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The Hour of the Star
The Hour of the Star
by Clarice Lispector
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The Hour of the Star Theme of Philosophical Viewpoints: Existentialism

Are you feeling pretty secure in your existence? Feel like you've got a pretty good grasp on the meaning of truth and universal ethical principles? Meet your worst nightmare. Existentialism is a twentieth-century philosophy that says, "You know what? Nothing is certain, everything is probably meaningless, and you can basically only experience what you experience." It's not very cheerful. But its practitioners, like heavy-hitter John-Paul Sartre, claimed that confronting the sheer absurdity of life was the only way to live a meaningfully and ethically. It's sounds pretty contradictory—and we think you can see a lot of those contradictions in The Hour of the Star. And—just like Sartre said—maybe you can also find a little bit of hope.

Questions About Philosophical Viewpoints: Existentialism

  1. Do all the philosophical digressions in the book detract from the central story of Macabéa? Or does it seem that they are, in fact, more central than Macabéa's story?
  2. How does Macabéa embody the concepts of existentialism? The narrator? Which one seems to be living a more existential life?
  3. How might the philosophical questions of this story inspire a reader to live differently or to contemplate life in a different way?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The narrator's philosophical questions end up simply displaying his own knowledge and distracting from Macabéa's story. His point would have been more effectively conveyed through a straightforward narration.

The Hour of the Star insists on the importance of literature by suggesting that literature can work as a kind of extended example for philosophical concepts. Literature is most important when it works through problems of existence.

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