Linking Magical Realism and the Sublime in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
Marquez's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" links Magical Realism and Sublime literature to one another in such a way that Magical Realism seems to be a genre of the Sublime. This short story was published with a collection of other stories entitled Leaf Storm and Other Stories in 1955. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a native Columbian, has accomplished a great deal in the field of Magical Realism. This particular short story fulfills the requirements for Magical Realism and, at the same time, the Sublime. This fact leads one to believe that Magical Realism is, in fact, a genre of the Sublime instead of the Fantastic. The characteristics of Magical Realism match those of the Sublime much more extensively than those of Fantastical literature.
"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" includes many aspects, which may be described as magical. In the story, an old man with a very poor set of wings is found and kept as a pet for several years. These wings were described by the doctor in the story as "...so natural on that completely human organism that he couldn't understand why other men didn't have them, too" (528).
The fact that the old man had wings in the first place seems very acceptable to the characters, and this nonchalance is conveyed to the reader. To take an idea or an object that one is familiar with and distorting that image into something unfamiliar is called defamiliarization (Simkins 150). This use of defamiliarization is a very important characteristic of both Magical Realism as well as the Sublime. An angel is something with which most are somewhat familiar; however, Marquez's angel is a completely different type of angel. One expects an angel to have beautiful, white wings. However, the old man has a mite infested, shabby set of wings that the chickens investigate to find parasites.
Marquez also adds to the story the tale of the lady spider. The lady spider has the body of a tarantula and the head of a young girl. She was transformed to this state after sneaking out of her parents home to attend a dance. Witches, wizards, and spells are not used to transform her, simply lightning. The lady spider takes away the old man's mobs of spectators leaving him more ordinary in that he is still around even after his fifteen minutes of fame are over. One characteristic of Sublime literature is the lack of boundaries. There is obviously no limitation of the imagination used in this short story, as a lady spider could not exist. This lack of boundaries is common to works of Magical Realism as well as the Sublime (Loginus).
Another example of magic is the overabundance of crabs, an infestation one can accept easily enough. However, an infestation of crabs so severe the stench alone makes the infant very ill is much more nonrealistic. The use of a hyperbole, the infestation of crabs, is a characteristic common to Sublime literature (Loginus)....