Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Aloof, but Empathetic; Critical, but Guilty; Anxious
To write, or not to write? That's definitely the question, and it gives the whole book an anxious, guilty feeling.
The problem is, Rodrigo is worried that his higher social and economic status makes him unworthy to write: "I am a man who possesses more money than those who go hungry," he says, "and this makes me in some ways dishonest" (1.31). What he's worried about—and by extension, what Clarice Lispector is worried about—is that he's so privileged and cultured that he can't help imposing his own ideas onto Macabéa. Does she really feel the way he says she feels, or is that just the way he imagines she feels?
At the same time, the narrator speaks with a sympathetic voice. Although he tries to stay detached, he ends up identifying so much with Macabéa that he "tremble[s] just like her" (3.66). At times this empathy even becomes loving, as when he describes her beautifully dying, vomiting up a "star with a thousand pointed rays."
Yeah, did we mention this is a complex book?