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Cannibalistic Perspectives: Paradoxical Duplication and the "Mise en Abyme" in Clarice

Lispector's "A menor mulher do mundo"


Author(s): Michael Colvin
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Luso-Brazilian Review, Vol. 41, No. 2 (2005), pp. 84-95
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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Cannibalistic Perspectives:
Paradoxical Duplication and the mise
en abyme in Clarice Lispector's "A
menor mulher do mundo"1
Michael Colvin

Neste estudo examinam-se as motivao6estematicas do canibalismo e da


regenera?aocomo reflexoesda estruturanarrativaparadoxal em "Amenor
mulher do mundo."A perspectivaambulatoria -que muda de ponto de vista
sete vezes-complica

a tecnica de encaixamento ao por em constante questao

a ideia de centro.As perspectivassubsequentesdeslocamo centroe, aofim do


conto, substituem-no.A perspectivaem perpetua mudanca, uma perspectiva
que da a luz uma serie de pontos de vista criticos que simultaneamente a
enquadram, chama-nos a atenaio a natureza regenerativa embora antrop6faga
da narrativa em "A menor mulher do mundo."

If the center of a narration is defined by the narrator's point of view, consequently, the embedded point of view establishes degrees of duplication. In
Clarice Lispector's "A menor mulher do mundo," the narrator's ambulatory
perspective, shifting seven times, complicates the embedding technique by
constantly questioning the notion of center.2 The narrator's subsequent
points of view displace the center and, by the end of the story, replace it. The
unfixed perspective, a perspective simultaneously spawning and framing a series of critical points of view, calls attention to the self-consciously regenerative although cannibalistic nature of Lispector's narrative structure. I shall
demonstrate that the narrative structure of paradoxical duplication is a reflection of the leitmotifs of cannibalism and regeneration in "A menor mulher do mundo." Lispector presents the latent desire of the progeny to devour

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Luso-Brazilian Review 41:2


by the Board of Regents

2005

of the Universityof WisconsinSystem

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its progenitor just as the smallest frame of the narration devours the apparent
largest frame, in which it is embedded.
The key to the narrative structure of paradoxical duplication in "Amenor mulher do mundo" can be found in the statement that the secret goal of
our existence is to escape being devoured (94). By assuming the aporetic
form of the Ouroboros, the narration avoids being devoured by embedding
those frames that embed it.3 The final Chinese box contained within other
boxes encloses the boxes that once contained it. The theme of cannibalism in
Lispector's short story serves the function of drawing our attention to the
paradoxical structure of the narration, by showing that Pequena Flor, always
the prey of cannibals, is capable of preying on the cannibals. Marcel Pretre
discovers Pequena Flor for a world that wishes to devour her, yet she wants to
devour Pretre.There are seven allusions to cannibalistic urges felt by characters in the short story. The first six focus on Pequena Flor as object of the
cannibalistic appetite. These urges represent the characters'desire to contain
Pequena Flor: to contain the smallest woman in the world. I shall demonstrate that the coincidence between the title, "Amenor mulher do mundo,"
and its quasi-anonymous reference to the Pygmy woman constitutes the
short story's self-referentiality.By calling Pequena Flor the smallest woman/
mature human being, variations on the story's title, the narrator signals her
as a repetition or reflection of the literature, and thus problematizes the typology of the mise en abyme. Consequently, the other characters'latent desire to devour Pequena Flor translates as the desire to contain within their
narration "A menor mulher do mundo," the narrative entity that encloses
them. Pequena Flor expresses the seventh cannibalistic urge; the object of
her hunger is Marcel Pretre. Her desire towards Pretre reestablishes the narrative order of the story by positioning the smallest woman in the world as
the outer frame. The seeming autonomy of the final vignette, a vignette that
attempts independence from its position as an interior frame, however complicates the narrative order by turning the page and thus ending the story.
Below, I shall study each of the expressions of cannibalistic urge to understand its reflection of the paradoxical narrative structure of "Amenor mulher do mundo."
First it is necessary to outline the structure of the embedding that constitutes paradoxical or aporetic duplication in "A menor mulher do mundo."
Neide Luziade Rezende studies the problem of the other while confronting a
series of paradoxeswithin the context of narrative embedding.4 She believes
that Lispector's protagonist, the French explorer Marcel Pretre's encounter
with the Pygmy woman, Pequena Flor, is the matrix of the narration or the

