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Best known for his Nobel prize-winning One Hundred Years of Solitude and several other major novels, Gabriel Garcia Marquez has, in fact, produced an extensive oeuvre that consists of journalistic pieces and short stories in addition to full-length novels. It is interesting, however, that Mr. Marquez had crafted some of his finest and most compelling works well before he acquired international stature. Indeed, the author had produced several dozen short stories between 1947 and 1972, most of which were subsequently organized into three volumes: Eyes of a Blue Dog, Big Mamas Funeral, and The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother. A scrutiny of these short story collections can provide a careful reader with valuable insights into how Marquez’s style has developed over time, as the writer metamorphosed from a novice in the field of magical realism into the most fertile and recognizable representative of the abovementioned style. Given the problem as it is described above, the current paper seeks to trace the evolution of Marquez’s style, focusing on the text structure, content, and style of each of the three short story collections as well as the strengths and weaknesses of his style. Ultimately, the paper argues that Marquez’s style had transformed significantly between the 1940s and 1970s, passing all the way from his amateurish imitation of Kafka’s style with just a few personal contributions to the insistent focus on realist reflections on the Latin American reality and, finally, to the development of the authors trademark magical realist style.
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The Eyes of a Blued Dog is, essentially, a collection of shards of Marquez juvenilia written between 1947 and 1955 and compiled into an anthology in 1984. In terms of the structure of the text, the stories from this collection have some similarities. The most obvious one is, perhaps, that they are obfuscating and difficult to follow, at least to the reader unaccustomed to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s work. Indeed, the writings begin abruptly, develop rapidly and finish very unexpectedly. Information is often presented in a phantasmagorical order. In the eponymous short story The Eyes of a Blue Dog, for example, the characters are locked in the cycle of delirious dreams the only place where they can meet. Likewise, The Other Side of Death, another story from the collection, revolves around a dream of the main protagonist and the dreamlike elision of this protagonist with his brother. The chief protagonist of The Third Resignation, too, struggles to come to grips with reality, as he cannot realize whether he is dreaming and, by extension, if he is alive at all. Overall, in addition to serving as a blueprint for the presentation of ideas in the stories, the dreamlike aspect of Marquez’s early works from The Eyes of a Blue Dog also constitutes an important and omnipresent theme in the collection.
Some other common features can be observed in the works from this collection. One of the most evident is the theme of loneliness and isolation. It manifests itself clearly, if not exemplary, in The Eyes of a Blue Dog, of course. Indeed, the two protagonists see each other only in the dream world of the narrator. Even though they long to meet each other in the physical world where they could touch and otherwise interact, the two are separated every time the narrator awakes from his sleep. In The Other Side of Death, the theme of isolation manifests itself through a similarly frustrating relationship between two twin brothers and only intensifies when one of the twins dies. Marquez deftly, if somewhat uncannily, employs a literary device called the double to amplify the theme by conflating individual consciousness of the two brothers: He had the strange feeling that his [deceased] kin had extracted his image from the mirror, the one he saw reflected in the glass (34). The protagonist of The Third Resignation also tussles with isolation throughout the eerie story described above. The theme of loneliness and isolation is not so clearly palpable in The Woman Who Came at Six Oclock. Instead, the story is based on a cognate motif of misunderstanding, as the two key characters have difficulties understanding each other.
Apparently, in terms of style, Marquez’s earliest short stories are but experiments with the concept of narrative consciousness. Either utilizing the logic of the unconscious or fusing this logic with the elements of narrative consciousness, Marquez experiments with the psychological states of his characters. A closer look at these stories reveals associations with the themes and forms of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and, particularly, Franz Kafka. As behooves an author drawing his inspiration from Kafka and others, his early stories essentially, his experiments with Kafkaesque prose float in and out in different directions and from different perspectives, flirting with dreamlike aspects. Marquez intimated in his later life that his first short stories were totally intellectual exercises motivated by his acquaintances with Kafkas The Metamorphosis (cited in Gioia & Gwynn 2006). Such an imitation of Kafka’s style blended with the Latin American influences to ultimately stimulate Marquez’s elaboration of magical realism. Even so, however, Marquez’s early short stories from The Eyes of a Blue Dog are more Kafkaesque than they are infused with magical realism.
Big Mamas Funeral, composed of short stories written in the late 1950s-early 1960s, represents a perceptible breakthrough from Marquez’s starting point. In terms of text structure, his plots often remain as obfuscating as those in the above-outlined short story collection and take similarly unusual turns. Yet, Marquez shifts his attention from the Kafkaesque dreamlike aspects to Hemingway’s iceberg technique. Just as Hemingway was wont to do, Marquez now focuses his attention on surface elements and does dwell on underlying themes. Proceeding from the assumption that the story must not be obvious on the face of it, he leaves much of the action in his short stories either unstated or understated. In his Tuesday Siesta, for instance, Marquez furnishes neither the names of the characters nor many details about their backgrounds. Similarly, in Balthazars Marvelous Afternoon, the writer provides little context and only a modicum of interpretation. Consequently, readers are left to make their own conclusions.
