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The Hour of the Star

The Hour of the Star

by Clarice Lispector

Analysis: What's Up With the Title?

Well, in this case, it's more like "What's Up With The Titles?" That's because this book actually has thirteen (13) titles. You can find these thirteen titles right after the "Author's Dedication" and immediately before Chapter 1. But we've presented them here just as they appear on the title page in the book:

The Blame is Mine
or
The Hour of the Star
or
Let Her Fend for Herself
or
The Right to Protest
(Clarice Lispector's signature here)
or
As for the Future
or
Singing the Blues
or
She Doesn't Know How to Protest
or
A Sense of Loss
or
Whistling in the Dark Wind
or
I Can Do Nothing
or
A Record of Preceding Events
or
A Tearful Tale
or
A Discreet Exit by the Back Door

Much like the book, which poses many questions but offers no single, definitive answer, Lispector refuses to settle on one single, definitive title. So what do they mean?

The first title in the list of thirteen is The Blame is Mine. If we had to guess, we'd say that sounds a lot like the narrator. As the narrator/writer, Rodrigo S.M. accepts responsibility for how Macabéa's story is written. So, if Macabéa is poor and ignorant and tragically dies in the end, it's because he has written it so. Although it's not this simple either, because he also says, "To be frank, I am holding her destiny in my hands and yet I am powerless to invent with any freedom …" (2.39).

Okay, so that title doesn't work too well. What about Let Her Fend for Herself?

Well, that sounds a lot like society, which, after all, has basically been saying this about the poor for a very long time. Believing that the poor should figure out how to take care of themselves is a convenient way of shirking off our responsibility as a society, and it's basically what all the people standing around watching her die are saying to themselves. But, while it's true, it's not exactly what the book is about.

So, what about The Right to Protest? The fact that Clarice Lispector's signature is right underneath this title indicates that this is something the author wanted to say from her own perspective. Perhaps she speaks to and/or for all poor and struggling Northeasterners, the group from which Macabéa originally comes from. Maybe this is a call to protest. Or maybe it's a way of shedding light on this marginalized group ("light" as in knowledge for the benefit of the marginalized group, and "light" as in putting a spotlight on them so that we (society) will see them and pay attention).

Well, Lispector obviously didn't settle on any of these titles (or the other 9). Instead, she went with The Hour of the Star. So—what's up with that?

Stars are a major symbol (Check out "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" for more about that), and it seems to mean both the inner luminosity that we all have inside of us and to refer to Macabéa's desire to be a film star—and also, of course, the fact that she has ended up being the star of this book.

But The Hour of the Star seems specifically to refer to the moment of Macabéa's death. As the narrator says, "one day she would surely die as if she had already learned by heart how to play the starring role. For at the hour of death you become a celebrated film star …" (3.63). In other words, we're all the stars of our own lives—and we receive top billing at the moment of our deaths. Macabéa has to die in this book, not because she's poor and unloved but because that's the only time we get to see her as she truly is: a star.

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