Magic Realism Essay

This essay has a total of 3001 words and 13 pages.

Magic Realism




Magic Realism appeared as a critical term for the arts and it later extended to
literature. The term was first used by the German critic Franz Roh in 1925 to characterize
a group of Post-Expressionist painters. Franz Roh described it as a form in which “our
real world re-emerges before our eyes, bathed in the clarity of a new day.” It was later
replaced by “New Objectivity.”

Magic Realism survived to define a narrative tendency in Latin America during 1949 to
1970. It can be defined as a preoccupation or interest in showing something common or
daily into something unreal or strange. A magic realist narrator creates the illusion of
“unreality,” faking the escape from the natural, and tells an action that even if appears
as explainable it comes across as strange. In strange narration’s, instead of presenting
something as real, the writers reality becomes magical. The writer suggests a
supernatural atmosphere without denying the natural, and the style is distorting the
reality. The intention of the narrator is to provoke strange feeling. The explanations
are not clear or logical. There also is no innuendo or psychological analysis of the
characters, instead they are well defined almost in opposition, and never appear confused
or surprised about the supernatural. Gabrial Garcia Marques says for him it is the
supernatural and the natural peacefully co-existing and showing themselves through magic
realism. It is the encounter of strangeness and familiarity.

During colonization, Europeans found a land full of strange and supernatural things and
their records were based on their interpretations which lead to a uncertainty of Latin
America. Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the Conferencia Nobel 1982 (the year in which he was
awarded the Nobel Prize): “La Soledad de America Latina”, tells of a Florentine sailor
named Antonio Pigafetta who wrote about his expeditions around the world. This sailor
described strange creatures, which many can be found today, but his interpretation created
a supernatural rendition of Latin America in the European point of view. Overall, Latin
American culture is a combination of many other cultures that came during colonization.

Garcia Marquez, born into poverty studied law and journalism at the National University
of Colombia in Bogota, and at the University of Cartagena. He began his career as a
journalist, and demonstrated a unique interest in cinema and dedicated much of his early
career to film criticism. Garcia Marquez began writing short stories in the late 1940s.
His first major publication was “La hojarasca.” In this story, Marquez describes the
first fictional Colombian village of Macondo--the setting of much of his later work--and
the combination of realism and fantasy characteristic of his style. His early
journalistic writings clearly reflect his fascination with William Faulkner.

Garcia Marquez’s Monologue of “Isabel Watching it Rain in Macondo” offers us an example of
the dangers of the “authoritarian nature of technological systems” and an example of the
ways in which political and cultural systems are shaped by technology. “Then it rained.
And the sky was a gray, jellyish substance that flapped it’s wings a hand away from our
heads” is a form of magic realism described in his short story. Garcia Marquez carries out
his distortion of direct historical time through the internal monologues that record the
narrators’ thoughts, and through the complex effect of many monologues. The extent of the
narrators’ structure of social and historical reference differs significantly, and is
almost immediately outlined by their reactions to the first historical sign, the sound of
the train’s horn, which marks 2:30. Garcia Marquez employs to overturn the passage of time
at the level of the stories structure. The reader must read backwards and forwards at once
in order to locate all of the emphasis of a strain and establish the relative historical
order of the monologues in which they appear. It is remarkable over the family setting
and the weather with the new season. The narrator and the family in this short story seem
to be the upper class and the Indians as the servants. The second extravagant image comes
when the narrator and her stepmother are talking about having the Indians put the
flowerpots on the veranda “and that was what they did, while the rain grew like an immense
tree over the other trees.” Everyone is down due to all of the rain as the narrator talks
about her father’s eyes being “lost in the labrynth of the rain.” Giving a demoning
presence, their house was soon flooded “the floor covered by a thick surface of viscious,
dead water.” Everywhere things were getting worse especially when the water got to the
cemetary and broke open tombs having dead bodies being washed away. This is definitely a
demoning presence. My interpretation of the story is that it was all a dream this girl
was having compiled of nothing more than Garcia’s work of magic realism.

