When someone walks into a bookstore like Barnes & Nobles they see different books of different genres. They see fantasy, non-fiction, bibliography and magical realism. Magical realism, according to Encyclopedia Britannica is “chiefly Latin-American narrative strategy that is characterized by the matter-of-fact inclusion of fantastic or mythical elements into seemingly realistic fiction. ” In other words, there are magical elements blended seamlessly into the plot and they are culturally accepted.
Overall, many magical realism stories, like Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, or Big Fish by Tim Burton, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, and “The Moths” by Helena Maria, all have many characteristics that are similar to most magical realism stories. In a world that has events that seem magical and unexplainable are seen as abnormal in their setting but are seen ordinary and are culturally accepted under the magical realism umbrella. In the novel, Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya there are many elements that show that this is under the magical realism genre.
There is a portion of the book when Ultima lifts a curse planted by three witches, the Trementina sisters on Antonio’s uncle. They sent Lucas to the doctor and the priest and they couldn’t help him get better. In the novel Tony recalls, “She mixed kerosene and water and carefully warmed the bowl on the stove. She took many herbs and roots from her black bag and mixed them into the warm oily water”(97). After that she made Lucas drink that medicine and there were two more liquids that she made him drink until Lucas threw up a green bile and hair with it.
The hair is what the witches worked with to plant the curse (97). This scene of the book shows that you can not explain how they set the curse and cured it and they are both not scientifically proven. The fact that she gave him three potions to drink and then he threw up the hair and then was cured was magic. But in this case the way Ultimas treats her patients is seen as ordinary. No one knows how these potions and sayings saved Lucas from the curse that witches planted, but they do work and are culturally expected.
Another example that proves that magical realism has events that are not explainable or can be proven but are seen as ordinary in that setting of the story, is in the story “The Moths” by Helena Maria. The narrator’s grandma died in the end of the story, she recalls, “Then the moths came. Small, gray ones that came from her soul and out through her mouth fluttering to light, circling the single dull light bulb of the bathroom”(16). This is an element of magical realism because the moths coming out of the dead grandma can not be explained.
Yet, the granddaughter sees it as normal and accepts them. It was like she was expecting them to come. Another example of this element of magical realism is in the story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez a man comes into town with enormous wings. He is seen as a normal person and people want to see what he looks like but they are mostly just amazed at the idea that there is a man with wings, like an angel. The way he is dressed is not the way the church pictures the angels.
However, people are not speculating whether he is a human or not and are not freaking about but are comparing it to an angel portrayed by the church. So, the magical realism element comes in when something unexplainable occurs, but the society around it sees this act or person as normal and accepts it like it was a regular walk in a park or a regular person you see everyday. Personification of objects is also a usual occurrence in a story under magical realism. In Bless Me Ultima, Ultima takes Tony to gather herbs by the river.
There is a moment where she tells him to try and connect with the river and hear what it is saying. Tony discusses with Ultima and the readers that, “The silence spoke, not with harsh sounds, but softly to the rhythm of our blood”(41). Tony after asks Ultima what that was and she tells him it is the presence of the river. He starts to pay attention and states that he is no longer afraid of the presence of the river. Also, Tony’s father tells him what the wind is saying and how to communicate with the wind.
In both events of the story Tony takes these in and does not question that the river and wind have the power to communicate with humans; instead he embraces is it and looks for it while he is alone. Another example of personification being an element of magical realism is in the movie Big Fish. In a scene of the movie Edward Bloom, one of the main characters, is walking in a forest at night. All of a sudden, a tree lifts him up and starts attacking him. When he was little he saw into a witch’s eye and knew how he was going to die.
So, while the tree was attacking him he focused more on “this is not how I am going to die” then about a tree taking a life form and attacking him. Therefore, the way he reacts shows that personification is seen as ordinary in the world of the movie and that is an element of magical realism. Overall, personification in a magical realism story is seen as ordinary and is accepted. Changing forms and metamorphosing is seemed as a fantasy element but in stories under the magical realism genre they are seen as normal.
In Bless Me Ultima while curing Lucas, Tony and Ultima hear coyotes outside of the house scratching the walls. Ultima while working mentions that the “Trementi going to have cuts and bruises tomorrow” (95). In this novel it is normal for witches to take form in coyotes or owls. Hence, when they hear the scratches and Ultima’s owl injuring them they know and see it normal that those are the three sisters. In the movie Big Fish, there is a moment where Edward Bloom goes to Mr. Calloway’s, his boss, mobile home to talk to him. When he approaches the mobile home is shaking and moving around.
Edward opens the door and a wolf jumps on top of him. Mr. Calloway had turned into a wolf. His main assistant knew what was happening and pulled out a gun. This shows that his assistant knew what was going on and it he seemed ready to pull the trigger. Edward was also just trying to get him off and wasn’t surprised that there was a wolf attacking him. He soon starts to play catch with him. Edward’s reactions show that he just wants the wolf to get off him but does not worry about why and how he turned into a wolf, proving this as an element of magical realism.
In the short story, “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, while many people want to see the man with enormous wings, an angel there are some carnival participants attracting viewers outside. One of the attractions is a spider women, she turned into a spider when she sneaked out of her house to go to a dance and while walking home “a fearful thunderclap rent the sky in tow and through the crack came the lightning bolt of brimstone that changed her into a spider”(11). While everyone was amazed that she was a spider they mostly focused on the fact that it was a tragic story and she was now stuck in that body for ever.
All of these three examples show how in magical realism stories there can be a metamorphosis but the society will accept it and see it as normal, proving it is an element of magical realism. Overall, the magical realism genre has many characteristics that are normal to these stories. They follow the definition of, magical elements are blended seamlessly into the story and the characters see these elements as normal as everyday events. So, things like metamorphosing, unexplainable events, and objects taking life are elements commonly seen and accepted in the ordinary world.