Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths” displays elements of realist, modernist and postmodernist literature. The introduction sets up a logical, seemingly truthful space and time. The illusion of realism, however, almost immediately comes into question as Dr. Yu Tsun discusses events in the past and future, which appear to begin to bleed together in his own mind and create a troubling sense of unlawful time and indeterminable identity. The object of Captain Richard Madden remains as the only constant throughout the narrative, and his relationship to the narrator as an imminent threat remains unchanged even as Tsun later struggles to fully contend with Dr. Albert’s reality shattering exposition on Tsui Pen’s “Pavilion of Limpid Solitude.” The text seems to exist at once as both an object and a space, which if not physical surely has the ability to entrap one’s mind and time itself. The narrator becomes fully drawn into the time and space of the Pavilion, stating “I sensed that the dew-drenched garden was saturated, infinitely, with invisible persons. Those persons were Albert and myself—secret, busily at work, multiform—in other dimensions of time,” hinting at the disconcerting possibilities of this new realization. Only the ominous reappearance of Madden is able to momentarily pull him back into a seemingly real world. The final lines, as well as Tsun’s earlier shifts in tone in reference to events and time, suggest his escape is only momentary and he remains infinitely trapped outside of lawful time and space.
The title A Doll’s House initially may seem to reference the character of Nora specifically, and her position as a kept woman under her husband, Torvald. He practically handles her as one would a precious as opposed to enjoying the conversation and company of a wife, giving her affectionate, child-like nicknames such as “lark” and ”squirrel”, even going so far as to refer to Nora as an “it” on a few occasions. As Nora’s forgery, committed in order to fund her previously sick husband’s treatment and recovery, comes to light it becomes evident that she is perhaps not completely caught up in frivolous matters, but truly feels responsibility for the well-being of her family. Torvald’s inability to grasp Nora’s displeasure with him and her reasons for leaving their family further accentuates his ironic childishness. As this image of Nora develops, as well of those of the surrounding characters, the play begins to suggest society itself may be the doll house and those inhabiting it merely playthings.
In the chapter entitled “Anatomy of Realism,” Weinstein illustrates the mechanisms by which a subject, once introduced, is familiarized to the reader. Kate Chopin demonstrates these methods of situating characters in Bayou Folk stories. In each story, characters speak in a notable French-Creole vernacular. Subtle hints at time and space are suggested, not in an concretely specific way, but enough to establish a sense of verisimilitude in the worlds she creates; such as Cléophas’ mention of receiving the fiddle before the war or Bobinôt’s recollection of Calixta’s seemingly infamous excursion to Assumption. Chopin’s inclusion of these somewhat vague past occurrences serves to further situate the reader into these worlds, as well as giving a fuller sense of the characters discussing them.
Weinstein advocates the necessity of some focus on familial relationship in order to maintain verisimilitude in realist fiction, in terms of creating a real seeming background for character but in also creating a sense of authority for the characters themselves. The character of Fifine in A Very Fine Fiddle exemplifying this agency by selling her father’s old fiddle, seeing the earnings as a means of tending to everyday concerns of home maintenance, shoes and food. Fifine succesfully separates herself from her father’s world, turning an object he valued sentimentally into an object of tangible value in her own world.
The article on Atomism in some ways exemplifies Enlightenment ideals. Claude Yvon explicates ancient theory concerning the existence of atoms, or particles which make up all things. He claims, perhaps controversially, that the atoms which make up the natural, physical universe coalesce and separate purely by chance; specifically stating: “Everything has happened by chance; everything continues on alone; species perpetuate themselves by chance. One day everything will come to an end by chance.” This statement alone refutes almost all concurrent religions, explicitly denying the existence of an intelligent design. While these sentiments suggest an extreme bias against all religious belief, the author is careful to differentiate ancient from modern theory, defining the ancient theory of Atomism as “pure atheism.” He closes by proposing the idea of compatibility between Atomism and pneumatology, or the reality of the immaterial. Yvon’s interest in deciphering ancient philosophies along with their relation to modern practices and beliefs demonstrates the ideal of an Enlightenment seeking individual in its openness to possibly conflicting concepts and willingness to consider instead their coexistence.
Robinson Crusoe’s extreme determination as well as his ongoing considerations and analyses allow him to not only survive his terrible misfortunes, but thrive on his island. While initially it was his passion for a life at sea which, despite his parents’ explanations of its inherent dangers and hardships, lead him to much suffering; it is this very trait that aids his survival of these many hardships. Had Crusoe not ventured to steal his slave master’s boat, he would have surely remained in bondage. Had he been content to live simply as a farmer in Brasils, his thirst for adventure would have remained unquenched. As Crusoe himself puts it, “I have been… touched with the general plague of mankind; I mean that of not being satisfied with the station wherein God and nature have placed them,” reflecting on the self-detrimental nature of his, and mankind’s, passion. This same passion, however, sparks him to survive shipwreck and furthermore become master of his domain of the island. He calls upon childhood observations, previous work experience, and when those are at times insufficient he gains a newfound faith in God to boost his inner determination.