Postmodernism in Literature

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Postmodernism is difficult to define, because we go through it on a daily basis. Some would say it began in the 1950’s, and others say it began with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Postmodernism is characterized by a variety of elements that question the reading experience. Postmodern authors celebrate this by using humour and absurd experiences to create a bizarre alternate reality. The different elements that are used throughout postmodernism stories include magic realism, metafiction and irony. Magic realism is where the supernatural is not displayed as questionable. Magic realism differs from fantasy because it is set in a normal, modern world with accurate descriptions of humans and a society that does not question it. Another element is Irony. Irony is used in postmodernism literature. Irony is when that which one would not expect occurs is true. Finally, Metafiction is a device that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction. This often happens by the author introducing themselves into the story. Post modernism and post colonialism are linked. The use of these techniques and elements encourage the reader to contemplate or query their reading experience and ones understanding of life and societies political and cultural values.

Magic realism is where the supernatural is not displayed as questionable. Characters accept rather than question the logic of the magic element. Magic realism is displayed in a short story; A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Marquez. The story is about an old distorted man with enormous wings found on the beach by a couple. They try to communicate with him but find it is useless as he speaks a different language. The neighbor comes over and tells the couple that he is an angel that has come to take their sick child. The community and people from all over the world were astonished and wanted to see the angel. The couple grew tired of having so many people at their house that they began to charge money to see the angel they became rich and built a mansion. After a while the community grew tired of the angel because a woman who had turned into a spider by disobeying her parents arrived to town to share her stories with the community. Eventually the angel began to roam free and finally took off into the sky. This story directly relates to magic realism because the crowd does not question the angel or spider woman. The couple’s neighbor does not question it at all, but she is quite familiar with it "He's an angel," she told them. "He must have been coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old that the rain knocked him down" (3). The woman is not shocked or surprised to see this man at all, in fact she is not questioning it either, but in reality it would seem very bizarre. The use of magic realism makes the reader question the reading experience and reality itself. Magic realism also plays a role in The Snow Horse by J. Winterson, A story about a man who drives to a party in a horrible snow storm but is stopped by a strange man who insists on telling him a ghost story. After dropping the strange man off he decides to take a short cut that his wife warned him not to take and ends up in a car crash, but as it is crashing he sees a horse running up beside the car. The story that the strange man told him consisted of a man getting ambushed and robbed and was left for dead his horse died beside him as well. The story exhibited a richness of details that the man believed in the snow horse and seen it as he was crashing. When he gets home and into bed he hears something “Then I heard it, unmistakable, the steady clip of hooves under the window and towards the drift, and out, further and further, faster and faster, on the high old coaching road, beneath the rack of stars.”(6). Here Winterson is making a reference to Santa’s reindeer. This effect leaves the reader uncertain, whether to believe the magical element of the snow horse or the realist events in the story....
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