Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism

I N T E R P R E T I V E   R E A D I N G
HAZARDING CHANCE
r e a d i n g   a n g e l a   c a r t e r ' s   W I S E   C H I L D R E N

BY S.L. DEEFHOLTS

C O N C L U S I O N

My hope is this interpretive reading has provided some indication of the kinds of undercurrents, allusions and narrative techniques that have gone into the construction of a story like Angela Carter's Wise Children. Some were probably intentional, while others may well have crept in as stowaways -- this does not invalidate them. Instead, the diverse range of literature, ideas and criticism from which Wise Children emerged have helped to create a rich, evocative and multi-faceted text. Of course, there are numerous other works that also have variations on this kind of layered complexity -- some of them can be found in other areas of this site. Hopefully, this reading has helped point out the direction from which other such narratives can be approached for those of you who are looking to uncover some of the hidden strata in various stories.

READING THE ROAD SIGNS OF MAGICAL REALISM

If an author alludes to another author or narrative, be on the alert. This is not to say that there is invariably going to be other, covert allusions to the work in question, but -- especially for more contemporary works -- the chances are pretty good. The references may not be explicit, either -- they may be structural. For instance, the story itself may be a subtle revisioning of the other work. Or the characters may somehow reflect on those other characters, but in a new way. This kind of intertextuality often ends up being a subtle manifestation of Magical Realism.

If the book deals with the creation of some sort of artistic endeavour, be it a painting, a novel, a theatre production or a song, it is very possible that there will be some implicit or explicit self-awareness to be found there. Sometimes it's a novel about a landscape painter that will feature descriptive passages of natural scenes that sound like descriptions of watercolours. And sometimes, it is a line-by-line exposition of self-awareness. Naturally, there are also many gradations in between. This is postmodern. It can also be magically real, in the way that it transforms the lens through which you perceive the world in which the story takes place.

If there are aspects in a book that seem absurd, extreme, unrealistic or even magical, look deeper. Try to see what might be the metaphor behind the manifestation. Have these strange events taken place at key emotional moments for a given character? Might they relate to significant cultural, political or social events that have taken place in the context where the novel is set? Could they be satirical statements of some sort?

It is always worthwhile (if you have the time and an aspect of a work has stimulated your interest) to examine and question these various facets. After all, the chances are that the writer has thought through an approach and used it for very specific reasons. Discovering them may sometimes take a little doing -- like literary sleuthing, in some cases -- but doing so can be exciting, rewarding and very often relevant in other ways. After all, if a particular aspect of a book has caught your attention enough to provoke greater examination -- or even contemplation -- by exploring the aspect, you may learn a few unexpected things about yourself as well.

return to INTRODUCTION

return to PART 1 ~ DUALITIES

return to AN INVENTORY OF TWINS

return to PART 2 ~ …AND DUPLICITY

return to PART 3 ~ LIFE AS A CARNIVAL

return to PART 4 ~ ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE

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Rev'd 2003/03/27