI havealandis therefore of readyalluded. Since she does not see in the probably takinginventory hersexualfeatures,a flylandsonthe woman's worldaroundher women troubledby their breast!If the womanhadshownanyinterest being, her concernfor authenticity forbids in respondingto the seducer's invitation, her to portraysuch characters her novels in those elementsmighthavebeen tragic,ruin- (365). Suchan attitude however is surprising But after all, Beauvoir ing her attractiveness. sinceafternoting and invites controversy:
HISPANIA 72 MARCH 1989
was a female existentialist, therefore she could have been the model of an authentic character. This explanation of the situation of the female heroines in the French existentialist mode shows how importantthe standpointof Lispector is. She obviouslyis stronglyin favor of the female philosophicalexperience, since most of her protagonistsare women or young girls. But this author does not limit her disagreement with Beauvoir'sposition to a mere substitution of female for male. She overtly militates for a feminineexperience of existentialism. After all, the main symptom of the existentialist sufferer is nausea, which also to happens traditionally be a female attribute, especially in the context of a pregnancy.It is therefore in a humorous manner that Lispector will point out to the reader how her female protagonists are indeed authentic in their experience of nausea, since they can relate that experience to the one of morning sickness. In "Love,"in the midst of her crisis, Anna claims the existentialist's nausea and identifies it with morning sickness: as she is about to enter a hallucinatory-like phase of consciousness "the nausea reachedher throat as if she were pregnantand abandoned"(43). The over-determinationof the word 'nausea' is certainly unexpected in a philosophicalexperience and produces once again an offcenter effect. This might be one of the best examples of humor at a semiotic level; by merely merging the contexts of an old cliche (the existentialist nausea versus morning sickness), Lispector departs from the norm. If one talks about philosophy,the nausea has to be existentialist; if one talks about a female character, it has to be morning sickness. But, what does one do with the female philosopher?The humorous effect is created not by substituting an external factor,but by playingwith two semantic fields that had been heretofore hermetically separated. Of course, the humor can only be detected by one of the knowledgeable readers mentioned above-the ones who can then experience a sweet feeling of superiority. This is a very sophisticatedinstance of the comedy of ideas, but there are many other more apparentexamples of this category. One of the most obvious cases may be that of "The Chicken,"which seems to be one of Lispector's favorite animals, since she portrays at least two other importantchickensin her writ-
ings: one in the story "The Egg andthe Chicken,"fromthe collectionFelicidadeclandestina, and Laura, the chicken heroine of her short story for children "The Intimate Life of Laura."' In "The Chicken"the reader is led by several characters to think of the female characteristics of the chicken as primordialto its destiny as a bird. After all, the chicken'slife is spared at the beginning of the story only because she lays an egg, an act which is noth(as ing more than a "chicken-duty" reproduction is considered in some circles to be the only female function). But this is analyzed comically as a gesture of maternal love: "Mummy! Mummy! Don't kill the chicken, she's laid an egg! The chicken loves us!" (51, my emphasis). Later in the story, the father is full of remorse for having chased the chicken when she was supposedly "pregnant": "The father, from time to time, still remembered. 'Andto think that I made her run in that state!"' (51). One has to agree that, for a feminist writer, Lispector uses unusual comicalmeans of stigmatizingthe traditional conception of women. As a feminist, she refuses to accept the sort of respect that women receive for being entrusted with the bearing of a child: a woman should not be respected for the wrong reasons. The comical effect comes here from the very image of the chickensymbolizingwomen: this is a traditionally sexist metaphor, tying women to their maternalrole ("motherhen") and doing away with their intelligence. But again, Lispector adopts the image, turns it aroundand adapts it to her own purpose. The distanciation from the norm of the usual meaningof the chickenwoman image creates the humor. All these examples have shown that, aside from the comedy of situation and character, there exists in Lispector'swork a deeper level of humor, one which plays a function in the defense of the ideas for which she stands. The thirdlevel of comedy in Lagos defamilia makes its author a particularly interesting one in the light of criticism. Since the dawn of "experimental"writing, after World War II, a new kind of writer has emerged-from Oswald de Andrade to Lya Luft. These authors, workingchiefly with the idea of creating in their writing the perfect illustrationof as many theories as possible, are fascinatingto the knowledgeablereader. Even though Clarice Lispector does not exactly fit in this cate-
HUMOR A NEWREADING CLARICE IN OF LISPECTOR 135
