Essay about Fantastic Elements in The Porcelain Doll

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Fantastic Elements in The Porcelain Doll

   Although "The Porcelain Doll" is found in an anthology of Magical Realist literature, one may wonder if the story is a true example of Magical Realism. Written in 1863 by the Russian Leo Tolstoy, "The Porcelain Doll" was a letter that is now treated as a short story. After analyzing Tolstoy's story, a reader may see that "The Porcelain Doll" is not a true example of Magical Realism but rather a possible example of the Fantastic.


In order for a story to be considered a Magical Realist text, it must contain both magical elements and realistic elements (Flores 112). Near the beginning of the story, Tolstoy tells the reader how he had already gone to bed when his wife, Sonya, entered the room to undress. As she approached the bed, Tolstoy realized that his wife was "not the Sonya you and I have known--but a porcelain Sonya" (Tolstoy 34). Therefore, the transformation of a human into a porcelain doll is obviously the magical element in this story.


One of the realistic elements in this story is that of the porcelain doll itself. The manner in which Tolstoy describes the doll signals to the reader that the doll is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, the doll was just like "those porcelain dolls with bare cold shoulders, and necks and arms bent forward, but made of the same lump of porcelain as the body" (Tolstoy 34). Another realistic element in "The Porcelain Doll" may be the activities of the characters. For example, one time when Tolstoy's wife became a porcelain doll, Tolstoy's dog dragged her into a corner and almost broke her, which is something that an ordinary dog would probably do (Tolstoy 36).


In addition to having the mixture of magical elemen...

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Flores, Angel. "Magical Realism in Spanish American Fiction." Magical Realism. Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 109-116.

Leal, Luis. "Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature." Magical Realism. Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 119-123.

Roh, Franz. "Magic Realism: Post-Expressionism." Magical Realism. Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 15-30.

Todorov, Tsvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Form. Cleveland: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1973. 168-174.

Tolstoy, Leo. "The Porcelain Doll." Magical Realist Fiction: American Anthology. Ed. David Young and Keith Holloman. N.Y.: Longman, 1984. 33-36.


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