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embedding narrative.The photograph of the Pygmy woman Pretrepublishes


in the color supplement of the Sunday newspaper provokes mirrored framed
vignettes of urban family life that constitute the embedded narrative.5
However, de Rezende focuses on Lispector'sreference to the Chinese box,
when comparing the pregnant Pygmy woman to "uma caixa dentro de uma
caixa, dentro de uma caixa,"suggesting that "Amenor mulher"'s embedding
technique constitutes type two mise en abyme:infinite duplication, by which
the embedded story is mimetically reproduced (Lispector 87).6 Therefore,
just as Pequena Flor is the essence of the smallest Pygmies and her fetus the
essence of Pequena Flor, the embedding narrative is duplicated in the vignettes that contain even further duplications of themselves. Dallenbach indicates the tendency of simple duplication to evolve towards infinite duplication: "Atransition from the similar to the same,"Dallenbach says, is inevitable
because "unless [each mimetic duplication] is absent from the representation
it duplicates, each mimetic duplication lays itself open to echoing at the
structurallevel" (lio). Of course the literary representation of infinite duplication is incapable of achieving the same effect as the image of the Chinese
box given the limits of language. Dallenbach comments:
To enclosethe summaryof the summary,and, within this, the summaryof
the summaryof the summary,is incompatiblewith the constraintsof linearity thatgovernit [...] Sincethe regenerative
powerof memoryis limited,the
degreeof embeddingmustalsobe;andevenif it werenot, how couldit create
an impressionof vertigoby presentingitself successively?
(111-12)
The narration, unlike the image, can only reproduce itself linearly rather
than within itself. Therefore the image of a pregnant Pequena Flor achieves a
similar effect to that of the Chinese box while the narration approximatesthe
image of all of the Chinese boxes exposed, arranged by size in descending
order.
Dallenbach's category of infinite duplication, however, cannot treat the
placement of the story's final vignette apart from the other embedded narrations. The final episode's isolation creates a sense of infinity by "aporetic"or
"paradoxical duplication" (type three mise en abyme), by which the final
vignette "encloses the work that encloses it" (Dallenbach 34, no).7 When the
old woman reading the article about Pretre'sdiscovery closes the newspaper,
she apparentlyends the narration. Her words-criticisms of Pretre-are the
story's last. As she turns the page of the newspaper, the reader is also confronted with the page'send. The coincidence between the old woman's critical
gesture to the ending of the story, and the correspondence of her position as
a reader of Pretre'snotes to our own position as readers creates a paradox.
Pretre'snotes generate the article that generates the old woman's response.
She appearsto be the smallest Chinese box within the scheme of duplications.

