Storytelling It Is Somewhat Remarkable Essay

Total Length: 1300 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

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In many ways, this story is about the character of Borges' inability to form real relationships -- and so any true sense of identity -- in his world. He loved a woman who did not return his affections and was even "annoyed" by him, and ends up "befriending" her cousin after her death even though he secretly detests him, and suspects Carlos of the same feelings towards him (Borges, par. 1; par. 32). His experience with the Aleph, and his inability to relate this experience to the reader, is evidence of his disconnect with the world. His world also used to have a very narrow focus -- i.e. Beatriz, the woman he loved -- and the Aleph serves to instantly and infinitely expand his world while at the same time deepening his disconnect with it, rather than helping to rectify it with more identifiable features. The character of Borges is a man wrapped up in his own head, and no experience is able to shake him out of this.

Rushdie includes a very similarly self-focused character in Haroun and the Sea of Stories, that of Haroun's mother Soraya. Soraya abandons her husband Rashid and her son Haroun in favor of a more boring and less imaginative life with her neighbor, Mr. Sengupta. Haroun finds himself beginning to doubt his father, wondering "What's the use of stories that aren't even true?" (Rushdie, 20). He had already begun to doubt his father, believing that stories has to come from somewhere and therefore disbelieving in any notion of pure imagination. This is hugely ironic given the fanciful and imaginative nature of the world he inhabits; in an ironic and paradoxical twist, the book suggests that the wonders of reality are evidence of imagination.

This speaks directly to the concept of magical realism as a genre. It is not merely about fanciful elements, but about the realities of fantasy, or perhaps the fantasy that exists even in mundane reality.
Magical realism sort of turns things inside out, revealing the magic underneath everyday occurrences in larger and more external ways. For Haroun, this truly begins when he goes on a journey with his father, traveling through many fantastic places including the Sea of Stories, which seems to back up his father's claims of where his stories came from. Eventually, having become immersed in the real yet imaginative world that is father is so familiar with, Haroun begins to increase his sense of agency and the strength of his convictions, even going on a journey without his father in order to protect the pipeline of imagination to his father. At this point, Haroun is beginning to understand the importance not only of himself as an individual, but of how it is possible for him to relate to the world. His father relates through imaginative stories that delight people who hear them even if they aren't true, and in a way this creates a truth that is more profound and substantive than "reality."

Both of these works use magical realism to redefine the way the world is viewed and interacted with by various characters, yet both works also have markedly different visions of how these things operate. Borges' take on things is far more bleak; his character (or alter-ego, really) finds it impossible to leave the world of his own head. Haroun has almost the opposite problem; he cannot allow the rest of the world -- or ta least his father's explanations of it -- into his head. His problem of access runs opposite to that of Borges. But this story ends happily, with Haroun and even his mother coming to the realization that Rashid's view is at least as valid as anyone else's. This fact is what makes literature an enduring art despite its repetition -- the world can be viewed in to many ways….....

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