Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Literary Metamorphosis

The theme of a story is the idea that holds the story together. In essence, a theme is the main idea or some type of lesson or message that the author wants to convey to the reader. For example, the great novel, Little Women, is about four sisters, but that is the subject of the book. One of the themes is the struggles of young girls maturing into women. A story can have more than one theme. Though themes might be difficult to find, there are some ways to identify them.

Below are the three suggested steps on "How to identify literary themes?"- and my attempt at answering my own doubts.

1. Identify the central topics or "big ideas."
Love is in the air in Of Love and Other Demons. So are demons - or things that seem demonic in nature. However, Marquez's love do not have the happily ever after ending. Instead, Marquez's love brings out the ugliness ("the Demon") in his characters. The one and only Demon that was supposed to be in the story is really nothing but a doubt - readers cannot really put a finger as to whether or not Sierva Maria was really possessed.

Too many blurred lines. I'm confused. But if someone were to point a gun at me and ask me to identify one theme of the book, I will still insist that I really do not know how to "describe a theme".

But I know that somehow, the words "lovely demon" and "evil religion" are floating in my engineering mind right now and I need help to put them into words fit for the literary world. I have this recurring thought that Marquez seem to make the Devil himself a lesser demon as compared to the demon that exist in all of us. Even the "Holy" Bishop - a man of religion - seem more evil that the "possesed" protagonist, Sierva Maria. In wanting to exorcise the demon in Sierva Maria, the Bishop (in my mind) was the bigger and more evil demon than the demon to be exorcised (this is where the idea of "evil religion" comes from).

Or are these blurred boundaries - like the hybrid between a lovely religion and an evil demon, for example - be the central theme I'm looking for?

2. Identify how the characters relate to the central topic.
The characters are bounded by the "lovely Demon" as well the "evil religion". Forbidden love between Ygnacio and the slave girl and the one between the Father Cayetano and Sierva Maria. Could this be related to the forbidden books (What is Marquez's reason behind a book that is only mentioned twice or so)?

3. Organize your thoughts.
Funny how the final step is called "Organize your thoughts". Clearly my mind is a little messed up. Attempts at organizing them into categories and orders will only make everything more messed up, blurred and muddled. For some weird reason, I feel as though Marquez is doing to me what I'm doing to others.

The great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote in 1942 an essay titled ‘El idioma analítico de John Wilkins’ in which he laid out the challenges of human attempts to classify the world. Mary Douglas  suggested that "societies are likely to see things as 'taboo' when they are anomalous, when they don't fit neatly into a society's classification of the world".

I believe I'm feeling slightly chaotic because of my inability to classify - despite my engineering mind. Despite my love of predicting, anticipating and reading between the lines, I feel "insulted" not being able to read or guess why Marquez does what he does. Frankly, I do not even know what's on his mind besides the fact that it's a weird love story that I happen to like. Is it time to finally allow myself to be influenced by the perspectives and opinions of critics? Perhaps.

Tell me Mr Marquez, what's behind the magical realism?

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Dropping by from 20SB!

I'm the kind of person who likes things to be black and white, but am gray myself. I like being able to identify definite themes when reading literature, but at the same time it's interesting to see where themes overlap and intersect. I haven't read Of Love and Other Demons, so no insight for you there, though I may pick up the book sometime.