Use Irony and Magic Realism in One Hundred Years of Solitude

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Use Irony and Magic Realism in One Hundred Years of Solitude

In Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, the realistic description of impossible events is an example of both irony and magic realism.

Irony is the use of words, images, and so on, to convey the opposite of their intended meaning. Garcia Marquez employs irony on several levels. Sometimes a single word, such as a character's name, suggests something opposite to the character's personality: for example, Prudencio Aguilar, who is not the least bit "prudent".

Sometimes a character's style of speech is ironic. For example, in the chapter on the banana workers' strike, the court uses very stiff, pompous language to state something that is ridiculous: that the banana workers do not exist, because they are technically not "employees" of the firm - an evasion of the government's responsibility that has tragic consequences. Another example is Fernanda's long-winded proclamations of her religious devotion. These are obviously expressions, not of Christian love, but of extreme self-centeredness and rigidity. The apparently patriotic declarations of Liberals and Conservatives alike also have nothing to do with loyalty to the country, but are really about the narrow ambitions of the politicians.

More subtly, what the narrator or the characters say may sometimes contradict what the reader knows to be true. There are many examples in the solemn announcements of Jose Arcadio Buendia, including his finding that ice "is the great invention of our time." Much later, the apparent progress brought by the banana company to Macondo turns out not to be progress at all, but a prelude to devastation.

Still more subtly, Garcia Marquez has reserved a...

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...ecise figures for things. Thus, the heavy rains that fall on Macondo-a perfectly normal, but impressive, event in northeastern Colombia-are said to last precisely four years, eleven months, and two days. To a child watching it rain, it might seem to last that long. Three thousand workers are massacred by troops during the banana strike. Colonel Aureliano Buendia fights, and loses, precisely thirty-two wars, and so on.

When we read of such amazing events told in such an objective and naïve voice, we realize it is up to us, the readers, to interpret their meaning. Whoever is narrating is simply too literal-minded and simple to have trustworthy opinions.

Works Cited

Drabble, Margaret The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Oxford University Press 1995

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia One Hundred Years of Solitude, HarperCollins
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