Magical Realism and Unrequited Love in Isabel Allende’s “The Little Heidelberg”

Magical Realism and Unrequited Love in Isabel Allende’s “The Little Heidelberg”

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Throughout Isabel Allende’s Story, “The Little Heidelberg”, love and magical realism can be observed. There are plentiful details in describing the physical characteristics of the setting and the people and scenery within the tale. These techniques reinforce the theme, of which is unrequited love.

“The Little Heidelberg” is the story of a small dance hall. The customers of The Little Heidelberg are typically older men and women, many of whom are foreigners who cannot speak English. One of these is El Capitán, a retired Finnish sea captain, who has been dancing with niña Eloísa, a lovely Russian woman, weekly for forty years. They have never spoken to each other because of language barriers. One day some Scandinavian tourists come to the Heidelberg. El Capitán hears them speaking his language and asks them to translate to Eloísa for him. In this scene it is the first time that anyone has ever heard him speak. Eloísa learns that El Capitán wants to marry her, and she says yes. The couple begin a celebratory dance, and as they start twirling Eloísa begins to turn “to lace, to froth, to mist” until she is first a shadow and then completely disappears (Allende, 179). In the magic of the scene, she twirls out of existence. Her disappearance seems to reflect the dreamscape nature of the scene.

The setting of the story is surprising. It is a little tavern on a Caribbean island. The Little Heidleberg is a place full of improvisations and the unexpected. In this tropical area resides a place with walls decorated with “bucolic scenes of country life in the Alps…” (Allende, 174). Mango and guava are used in strudel due to the absence of apples. The musicians are clad in “lederhosen, woolen knee socks, Tyrolean suspenders, and fel...


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...gle word.” (Allende, 173).

This segment from “The Little Heidelberg” foreshadows the ending and embodies the theme of unrequited love. The way in which these two characters interact with each other shows a level of comfort that is developed over years of time spent together. They exhibit such as closeness of those experienced by lovers. The words used by Allende describe El Capitán and Eloísa as portraying such mannerisms.

The Theme shows itself most prominently in the second to the last paragraph. In this section El Capitán continues dancing on and on even though Eloísa is not longer present in his arms. Even in her absence the music continues to play and El Capitán continues to dance alone until La Mexicana joins him. The technique of imagery used to describe in detail the physical characteristics also expresses and fortifies the theme of unrequited love.

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