The Hour of the Star
Philosophical Viewpoints: Existentialism Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
One doesn't have to know everything and not knowing became an important factor in her life. Not knowing sounds awful, but it was not so awful for the girl knew lots of things just as a dog knows how to wag its tail or a beggar how to feel hungry: things happen and you suddenly know. (3.62-63)
Existentialist philosophers believe you have to make life choices based solely on your own experiences. The more you experience, the more you know, and the better your choices can be. Macabéa's knowledge is very limited because her experiences have been very limited. And yet the narrator also seems to suggest that perhaps Macabéa's instinctual knowledge actually serves her better than all of his experience.
She believed in everything that existed and in everything non-existent as well. But she didn't know how to embellish reality. For her, reality was too enormous to grasp. Besides, the word "reality" meant nothing to her. Nor to me, dear God. (3.80)
Clip on your suspenders, Shmoopers, because here's a fancy word for you: ontology. Ontology is the study of being and existence, asking questions like "What is reality? What can be said to exist?" Seems like Rodrigo has some ontological questions of his own—check out the quotations marks around "reality."
This alarms me, for I am afraid of losing my sense of order and of plunging into an abyss resounding with cries and shrieks: the Hell of human freedom. (3.93)
Existentialism says that people should apply their free will to arrive at meaning in their lives. The idea is to make choices by using free will instead of using societal rules or laws or traditions. But doing so requires discipline and responsibility. It's not easy to make responsible choices when you could potentially do anything. Just like Uncle Ben—er, Voltaire—said: "With great freedom, comes great responsibility."