Colvin

87

However, because her turning the page signals our story's ending, she becomes the largest box, enclosing the boxes that enclose her. Thus the apparent interior narrative frames assume the exterior position subordinating the
exterior narrative frames to an interior position. In this study I propose to
understand the aporetic nature of Lispector's narration by using Dallenbach'stypology of mises on abyme to show that what de Rezende interprets as
type one and type two duplication-or the transition from simple mimesis
to infinite reproduction-is subverted by the final vignette, which results in
a paradoxical duplication.
I concur with de Rezende when she classifies Pretre's encounter with
Pequena Flor as the apparent exterior frame of the story (52-53). However,
she simplifies the narrativestructure of this multi-layered story when she includes Pretre'sarticle and photograph of Pequena Flor in the same exterior
frame, thus making the urban vignettes narratives framed within that matrix. Marcel'sencounter with Pequena Flor is one frame of the story, serving
as, but not limited to being the exterior or matrix. The explorer's notes and
his photograph, which appear within his narration and almost independent
of it, constitute the first interior frame.8The seven women/families' reading
the newspaper article serves an extradiegetic function, engaging the interior
frame on a critical level. Yet, these characters' existence in Lispector's narrative is parasitic; their thoughts are products of their contact with Pretre's
article and the photograph of Pequena Flor. As Pretre writes "the smallest
woman in the world,"his readers read and criticize "the smallest woman in
the world."The seven shifting perspectives are contained within the frame of
the newspaper, and their identities in Lispector's story are limited to those
thoughts provoked by the photograph of Pequena Flor.9Yet, simultaneously,
these characters frame the article reporting Pretre'sdiscovery, as they criticize it; they are confined to the contents of the newspaper article and they
confine the newspaper article, while they exist in horizontal succession.
Dallenbach outlines the ways in which narrative embedding achieves
paradoxical duplication: "by the injection into the diegesis (a) of the title of
the book itself, or (b) of an equivalent expression; or (c) the inclusion of the
book in a reflective sequence that substitutes it" (112). In Lispector'sstory, the
transition from infinite duplication to paradoxical duplication is best illustrated by the mise en abyme of the pregnant pigmy woman: "entre os menores pigmeus do mundo estava o menor dos menores" (87). Pequena Flor is
an emblematic repetition of an unknown infinity. However, the quote above
does not merely signal the infinite duplication of the Chinese box. Because it
reiterates an "equivalent expression"of the title of Lispector's story, the duplication engulfs the short story (Dallenbach 112).Pequena Flor'sanonymity,
prior to Pretre'snaming her, is an echoing of the story's title. The narrator
exploits the innocuous title phrase "the smallest in the world"to referback to

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the work that s/he is narrating. Marcel Pretre, a man of the world ("homem
do mundo"), stumbles upon the smallest pygmies in the world ("os menores
pigmeus do mundo") and, within the tribe, he finds the smallest woman in
the world ("a menor mulher do mundo") who carries in her womb the
smallest black baby in the world ("o bebe preto menor do mundo") (87, 87,
88, 93). The repetition of the title, or of its equivalents, makes the readerconscious of his/ her own role: a role reflected in that of the women/ families in
each vignette.
The photograph of Pequena Flor links the implied reader of Lispector's
story to the interdiegetic readersof Pretre'sarticle and therefore is key to our
understanding of "A menor mulher do mundo"'s paradoxical narrative
structure:
A fotografiade PequenaFlorfoi publicadano suplementocoloridodos jornaisde domingo,onde coubeem tamanhonaturalenroladanum pano,com
a barrigaem estadoadiantado.O narizchato,a carapreta,os olhos fundos,os
(89)
pes espalmados."
Although the narratorinforms us that Pequena Flor appears in the color supplement she is not allotted any color in the description of her photograph. In
fact, in no part of the narration is she attributed color. The monochromatic
yet color photograph therefore is a faithful reproduction of the Pygmy since
it mimics the narrator'scolorless description of Pequena Flor. Furthermore,
that Pequena Flor's photograph appears in actual size affirms the affinity
between the reader of "Amenor mulher do mundo" and the readers of the
article in the Sunday paper. Because they hold before themselves a twodimensional, yet proportional and chromatically accurate reproduction of
Pequena Flor, and because their criticisms do not reveal concern for the accompanying text, the interdiegetic readers are also readers, in a sense, of "A
menor mulher do mundo."
The relationship between the description of the photograph, the smallest
woman in the world (the character in Clarice Lispector's story), the title of
Lispector's short story and the reactions of the characters in the urban vignettes confirms the paradoxical nature of the duplications in the narrative.
In their acts of criticizing the work that gave them birth, the protagonists of
the vignettes leap out of their roles as characters, products of the author.
They transcend their positions as embedded characters whose existence is
made convenient by the role they play in one of the apparent inner frames of
the embedded narratives. And some characterswho share this position take
a more active role in overcoming the subordinate role of character by symbolically trying to become the outer frame not only of the narration, but also
of Lispector'sstory, by containing the smallest woman in the world.

