Compare “White Rabbits” by Leonora Carrington with “Mimic” by Donald A. Wollheim. Which story better represents the tradition of weird fiction and why?
Both stories contain elements central to "weird fiction," but Carrington's story has a symbolic quality to it that undercuts its "weirdness." Carrington has written a more complex and challenging piece, but the Wollheim is a better example of "weird fiction."
Both stories share characteristics of "weird fiction." For one thing, both stories are about observation—they are less about what happens to the narrator than what he or she sees. In that sense, both stories about witnessing bizarre or impossible things.
Another element of weird fiction is inspiring "awe" in the reader. That is, the story reveals something that changes our perception of reality. In the Wollheim story, the revelation that the man in black is not what he seems—he is neither a man, nor even human—suggests that the world is full of things that appear to be one thing, but in fact are something else, in this case giant insects that can camouflage themselves as humans (or parts of buildings). Horrifying as this is, it stands in contrast to the couple the narrator visits in "White Rabbits." In the Wollheim story, events are explained, and the reader can probably guess the relationship of his museum work with insects to the ultimate identity of the cloaked figure. In the Carrington story, the nature of the woman and "Lazarus" is never fully explained; they appear to be corpses, although some of the details, like Lazarus's "tinsel-like" skin) or the carnivorous rabbits, are never really explained, except perhaps in a symbolic way.
It's clear that the real topic of Carrington's story is the suffocating boredom of domestic life for women like Ethel. Carrington suggests that London is full of living corpses like Ethel, and the surrealistic nature of the story is meant to be understood as a comment on the lives of such women, and as a commentary on the ultimate source of surrealist imagery. In that sense, the story has a political element to it that is generally not part of the "weird fiction" genre.
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