Good literature challenges expectations, preexisting norms, and grand paradigms that people have taken granted for; it defies conformation and refuses to be blind to human emotions and experiences; good literature experiments with the human conditions and ultimately brings more wisdom to the human world than anything else can. Brazilian author Clarice Lispector’s story “Love,” with its beautiful prose and use of stream of consciousness that gives voices to the often-silenced housewife, brings layers of duality and complexity to life and celebrates the daunting paradox: the chaos we find in order; the peace and freedom we find in chaos—important ideas that transform our understanding of the individual, society, and politics.
Unlike “The South” or “The Night Face Up” that explores the toxic masculinity of gaucho or the repressed desires for strength and power, “Love” is a story that tenderly presents multiplicities that exceed the simple “id”—it is a story that, through magical realism, discusses the different possibilities of the individual and the world. From the beginning of the story, Lispector begins to imply the important dichotomy that persists between order and disorder, offering an innovative look at the dark sides of harmony: the constraints of domesticity and the choking restrictions and dehumanization. Writing consistently short sentences and constantly varying sentence structures to contrast the purporting harmony with the internal struggles and disorder of the woman, Lispector uses the form of her language to illustrate the contradictions of order: when rules and expectations devour human emotions, and when the woman had to give herself “to everything, tranquility, her small, strong hand, her stream of life,” we no longer opt for the balances of emotional equilibrium and homeostasis that short stories like “The South” and “The Night Face Up” endorse.
Instead, “Love” enlightens the readers to embrace the possibility of the unknown, the gray zones, and to challenge the status quo to find problems in seeming harmonies while perceiving beauties in chaos. From repeating the sentence “the damage was done,” Lispector emphasizes not simply the change in events but the emotional experience of the protagonist that awakens her to the world beyond her everyday obligations—a different world that rekindles her human desires and even animal instincts: compassion, love, and self-exploration she finds in the midst of confusion and turmoil. The “damage” opens her eyes up to the “perception of an absence of law” as Ana begins to notice the beautiful disorders. Lispector employs the use of a similar technique when writing that “like the revulsion that precedes a surrender — it was fascinating, the woman was nauseated, and it was fascinating.” The repetition of the phrase juxtaposes the physical chaos with the intellectual tumult of the woman, perfectly presenting her almost delusional state after her perceptions of her surroundings change.
While both “The Handsomest Drown Man in the World” and “Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” discuss people’s reactions to changes, “Love” more effectively captures the subtle yet powerful internal shifts taking place—where a simple action of the man can be written as complex as: “the chewing motion made it look like he was smiling and then suddenly not smiling, smiling and not smiling — as if he had insulted her.” It is the stream of consciousness, the humanness, and the juxtaposition of the blind man plunging “the world into dark voraciousness” and Ana falling “into an excruciating benevolence” in “Love” that challenges the final stability that the two villages reach in Marquez’s stories. From the observations of details as small as trunks “crisscrossed by leafy parasites,” Ana sees the disorderly yet lively garden as heaven, “so pretty that she was afraid of Hell”—where Hell represents her previous orderly life. None of the other stories present important dichotomies and binaries with such detailed descriptions: under Lispector’s story, compassion can be “as violent as agony” and the “burst of tranquility” can appear dirty, perishable, but “hers”—meaning that the individual retains some level of freedom and individuality from the new world full of chaos and possibilities.
Like the wings under Marquez’s story that symbolizes the coexistence of the sacred and the mundane, “Love” can not only be read as an insightful allegory of the contradictions and “unbridled reality” of Latin America but also challenges our current understanding of order. Like good literature, “Love” leaves a mark in the minds of the people, and changes are going to happen—from the micro-level of seeing the world to the larger social and political changes taking place.