The Emphasis on Existentialisim in Lispector’s Work Due to The Traditional Roles of Women
The human mind often creates traumatized, twisted beliefs about the world after cataclysmic events have occurred. Picture 1920- the world has just been ravaged by bullets, bombs, and baleful butchers with malicious intent. The aftermath of World War II leaves the country of Ukraine encompassed in terror, anguish, and famine. Imagine being ravenous enough to consider devouring a decomposing relative, and then putting that consideration into action. Imagine a country where pogroms- violent attacks on ethnic groups, mainly Jews, that included the destruction of homes, businesses, and churches –are not only regular, but not surprising occurrences. Imagine suppression, repression, oppression, all the “-ions”…Now insert a nine-year old girl struggling to live in this madness, add the rape and death of that girl’s mother, and there is the childhood of the renowned Brazilian author, Clarice Lispector. These experiences, which would alter anyone’s views on life, influenced and helped to develop Lispector’s existentialist ways of thinking. In these past occurrences, gender inequalities were very much prominent, which explains why Lispector focuses on the fate of women in
her writing. Due to the oppressive government, women were confined to their traditional roles and in showing the lack of freedom, both mentally and physically, that this imposes on them, Clarice Lispector justifies her existentialist viewpoints through her writings; life is pain, misery, and inevitably death. These viewpoints are imminent when discussing the overall lack of freedom in Lispector’s stories “The Chicken”, “The Smallest Woman in the World”, and “Preciousness”.
Within Lispector’s works, the traditional roles of women segregate male and female characters. They define how women should look, act, and think, yet they give men the liberty of deciding. In “Preciousness”, Lispector describes the girl as “fifteen years old…and not pretty (Lispector, 103); her use of the word “pretty” here doesn’t only address the girl’s facial features, but her actions as well. The girl “persuade[s] herself that she [has] no time to take a bath” (Lispector, 103) and later on, even “[eats] like a centaur…[with] her hair almost in her food” (Lispector, 103); because this behavior does not fit the traditional role of a woman- which is to look and act in a way that is appealing to men- she is deemed ugly.
Furthermore, probably the most infamous traditional roles of women are the ones confined to the kitchen. In “The Smallest Woman in the World”, the women pygmies are trapped in the highest trees, only descending “to grind and cook corn and to gather greens” (Lispector, 88); these jobs are necessary but undoubtedly for the weak, since “the men [descend] to hunt” (Lispector, 88). This specialization in work shows that men withhold strength, therefore power over others; women are subject to the judgment of men....