Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

The term Magical Realism gained currency in American criticism in the context of the rise of North American critical interest in Latin American fiction, but it has been pointed out that the essential elements of Magical Realism existed in African American and African culture long before American critics had a name for it. The easy relationship of realism and fantasy associated with the term is common in the black oral tradition, and a significant part of Perry’s accomplishment in Montgomery’s Children involves his suggesting in print some of the force of the storytelling tradition.

It is a quality of this kind of narrative that readers are encouraged to a more liberal notion of causality than associated with literary realism. Thus, it is here possible that the felling of a forest in Montgomery, New York, becomes part of a causal chain that leads to, say, the killing of a young black man in Cincinnati, Ohio. Readers may simply accept this without question, allowing the narrative the right to establish its own rules. They also may find in the departure from the literal an invitation to readings that emphasize the metaphorical and symbolic, thus perhaps seeing the felling of the forest as marking a rupture between the community and the natural environment, a rupture that must ultimately produce destructive consequences. A further possibility, since realism remains a component of Magical Realism, is to consider magical patterns of causality as...

(The entire section is 469 words.)