Colvin

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We shall start with Marcel Pretre, as his perspective is the first presented
our
narrator,and thus appears to be the outer frame. Pretre'sobjective is
by
clearly traced in the first pages of the story: to arrive at a final conclusion
(88). He believes that he has found the smallest human being in the world
amongst the smallest people in the world. His search for limits-definition,
center, essence-establishes his position as subject, subordinating the other
perspectives presented by the narrator.As the exterior frame, Pretre defines
what will occupy the interior frames: the Likouala Pygmies and, within that
frame, Pequena Flor. This framing, however, is subverted by the discovery of
Pequena Flor's fetus, which displaces Pretre's center. Pequena Flor's pregnancy problematizes Pretre'snotion of limits and the accuracy of his claim
to have found the smallest human specimen. The smallest human specimen
is not yet visible. The suggested infinity of an unknown smaller human specimen throws Pretre's discovery into an abyss. There may not be an essence
and therefore Pequena Flor does not occupy the furthest interior frame,
rather a frame that, like Pretre'sown, subordinates other frames. Pretre'sdiscovery of such vertiginous infinity marks the first cannibalistic urge in the
short story. Lispector writes: "Nos tepidos humores silvestres, que arredondam cedo as frutas e lhes dao uma quase intoleravel docura ao paladar, ela
estava gravida"(87). The pending infinity of the fetus, and what it may contain, and what that may contain, is contrary to Pretre'sempirical approach to
science. Pretremust arriveat the essence of what is tangible. His comparison
of Pequena Flor's distended belly to the "unbearablesweetness"of ripe fruit
manifests his urge to contain the essence (87). The urge forges Pretre'sstatus
as the outer frame and his capacity to devour Pequena Flor within that
frame. Yet every time he refers to the Pygmy woman as "the smallest woman
in the world,"her status as a reiteration of Lispector'stitle subordinates Pretre's perspective and contains him within its frame.
The first cannibalistic urge is echoed in the second, which also appears at
a key moment, when Pretremarvels at the rarity of his discovery.He searches
for an equivalent to express the unique character of his find but rejects all:
"seu cora,ao bateu porque esmeralda nenhuma e tao rara. Nem os ensinamentos dos sabios da India sao tao raros. Nem o homem mais rico do mundo
ja pos olhos sobre tanta estranha graca"(89). Pretre abandons his lists of inferior comparisons at the very moment when he baptizes the Pygmy as Pequena Flor. His last comparison settles on the gustatory sense: "Ali estava
uma mulher que a gulodice do mais fino sonho jamais pudera imaginar"
(89). The coincidence between the Portuguese word for dream and an "intolerably sweet"pastry, resembling a custard-filled doughnut, is not fortuitous
(87, 89). The metaphor's intention to awaken the gustatory sense, by exploiting the double meaning of the word "sonho" is confirmed by the substantive

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"gulodice," appropriate when describing a pastry (89). It is significant


