Defining the Boundaries of Magical Realism in The Porcelain Doll

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Defining the Boundaries of Magical Realism in The Porcelain Doll

Scholars have debated the defining characteristics of Magical Realism since its infancy as an emerging art form in the early twentieth century. From Franz Roh, the art critic who coined the term Magical Realism, to contemporary leading scholars such as Amaryll Chanady, a myriad of confusion has surrounded this term. In an effort to narrow the defining boundaries of what constitutes Magical Realism, short stories labeled as Magical Realism can be examined for their degree of adherence to the cardinal characteristics most scholars attribute to Magical Realism. Here, "The Porcelain Doll," a short story by the nineteenth century author Leo Tolstoy, can be used to
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Tolstoy employs the device of defamiliarization through his description of his wife, Sonya:

As you know, like the rest of us she has always been made of flesh and blood, with all

the advantages and disadvantages of that condition: she breathed, was warm and

sometimes hot, blew her nose (and how loud!) and so on, and above all she had

control of her limbs, which-both arms and legs-could assume different positions:

in a word she was corporeal like all of us. (33)

The second characteristic of Magical Realist literature employed by Tolstoy in "The Porcelain Doll" is the use of transformation. "Metamorphoses are a relatively common event. They embody in the realm of organisms a collision of two different worlds" (Faris 178). A transformation occurs in "The Porcelain Doll" when Sonya is transformed from a mortal to a porcelain doll. "I opened my eyes...and saw-not the Sonya you and I have known-but a porcelain Sonya!" (Tolstoy 34).

A third characteristic of Magical Realist literature is that Magical Realism does not employ the use of dream motifs; it does not emphasize psychological analysis of characters (Leal 121). One interpretation of "The Porcelain Doll" could be that the author is simply dreaming in his sleep. "At ten o'clock I

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