Magical realism, according to author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, "…expands the categories of the real so as to encompass myth, magic, and other extraordinary phenomena in Nature…" (Marquez, Creighton.edu). Marquez has used magical realism very effectively in his short story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings; he blends realism and fantasy so well that there does not seem to ever be a movement in the narrative from realism to fantasy. The English Department at Emory University takes the definition to a deeper level, suggestion that magical realism "…aims to seize the paradox of the union of opposites (emory.edu). Magical realism takes two very different (or "conflicting") perspectives and places them side-by-side for the sake of drama in a fictional narrative, according to the Emory University explanation.
One of the perspectives in magical realism is based on "a rational view of reality," but the other perspective is presented assuming the reader will accept the "…supernatural as prosaic reality" (Emory.edu). And magic realism is quite different from pure fantasy because as in Marquez's story, there is a normal, unexceptional world established but within that world magical things occur as part of an ordinary routine. Another way to look at it is to view magical realism through the lens of European rationality versus "the irrational elements of a primitive America" (Emory.edu).
A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
In Marquez's story, the author creates a very easy-to-relate-to plot, a well-written, and highly crafted -- and yet in one sense an unbelievable -- narrative. But all of a sudden this smooth flowing story becomes infused with some magic as an angel falls to Earth in a very violent rainstorm. Angels are not real, the reader may have been thinking throughout his or her life; angels are found in the Bible, in literature, or in movies like "City of Angels" or "Meet Joe Black" or even "It's a Wonderful Life. But nevertheless in Marquez's story an angel appears and while the angel provides help for a family that is very poor and is steeped in pain from a son who is dying, the family becomes all too human and greedy and tries to take advantage of this miracle.
The reader encounters a miracle when the old man arrives, and Marquez describes him as perfectly natural, so natural that the reader is invited to believe that a "…flesh-and-blood angel" could arrive to help a struggling family. People viewing this character had various explanations, which allowed Marquez to provide some human characterizations to help the contrast between the real and the supernatural. The "simplest" people that viewed the angel figured he should be named "mayor of the world," an absurd idea but it helps describe human simplicity. Other people who had "sterner" minds (but were obviously rather narrow in their focus) had the idea that the angel should become a "five-star general" so wars could be won.
That is an ironic thought -- and shows what could be thought of as flaws in Marquez's characters -- because angels have in literature and in spiritual contexts represented peaceful ideas, not ideas infused with violence. Even the parish priest is shown through the plot and the characterization strategies of Marquez to be shallow in thinking. Why would an angel that just dropped in from on high speak the same language as a priest? Why would an angel automatically be an imposter because he doesn't speak the language of a priest?
Meanwhile Marquez's style is to not only allow the reader to see what this old man with wings looks like (including his "few faded hairs left on his bald skull" and the parasites that were to be seen in his soiled feathers), and how others see him (like a "huge decrepit hen among the fascinated chickens"), but he makes sure we can smell the old man with wings. The old man had "…an unbearable smell of the outdoors," which, while not specific, offers enough information to imaging that the angel didn't smell fresh as a daisy.
The descriptiveness and clever use of comparison by Marquez helps the reader become fully engaged with this interesting specimen that came down from the sky in a storm. For example, a traveling carnival showed up with a "flying acrobat who buzzed…