Magical realism in Chronicle of a Death Foretold and Perfume. Magical realism is an essential tool in the author's arsenal of literary element that implements the use of fairy tale like diction underlining dialogue or scenes. This literary device molds the character of any novel by instilling the reader into a realm where they can question practicality. Magical realism plays a vital role in the translated works of Perfume: The Story of a Murder by Patrick Süskind and Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Marquez. The use of this literary element enables both authors to illuminate certain themes and concepts of the translated works through bizarre and extraordinary elements and to preserve a certain level of believability.
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Both Marquez and Süskind obtain great use of magical realism in order to give a twist to their works. There is a pattern with the usage of magical realism between Perfume and Chronicle, in Perfume, Süskind uses magical realism in Baldini's death at the end of part one in Perfume where "Two buildings were hurtled into the river, so completely and suddenly that none of their occupants could be rescued. Fortunately, it was a matter of only two persons, to wit: Giuseppe Baldini and his wife, Teresa." (Süskind 111) In Chronicle, Marquez uses a multitude of series of happenstance throughout the novel leading up to Santiago's death. An example of said happenstance would be "Someone who was never identified had shoved an envelope under the door with a piece of paper warning Santiago Nasar that they were waiting for him to kill himâ€¦but he didn't see itâ€¦" (Marquez 14) Though both authors implement happenstance through magical realism, they do so in order to explain different themes. Süskind uses the coincidence of the destruction of only Baldini's house in order to exemplify the theme that those who use and exploit others for selfish means, ultimately suffer, as a consequence. This is seen in Baldini's exploitation of Grenouille to craft perfumes under Baldini's name. As a result of this exploitation, Baldini ultimately pays with his life. In contrast, Marquez uses his series of coincidences of failed warnings to Nasar, including the unseen letter, to bring about the themes of fate and the selfish nature of society. The combination of the failed attempts to warn Santiago of the murder shows how society was at fault for his death and how society has a natural selfish attitude in its lack of concern for others. In addition, Marquez's use of the unseen letter can be interpreted as the Vicario brothers' attempt to warn Santiago. However, the pressures of society force the brothers to be secretive because the people of the town expect the brothers to bring honor back to their sister. This further shows how society was ultimately at fault for Nasar's death. Though both Marquez and Süskind use similar applications of magical realism in their works, they also have similar themes and concepts that are demonstrated through different applications of magical realism.
Magical realism can be used in different ways to express common themes and concepts as seen in the works of Marquez and Süskind. Marquez uses magical realism yet again at the very end of Chronicle of a Death Foretold during Santiago's murder. Pedro Vicario describes, "'the strange thing is that the knife kept coming out cleanâ€¦.'" (Marquez 117) Furthermore, as Santiago then "â€¦stood up, leaning to one side, and started to walk in a state of hallucination, holding his hanging intestines in his hands." (Marquez 119) Süskind also uses another application of magical realism during Grenouille's first murder where "He, in turn did not look at her, did not see her delicate, freckled face, her red lips, her large sparkling green eyes keeping his eyes closed tight as he strangled her, for he had only one concern - not to lose the least trace of her scent." (Süskind 53)
Through these examples of magical realism, Marquez and Süskind relate a key concept that exists within both of the novels - the innocence of the main characters. During the actual murder, the knives that penetrate Santiago come out clean, without any blood. This event is an implication that Santiago was not supposed to die, as there was no blood thus showing his innocence. The fact that Santiago walked around his house while carrying his intestines is another indication that Santiago was not supposed to die. Through Marquez's use of magical realism we see that since Santiago is still hanging onto life after a brutal murder he was truly supposed to have lived. Both of these uses of magical realism prove the innocence of Santiago. In Perfume, during the murder of Grenouille's first victim, Süskind describes how Grenouille's only concern about the girl is her scent. Knowing of Grenouille's incredible sense of smell, an example of magical realism in itself, we can see that this is a prime example of how Grenouille is being manipulated by his own sense of smell. Since it is his nose that dictates his actions, we see that Grenouille is completely innocent of his doings. Through Santiago's prolonged death and the bloodless knives and Grenouille's super sense of smell, both authors' use magical realism in order to demonstrate that both of these characters were completely innocent of their crimes.
Both authors explore another key concept in both novels through the use of magical realism. The portrayal of a character as a Christ figure is explained through the use of magical realism in both works. During Santiago's murder, "The knife went through the palm of his right handâ€¦." (Marquez 117) In Perfume we see Süskind's use of magical realism to demonstrate a Christ figure at the end of the novel. "They tore away his clothes, his hair, his skin from his body, they plucked him, they drove their claws and teeth into his flesh, they attacked him like hyenas." (Süskind 254)
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Through these examples of magical realism, Marquez and Süskind manage to create Christ figure within their characters. The knife penetrating through Santiago's palm is a parallel to Jesus' crucifixion in that he was nailed through the palms. In addition, the walk that Santiago endures while holding his entrails to the backside of his house parallels Jesus' walk to Mt. Sinai while carrying the cross. The crowd of people at the end of Perfume falling in love with Grenouille's perfume is another prime example of magical realism. The cannibalization of Grenouille is another parallel to Christ in that it is a representation of Holy Communion in which a person receives and eats the Eucharist as the body of Christ. These uses of magical realism are a strong indication of the presence Christ figures in both of the novels. Again one can see that Marquez and Süskind used magical realism as a device to explore key concepts within their works.
By using the literary device of magical realism, Marquez and Süskind manage to emphasize key themes and concepts throughout their works. These fantastic elements make it easier for the reader to comprehend the key ideas within the novel. Magical realism also allows the reader to make his or her own connections through his or her own knowledge and experiences. Overall, both authors managed to incorporate and emphasize key ideas within their works through the simple application of magical realism.
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