Postmodern Lit. An Analysis Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2431 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

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[. . .] In either case, there is some of him in us, and some of us in him -- in short, we must wonder whether we in all our humanity do not contain something of the angelic form in us. We might call it a soul, perhaps?

By treating of the supernatural as though it were real and commonplace -- Marquez introduces a theme of hierarchical nature (which implicitly associates selflessness with love and a higher order). But this theme is met at the same time with selfishness on the part of the people. The two worlds -- one of transcendental virtue (of which the "angel" shows one -- "patience" (Marquez, 1968, p. 4) -- and one of pure self-interest, exercised by Elisenda, who charges the crowds to see the "attraction") -- clash in a story, which Marquez tells us is for children. Children's stories usually carry with them some lesson. Therefore, we should ask ourselves, what is the lesson to be learned from Marquez's tale?

If we look to the priest, Father Gonzaga, for answers, we find little comfort. He reads his catechism -- but does not teach us any lessons from it. Instead, he plays the perfect part of post-colonial bureaucracy: writing to his bishop for answers, waiting for that bishop to write on to Rome, waiting for Rome to review the case, etc. It even appears that Marquez has little use for the priest, saying of him only that he "held back the crowd's frivolity with formulas of maid-servant inspiration" (p. 4).

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The crowd, however, does not want formulas: it wants to know what it all means: The priest cannot tell them, and finally the crowd abandons him and the Old Man for someone who can reinforce in them some sort of moral: the crowd listens to the story of the girl who was changed into a spider because she disobeyed her parents. The crowd accepts the story and the lesson that goes with it and goes away. The crowd has been reassured of the existence of transcendentals: but the proof came not from the patience exercised by the sickly "angel" but by the direct punishment of God, who in a "magical" way appears to say, "Here is what happens when you disobey." The humanized Old Man "angel" tells them nothing.

Term Paper on Postmodern Lit. An Analysis of Assignment

Our inability to treat creatures that are half human and half supernatural -- as Father Gonzaga would no doubt agree that humans are (composed, as the catechism teaches, of body and soul) -- shows the inhumanity with which we treat ourselves. The transcendental values that we lack are represented in the "angel" who appears all too human to the humans who lack that which would otherwise show them as possessing spirituality. No one in the tale is affected by the pitiful sight of the creature. Only the old woman appears to have any sense of wisdom concerning it -- and her wisdom is simply to put it out of its misery as if it were a fatally-wounded dog. On the other hand, the "wisdom" of the old woman could be considered an ironic wisdom. Perhaps the old woman (being of that Old World, which belonged to the age of faith) realizes that the "angel" is a representation or reminder of the lack of spirituality that she and all the others possess, and that it is best gotten rid of: out of sight out of mind.

Out of sight, out of mind is exactly what Elisenda thinks as the "angel" finally takes wing and departs heavenward. Her thoughts do not travel heavenward with it, but rather stay dismally fixed to the trivialities of the here and now.

The same sort of mystical resolution coupled with mystical shunning is seen in another work that could be called postmodern, Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita -- a story in which the Devil himself comes to haunt Moscow -- and, of course, no one believes he actually exists. Such denial of the otherworldly has an affect on the worldly, and to what degree it does may be gauged in any number of Barth's tales, even in one such as "Toga Party," where the old narrator finds himself for some inexplicable reason compelled to attend a social outing that holds little outward significance but inwardly shows more about the nature of man than one might first suspect.

In conclusion, the postmodern short story is a reaction to the emptiness of modernism and its complacent attitude regarding "objective" analysis of the world. Postmodern theory allows us to view the short story in a way that defies empirical analysis and compels the reader to suspend his disbelief. It extends to the vein of magical realism and allows the postmodern author to reveal a world that has been left out of modern life -- a world that is brimming with life just below the surface, if only we will allow ourselves to see it.

Works Cited

Albee, Edward. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? NY: Scribner, 2003. Print.

Barthelme, Donald. "Margins." Sixty Stories. NY: Penguin, 2003. Print.

Browning, Robert. "Andrea del Sarto." MobileReference. Web. 1 Dec 2011.

Coover, Robert. "Going for a Beer." The New Yorker. 2011. Web. 1 Dec 2011.

Faris, Wendy B. Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004. Print.

Haiven, Tuulen. "OT: The Palace of the Peacock -- Guyana." 17 Sept 2009. Web. 1

Dec 2011.

Marquez, G.G. "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: A Tale for Children." Web. 1 Dec 2011.

O'Connor, Flannery. 3 by Flannery O'Connor. NY: Penguin, 1983. Print.

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