By the time he finished his Big Mamas Funeral collection, Marquez had become more sophisticated not only in his approaches to text structure but also in his choice of themes to cover. Certainly, the writer remains wedded to the well-established themes, such as loneliness and isolation, as evidenced in Montiels Widow. Nevertheless, each of the works compiled into this collection revolve around several different themes. The subjects are so diverse that grouping them in a cogent manner seems impossible. One of These Days touches on the themes of political power, corruption, and revenge. Tuesday Siesta is about preserving dignity in the face of unfavorable odds. Balthazars Marvelous Afternoon underlines both the search for identity and the role of art in society. Gabriel Marquez broaches even more topics in Big Mamas Funeral, with the most important being the absurdity of the prevalent matriarchal system of society in Latin America and resistance to change. Likewise, the author seamlessly interweaves political undertones into the tapestry of some of the works from this collection. Tuesday Siesta and One of These Days indeed have oblique references to La Violencia that is, the civil war that raged in Colombia between 1948 and 1958. Beginning to reflect in his own meticulously veiled ways on the political history of Colombia, Marquez also introduced into his short stories another enduring feature that would characterize his later works: the city of Macondo as a mythical representation of Latin American society. Tuesday Siesta and One of These Days is, for example, set in Macondo, the fictional city representing Latin American society that would soon undergird his most famous novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Based on the extrapolation of themes covered in Big Mamas Funeral and their subsequent pairing with the reality of life in Latin America in the early 20th century, it appears that Marquez’s collection emphasizes the realistic depiction of events. Indeed, Big Mamas Funeral and other works from the collection all reflect on life in Latin America. Through this and other stories from the collection, the writer seeks to satirize the sociopolitical life in both Colombia and Latin America. Marquez had already departed from his Kafkaesque experiments but had not yet begun to hone his magical realism. In Big Mamas Funeral, Marquez already dabbles with magical realism. Still, the short story has only several occasional touches of magical realism. In his later life, Marquez himself dismissed Big Mamas Funeral and some other of this works of this period as premeditated literature that offers too static and exclusive a vision of reality (cited in Zamora & Faris 148). Clearly, Gabriel Marquez was still honing his writing technique at the time.
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The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother, composed of one short story written in 1955 and the rest between 1961 and 1972, represents the pinnacle of Marquez’s writing style. In terms of text structure and content, his legends changed little, as Marquez continued to elaborate on the bewildering array of themes he had first broached in the earlier works in the same contextless fashion. In terms of style, however, Marquez had made a quantum leap by this time. In his stories from this collection, the writer distances himself from realist reflections on life in Colombia, preferring instead to let his imagination run riot, as befits an exponent of magical realism. A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings and The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World are the finest examples of his magical realism. The third collection saw the light of the world during the peak of the so-called Boom period in Latin American literature. Marquez’s unconventional approaches to reality peppered generously with his savory use of the vernacular determined his style during the outlined above culminating period in his writing career.
Before concluding the paper, it is necessary to make some finishing remarks about Marquez’s writing style. On the positive side, Marquez’s short stories are captivating. Shorn of protracted, formal background paragraphs, the writer immediately introduces the action. Furthermore, nearly every single one of Marquez’s stories has its own vivid and strange, if not outright eerie, world for the reader to enjoy. His magical realism does not seem to be superfluous or unreasonable. On the contrary, it perfectly fits into the worlds created by the writer. Marquez’s political allegories in his earlier works are also rather unique and at times entertaining. On the downside, however, some of Marquez’s short stories simply do not have a proper plot. Likewise, the writer’s stream of consciousness is sometimes meandering and difficult to comprehend. Nonetheless, all of it is part of Marquez’s trademark, nay, marquee writing style.
In conclusion, the current paper has shown that Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s style changed repeatedly, as the writer passed through the crucible of literary experience. Some of its aspects that Marquez developed in the early stage of his career, such as his persistent rejection of clarity, never changed. Indeed, developing a penchant for intricate text structure during his work on The Eyes of a Blue Dog and strengthening it during the writing process of Big Mamas Funeral, Marquez never repudiated it. Sporadic chronological order, whenever they occur in his short stories, is interrupted by flashbacks and other similarly obfuscating elements. Lack of context and plenty of room for interpretation by the reader is similarly salient hallmarks of Marquez’s style. Even though his tone was only in its incipience, but the themes Marquez developed during his work on The Eyes of a Blue Dog isolated and loneliness stuck with the writer for the rest of the life, only to be complemented by other secondary themes. Ultimately, Marquez’s style transformed from the absurd and Kafkaesque in his early writings through the real in his second collection of short stories to the culmination, where he masterly combined the mythic and the fantastic with the ordinary.