The Hour of the Star
by Clarice Lispector
The Hour of the Star Theme of Language and Communication
Here's the problem: the narrator, an educated and sophisticated man, is speaking on behalf of an ignorant and almost voiceless woman. How can we be sure that he's speaking accurately? Welcome, friends, to one of The Hour of the Star's main concerns. The narrator clearly has immense control over his language, and yet he can hardly tell the story because of his ethical and literary concerns about how to tell it. It's almost as if language is preventing rather than helping communication.
Questions About Language and Communication
- Why do you think our narrator struggles so much with telling this story?
- Our narrator says he wishes to tell the story as simply as possible, but whenever he speaks directly to us about writing or about some philosophical issue, his language is anything but simple. Does the language ever seem too extravagant and/or even a bit pretentious? How do you explain the different levels of language the narrator uses in the novella?
- Macabéa often neither understands nor is understood. She wants to know about words she hears on the Radio Clock, or she loses the thread of a conversation, or others do not understand what she says. How do you explain these gaps between communication and comprehension?
- What does the narrator mean when he says that words are actions (1.16) or that each thing is a word (1.26)?
Chew on This
Even though Rodrigo claims to be a masterful writer who aims to write simply, written and verbal communication fails at many points in the story.
While Rodrigo uses the second person to delve into the philosophical and the challenges of writing, he's not actually speaking to us, but to himself.