In One Hundred Years of Solitude, entering into the magical world of Macondo is an acceptance of the negation of rationality; in fact, the novel is recognized as one of the earliest to use Magical Realism. What is Magical Realism and what evidence is there in the text to support this statement?
Magical realism is a rather broad label given to a type of fiction, most often by Latin American authors, that seamlessly combines both realistic and fantastical elements. Generally speaking, this type of narrative is set in a recognizably everyday setting and features fairly ordinary people for the most part. However, the narrative includes blatanttouches of the fantastic: peculiar traits of some characters (for instance, characters that live hundreds of years) sudden strange, mystical events, and so on.
The most noteworthy feature of magical realism is that it does not call attention to the intrusion of the fantastic, but instead treats the extraordinary as part of the ordinary. Occurrences that appear inexplicable (at least, inexplicable in rational terms) are accepted for what they are, with no attempt at, or even any interest in explanation. The tone is thus the single most important aspect of magical realism. It is totally accepting of all aspects of the story, whether realistic or not. Indeed, it makes no distinction between realistic and fantastical elements. It accepts the whole fabric of human existence and experience: reality and myth, fable and folktale, the rational and the supernatural, the past and present, waking reality, dream, and memory.
There is ample evidence of this style throughout One Hundred Years of Solitude, which remains probably the most famous work by the most famous exponent of Magical Realism. Overall the story is a chronicle of family history over the course of a hundred years, which is also the history of the town Macondo, founded by the family patriarch Jose Arcadio Buendia. It ends with the dissolution of the family and of the town, a fate predicted on an old manuscript inscribed by the gypsy Melquiades. In relating this epic tale, the narrative takes the fantastic along with everyday realism quite in its stride. Therefore we have Ursula, the matriarch of the family line, who lives well in excess of a hundred years, children who are born with pig’s tails, and characters who ascend to heaven at a moment’s notice (Remedios the Beauty).
The ready mingling of the ordinary and the extraordinary is well-illustrated in the incident when Jose Arcadio Buendia is visited by the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar, a man he killed in what passes as a ‘duel of honour’. Prudencio simply appears one night, with the gaping wound in his throat made by Buendia’s spear:
There was the dead man with his sad expression.
‘You go to hell,’ Jose Arcadio Buendia shouted at him. ’Just as many times as you come back, I’ll kill you again.’
Prudencio Aguilar did not go away, nor did Jose Arcadio Buendia dare to throw the spear. He never slept well after that. He was tormented by the immense desolation with which the dead man had looked at him through the rain, his deep nostalgia as he yearned for living people, the anxiety with which he searched through the house looking for water with which to soak his esparto plug.
This strange incident is related very straightforwardly, taking in not just the circumstances of the apparition but all the emotion which it evokes. The re-appearance of the dead man is an occurrence that is accepted without any fuss in the course of the narrative. Not the least element of surprise attends the appearance of the ghost – although there is guilt and vexation on the part of Buendia. As for the dead man himself, he combines both understated pathos and humour in his wistful regard of the living and his attempts to wash the esparto plug with which he vainly tries to cleanse the blood from his throat.