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An Analysis of The Circular Ruins

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An Analysis of The Circular Ruins

   "The Circular Ruins" is a short story written by Jorge Luis Borges in 1964. Borges was born in 1899 and died in 1986. At the age of six, he knew he wanted to be a writer. By age eight, he had already written his first story. Most of Borges' stories are listed under the fantastic literature category. Fantastic literature has several things in common with magical realism, but it is less believable.


Magical realism and fantastic literature both contain magical and realistic elements. The realistic elements in this story give a description of the surroundings. They tell of a river and a mountain. A "circular enclosure crowned by a stone tiger or horse, which once was the color of fire and now that of ashes" is the temple that the main character visits (25). There are birds in the jungle that sometimes wake up the main character with their cries and native people who live nearby that bring him food. Fire and two boatmen who show up later in the story are also realistic elements.


The magical, or fantastic, elements make the story take a completely different route than what it would have without them. Rabkin says that "the truly fantastic occurs when the ground rules of a narrative are forced to make a 180 degrees reversal" (18-19). The main character "came up the bank without pushing aside (probably without feeling) the brambles which dilacerated his the circular enclosure" and "stretched out beneath the pedestal" (25). This description sounds normal, but when he wakes up he finds that his "wounds had closed" (25). The main character is at the temple to dream into life, a man. He also dreams of a fire god that is made of a combination of different animals, and ...

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...tic literature. The magical, or fantastic, elements in "The Circular Ruins" seem to go with the realistic elements. There is no hesitation in the main character making it seem as if the magical elements are normal. Therefore, this story seems to fit into the magical realism category.


Works Cited

Borges, Jorge Luis. "The Circular Ruins". A Hammock Beneath the Mangoes. Ed. Thomas Colchie. N. Y.: Plume Printing, 1991. 25-29.

Faris, Wendy B. "Scheherazade's Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction". Magical Realism Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham: Duke U.P., 1995. 163-190.

Rabkin, Eric S. The Fantastic in Literature. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1976.

Schaffer, Barbara Joan. "The Circular Ruins". 31 January 2001. <http:/>


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