reachesits climax gory, her knowledgeof literarycriticismis eyes eatingat a restaurant) shownat manydifferent textuallevels. One at the end of the story.The manleaves the of the techniques uses in the most amus- restaurant she withouthaving his explained tears is of Yet ing manner the manipulation the reader -and why,shouldhe, if he is authentic? withthe use of narrative refinements. the "I" does nothesitateto condemn "he" the "TheDinner," example, be analyzed in very violentterms: for can as a literary Indeed,the storyis Powerlessto act, I watchedhimputting his hat and experiment. on structured around obstaclethatanauthor adjusting tie inthemirror. thencrossedthebrightthe his He has to overcome whenhe wantsto showmul- ness of the roomanddisappeared. But I am stilla man. of view. He must successively tiple points WhenI havebeen betrayed slaughtered, and when enterthe different mental statesof the charac- someonehas gone awayforever, I havelost the best or ters whose point of view he expresses by of my possessions, or when I havelearnedthat I am this meansof the narrator. illustrate To betterthe aboutto die- I do not eat. I havenot yet attained of sucha device,Lispector "The power,this edifice, this ruin.I pushawaymy plate, I in necessity Dinner" uses a firstpersonnarrator, be- rejectthe meatandits blood(101). who cause of the very natureof that status, is Aside fromthe humorof the tone, there of the level of comedythat can incapable making story progress.The is a more profound in as of plot can be summarized a few sentences: be interpreted a critique the first-person a man(the first-person is a aimed the firstperson's at narrator) eatingat narrative, critique a restaurant observesthe otherpatrons. limitation introspection. implied and to The author A manwhose behavior goingto excite the marksthe absurdity the "I,"who knows is of "I"'s enters:the manordershisfood onlyits subjectivity does not hesitateto and curiosity and eats it, despite the fact that on several condemn "he." he stops for an instant the If occasionshe seems on the verge of crying. to reflect upon the case that "I"wants to The "I"tries to decipherthe secret of the makeagainst"he," readerquickly the underman he designatesunderthe pronoun "he." standsthathe is presentedwithonlyone side But "I"'s effortsremain leaves of the story,as should the case witha first be fruitless;"he" the restaurant withouthaving satisfiedeither personnarration. is thenthathumor It comes "I"'sor the reader'scuriosity. the forth,by the meansof superiority: reader It is important understand the plot dominatesthe "I,"sees its limitations, to that and in the traditional vision.Oncethe meaning of "action"or canthen smileat its narrow of is sterile readerhas understood humorof the "I" the "events," "TheDinner" rendered the very status of the "I":it is because character, there is only one more step he by "I"is positedat the beginning an "authen- needsto takebeforeseizingLispector's as point: tic"person, andthereforelimitedto its own fictionshouldgive the impression reality, of and only pointof view, that the plot cannot animpression canbe reached through that only a progress. Had Lispectorintroduced third- artificial literarydevices absentfromreality, she one limited one's to person narrator, or maybethe implied whereultimately is always authorwouldhave been able to insert the ownpointof view.It is interesting thispoint at detailsnecessary to a progression,beneath to mentionthatall the otherstoriesof Lacos the surface,for example,of a passagein the de familia, for the most part introspective, in style indirect libre, revealingthe man's arenotnarrated the firstperson,butinthe has third.Moreover, orderto makethe reader in thoughts.But in "TheDinner," Lispector chosen to show how limitedthe possibilities understand the facts presentedin most how of a strict first personnarration such a of the stories representrealitysolely in the are: takenseparately, Litechniquecan only lead to a plot based on mindof eachprotagonist "TheDinner," of introspection. then, is exceed- spector translates this unreliability the for use inglyamusing the critic,who canimagine characters the frequent of anunreliable by how easy it wouldbe technically help the narrator. to "I"satisfyhis curiosity. The detective-story It is with the techniqueof the unreliable tone used by the "I"is particularly effective narrator Lispectorshows best how she that in creatingsuspense over the "mystery" canaggressively on the readerto particiof call the "he." comedyof absurdity The introduced patein the story.A verygoodexample this of betweenthe toneof narra- is seen in "TheChicken," wherethe narrator bythe discrepancy tion and the actualplot (a manwith watery playswiththe reader he would a yo-yo. as with
HISPANIA 72 MARCH 1989
