In Clarice Lispector 's short story The Foreign Legion, images of birth and motherhood are repeatedly contrasted with those of imprisonment and helplessness. The latter of those are linked to a mother 's responsibility for others, keeping her from acting on her own desires and effectively trapping her in her role. Though still very young, both motherly tendencies and wishes of her own are present in the character of Ofélia. Her struggle is to unite those two conflicting desires within herself.
Right from the first mention of Ofélia, her and the narrator are linked by the very embodiment of innocence and childhood, a chick, and through that are placed in the position of a mother. It is the presence of a chick that leads to the narrator remembering Ofélia and her family and a chick that triggers Ofélias inner conflict. For the reader, the scene in which the narrator and her family are admiring a chick in the beginning of the story is essential in understanding the concept of motherhood depicted in the story. The narrator 's son explicitly asks, if she wants to be the chick 's mother and her answer is yes. She goes on to explain: “I was the messenger assigned to that creature which did not understand the only language I knew: I was loving without being loved.” (89) Here, the inseparableness of giving comfort and the isolation of the mother are shown. As the messenger, it is the mother 's responsibility to interpret and explain the world to the one 's in her care. That this also means givi...
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...gh isolation from her family, fives males, that she will be able to experience love for herself again. (89) Comparing this to Ofélia 's situation, it becomes rather clear that this struggle of having to choose between love for another and love for one 's self is not meant to be limited to women who are mothers in a literal sense but rather meant to be universal for all women. It highlights not only the joy of giving over one 's self to complete adoration for another being but also takes care to show the magnitude of a decision like this. Instead of falling into the dominant narrative of the wonders of motherhood and birth, it also shows the sacrifices that have to be made for it and the fear it can inspire. In the character of Ofélia, these two sides of womanhood are combined. She does give birth, but to herself, becoming a mother and her own person at the same time.
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