Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 443

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The central technique of Magical Realism is to present incredible events usually associated with fairy tales and fables in a straightforward, realistic way. Thus, the term suggests a duality in which the ordinary and the extraordinary intersect. Although usually associated with such Latin American writers as Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez, and Julio Cortázar, such writers as Franz Kafka, Isaac Babel, and Eudora Welty have written stories that have many of the characteristics of Magical Realism.

Lordan’s story is a creative working out of people’s intuitive knowledge that someone whom they love has special characteristics that, if asked, they might be unable to articulate. Can the question of who a person really is be answered by merely itemizing and totaling up all the ordinary, everyday things that the individual does or says? Or is there some secret self that other people sense but cannot quite identify or name? Lordan’s task in this story is to suggest that to truly see the other person as he or she really is, people must be still and watch, for too often, caught up in the trivial activities of everyday reality, they fail to see. The fact that Ann sees Warren in this special illumination only without his hat suggests that he loses his specific individual identity when he is transformed, becoming instead a universal, archetypal emblem of the special spiritual nature in everyone.

As the basis for her story, Lordan makes use of a distinction that anthropologists say characterizes the primitive mentality: a distinction between the sacred and the profane. The profane includes all the everyday responsibilities and activities of human life—the need to eat, work, and procreate—whereas the sacred is that human belief that there is more to life than merely the sum of the everyday. The parablelike style of Lordan’s story reflects this basic mythic distinction.

Lordan also makes use of a formalist theory of art that suggests that human beings get so caught up in the familiar world of everyday reality that they miss the magic of life around them. The world becomes “familiarized,” and thus people respond habitually until what they experience is not the concrete real world, but rather the abstractions they create. The role of the artist then is to “defamiliarize” the world, make people see it as it really is, not as their stale habits have defined it. This is a central romantic view that informs all of Magical Realism and that infuses “The Widow” from the first time Ann sees Warren as his secret, special self to the point when she makes her final wish to join him.