Comparing One Hundred Years of Solitude and Bless Me Ultima
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Magic or Reality in One Hundred Years of Solitude and Bless Me Ultima
In the South American storytelling tradition it is said that humans are possessed of a hearing that goes beyond the ordinary. This special form is the soul’s way of paying attention and learning. The story makers or cantadoras of old spun tales of mystery and symbolism in order to wake the sleeping soul. They wished to cause it to prick up its ears and listen to the wisdom contained within the telling. These ancient methods evolved naturally into the writings of contemporary Latin American authors. The blending of fantasy with reality to evoke a mood or emphasize elements of importance became known as magical realism, and was employed to great effect by Latin authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Rudolfo Anaya, in his work, Bless Me Ultima.
Bless Me Ultima introduces Antonio, a young boy caught between differing worlds, ultimately having to make a decision as to where he stands in relation to them. Throughout the story of his coming of age, Antonio is pulled between the stability of his mother’s family and the wandering spirit of his father’s people. Spanning the distance between the two universes is his grandmother, Ultima, a healer of great depth and power. Through her gentle influence and instruction, Antonio is guided to the realization of who he is and his place in the world. Anaya’s use of magic realism gives Antonio’s story a depth that would have been lacking without its inherent symbolism. An often-repeated mystical component is the image of the owl. Not an ordinary bird, this is a magical creature that follows Ultima, acting as her messenger and intermediary. Antonio establishes his rela...
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...story telling traditions. All storytellers are children of the ones, which came before them and stand on the shoulders of those who have told the tales in the past. Marquez and Anaya did not hesitate to make liberal use of magical realism, both as a way to create tension in their stories and to contact the deeper hearing of their audience. Magical realism was just another tool in their literary boxes, to be used with skill and discretion for the greater benefit of the tale being told. It worked well for the cantadora, sitting in the doorway weaving her basket as she wove her tale and it works equally well today as we pause from our lives, quiet our souls, and prepare to listen as the story unfolds.
Anaya, Rudolfo. Bless Me Ultima. New York: Warner Books, 1972.
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York: Harper & Row, 1970.