that the cannibalistic urge overcome Pretre just as he is about to rename
the Pygmy woman. By calling her "PequenaFlor"Pretre-at least during the
part of the narration corresponding to his perspective-manages to avert
the conscious iteration of the short story's title. Pretre'surge to contain the
smallest woman in the world is made clear first in his latent desire to devour
Pequena Flor and, consequently, in a manifest decision to redefine the Pygmy
woman's potential autonomy as an exterior frame of the narration. As Pequena Flor, she is no longer equivalent to Lispector's title and therefore is
subordinate to Pretre'sapparent outer narrativeframe.
However, once Pretre'sarticle and photograph documenting his discovery appear in print, the narrativeperspective shifts. And although the Pygmy
woman continues to be called Pequena Flor, the context of the photograph
constantly remands her to the title "A menor mulher do mundo." We have
noted that during this shift in perspectives-to the perspectives of the apparently embedded narratives-the readersof the newspaper article take little or
no notice of the accompanying text. Therefore they, just as we, are reading "A
menor mulher do mundo" as they contemplate Pequena Flor's photograph.
The second woman who looks at the photograph of Pequena Flor is overcome by a longing ("dir-se-ia tomada pela saudade") for the figure of Pequena Flor; she imagines her perhaps as a phallic idol or a sexual toy (go). In
such a context, Pequena Flor, if left in her presence, will be devoured by the
lonely woman. Her desire to devour, vaginally, the smallest woman in the
world is a desire to devour the image of the photograph that she is reading,
thus to devour the same text that we are reading. This is the will to elude, in
her devouring, her position as one of the interior frames of the narration to
become not only the exterior frame, but also the frame that holds within it
Lispector'sshort story.
This second vignette complicates the notion of a mere reproduction of
the context of Pretre'sdiscovery in the embedded narrative. Furthermore it
problematizes the orderly sense of infinity proposed by the allusion to the
Chinese box. Pretre'sperspective produces and therefore contains the photograph. The photograph subordinates the urban vignettes rendering them
mere reactions to the image of the smallest woman in the world. By willing
to contain Pequena Flor, the lonely woman's sexually cannibalistic desire potentially contains Lispector'sshort story-the true exterior frame-which in
turn subordinates Pretre'sperspective, the implied exterior narrative frame.
The most problematic vignette with regardto our categories of the narrative structure of "Amenor mulher do mundo" is that of the mother's rolling
her hair while her son imagines Pequena Flor as a toy, a prank to be played on
his brother. This episode reflects upon itself as it reflects the structure of the
story by containing a further embedded story, provoked by Pretre'sarticle yet

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autonomous of it. The child's mischief reminds the mother of a story that
the family's cook told her of her days at an orphanage. Lispectorwrites:
Nao tendo bonecacom que brincar,e a maternidadeja pulsandoterrivelno
coraqaodas6rfas,as meninassabidashaviamescondidoda freiraa mortede
uma dasgarotas.Guardaramo cadavernum armarioate a freirasair,e brincaramcom a meninamorta,deram-lhebanhose comidinhas,puseram-nade
castigosomenteparadepoispoderbeija-la,consolando-a.(91)
The embedded story reminds the mother of her own reproduction as she
contemplates her child in evolution: "Assim olhou ela, com muita atencao
e um orgulho inconfortavel, aquele menino que ja estava sem os dois dentes
da frente, a evolucao, a evolucao se fazendo, dente caindo para nascer o que
melhor morde" (91-2). The mother focuses on her child's missing front teeth
and his capacity for ferocity. His evolution yields to violent tendencies and
latent cannibalistic urges associated with biting. The boy's mischievous behavior has a dark side that is exposed while he schemes to make Pequena Flor
his toy. The mother observes her child with horror, awarethat she has created
the potential cannibal. Upon noticing the latent savageryof her son, the apparent animal link between her child and Pequena Flor, the mother resolves
to disguise her son's nature by dressing him up in a new suit. By identifying
her son with Pequena Flor, the mother must also identify herself with that
colorless/ dark figure "escuracomo um macaco"(92). She looks at her reflection in the mirror, taking note of her defined lines in contrast to the natural
fluidity of Pequena Flor's face, thus establishing a distance between herself
and the Pygmy woman.
De Rezende comments on the importance of the mirror in this episode as
it is the space in which the "'eu' se duplica" (57). The mirror calls our attention to the apparent infinite duplication of the scene and at the same time reiterates the embedded relationship between Lispector's short story, Pretre's
discovery, the newspaper article and photograph, the reactions of the urban
families and the remembered story of the children in the orphanage. However,by looking in the mirror and rejecting the image of the smallest woman
in the world, the mother symbolically transcends her position as a mere interior frame of the narration. Her rejection, by establishing an "insurmountable
distance of millenniums" between herself and the smallest woman in the
world, signals the mother as an interdiegetic critic of "Amenor mulher do
mundo" (92).
The mother's critical gesture, both towards the figure of the Pygmy
woman, and, by its association with the short story's title, towards Lispector's writing, of which she is a part, is echoed in the subsequent embedded
narratives.The criticism of the smallest woman in the world, not just as the
figure who appears in the newspaper, but also as an emblem of the printed

