Story Analysis of ‘The Smallest Woman In The World’ by Clarice Lispector

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It’s Day 15 of the #A2ZChallenge. This year, I invite you to read and discuss short stories with me. Each day, I bring you a ‘Read of the Day,’ a short story in English, so that we can indulge in the joy of reading. You can visit my site daily for a short story with analysis and participate in the discussion in the comments.

Read of the Day 

Today, we will read The Smallest Woman In The World by Clarice Lispector. You can read the short story online here.

About the Author 

Clarice Lispector, born Chaya Pinkhasivna Lispector, was an internationally acclaimed Jewish Brazilian author known for her ingenious novels and short stories. She was born in Western Ukraine before moving to Brazil post the First World War. She also lived in Europe and the United States before moving back to Brazil. Some of her popular writings include Near to the Wild Heart (Perto do Coração Selvagem), Family Ties (Laços de Família), the great mystic novel The Passion According to G.H. (A Paixão Segundo G.H.), and her masterpiece, Água Viva. Most of her fictional writings have been adapted onto the screen. She has been the reference point in Brazilian literature and music. Lispector is considered the most important Jewish writer since Kafka. 

Story Analysis 

The Smallest Woman In The World by Clarice Lispector is part of the collection The Middleman and Other Stories, which won the 1988 National Book Critics Circle Award. 

It’s an unconventional short story that explores our dark, innermost bigotry to anything that looks foreign or alien to us. In this story, Marcel Pretre goes exploring for the smallest race of humans. But never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined the existence of the smallest human being on earth. He discovers in the highest trees of the deep Eastern Congo of Africa a tiny pregnant mature woman of colour. He objectifies her by calling her “Little Flower” and describes her as “black as a monkey” when she’s human, just like him, only slightly different externally from him. Little Flower has been hiding to save herself from the Bahundes who would eat her up. 

“Little Flower” becomes famous worldwide, and the author shows us the varied reactions towards her. None of the responses are empathetic and inclusive. Instead, they range from depraved, sexually perverse, possessive, maniacal, and judgemental. For example, one reaction is to capture “Little Flower” and make her the family’s servant. 

“Imagine her serving our table, with her big little belly!

Compare these reactions to “Little Flower” ’s response to the stranger, Marcel Pretre. She greets him with pure love, kindness, and openness. There is a sense of oneness when she meets him, as she scratches herself in inappropriate places, much to the discomfort of Pretre. She embraces the foreigner as her own and is in love with his strange ring and boots. Pretre finds her love unsettling and her personality strange to his materialistic outlook. “Little Flower” is a happy, content pregnant woman in Africa. She finds joy in the simplest things and is grateful for them. The world is filled with people like Pretre who mock such innocence and simplicity. 

The story ends with a reaction from an old woman who reads the news about “Little Flower.” Because of the lady’s age, experience, and wisdom, she knows goodness when she sees it. She quips, 

“God knows what He’s doing.”

The author drives home the message that God manifests in strange ways for humanity to pick up messages and learn. Even though a large part of the world is driven by materialism, people like “Little Flower” are not mere divine accidents but planted purposefully to help humankind learn and evolve to a joyful and higher purpose of living.

The Smallest Woman In The World by Clarice Lispector is a beautiful story about diversity, inclusiveness, humanity, and the art of living. 

What is your take on The Smallest Woman In The World by Clarice Lispector? 

* I’m participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge.

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Tina Sequeira
Tina Sequeira is a marketer and moonlighting writer. She is passionate about tech, creativity, and social justice—dabbling in and writing about the same.