Juxtaposing Themes of Edgar Allen Poe, Gabriel Marquez, and Hemingway: Magical Realism


Poe’s Magical Themes of Realism

The Cask of Amontillado is a very strong piece when it comes to the ideas of point of view, realism, and theme. Edgar Allen Poe is known for his ambiguity using these literary devices, so in The Cask of Amontillado it is important to ask “why did the narrator wait fifty years to tell someone the murder and by what circumstances is he telling them?”

An Interpretation of The Cask of Amontillado

Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado portrays many of Poe’s continuous themes, such as death, murder, darkness of the mind, and ambiguity. Poe leaves a lot to the imagination in his pieces. For instance in the Tell Tale Heart at the end it is difficult to say if the murderer is talking to himself within his mind or screaming out loud to the police with him. That same ambiguity is portrayed in the start of The Cask of Amontillado when he uses “you” to identify some unknown person.

Edgar Allen Poe Source: Poe Museum

Edgar Allen Poe
Source: Poe Museum

Poe’s ideas of death are exemplified in the crazed tone that the narrator portrays. Poe is fascinated with death and even sees it as beautiful, which can be juxtaposed in many of his works. Due to this love of death, the narrator in The Cask of Amontillado could be seen as talking with an authority figure. It is common knowledge that those who plan to kill usually kill multiple times, so it is not out of the question that the narrator is indeed a serial murderer. This could have led police, like those in The Tell Tale Heart, to question the narrator. Because Poe has this love for death, it shows in his characters. As the narrator is questioned by the authority figure he has no reason to hide what he did due to the narrator’s beautification of death – hence his openness.

To further this idea, the narrator states at the beginning of the story that “You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat.” This is an ambiguous sentence. The narrator implies not of who he speaks to so it is left to the mind of the reader. It is obvious it is someone who knows the narrator well enough for him to make that statement. If it is an authority figure then it is possible the narrator speaks to a detective who over saw his case.

Detectives are trained in the art of criminal minds and can get into the heads of those they pursue, figuratively of course. Since it is possible that this is a correct scenario, the detective would truly know the person he has caught, therefore the narrator would be correct with the statement, “You, who so well know the nature of my soul.”

Live Action: The Cask of Amontillado


Gabriel Marquez’s A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, An Analysis

Next we will look at magical realism as it pertains to Gabriel Marquez’s A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings. It is important here to speak of miracles and if they are the true point to this story. Does Marquez’s realism overshadow this idea?

Gabriel Marquez Source: AlJazeera

Gabriel Marquez
Source: AlJazeera

In Gabriel Marquez’s A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, he portrays a miracle through magical realism. However, that miracle is lost due to the realism expressed by Marquez. Anyone would state that an angel is a miracle, there is no doubt. The person would expect trumpets, water to whine, and golden beams of sunlight.

But Marquez’s realism overshadows the context of the miracle and sheds light onto humanities natural tendency towards capitalism.

The abundance of realistic tones to the story culminate in a worldly story. The most prominent would be the descriptions of the angel. The old women, Pelayo’s neighbor, even states, “He’s an angel… he must have been coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old that the rain knocked him down.” This is not what one would expect from an angel. As the people of the town gather they describe him as dirty, flea ridden, and “as ailed as a leper.” This realism to the angel discredits the idea of miracles.

The symbolism through the story promotes a different idea then that of miracles. The crabs that are talked of throughout the story could be seen as the coming of wealth in many cultures. The angel produces wealth for the family as a show piece for the town’s people where Pelayo and his wife start to charge for admittance. They gain so much wealth that they are able to build a whole new life. This symbolism points to humanities indifference to other beings and shows how humanity, even in the face of an angel, looks to profit off of it.

The Hemingway Breakdown

Earnest Hemingway Source: CBC

Earnest Hemingway
Source: CBC

Earnest Hemingway is a notable author who has written books such as A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. He has a unique writing style where he utilizes the Iceberg Theory. This can often lead to ambiguous meanings based off of point of view. This will be an opinion based analysis rather than an
academic one.

An Opinion on Hills Like White Elephants

During the story I had to reread the dialogue quite a number of times. At first I thought it had to do with sex but I realized that could not be it. The man or “American” and the girl are not flirty and (something I coined just now) cutesy nervous with each other like couples before they have sex. I mean usually sex is the factor that changes the relationship after the fact. Also when the American states, “It’s really an awfully simple surgery, Jig,” I realized that it was a bit more, unless he was saying that figuratively. So I thought what could cause a relationship to get stale and uncomfortable? And what operation would you need to remedy that? Well, that answered it for me. I believe the girl is pregnant and they are discussing the option of abortion. Once I realized that a lot of the symbolism fell into place. I could not, however, get the meaning of little white elephant. Could it be a symbol pointing to the coming of a baby? Usually that is little pink elephant’s, so I was skeptical. I had to actually look up the origins of the phrase white elephant and it is actually an eastern saying. This is the definition from:


white elephant noun : something that requires a lot of care and money and that gives little profit or enjoyment.

So the white elephants are pointing to the arrival of a child, but not in a good light.

As you can see here, the Iceberg Theory can make a story have multiple meanings and it is truly an ingenuous way of writing. A well done story in this format pushes the reader to think outside the box.

Live Action: Hills Like White Elephants

Author’s notes on The Cask of Amontillado:

  • ..about hubris and the art of revenge. I used Hamlet, however. I portrayed the ideal of revenge as the far right to the “Golden Mean” in Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics. In his ethics one must constantly act upon certain virtues. Hamlet acts upon his anger in such a way he truly embodies revenge. This can be juxtaposed to Montresor as well as the protagonist in “The Tell Tale Heart”.
  • Also, Montresor speaks to Fortunato upon hearing Fortunato’s cough, “…we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter.”, which gives some insight into what insults Montresor is referring to.
  • And last, to me the most important question to ask is how reliable is the narrator? Due to Montresors obvious mental break, he can be seen as “unreliable.” This is a big theme in Poe’s stories. “The Tell Tale Heart” is another one where the ambiguity is even more forceful. With that in mind, it is prudent to ask who is he talking to? For what circumstances? And why now? (Since he has not spoken of the murder in fifty or so years).

Sources Cited:

1. Mays, Kelly J. The Norton Introduction to Literature. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013. Print.

  • “The Cask of Amontillado” pp.164-169
  • “Hills Like White Elephants” pp. 106-109
  • “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” pp. 271-276

2. Also notable is:

  • “The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe
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