Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Allende has been influenced by the Magical Realists, whose work has dominated Latin American writing since Jorge Luis Borges began to make his mark in the 1950’s. These writers are concerned with the representation of the miraculous within the real, so their work usually is realistic but with some elements of fantasy. With writers such as Luisa Valenzuela and Gabriel García Márquez, fantasy tends to dominate, but Allende maintains a light touch. For instance, Eva Luna notes that her friendship with Clarisa has lasted to this day and that her old friend’s death has only put a slight crimp in their communication. She also mentions that Clarisa has bumps on her shoulders that seem to be the beginnings of angel’s wings. Allende does not emphasize such fantasy elements, however, and most of the story is grounded in credible reality.

On the other hand, the reader’s credibility is almost always strained. In “Clarisa,” the reader is asked to accept the crazed husband living forty years in isolation and the protagonist living in a rundown house where the walls “sweat a greenish mist.” Such details are sufficient to keep the reader alert to whatever comes next; the reader is also encouraged to be open-minded. Allende also promotes an atmosphere of unreality by neglecting to situate her stories in any particular city or country, although it is usually apparent that the setting is somewhere in South America. The reader may suppose any given story is...

(The entire section is 440 words.)