the as At first, he introduces chicken a think- guide him througha maze of contradictory a very sensitiveone- as the cues. Thereader leftpowerless amused is but ingbeing--and chickenis in the kitchen,waitingto be exe- at the masteryof the Lispector. cuted, it is stated that "no one wouldever haveguessed thatthe chicken anxious" felt the (49, my emphasis).Later,during chase, umor situation, of humor language, of the readeris toldby the omniscient narrator humorof narration-how do they inof the bird'sintimate thoughts:"thechicken hadto decidefor herselfthe pathsshe must teract in an overall"humorous" readingof It followwithoutanyassistancefromher race" ClariceLispector? is at first necessaryto (50). In the very next paragraph, however, emphasizethat seeing humordoes not give different in doubt introduced the reader's is interpretation mind,since the readera radically work. In the the narrator insinuates the chicken, that after of the meaningof Lispector's but bird:"What it words of Giovanni was Pontiero,she, indeed,is all, is nothing a stupid with matin the chicken'sentrails that made her a preoccupied profound philosophical being? The chickenis in fact a being. It is ters: true that one wouldnot be ableto rely upon Clarice Lispector shows an almost obsessive preoccupaher foranything" (50). The last statement is, tion with the themes of humansufferingand failure, the of course, wrong, since the narrator opens disconcerting implicationsof our humanity, ... (man's) the story by introducing chickenas the awareness of inevitablealienation... and most forcefully the of all, his terror upon recognizing the ultimate nothingone "forSunday's lunch"(49): therefore,at ness (15). leastthreepeopledependon the bird their for But if humordoes not necessarilyallowthe sustenance. Sunday fromthat reading From then on, the narratorpushes the readeran entirelydifferent critic, its instances are reader in the directionof consideringthe of the traditional numerous meritatto sufficiently chickenas a symbol,probably human of be- nonetheless of Inif not of women. The bird is said to tentionin the interpretation Lispector. ings, in reminiscewhen she is alone abouther mo- deed, humoris taken into consideration on mentof glory:"onceina while,butevermore manycommentaries La Nausee,andone not whathas been she how she had should ignorein Lispector infrequently, remembered in Sartre: humor a poweris stood out againstthe sky on the roof edge praised Jean-Paul ideas. In Lispector's to cry out" (52). By the insightshe ful meansof conveying ready innerlifeandex- case it has provento be a very effectiveway gives himintothe chicken's her and pectations, the narrator encourages the forher to mark idiosyncrasy independence from the authorsto whomshe owes readerto investin the symbolic valueof the chicken: afterall,he is a sensiblehuman being so much, allowingher to introducethe discourse. presenceinphilosophical who knowsthata chicken does not haveexis- feminine after havingtried to describethe Finally, tentialist dilemmas. Sucha chicken mustthen of be an allegorical But in the punch of importance humorin Lagosde familia, I one. line the story,the narrator to be hopelessly wouldpointout howeverthat at least one of proves here in detailhas in genunreliable when he allowshis symbolto be the storiesanalyzed eaten like a vulgarbird, leavingthe reader eral not been touchedupon by the critics, are in with the impression beingcheated:"Until sinceits commentators unclear regardof and one daythey killedher andate her, andthe ing philosophical interpretation narrative thereis not muchtheoryto back techniques: years rolledon"(52). of consciousness... The narrator completed circle,since up the analysis a chicken has a the chicken atfirstintroduced Sunday's I believe, however,that throughhumorwe was as in lunch,andis in fact eaten by the end of the are ableto explain detailsuchstories. The studyof humorin narrative, buthe hasinthe meantime therefore,must story, manipulated in of the readerintobelieving the story could notbe overlooked ananalysis Lispector's that end otherwise.Weare here in presenceof a work. subtle humor,addressedto the knowledgeablereader,one who knowshowunreliable *NOTE a narrator be, andhowamusing is foran can it the 1Ithas been said that the chicken can authorto take the readerby the handand woman in Lispector's work; even though symbolizethat it is true
IN HUMOR A NEWREADING CLARICE OF LISPECTOR 137
Ithaca London: and Cornell to one lacksfirmtextualsupport backup sucha statePress, 1982. University comical Kahneman, "Norm Daniel,andDaleT. Miller. ment, one cannot Theory: helpbutnoticethe numerous hintsby whichthe readeris pushedintoassociating the to Comparing Reality Its Alternative." Psychological chicken women.Is it merecoincidence the very with that 93.2 (April Review, 1986):136-53. name Laura is used in Lacosde familia for the pro- Lispector, Clarice.FamilyTies, translated Giovanni by of of Pontiero. Austin: tagonistof "TheImitation the Rose,"whichshortly University TexasPress, 1972. afterits publication becameone of Lispector's most fa- Moises,Massaud. "Clarice Fiction Cosmic and Lispector: mousfemalecharacters. Vision." Studiesin ShortFiction8.1 (Winter 1971): 268-81. Luisa."Narrative ModesinClarice Nunes,Maria Lispec* WORKSCITED tor's: The Renderingof Consciousness." LusoSimonede. La Forcedes choses.Paris:GalliReview (Winter 4.2 Brazilian 1977):174-84. Beauvoir, Giovanni. to Introduction C. Lispector, mard,1963. Pontiero, Family Boston:TwaynePubTies. Austin:University Texas Press, 1972, pp. of Fitz, Earl E. ClariceLispector. 13-23. lishers,1985. Charles.Understanding Nel- Seniff,Dennis."Self-Doubt Clarice's." in Luso-Brazilian Gruner, Laughter. Chicago: 1978. 14.2(Winter Review 1977):199-208. son-Hall, Norman Laughing, Psychology Humor. H. A Holland, of