The message of the story is that being exposed to unfamiliarity generates a feeling of discomfort, longing, a need to classify and understand, or a want to own and exploit as well as an objectifying regard of the unfamiliar. It is a reaction derived from discomfort and disgust at that which is considered to be abnormal or unacceptable. Now, the internal characters begin to react to the photograph with even more serious disregard of her human qualities, expressing wanting to own her as a servant or slave. This passage shows another example of longing to possess Little Flower and use her as an object or treat her as non-human. The reader is left with a feeling of suspense since the story is detailed and provoking with the addition of intriguing epiphanies and explanatory internal monologues, but is ultimately largely anti-climactic and fragmented which generates hesitation and thought in the reader.

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To browse Academia. Skip to main content. By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Elizabeth Bishop. Sheila McAvey. Frequently, her fiction demonstrates the impediments to female autonomy in a male-dominated society.

But her feminism is also in service of a larger concern about the nature of existence. As the tale opens, the narrator mocks our assumption about how this encounter will play out by informing us that the startling sight of Little Flower stirs in M. Little Flower appears to him not as a potential source of fame or as exotic sexual chattel but as a marvel, a diminutive earth- mother.

Moreover, her response to his reverential courtesy —he identifies her with a French saint, is hardly the terrified silence or the puzzled apprehension that we fantasize as apt in this particular culture clash. No, Little Flower responds with an unselfconscious gesture that could only be interpreted as extremely rude in M. A triumphant upheaval of M. Just as Little Flower disrupts M. Subverting our expectations of the commonplaces of this story is a Lispector strategy that Elizabeth Bishop both appreciated and practiced.

Mothers predominate the central section of the tale, and they create a miserable group portrait of the debilitating alliance of patriarchal power and women, who, for their own part, are compromised in their familial relationships.

The photograph of M. The flat nose, the black face, the splay feet. Given this preface, it comes as no surprise that the women respond predictably to distance themselves from this bizarre being.

The image of Little Flower stamped onto the pages of the Sunday newspaper evokes disgust, uneasy dread, and condescension. Yet, some of the females fail to keep that self-protective distance from the pathetic female in the photograph. Some are forced to recognize that the powerless they see in Little Flower reminds them too uncomfortably of the defeat of a former optimism and independence, most frequently through marriage and maternity.

This older mother no longer wishes to be pitied or reminded of her own lost freedom. She is disturbed-- and her haste to obscure this recognition attests to its shattering power -- that she who originated this possessive child feels the same controlling desire for her sons.

In a typical Lispector denouement after this epiphany, the mother retreats from the brute nature of love that the photograph of Little Flower has exposed. It is a calculated decision to obliterate the Darwinian hunger for possession in her offspring — or at least an attempt to control his desire under an acceptable male persona through the purchase of conventional male attire.

However, her toilette concludes with her defeated admission that for years this disguise, this civilized female mask, has failed to subdue her dark desires. This mother recognizes both the necessity and the hollowness of her carefully structured life. One brief vignette, presented early on in the exhibition of urban women, offers a poignant portrait of a lesbian whose desires are closed even to herself. But then the mockery drops, and the phantom is seen as a lonely woman, distressed all day by this reminder of what she lacks.

For this woman, as Elizabeth Bishop well knew, the desire to possess another woman sexually was an identification that heterosexual convention demands be suppressed.

A leniency for tenderness between women does not exist, save in the far- away of Brazil. And that laugh becomes a private joke between the reader and the narrator, who now replays this encounter with the unknown from the perspective of Little Flower. Her laugh is insensible to M. Pretre, careful, reasonable man of the world that he is, who would never imagine that Little Flower is ecstatic with satisfaction because she has not been devoured by so large a creature, a fate common to her tribe of Likoualas when netted by the carnivorous Bahundes.

Because M. Pretre has been civilized against cannibalism, he cannot know that Little Flower is experiencing a profound moment of her jungle existence: she is happy with life. This is a moment of being that all the civilized women, compromised, dimmed, their lives inhibited, will never experience. And once again, our presumption that this is an exquisite innocence is jarred when we learn that such fantastic simplicity is not utterly pure.

There is a material girl in this jungle flower. Through signals, Little Flower reveals to M. Yet, finally, Little Flower remains inexplicable. A greed for knowledge the explorer can understand; greed for love the women who despise Little Flower know from their own lives. But none can fathom the unguarded, profoundly simple opening out in love to all that pleases her that Little Flower knows.

Moreover,as Marta Pexiota points out, although her friends included well-known Brazilian authors, Lispector cultivated a nonliterary image. Related Papers. By cassandra Laity. By Kelli Zaytoun. By Tace Hedrick. By Jessica McCort. Elizabeth Bishop and the Miniature Museum. By Susan Rosenbaum. Download file. Remember me on this computer.

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“The Smallest Woman in the World”

To browse Academia. Skip to main content. By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Elizabeth Bishop. Sheila McAvey.


The Smallest Woman in the World Summary & Study Guide

The following version of this story was used to create this study guide: Lispector, Clarice. New York: New Directions, The story begins with Marcel Pretre, French explorer, travelling to Africa. He discovered the smallest woman on Earth, who belongs to a pygmy tribe and has a height of 18 inches. The explorer learned that her race is threatened by Bantus, who silently hunt and eat the pygmies.


“The Smallest Woman in the World” – “A Menor Mulher do Mundo”- by Clarice Lispector


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