The Passion According to G. H. Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: A Paixão Segundo G. H., 1964 (English translation, 1988)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Epiphany

Time of work: The 1960’s

Locale: An apartment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Characters DiscussedG. H.

G. Passion According to G. H., TheH., a Brazilian woman identified only by her initials. G. H. narrates the story, which is largely concerned with recording her psychological reactions during a moment of self-reevaluation and turmoil. She is a middle-aged, middle-class amateur artist living in Rio de Janeiro who has enough income from investments to live well and amuse herself by sculpting. She has many friends and loves to go to parties, restaurants, and dance clubs, yet she has never formed any but shallow relationships. Although she has had a number of lovers, it seems that none of them has touched her deeply or established a long-term alliance with her. When she accidentally became pregnant, she hurried to have an abortion so that she would not be tied down. Nothing is told about her parents or early years, but it is hinted that she has had one lover in particular for whom she developed a profound affection; unfortunately, she was blind to her own feelings at the time. The novel focuses on G. H.’s thoughts one morning when she begins reconsidering the philosophical basis of her life. In the end, G. H. resolves to live in accordance with her newly enriched vision of the world, but it is left teasingly unclear whether, and how, she will keep her promise to herself.

Janair

Janair, G. H.’s maid, whose abrupt and unexplained departure leads G. H. to clean the servant’s room and find that Janair has altered it in unusual ways, stripping it of all decorations except for primitive figures she has drawn in charcoal on the wall. Janair’s name perhaps recalls the name of the city, Rio de Janeiro, where the action takes place.

The cockroach

The cockroach, an old insect that scares G. H. by coming out of Janair’s wardrobe and is squashed to death; the incident sparks G. H.’s philosophical reflections.

The doctor

The doctor, who performed G. H.’s abortion. The doctor temporarily becomes an addressee of her written record, but he is not further described.

The crying man

The crying man, a former lover who also temporarily becomes G. H.’s addressee. In recalling a moment of silent communion between the two of them, she realizes that he was the one man she really loved. He is described only as he appeared in this incident, with none of his past or future relations with the narrator mentioned.

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