As a critic, Mike Gonzalez takes about Gabrial Garcia Marquez’s work. “It would be easy
to see Marquez as a kind of folklorist trying to rediscover a lost world of rural
innocence, some kind of ‘dream time’ long since lost. And it is true that his work is full
of extraordinary events: beautiful girls with long green hair, others who levitate to
their deaths amid clouds of butterflies, tattooed boys with enormous sexual longevity,
doctors who eat grass. Perhaps they were all part of his grandmother’s repertoire of
legends, myths and magical recipes. Yet they are not simply nostalgic fantasies that
belong to a distant past: they are responses to a reality which is also present in all of
Marquez’s work.” Through my research on Marquez, I have learned a lot about his work and
I agree with the way Mike Gonzalez critically analyzed his work. Marquez is fascinated
with this world of magic.

Earnest Gains, another magnificent writer is a native of Louisiana. He won the National
Book Critics Circle Award for the novel, “A Lesson Before Dying.” On top of many other
awards, novels, and short stories, Gaines served in the United States Army from 1953 to
1955. He received a bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State College and also did
graduate work at Stanford University. In 1984, he began teaching at the University of
Southwestern Louisiana. As Gaines has said:

“Though the places in my stories and novels are imaginary one’s, they are based pretty
much on the place where I grew up and the surrounding areas where I worked, went to school
and traveled as a child. My characters speak the way people speak in that area. They do
the work that people do there. Since most of my writing is about rural Louisiana, my
characters are closely attached to the land.”

As written in the first person, “I was not there, yet I was there. No, I did not go to
the trial, I did not hear the verdict, because I knew all the time what it would be . . .
. . .” So begins Grant Wiggins, the narrator of Ernest Gaines’s powerful exploration of
race, injustice and resistance in “A Lesson Before Dying.” Though Grant is the narrator
from chapters 1-28 and also 31, chapters 29 and 30 very greatly. Chapter 29 covers
Jefferson’s prison diaries and the last weeks of his life and chapter 30 gives different
members of the community a chance to give their points of view on Jefferson’s death
sentence. “These strategic shifts work to create a more comprehensive view than a single
narrative angle. They detail Grant’s frustration as he struggles with emotional demands he
would rather avoid, and they avoid stereotypical community responses on execution day.”

A young black man named Jefferson is being accused on murdering a liquor store owner, and
two black men. He pleads that he is not guilty of the crime everyone thinks he has
committed.

University educated, Grant has returned to the tiny plantation town of his youth, where
the only job available to him is teaching in the small plantation church school. Grant is
trapped in a career he does not enjoy, angered by the injustice he sees all around him, he
dreams of taking his girlfriend Vivian and leaving Louisiana forever. But, when Jefferson
is convicted and sentenced to die, his grandmother, Miss Emma, and Grants Aunt, Tante-Lou
beg Grant for one last favor, to teach Jefferson to die like a man. What was worse than
having to deal with his aunt and Miss Emma, Reverend Ambrose wants Grant to reassure the
death row prisoner about Heaven something Grant is no longer able to believe in. In
Grants response:

“Everything you sent me to school for, you're stripping me of it, I told my aunt.... The
humiliation I had to go through, going into that man's kitchen.... Now going up to that
jail.... Anything to humiliate me. All the things you wanted me to escape by going to
school. Years ago, Professor Antoine told me that if I stayed here, they were going to
break me down to the nigger I was born to be. But he didn't tell me that my aunt would
help them do it.”

Grant tells Vivian how Miss Emma needs a memory of Jefferson standing as a man. Vivian
can not understand where Grant is coming from.

“We black men...stay here in the South and are broken, or we run away and leave them alone
to look after the children and themselves. So each time a male child is born, they hope he
will be the one to change this vicious circle--which he never does. Because even though he
wants to change it, and maybe even tries to change it, it is too heavy a burden because of
all the others who have run away and left their burdens behind.... I can give them
Continues for 7 more pages >>