Magical realism is a genre where magic elements are a natural part in an otherwise mundane, realistic environment. It has been said that “Magical realism is a continuation of the romantic realist tradition of Spanish language literature and its European counterparts” (Faris). Magical realism allows the author to expand character’s attributes to relatability. One example of this occurs when a character continues to be alive beyond the normal length of life and this is subtly depicted by the character being present throughout many generations.
On the surface the story has no clear magical attributes and everything is conveyed in a real setting, but such a character breaks the rules of our real world. The author may give precise details of the real world such as the date of birth of a reference character and the army recruitment age, but such facts help to define an age for the fantastic character of the story that would turn out to be an abnormal occurrence like someone living for two hundred years. Professor Matthew Strecher defines magic realism as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe”.
This critical perspective towards magical realism stems from the Western reader’s disassociation with mythology, a root of magical realism more easily understood by non-Western cultures. (Faris) Western confusion regarding magical realism is due to the “conception of the real” created in a magical realist text: rather than explain reality using natural or physical laws, as in typical Western texts, magical realist texts create a reality “in which the relation between incidents, characters, and setting could not be based upon or justified by their status within the physical world or their normal acceptance by bourgeois mentality” (Flores).
In Sandra Cisneros’, Ghosts and Voices: Writing from Obsession, she details her autobiography and creates a sense of disconnectedness with the world around her. She reveals feeling separated from society in her reading and writing. Her loneliness from being the only daughter in a family of sons and her inability to make friends separates her further from the interactive normalcy of society. “Instead of writing by inspiration, it seems we write by obsessions, of that which is most violently tugging at our psyche… there is the necessary phase of dealing with those ghosts and voices most urgently haunting us, day by day” (Cisneros, Ghosts, 49).
This lack of a sense of belonging results in separation and isolation, which impacts her sense of community and reveals her ideas about her own culture. Cisneros doesn’t use the elements of magical realism to tell her story. Rather she uses her culture’s religious elements to describe her upbringing. It is necessary to understand the culture’s religion in order to achieve a direct representation of its importance to the historical, socio-political, and cultural contexts to the story.
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