Narrowing the Defining Boundaries of Magical Realism

Narrowing the Defining Boundaries of Magical Realism

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Narrowing the Defining Boundaries of Magical Realism

Latin American author Elena Garro wrote works such as "Recuerdos del porvenir," "Andamos huyendo Lola," "Testimonios sobre Mariana," and "The Day We Were Dogs." The short story "The Day We Were Dogs" (1964) uses events that are questionable to the reader even though the characters do not question. Because these events are questioned by the reader, it is not a Magical Realist story. This story might have been miss identified because it was written by a Latin author.

In "The Day We Were Dogs," the author uses magical elements to help tell the story two sisters and there day as "dogs?". These elements seem to be magical by means of Magical Realist techniques, but becuase the author dosen't make it clear as to whether these two sisters are dogs or if they are pretending to be dogs the reader hestitates. After reading the following passage, the reader might conclude that the two girls are pretending:

Eva got up and disapeared among the plants. She returned running and threw
herself down next to Toni."I told them to cook for three dogs and no people."
I didn't ask anything. Next to Toni the house had lost its wieght. Two
ants were walking on the ground of the day; an earthworm peeked out of a
hole, I touched it with my fingertip and it became a red ring. There were
bits of leaves, little pieces of branches, tiny pebbles, and the black earth
smelled of magnolia water. The other day was off to one side. Toni, Eva,
and I watched without fear its gigantic towers and stationary winds, purple
and mulberry colored."You, what is your name going to be? Look for
your dog name, I'm looking for mine." "I'm a dog?" "Yes we are dogs." (208)

Then readers read this following passage and questions the decision they had made by reading the former passage:

The dogs got to the gate; it was hard for them
to open the door; the bolts were very high. (209)

By making the reader hesitate (Todorov) about whether this is supernatural or real, this story could be placed into the Fantastic genre, but we can't put it into this genre because it also has an element of the Sublime in it.

The Magical Realist technique that the author uses is the closeness or near merging (Faris) two different days. This becomes apparent when the narrator states that it was "a day with two days in it" (206).

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This Magical Realist technique also becomes apparent in the following passage:

And she jumped up on my bed to look at me up close. Her blond hair
Covered her forehead. From my bed she jumped to the floor, put a finger
Up to her lips and penetrated cautiously into the day that advanced parallel
To the other. (207)

Since this technique is a Magical Realist technique it seems to be a part of the Magical Realism, but since the reader has this hesitation to the magical elements it is not acceptable as a Magical Realist text.

The only people who do not hesitate are the characters, but it depends upon which day the girls are in as to whether the characters are pretending or not. In the following passage, it seems as though the characters think that the girls are pretending in one of the days:

Everything was still. The other afternoon got so high that down below
The street was outside of it. In the distance appeared several men with
Rifles. They were like all the men; dressed in white, with palm
Sombreros on their heads. They walked slowly. The treads of their
Huaraches sounded from very far away. In the street there were no trees
To deaden the sound of the footsteps; only white walls, against which
Echoed, closer and closer, the steps, like the roll of the drums on a day of
Fiesta. The roar stopped suddenly when they got to the wounded man.

"Did you kill him?"
"I sure did, ask the girls."
The men looked at the dogs.
"Did you see it?"
"Woof! Woof!" replied Buddha.
"Woof! Woof!" replied Christ. (210)

When trying to place a story into a genre I believe that people must be careful and analyze the story more thoroughly. They must understand that just because a story is written by a Latin author and has the characteristics of a certain genre doesn't make it a part of the genre. And they must examine the events to see whether or not the reader questions the events that take place in the story. In this story the reader does hesitates and questions whether or not the events are natural or supernatural. And even though the author does use a Magical Realist technique this story is not a Magical Realism story because of the former characteristic of the story.

Works Cited

Faris, Windy B. "Scheherazade's Children: Magical Realism and Post Modern Fiction." Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Windy B. Faris. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 1995. 163-190

Garro, Elena. "The Day We Were Dogs." Latin American Writers. Ed. Gabriella Ibieta. NY. St. Martin's Press 1993; 206-212

Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre. Cleveland: The Press of Case Westren Reserve University, 1973
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