Luso-Brazilian Review 41:2

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word that contains that criticism is most evident in the final embedded
episodes. The motif of the newspaper calls our attention to the suggested
duplication of Lispector's short story within Pretre's article: the photo of
"a menor mulher do mundo" as an "injection [of the story's title] into the
diegesis" (Dallenbach

112).

When the father of the family, irritatedby the other family members' awe
towards Pretre'sphotograph, rustles behind the newspaper he reminds us of
the written text. He draws our attention to his act of reading the smallest
woman in the world-Pretre's photograph-as a reflection of our act of
reading the story by Lispector.The fatherturns the page of the newspaper definitively: "viraa pagina do jornal definitivamente,"a movement that presages
the old woman's act of closing the newspaper with determination: "[fecha] o
jornal com decisao" (92, 96). In both cases, the characters'utterances-after
the newspaper article is out of sight-show off their autonomy from Pretre's
article and Lispector'sliteraryproduction. The critical gesture of turning the
page that contains the smallest woman in the world equals a closing of the
book that contains "Amenor mulher do mundo."Thus the father and the old
woman of the last two embedded urban vignettes attempt autonomy from
their positions as embedded products of the apparent greater scheme of infinite duplication. The nature of this duplication is paradoxical.By achieving
such independence and turning the page on the smallest woman in the world,
the charactersmanage to contain, on a symbolic level, the narration that has
produced them.
The end of the penultimate embedded segment is announced with an
ironic transition from the ambulatory perspectives of the urban families to
that of the narrator.The narrator seems to laugh at the notion of otherness
presented by Pretre and confirmed by the families' fascination with and repulsion by the photograph of Pequena Flor: "E a pr6pria coisa rara"(93).
Thus the paradoxical duplication is further problematized. If the embedded
characters' revulsion towards the smallest woman in the world constitutes
an interdiegetic criticism of Lispector's homonymous short story, then the
implied narrator'sironic dismissal of those characters'reactions manifests a
criticism of that criticism. The narratoruses Pretre'sethnocentric expression
"a coisa rara"to introduce the episode of Pequena Flor's perspective. Pequena Flor's point of view proves to be rather common: anything but rare
when compared to Pretre'sand his readers'perspectives.
The smallest woman in the world also expresses cannibalistic urges and
the desire to possess: "era muito bom ter uma arvore para morar, sua, sua
mesmo [...] pois e bom possuir, e bom possuir, e bom possuir" (95). By
transferring the point of view to Pequena Flor, this episode further complicates the structure of infinite duplication. The object, Pequena Flor,becomes
the subject. By exposing her capacity for perspective, the narrator exposes

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the irony in Pretre'sapparently scientific claims about Pequena Flor's being


