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Themes

Macabéa lives on hot dogs, soda, and cold coffee. Throw in a pizza, and it sounds like your typical college student. But Macabéa has probably never heard of pizza—just like she's never heard of spaghetti, alcohol, or algebra. She's poor: poor in body, poor in spirit, and poor in experience. This stands in stark contrast to our narrator Rodrigo, who dines on fruit and sips chilled wine. It's also probably pretty different from most of this book's readers, at least the sophisticated ones that Rodrigo thinks he's addressing. And one of the reasons he (and the author) writes this book is to bring attention to the issue of poverty and the thousands of others in Brazil who suffer from poverty. Oh, and the other thing? Maybe you've never been physically hungry—but, if you live in this world, you've probably been spiritually hungry.

Questions About Poverty

  1. How does Lispector represent different positions on the socioeconomic scale? How do we know who is poor, who is well-off, and who is somewhere in the middle?
  2. Which scenes of poverty are particularly effective? What makes them so?
  3. Is effectively representing poverty one of the book's primary goals, or does it seem incidental to the text's main purpose?

Chew on This

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

It is precisely Macabéa's poverty that allows her to achieve a state of grace. Having and wanting nothing purifies her.

Macabéa is representative of the millions of poor throughout Latin America and the world. She reflects that fact that society has cast them out, and this, more than any philosophical speculation, is the point of the novel.

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