Magical realism is a term used to describe those fictions in which the fantastic becomes part of a story in which events are otherwise narrated using the objective tone that characterizes realistic fiction in general. It is often associated with Latin American writers like Jorge Luis Borges or Gabriel Garcı´a Ma´ rquez, although it is not exclusive to them, and it is a fictional technique that W. P. Kinsella has used in a number of his works. In ‘‘The Thrill of the Grass,’’ the magical intrudes upon a realistic story when the narrator discovers the door in the wall of the stadium. The door is initially described not as a door but as a ‘‘doorshape,’’ and the narrator has to check twice to make sure that it is real, and even then it remains ‘‘more the promise of a door than the real thing.’’ It is, however, the appearance of the ‘‘golden circle’’ of a lock that marks this door as belonging to the realm of the magical. It is a lock that seems at once ominous and promising, that glows in such an alluring manner that the narrator, for the first time in his forty-year career as a locksmith, breaks the law and picks a lock. The door in the wall is like something from a fairy tale, and by breaching it, the narrator opens the realm of possibility to other magical events, like the replacement of the artificial turf with real grass, like the parade of old men in the middle of the night. ‘‘The Thrill of the Grass’’ portrays these fantastical events as though they are real, which is what marks it as a story that uses the technique of magical realism.
Verisimilitude is a term that is used to describe how a work of art imitates and represents the known world. Written works that rely on verisimilitude accurately describe a knowable external world that seems familiar to the reader. A verisimilar text is one in which the author has successfully created an illusion of truthfulness: the story told is very similar to the truth. Even works of fantasy (or magical realism) or fable require verisimilitude in order to create the illusion of a coherent world in which the reader can believe. In ‘‘The Thrill of the Grass,’’ the narrator seems to be an ordinary older man living in a small city in America. He has a job and a family and a life we can recognize, and even when he stumbles upon the magical door in the wall of the stadium, his experience of the ball field is portrayed as a realistic experience. The ball field is described as realistically empty, it smells of ‘‘rancid popcorn and wilted cardboard,’’ and the artificial turf feels ‘‘like walking on a row of toothbrushes’’ against the narrator’s bare feet. These are realistic sensory descriptions that encourage a reader to think of the events of the story as plausible in the ordinary world in which we live. Magical realism depends upon this sort of verisimilitude in order to create the illusion that the magic could actually happen, and it is from this illusion of realism that the magic in the story gains its power.
Point of view is the perspective from which the events of a story are observed and narrated to the reader. A first-person narrative is one in which the central character speaks in his or her own voice as though addressing the reader directly. The hallmark of a first-person narrative is that the narrator refers to him or herself as ‘‘I.’’ Sometimes, as in ‘‘The Thrill of the Grass,’’ the narrator remains unnamed, known simply by the pronoun ‘‘I,’’ a choice that can lend a story a tone of intimacy, as though it is being told to the reader by someone he or she knows well. Use of a first-person narrator necessarily limits the story in that the reader only knows what the character knows. While this limited knowledge is sometimes used to ironic effect, as when a first-person narrator is unreliable, this is not the case in ‘‘The Thrill of the Grass.’’ While some of the events of the story are, on the surface, fantastical, the narrative voice maintains a realistic and reliable tone. This has the effect of heightening the transcendental nature of the magical events of the story.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 30, W.P. Kinsella, Published by Gale Group, 2010