the essence; her existence is no more essential than his. When Pequena Flor
admires Pretre'sskin color, she compares his blushing to the color of an unripe lemon and assumes that he must taste acidic: "tornou-se uma cor linda,
a sua, de um rosa-esverdeado, como a de um limao de madrugada. Ele devia
ser azedo"(95). Pequena Flor's comparison of the explorer to a fruit demonstrates her capacity to draw similar conclusions as the European.
The episode thus mirrors that in which Pretre, upon discovering that the
Pygmy woman is pregnant compares the roundness of her belly to that of a
ripe fruit. We have noted the latent cannibalistic urges of the explorer in this
remark therefore we must recognize the same desire in Pequena Flor. The
pigmy woman is not so different from the explorer, or from the readers. She
is motivated by her desire to possess and to devour. On a structural level Pequena Flor's cannibalistic urges directed towards Pretremanifest an attempt
to revolt against the apparent structure of infinite duplication. The structure
of the Chinese box, as we have noted, subordinates Pequena Flor as a discovery, and, through his article, as a literary creation of Pretre. By willing to devour Pretre,Pequena Flor attempts to subordinate him. Thus she is no longer
limited to occupying the narrative frame designed by Pretre, rather she will
become the frame in which the explorer'snarration exists.
Nevertheless, Pequena Flor's repeated association with the title of Lispector's short story automatically remands her perspective to the position of the
outer frame. In this sense, her devouring Pretrewill result in the restitution of
the order of infinite duplication: the smallest woman in the world-Pequena
Flor as the utterance of the title-is the outer frame of the short story.
Were Pequena Flor's perspective the last presented by the narrator, we
might conclude, as does de Rezende, that the short story mimics the infinite
structure of the Chinese box. However, the placement of Pequena Flor'sperspective between the episodes of the urban families and the final vignette of
the old woman confounds such a structureby presenting the transgression of
an embedded character.The apparent closing of Lispector'swork by a character within one of the most internal frames of the embedded narrative allows us to conclude that the narrative structure is not infinite, but rather,
paradoxical. Although the old woman is merely a character within an embedded narrative contained by Lispector's short story, she ends the same
short story as she closes the newspaper.
In conclusion, I argue that the narrativestructure of the mise en abyme in
Clarice Lispector's"Amenor mulher do mundo" appears to adhere to Lucien
Dallenbach's category of infinite duplication. Lispector's narrator exploits
motifs to lead the readerto conclude that Pretre, as author of the newspaper
article, frames the embedded vignettes, and that the episode of the mother in
front of her mirror further frames a remembered episode. The allusion to

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the Chinese box, its reflection of Pequena Flor's relation to her fetus and the
presence of the mirror in the aforementioned vignette all appear to serve the
narrative structure of the story. However, the organization of the narrative
perspective-moving from Pretreto the urban vignettes to Pequena Flor and
back to one urban vignette-disrupts the neatly contained embedding technique suggested by infinite duplication. Rather, its order contradicts such a
structure. The relationship between the embedding perspectives to the embedded episodes is paradoxical. The embedded narratives embed the perspectives that contained them. Lispector'sleitmotifs of cannibalism and regeneration serve this aporetic mise en abyme.
Furthermore, the inevitable association between Pequena Flor and the
title of Lispector's short story constantly draws our attention to the narrative's self-referentiality:"Amenor mulher do mundo" ("The SmallestWoman
in the World"),the story, contains Pretre'snewspaper article about the smallest woman in the world. The article provokes reactions to and criticisms of
the smallest woman in the world. And the final reaction, of the old woman,
closes the book on the smallest woman in the world. The ultimate critical
gesture achieves, for the old woman, symbolic autonomy from the structure
of infinite duplication and, consequently, devours the short story that appeared to be its most exterior frame.

Notes
1. Lispector,Clarice.La?osdefamilia. Rio de Janeiro:FranciscoAlvesEditora,
1993.
2. JudithRosenberg
remarkson the changein perspective:"Thenarrationshifts
to variousurbanfamilieswho, upon seeingthe photographof LittleFlower,begin,
likePretre,to react,observe,andmeasureher"(71).
3. Dallenbachrefersto the "Ouroboros"-the snakebiting its own tale- as an
emblem of paradoxical duplication and self-embedding (112).

