The Otherness In The Story “The Smallest Woman In The World”

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The otherness in the story "The smallest woman in the world"

Throughout time the colony invaded different parts of the world influencing ideologies, cultures and much more. The result of one of these changes was like physical identities were racially categorized and caused changes in the way people look at what is different in reference to what is normal for them. This is seen in the story, "the smallest woman in the world" written by Clarice Lispector, where a small, pregnant woman is found in the Equatorial Africa jungle. The announcement of this woman’s discovery extended through France with a photograph that caused different reactions to the people who saw her. In fact, these reactions are the result of ‘otherness’ that, according to the definition of otherness, “it is the recognition of the other as a different individual, which is not part of the community of its own community.”Through the story and with the reactions of the characters it is demonstrated how otherness has affected how they look at the little woman. The purpose of my essay is to argue how the colony has affected the way of looking like the construction of the other in "the smallest woman in the world" look at what is inferior.

In the story of "The smallest woman in the world" a French explorer named Marcel Petre found a small woman within the depths of Equatorial Africa. The woman belongs to the Pigmea tribe that is within the Central Congo. Although he believes himself explorer and believes that he made a discovery of something new, it is not so. He simply found the habitat where this woman and her race live. As a colonizer watching something new from what is not used to look lower by its size and for being different, according to Lispector in his story, “Marcel Petre ran into a woman of forty -five centimeters, mature, black, black,quiet. ”(Lispector 180). After what he thinks is a discovery, he feels a love for her and puts the name of little flower. When doing this he dehumanizes her because she is not a human name, she looks like an object and puts a plant name. Here is its superiority over it. The next thing he does is take a picture of the small flower, who sends France and where he is published in a newspaper for people to see her. Through the story, Lispector, writes about the reactions of different people within the city and as seeing the photography of the small flower caused feeling and varied reactions.

During the 1778-1959 Equatorial Africa was an underdeveloped colony and according to Sahoboss, “in 1778 Portugal Traded The Islands to the Spanish Government. Because of the Slave Trade, The Island Became A Major Center of Slave Trade ”(Sahoboss 1). Slavery played on a big paper during those years in the lives of people who were slaves and were limited and discriminated against in many aspects of their lives and this related to the story because this happened a year before this story was written. It is also important to see how the colonizers treat those they look at as inferior and also look at them as inhumans for the treatment they give them or in the way they look at them. Something important to consider is the tribe of pigmeos that is the race where the small woman in the story comes from. The Tribe of Pigmeans is a breed that lives in areas of the Central Congo of Africa. In order to understand how the colony affects how people look at the little woman, you have to consider as Marcel Petre describes the tribe according to the story, “its race is, little by little, being exterminated. Few human specimens subtract from that species that, if it were not because of the disguised danger of Africa, would be a very numerous people ”(Lispector 180). In the way he calls him ‘species’ is another way in which Marcel Petre the inferiority to the small flower and its race that is another result of how the colony has affected the otherness of things that are different by putting objective names versus by putting namesof humans.

The otherness, or the construction of the other, is demonstrated throughout the story of “the smallest woman in the world.”This is because the colony is present in the reactions that the characters have after seeing the photograph of the small flower that was sent by Petre. According to the article, the racism and coloniality of the subject: reflections from the south, the colony and otherness are connected when it turns the lower races when it says:

In this context, colonized peoples became lower races, and cheap labor and/or slave to produce goods for the world market. The forms of colonial domination were erected as a global pattern of capitalist power, what Quijano nicknamed as coloniality of power. (Fernández 1)

In one of the story reactions a young woman reacts with penalty and piety when she sees the photograph of the little flower and then tells her mom to also look at the photograph. Seeing photography the breast reacts saying, "but – said the mother, hard, defeated and proud – but it is a bug’s sadness, it is not human sadness" (Lispector 181). By saying this, the young woman confirms what Petre said of her before when she named her a plant and called a species. The two continue to dehumanize and they also do so in the way they speak as if they were more superior to it. Another example of a reaction that a character had after seeing the photography of the small flower was the reaction of a child. He asks his mother, “… what if I placed that African little woman in Pablito’s bed, while he is sleeping? When he wakes up, what a fright, huh? What a screaming, seeing her sitting on her bed! And then, we could play with her so much, we would make her our toy, yes?”(Lispector 181). The existence of the little flower for that child is simply as a monstrous object to scare who his brother can be. This ideology of otherness is being implemented at very girls and this is causing a repetition not to correct or change otherness in younger generations.

In summary, Coloniaje has influenced many aspects in the lives of people who were colonizers and people who were also affected by colonization. Through the story of "The smallest woman in the world" the reactions that the characters have are results of ‘the otherness’ that is the construction of the other. After reacting when seeing the photograph of the little flower, Marcel Petre and the characters being from France, they have a specific perspective of what is normal for them and what is not. Otredad too influences the thoughts and perspectives that other people who have gone through the stage of progress have and how they look at the things that are lower than them. In short, it is a battle of what they consider to be civilized and what is barbarism or monstrous that is the effect that the colony had to the construction of ‘the other.’ 

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