The Hour of the Star Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: A Hora da Estrela, 1977 (English translation, 1986)

Type of work: Novella

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: The 1970’s

Locale: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Characters DiscussedRodrigo S. M.

Rodrigo Hour of the Star, TheS. M., the intensely self-conscious narrator who struggles to write the story of Macabéa. He describes himself as an outsider who is essentially classless, as he is considered strange by the upper class, viewed with suspicion by the bourgeoisie, and avoided by the lower class. His financial situation is such that he does not have to worry about where his next meal is coming from. After having caught a glimpse of a girl from the Northeast, he becomes obsessed with creating a life for her. His obsessive self-reflection and marginality suggest to the reader his antecedents in the narrators of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and in Fyodor Dostoevski’s Underground Man. He declares that his writing of the narrative is accompanied by a nagging toothache resulting from an exposed nerve and by the music of a street-corner violinist.

Macabéa

Macabéa, a nineteen-year-old orphan from the northeastern Brazilian province of Alagoas. Her parents died when she was an infant, and she was reared by an unloving and abusive aunt. Barely literate, her only education beyond three years of primary schooling was a short typing course. She has migrated to Rio de Janeiro, where she works in an office. Macabéa, born under an unlucky star, covers her blotchy face with a layer of white powder and suffers from a chronic dripping nose and a hacking cough; she emits an unpleasant body odor, for she rarely washes, and she exists on hot dogs, coffee, and soft drinks. Although she affirms her identity by asserting, “I am a typist and a virgin, and I like coca-cola,” she is hardly aware of her own existence. What awareness she does have comes strictly through her senses.

Olímpico de Jesus Moreira Chaves

Olímpico de Jesus Moreira Chaves, Macabéa’s boyfriend, who has also emigrated from the Northeast. In many respects, he is a self-made character, starting with his name, adopted to mask the fact that his true surname, Jesus, marked him as illegitimate. He works in a metal factory transferring metal rods from one area to another, but he insists on calling himself a metallurgist. By murdering a rival and by becoming adept at petty theft, he has confirmed his manhood to himself. A curious artistic sensibility reveals itself in his carvings of effigies of saints, which he refuses to sell because he finds them so attractive. He has a morbid fascination for funerals, which terrify him but which he attends at least twice a week. Although being a bullfighter is his dream (he is fascinated by blood and knives), his goal is to become a politician.

Glória

Glória, Macabéa’s much more competent officemate, a voluptuous and self-confident young woman. Although both the narrator and Macabéa describe her as ugly, she is well aware of her charms. The daughter of a butcher, she is well fed and lives on a street named after a general. Her animal magnetism and the attraction of her father’s profession prove to be irresistible to Olímpico.

Madame Carlota

Madame Carlota, a talkative fortune-teller. Madama Carlota is as interested in relating her own history to Macabéa as she is in revealing what the cards can tell about her client’s destiny. She credits Jesus with her rise from prostitute to brothel owner to fortune-teller.

BibliographyCixous, Helene. Reading with Clarice Lispector. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990. Chapters on The Stream of Life, The Apple in the Dark, “The Egg and the Chicken,” and The Hour of the Star. The book includes an introduction by Verena Andermatt Conley, carefully explaining Cixous’s critical approach to Lispector. Recommended for advanced students.Coutinho, Afranio. An Introduction to Literature in Brazil. New York: Columbia University Press, 1960. A major Brazilian critic assesses Lispector’s achievement, emphasizing her place in Brazilian literature and her powerful metaphorical and atmospheric fiction.Fitz, Earl F. Clarice Lispector. Boston: Twayne, 1985. A useful introduction that includes a chapter of biography, a discussion of Lispector’s place in Brazilian literature; a study of her style, structure, and point of view in her novels and short stories; and her nonfiction work. Includes chronology, detailed notes, and a well-annotated bibliography.Lowe, Elizabeth. The City in Brazilian Literature. Rutherford, N.J.: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1982. Discusses Lispector as an urban writer, focusing mainly on A cidade sitiada, The Passion According to G. H., and The Stream of Life.Peixoto, Marta. Passionate Fictions: Gender, Narrative, and Violence in Clarice Lispector. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994. Written with a decidedly feminist bias, Passionate Fictions analyzes Lispector’s frequently violent subject matter, juxtaposing it with her strange and original use of language. Special attention is paid to the nexus with Helene Cixous and to the autobiographical elements of The Stream of Life and A via crucis do corpo.
Categories: Characters