A narrative technique that blurs the distinction between fantasy and reality. It is characterized by an equal acceptance of the ordinary and the extraordinary. Magic realism fuses (1) lyrical and, at times, fantastic writing with (2) an examination of the character of human existence and (3) an implicit criticism of society, particularly the elite."My most important problem was destroying
the lines of demarcation that separates what
seems real from what seems fantastic"
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Characteristics of Magical Realism
Hybridity—Magical realists incorporate many techniques that have been linked to post-colonialism, with hybridity being a primary feature. Specifically, magical realism is illustrated in the inharmonious arenas of such opposites as urban and rural, and Western and indigenous. The plots of magical realist works involve issues of borders, mixing, and change. Authors establish these plots to reveal a crucial purpose of magical realism: a more deep and true reality than conventional realist techniques would illustrate.
Irony Regarding Author’s Perspective—The writer must have ironic distance from the magical world view for the realism not to be compromised. Simultaneously, the writer must strongly respect the magic, or else the magic dissolves into simple folk belief or complete fantasy, split from the real instead of synchronized with it. The term "magic" relates to the fact that the point of view that the text depicts explicitly is not adopted according to the implied world view of the author. As Gonzales Echevarria expresses, the act of distancing oneself from the beliefs held by a certain social group makes it impossible to be thought of as a representative of that society.
Authorial Reticence—Authorial reticence refers to the lack of clear opinions about the accuracy of events and the credibility of the world views expressed by the characters in the text. This technique promotes acceptance in magical realism. In magical realism, the simple act of explaining the supernatural would eradicate its position of equality regarding a person’s conventional view of reality. Because it would then be less valid, the supernatural world would be discarded as false testimony.
The Supernatural and Natural—In magical realism, the supernatural is not displayed as questionable. While the reader realizes that the rational and irrational are opposite and conflicting polarities, they are not disconcerted because the supernatural is integrated within the norms of perception of the narrator and characters in the fictional world.
HMWK: POST A COMMENT TO THE INTERPRETIVE QUESTIONS
"The Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong"
Level 2: Interpretive questions.
In "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong," what transforms Mary Anne into a predatory killer? Does it matter that Mary Anne is a woman? How so? What does the story tell us about the nature of the Vietnam War?
2. The story Rat tells in "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" is highly fantastical. Does its lack of believability make it any less compelling? Do you believe it? Does it fit O'Brien's criteria for a true war story?
Level 3 Allegorical/Symbolic Questions What does this short story tell the reader about the nature of humanity? About war?
Basic Level I Reading Comprehension Questions
1. What was Rat’s reputation among the men of Alpha Company, when it came to telling stories?
2. What does Rat insist about his story in this chapter?
3. What was the military discipline like at the outpost?
4. Who were the Greenies and what were they like?
5. Who did Mark Fossie bring to the outpost?
6. What was their plan together, since elementary school?
7. What does Rat say are the similarities between Mary Ann and all of them?.
8. What did Mary Anne begin to do when casualties came in?
9. Where had Mary Anne been the first time she stayed out all night?
10. How did she change as a result of her conversation with Fossie the next morning?
11. How did she respond to Fossie’s arrangements to send her home?
12. When and under what circumstances did Rat see her next?
13. On pg. 106, what is Mitchell Sanders’ attitude about Rat’s way of telling a story?
14. What does Rat have to say about the soldiers attitude toward women?
15. What did the Rat, Fossie, and Eddie find when they entered the Greenies hootch?
16. What kind of jewelry was Mary Anne wearing?
17. What does Mary Anne tell Fossie about his presence in Vietnam?
18. What does Mary Anne say she wants to wants to do with Vietnam?
19. At the bottom of pg. 113, what does Rat say about "the girls back home"?
20. What is the metaphor that Rat uses to explain Mary Anne’s experience with Vietnam?