4. In her article, "Aproblematizacaoda alteridadeem 'A menor mulher do


mundo,'"de Rezenderefersto TzvetanTodorov'stheoriesof narrativestructure,and
LucienDallenbach's
and JeanRicardou'sstudieson miseen abymeto understandthe
embeddingtechniquepeculiarto Lispector'sstory.
5. Althoughshe does not focuson the miseen abymetechnique,De RezendedescribeswhatDallenbachclassifiesas typeone miseen abymeor "simpleduplication,"
by which the duplicatedsequence"is connectedby similarityto the workthat enclosesit"(35).Shethusviewsthe urbanvignettesas specularmicrocosmicreproductions of the reflectedcontextof MarcelPretre'sencounterwith PequenaFlor.De
Rezendecomments:"o contextode PequenaFlor seria,usandoa terminologiade
Todorov,a narrativaencaixante,matrizdessascaixas,e todasas cenasque se passam

Colvin

95

nos nucleos familiares (sic) da cidade seriam as narrativasencaixadas"(53). M. Sheila


McAvey also notes: "The description of Marcel Pretre'sencounter with Little Flower
frames a series of 'portraits' of urban dwellers, primarily mothers, as they view the
newspaper photograph of Little Flower that intrudes on their Sunday lives" (282).
6. De Rezende comments: "o conto esta construido a traves de uma tecnica que
poderiamos chamar de 'encaixe' como parece explicitamente indicar a narradora'como uma caixa dentro de uma caixa' (p.81). 0 explorador encontra um povo pequeno, um outro ainda menor e, no seu interior, uma mulher minima que traz dentro de si um filho. O explorador parece encontrar-se ai com um nucleo que, se nao e o
de origem, porque o encaixe e infinito, e a unidade menor que se pode observar"(52).
7. The final vignette does not appear in de Rezende's structuring of "AMenor
Mulher do Mundo."She views Pretre'sand Pequena Flor'sperspectives as the embedders, separated by the stories which they embed. Her understanding does not consider the misplacement of the apparently embedded final vignette.
8. I say that the explorer'sphotograph exists almost independently of his discoveries because while Pretre'sdiscovery would place him in the nineteenth century, his
color photograph belongs to the twentieth. De Rezende signals Pretre'saffinity to European anthropologists of the nineteenth century.
9. Iacyr Anderson Freitas compares the narrative structure of "Amenor mulher
do mundo" to cinematographic techniques: "Aficcao procura flagrar,em primeiro
plano, o fenomeno resultante do confronto do explorador e seu objeto, costurando a
narrativa, deslocando-a, como se efetuasse, a partir do leitor, uma filmagem de todo
o evento. A camara abandona a cena inaugural, buscando a resposta das pessoas ao
fato" (6).

Works Cited
Dallenbach, Lucien. TheMirrorin the Text.Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989.
Freitas,Iacyr Anderson. "'A menor mulher do mundo' e outros lacos."Minas Gerais,
suplemento literdrio 23 (199o): 6 -7.

Lispector,Clarice. LaFosdefamilia. Rio de Janeiro:Francisco Alves, 1993.


McAvey, Sheila M. "'The Smallest Woman in the World': Refractions of Identity in
Elizabeth Bishop's Translation of Clarice Lispector's Tale.""In Worcester,Massachusetts":Essayson ElizabethBishop:From the 1997ElizabethBishop Conferenceat
WPI. Menides, Laura Jehn and Angela G. Dorenkamp, eds. (1999): 279 -286.

Rezende, Neide Luzia de. "Aproblematizacao da alteridade em 'A menor mulher do


mundo' de Clarice Lispector."Quaderni Ibero-Americani:Attualita Culturaledella
Penisola Iberica eAmerica Latina 81-82 (1997): 51-58.

Ricardou, Jean.Le nouveau roman. Paris:Seuil, 1973.


Rosenberg, Judith. "TakingHer Measurements: Clarice Lispector and 'The Smallest
Woman in the World.'" Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 30 (1989): 71-76.

Todorov, Tzvetan.As estruturasnarrativas.Sao Paulo: Perspectiva,1979.


.La conquistade Ame'rica:El problema del otro. Mexico: Siglo Veintiuno, 1992.

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