In "Emma Zunz," how does magical realism fit into the themes of the story (e.g., power, revenge, and justice)?
If there is indeed something magical about the realism of "Emma Zunz," it derives partly from the seeming perfection with which Emma carries out her plot to avenge her father's death.
On the night of her revenge against the mill owner Loewenthal, Emma acts as if within a dream—where events move as if automatically and without the intention of the dreamer. The reader is swept along by these actions without yet knowing the purpose of her encounter with the anonymous sailor. It's a brutal scenario. When she tears up the money the man has left for her, it's a symbolic act, of course, but in a way not a genuinely realistic one. In the "purity" of doing this, Emma has become an unearthly avenger, a kind of angel of destruction. There is, conceivably, a "magically" realistic force propelling her to act.
In the end, we are told that Emma's story that she killed Loewenthal after he raped her was "unbelievable," and yet it "convinced everyone, because the substance of it was true." This may not precisely function on the level of magic realism, but it's close, because it relates to people's understanding of a deeper realism than that of literal, photographic truth. A made-up story is credible in spite of itself. Loewenthal—by committing the crime for which Emma's father "took the fall"—has indeed violated her, though not physically
The story functions on still another metaphorical level as emblematic of a general victimization of women. During her encounter with the sailor Emma reflects:
She thought (she could not help thinking) that her father had done to her mother the horrible thing being done to her now.
This is ironic in the extreme, given that Emma's own actions are being done solely to avenge her father. Yet the nightmarish reflection reinforces the sense of Emma's being transferred into an almost supernatural state where she is capable of carrying out a plot that defies "normal" realism.
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