Magical Realism in “Light is Like Water”

In García Márquez’s short story about two children who learn to sail in a room full of light, we see many elements of magical realism. The first and most prominent is the nonchalance with which the narrator tells us that, by simply breaking a bulb, the brothers are able to literally flood a room with light. The following events are entirely magical, and yet, they are described without a single mention of their fantastic nature. The second earmark of magical realism is the verisimilitude with which the narrator describes the effects of light-flooding. From the children, immortalized as they urinate into a flower pot, to the brothers, drowned by light, the audience is given no choice but to visualize this harrowingly beautiful final scene. As perturbing as these methods of description can be, the true perturbation occurs when the narrator breaks from the story to tell readers of the action that “sparked” this strange adventure. In what I find to be the most odd twist in the story, the narrator inserts himself into the life of the family he is describing; he goes from playing the role of an observer to being perhaps the most important character in the narrative. With the revelation that his simple answer to a simple question (one that he “wasn’t brave enough” to reconsider) is the entire reason the story takes place, readers find the text’s true source of magic: words. This simple and seemingly innocuous statement made by the narrator implies that words have the power to significantly alter reality, and, given the chance, to create a world of magic.

One Response to “Magical Realism in “Light is Like Water””

  1. Kim Sasser says:

    I am interested in your interpretation of the narrator, or who it is that tells one of the brothers that “light is like water.” We had a debate in my other 3362 class about this topic. I always read this as being the father; however, you seem to agree with a few of my other students who also saw this as a kind of Borgesian moment, when the narrator inserts himself into the story’s action.

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