Disclaimer right off the bat…I don’t think of myself as any sort of expert on magical realism, and my experience is limited to a series of short stories I’ve read in my Spanish 309 class last spring, most notably, those by Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez – in particular, “Dos Palabras” and “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.” I will throw in my late night read of Like Water for Chocolate into the mix as well. It should help explain where I am coming from.
Flores doesn’t go into an in depth explanation of what qualifies a work as being magical realism, but he does list a few of his ideas, and one of the things that I don’t believe he mentions is the presence of sadness/loneliness that the stories seem to carry with them. It wasn’t mentioned in Faris’ list either. You can’t miss the sadness in People of Paper, and it is hard to ignore in any of the works that I am basing this overarching generalization on. They are rarely the type of stories that make you cry, if you are prone to that sort of thing. It is never that type of intense emotion, maybe because the characters tend to be held at a distance. They have their little quirks, but they also feel a bit like stereotypes. They are playing a part, and their sadness is a part of that.
Some of the stories have happy endings, and others have those endings where you aren’t quite sure. Is Little Merced and her father walking away from Saturn and El Monte a good thing? A happy thing? Is it a satisfaction of the criteria of postmodernism to frustrate the readers’ expectations? I don’t know. Could you say that the characters of most magical realism stories could be classified as tragic characters? Or is the sadness that surrounds them not of a degree to be really tragic? For this point I am thinking of Marquez’s story, because I am not sure if it could be said that anything is particularly tragic about it. Maybe it is a comedy, but nobody gets married in the end. But it is a story of sadness – an old man lost and made into a spectical, the frustrations of a priest, and besides it has the great line, “The world had been sad since Tuesday.”