The novel takes its origins from classical Greek and Roman and continues to be one of the most important genres through decades. As society and technology change, the novel changes in order to keep up with them. Thus, the contemporary authors created new terms and themes in novels that can help them in reflecting their society. Magical realism, however, is one of new terms. It is a Latin American literary movement from the 1960s onwards. It merges realistic elements- portrayals of the ordinary elements with elements of fantasy and myths, and turns the world to a dreamlike. Within the work of magical realism the world is still grounded in the real world, but fantastical elements are considered normal in this world. Like fairy tales, magical realism novels blur the line between fantasy and reality. Furthermore, besides connecting separate cultures and beliefs, magical realist novels combine the realities of everyday life and hyperbole, supernatural elements such as ghosts, djinns, mythological and religious elements.
In this paper, I will spotlight on two chief works of magical realism. Beloved by Toni Morrison, and Wise Children by Angela Carter in terms of the combination of reality and fantasy, the art of surprises, the union and challenging of opposites, and the distortion of time and place.
Firstly, the combination of reality and fantasy exists in the two novels. The settings are real in the both, for example, in Beloved, the story set in Ohio during the years surrounding the civil war, and in Wise Children the setting opens and closes at the address of the twines house“’49’ Road, Brixton, London, southwest”. (Carter, 1991, p.1). However, Morrison blends the real setting with a fantastical element by introducing the ghost of Beloved, depicting it as normal element, showing how it enters the life of the protagonist Sethe, and her daughter Denver, and stays with them at the same house. “The woman gulped water from a speckled tin cup and held it out for more. Four times Denver filled it, and four times the woman drank as though she had crossed a desert“(Morrison, 1987, p.38). In Carter’s Wise Children there is more than one fantastical element revealed trough the actions and the characters of the novel. For instance, from the very beginning of the novel, Dora creates a fabulous world, and starts to narrate the story as a fairy tale. She introduces the city she and her twine live in with these words “Once upon a time” (carter, p.1). Actually this sentence is a key sentence in fairy tales, and the most of fairy tales begin with this sentence. Furthermore, every chapter of this novel begins with this sentence. Dora and Nora’s lives are narrated as fairy tales also. They have no idea about the past of their family, and they are grown up with tales of Grandma.
Secondly, the art of surprises appears in the two novels but in different ways. In Beloved, for example, the shocking action revealed when Sethe killed her baby girl and tried to kill her other children. Although there was a reason behind this action, it still an abnormal behavior that is hard for the mind to believe it. The role exchange between men and women, is another noticeable surprising feature. In Beloved Sethe appears as a strong, rebellious woman who managed in taking a fateful decision in her life, and the lives of her children. In contrast, Seethe’s husband “Halle” was a kind and sincere man, who goes mad because he couldn’t endure the abuses and violations of schoolteacher’s nephews towards his wife. The other surprising feature is the actions of the ghost who seems to be an adult, but her deeds imply that she is just a baby who needs to be taught how to walk and eat. In wise children the art of surprises appears in Perry’s character. Perry is the uncle of the twins, he is a magician and is always showing off with his unbelievably elaborate magic tricks. Also, he is always appearing from nowhere, looking unnaturally huge. On the one hand. The role exchange between men and women give a sort of surprise in the novel, for instance, ” Tristram” Melchior’s son follows in his father’s footsteps in not taking responsibility. He makes a girl pregnant and leaves it alone. It is exactly what “Melchior” does with the twins and their mother. On the other hand, the sexual relationship between Dora and her uncle Perry, the idea of existing so many twins, a disguises, and mistaken identities all give the sort of surprises in the novel.
Thirdly, as magical realism involves the union and challenging of opposites, they are clearly exist in the both novels. Indeed, plots in magical realist literature usually involve borders, change and mixing of two opposing ideas. These opposites are high culture and low culture, life and death, real world and magical world. From the angle of culture, in Beloved there are two different societies, the slave’s society and the slave owner’s society. As the dominant one tries to attack the slaves, the other one tries to escape from them and get their freedom. But in Wise Children we have a high class family, which is Hazards, and low class family, which is Chances. Although they have a different views on life, both families are thrown together and it is one character “Perry” who provides a link between both families. In terms of life and death, Beloved the dead baby girl return from death but as a ghost and continues her life from the age that she was murdered. And in Wise Children there is a character “Tiffany” the partner of “Tristram” and the goddaughter of the twins is missed and regarded to be died in the second chapter of the novel. But surprisingly she appears in the birthday party in the last chapter. The opposite between the real world and the magical world is brilliantly combined in both novels. In Beloved for example we can see the combination between human’s world and ghost’s world. Furthermore, “Morrison” combines these worlds together, and normalizes their relationship. However, the magical world in Wise Children is noticeably introduced through “Perry” who is a magician, looking unnaturally huge and appears in Melchior’s 100th birthday party from nowhere, and covered in hundreds of rare, Brazilian butterflies. It seems too supernatural at first, until we are soon brought down to earth when Dora mentions that a zookeeper came after with a net to recapture the beautiful insects.
Fourthly, as magical realist novels include the distortion of time and place, we can find this distortion in the two novels. There is a lot of flashbacks and foreshadowing that blur the chronological line of the time. In “Beloved” the ghost was the key element which is used to make flashbacks, and tells the history of Sethe. The ghost was always asking “Sethe” and “Denver” about events that she remembers from the past, while they were trying to forget them and live their present. In Wise Children however, “Dora” the narrator, while she was telling her story, she constantly jumps from the past back to the present and vice-versa. It actually creates an almost dreamlike effect in the novel. The past and the present jumble together as Dora takes us on a wild, guided tour of her family history.
To review, with the changes in technology and society, new styles of novels emerged and new writers ‘women writers’ started to add their thought, emotions, and experiences in literature. Magical realism appears as a literary genre associated especially with Latin America, and the vast majority of magical reality’s writers were female authors. It characterized by two conflicting perspectives, one based on rational view of reality and the other on the acceptance of the supernatural as vulgar reality. In this article I have covered two of the most prominent magical realism novels by explaining how the term combines reality and fantasy and makes distortion of time and place. And by clarifying the sense of surprises and opposites in magical realism. This term actually helped the contemporary authors in creating a new writing style in their novels and supports them in reflecting their present society and depicting their history.
- Carter, A.(1991). Wise children. United Kingdom, chatto&windus.
- Morrison,T.(1987). Beloved. United States Alfred A. Knopf.