Characteristics of Magical Realism in If Dinosaurs Were Cats And Dogs

Characteristics of Magical Realism in If Dinosaurs Were Cats And Dogs

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Characteristics of Magical Realism in If Dinosaurs Were Cats And Dogs

    "If Dinosaurs Were Cats And Dogs" is a short story written by Colin McNaughton. "If Dinosaurs were Cats And Dogs" was published in 1981. It is classified under the fantastic sublime. However, based on the analysis of "If Dinosaurs were Cats And Dogs" one would believe that magical realism is a genre of the sublime.


While reading "If Dinosaurs Were Cats And Dogs", one comes upon the illustrations in the book. Through out all of the illustrations, the people are on a smaller scale then the animals. Scale is a sign of a sublime work. It creates a mood of nature being more important than humans or anything else for that matter. Scale, when used in sublime works, sets a universal or macroscopic tone.


I would confidently maintain that nothing contributes so decisively to the grand style as a noble emotion in the right setting, when it forces its way to the surface in a gust of frenzy, and breathes a kind of divine inspiration into the speaker's words (Longinus 109). Longinus is explaining how a moment in a story line becomes clear to the reader out of a turbulent setting. It is considered by Longinus to be a perfect specimen of the sublime. In the short story "If Dinosaurs Were Cats And Dogs", many examples of the emotion force their way to the surface in an uncontrollable frenzy. A good example from "If Dinosaurs Were Cats And Dogs' would be this excerpt: " This snake is over ten miles long, which makes it very hard to steer. When people shout, "Look out! Look Out! Its head's too far away to hear"(McNaughton 21). In the excerpt from the story, when it is explained that even though people are shouting for the snake to watch where it is going, the snake can't hear because the it's head is ten miles away. This is a brilliant examples of sublime literature.


Although "If Dinosaurs Were Cats and Dogs" is classified as fantastic sublime, the story has many examples of magical realism within its pages. The way in which the animals in the story are humungous is one of the many examples of magical realism. A parrot that is twenty-nine feet tall is extraordinary. Even more extraordinary is a snake that is ten miles long.

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Both the snake and the parrot are magical elements due to the fact that no amount of evolution could every produce either one of these abnormal creatures. The animals being larger than found in nature is the first of many magical realism elements.


One must not forget that in order to have a magical realism story there has to be realistic elements along with the magical elements. In the story, although the animals are huge, the people are normal in size. Everything in the environment is proportioned correctly except for the enlargement of the animals. The people live in cities just as people in this world would do. Cars, trains, and plains are used along side the massive beast. Even the people, though they are much smaller then their pets, must take care of and watch other there pets, just as people today have to feed water and shelter their animals. These examples help further support that " If Dinosaurs Were Cats and Dogs" is indeed a magical realism story, along with being listed as fantastic sublime.


Another reason " If Dinosaurs Were Cats and Dogs" is considered to be a magical realism work is because of the way in which the people who live in the same land as the strange beast view the animals. The inhabitants treat the animals as an everyday experience. They deal with them just as most anyone would deal with animals. However, the people have a little more trouble trying to keep the oversized creatures from getting into mischief. The people have to work all day just to feed their pets. People in reality do not have to work in order to feed their pets, but unlike the people from the story most people would do the extra work in order to make sure their animals have food and do not go hungry. In the story people are going about everyday business amongst the overgrown animals. The way in which the people view their world as normal is a sign that " If Dinosaur Were Cats and Dogs" is indeed a magical realism novel.


Disorienting of natural elements is a good clue that " If Dinosaurs Were Cats and Dogs" is a magical realism short story. In the story, there are examples of natural elements being distorted. The molehills talked about in the story are actually mountains that people play and climb upon. This is the first time a mountain is actually made out of a molehill. Due to the fact that molehills are small in reality and enormous in the story is one example of distortion of nature. Another example of the distortion of natural elements is when a tortoise's shell is used for winter sports when it snows. How many tortoises have shells large enough to ski down? This is the second example of the distortion of natural elements sewn throughout the story. The final example of distortion of natural elements is when a huge pig is chasing a butcher's truck. The pig is so large that it easily outweighs the truck ten to one. Because just about every event that happens in the story distorts nature, "If Dinosaurs Were Cats and Dogs" is considered to be magical realistic.


Although "If Dinosaurs Were Cats and Dogs" is indeed a story considered to be fantastic sublime literature, it shows many characteristics of magical realism. Based upon studying "If Dinosaurs Were Cats and Dogs", one can propose that fantastic sublime literature is a genre of magical realism. The fact that fantastic sublime literature is a genre of magical realism is supported by both sublime and magical realism elements being used throughout " If Dinosaurs Were Cats and Dog."


Works Citied

Longinus. On the Sublime. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995.

McNaughton, Colin. If Dinosaurs Were Cats and Dogs. N.Y: Scholarship Inc, 1981.

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