Pioneered by post–World War II Latin American writers such as Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez, magic realism is a literary technique in which supernatural elements appear within an otherwise realistic narrative. Magic, spiritual powers, and inexplicable paranormal events all may be elements in a story employing this technique, which tends to challenge the reader’s perception of ordinary reality. Erdrich uses magic realism when she implies that Fleur has special powers that enable her to swim with the water spirit Misshepeshu, drown and still live, and summon a storm to kill men who attack her. Events that can be explained logically, the narrator invests with magical interpretation. Fleur is infused with magical power from the spiritual world. In this story that takes on the quality of myth, Erdrich is able to locate the essence of Fleur’s significance in the ambiguity of her sexuality, in male attraction to and fear of female power. Erdrich presents the magical as real, without restricting herself to verisimilitude.
First-Person Narrative Perspective
Observant, unobtrusive Pauline is a mysterious person, who tells this story filtered by the lens of superstition and myth. She deliberately shapes the story as she reports it, on the one hand saying she sees more than others because she is “invisible,” and on the other, admitting that there are some things one cannot say. For example, Pauline states that Fleur studied evil ways “we shouldn’t talk about,” which implies that Pauline censors or alters as she narrates. Pauline’s bias in favor of Fleur becomes particularly important as the story comes to its climax, when she stresses that Fleur is responsible for the deaths of the three men. In fact, the events of the story suggest that Pauline herself is responsible for their deaths. By the end of the story, when Pauline states that the old men chattering about the story “don’t know anything” about what really happened, the reader senses that Pauline knows what happened herself and that she chooses not to tell all of it. Erdrich’s use of such a first-person limited perspective allows her to add intrigue and mystery to the story and question whether it is ever possible to really know what happened in such a situation.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 22, Louise Erdrich, Published by Gale Group, 2010