Throughout the literary world, there have been many stories created, specifically stories that use magical realism. Four stories specifically heavily use the literary element magical realism. These four stories area Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, The Insufferable Gaucho, The South, and Young Goodman Brown. But before we progress, what is magical realism? How does one define it? Magical realism is a type of fiction usually associated with Latin America. It’s essentially when realistic and fantastic details interweave which makes the setting normal taking place in the modern world, unlike fantasy or sci-fi, magical realism brings in a realistic tone. As such the four mentioned stories above are great examples of integrating magical realism.
The first story is Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by García Márquez’s. Márquez’s story starts normal, describes the setting ordinary and the character Pelayo talks about his wife along with worries on his newborn child. When readers first read, it’s simply a normal and realistic situation. When the crabs enter, it’s not seen as abnormal or odd but rather a normal occurrence. Additionally, when the couple discovers the old man, he’s described relatively normal apart from his wings, and with this description, it all ties to the mundane life we all know of it. As such, the story plays around with what’s real and what’s not. Even when finding him, they were surprised but quickly grew to familiarize him. As mentioned, before magical realism has characters who never question the fantasy-like elements, so when Pelayo encountered him, they never questioned his origin or were in total disbelief. Lastly, there’s a mention of a spider woman, and while spiders and women exist in the real world, in Márquez’s case, they are combined. As such, this story provides a fantasy element with an angel and a giant spider woman but not in surprise just part of the norm.
The Insufferable Gaucho written by Roberto Bolaño is another great example of magical realism. The story’s main character was a renowned lawyer and judge. Throughout the story, we’re presented with his struggles and his country collapsing. As a result, he decided to move into an old ranch, which he owned. This is where magical realism comes in. At one point in the story, Bolaño describes how Pedrera sees a flock of rabbits. Which is odd as a flock of rabbits seem very unlikely usually chasing after a train as they’re delicate peaceful creatures. However, one point, Pedrera to his horror sees the rabbits attack another tearing the body with teeth and claws. Additionally, where Pedrera’s is staying, rabbits are abundant everywhere with no sign of any other cattle or even horses. But he never really pursues why there isn’t any cattle and just normalizes as its part of everyday life. Other than that, that seems to be the only magical thing there is, as the likelihood of rabbits killing another seems very low.
Now The South by Jorge Luis Borges takes on an interesting twist. Within Borges story, the main character Juan Dahlman goes through a head injury. He almost dies but miraculously lives. After the head injury, it’s hard to tell whether what’s going on is a dream or real life. Throughout the remainder of the story, there are a few hints dropped such as the storekeeper. When Dahlman encounters the men the storekeeper rushes in and knows his name. Even in the story, Dahlman didn’t find it odd that the storekeeper knew his name. As soon as he entered the store, he was served food immediately. At first glance the story seems normal. However, upon reading it the second time it shows elements of magical realism. Even at the end when he sets off to fight, he has neither hope or fear, which may show this is a dream and once he dies he may wake up.
Lastly comes Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This story is a little bit similar to Luis Borges story The South. The reason behind the similarity is in Hawthorne’s story Goodman goes through a journey and seeks answers that lie within the forest. But there’s whimsical elements in the story and seems dreamlike. Additionally, he encounters the old man who offers a staff that will instantly help travel to the location he seeks. Even after being presented with that knowledge he doesn’t seem surprised nor questions it. Furthermore, once he reaches to the ceremony the trees are on fire. He sees respected members of the village participating in the ceremony. Goodman also notices that his wife Faith was participating as well. After that chaos he’s alone in the forest and returns to the village. As soon as he returns, he refuses anyone who was part of the ceremony. It’s hard to tell whether this may have been a dream or reality as Goodman suddenly sees himself alone as if the event never occurred. Additionally, when he returns no one in the village has any recollection or brings up the ceremony. Now there were some whimsical elements as Goody Cloyse clams to be a witch and the minster of church going to where the devil’s ceremony is being held. Another whimsical element is the serpent-like staff. As mentioned before, it helps with teleportation and as described by Goodman seems lifelike as if it’s moving. As such with these elements its best to fall under magical realism.
Thus, with all four stories each presents examples and use of magical realism, while two may have been dreamlike it is hard to tell if it is a dream or a reality. Furthermore, most of the stories were written by Latin American writers thus further proving the use of magical realism. One thing in common among the four stories is there is a bit of tragedy as the characters don’t really meet a happy ending. Even so all four stories effectively used magical realism through descriptions and introducing a normal setting along with integrating mundane life with a touch of fantasy.