Academic journal article Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature

Conflicting Ideologies in Three Magical Realist Children's Novels by Isabel Allende

Academic journal article Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature

Conflicting Ideologies in Three Magical Realist Children's Novels by Isabel Allende

Article excerpt

A recent movement to establish ecopoetic frames in children's literature has led to the exploration of a critical confluence of magical realism with ecocriticism. Because of a common capacity to interrogate dominant Western value systems, magical realist discourse has been linked with ecopoetic frames that promote narrative representations of environmental justice movements. Such an alignment is possible because the postcolonial heritage of magical realism, founded by Latin American authors, offers a site of resistance by which the dominant ideologies of colonising nations are interrogated. In fictions which form the basis for ecocriticism authors may create similar narrative spaces of resistance to encode representations of ecological malpractice which are enacted upon indigenous peoples by an invasive non-indigenous presence. This ideological confluence between magical realist strategies and ecocritical frames represents a problematic interface between indigenous and non-indigenous subjectivities because representations of ecological intervention are primarily Western in origin, while magical realism promotes representations of indigenous voice. The problems that arise from this alignment are particularly evident in Allende's three quest fictions for children in that the two dominant eco-warrior protagonists are non-indigenous and narrative perspective is largely derived from Western subject focalisations. The author's magical realist frame by which Western cultural positions are interrogated has thus been compromised by the fact that subject focalisations privilege non-indigenous perceptions about the plight of tribal peoples in a manner that limits indigenous voice. Even though each eco-warrior quest instigates magical realist strategies - irreducible elements of magic, phenomenological elements, merged frames that anchor magical elements in mimetic detail (Faris, 2004) -the authorial intent to expose exploitation of indigenous peoples is framed by Western ecocritical perspectives. Furthermore, because representations of magical power saturate depictions of eco-warrior agency, the grounding mimetic is disrupted and quest resolutions are imbued by fantasy.

Thus, even as Allende's magical realist fictions set out to represent marginal and indigenous perspectives--a function attributed to magical realism by, for example, Faris (2004, p. 133) and D'haen (1995, p. 191)--her eco-warrior subjects construct non-indigenous representations of marginalised perspectives. Bradford identifies this capacity for non-indigenous authors to represent indigenous focalising agents as highly complex, involving the capacity to 'imagine how characters think, value, and feel' (2007, p. 73). Allende's creation of non-indigenous eco-warrior protagonists, however well constructed, replicates what Bradford has described as representation 'from the outside [...] from the perspective of majority cultures' (2007, p. 73). Protagonists are situated as observers and subsequently articulate environmental justice issues from an external frame of understanding.

The convergent aims of dual interrogative frames--ecocriticism and magical realism--also provide contradictory grounds for the representation of marginal positions because indigenous perspectives are represented through the lens of non-indigenous agents. Problematic representations then occur when a non-indigenous external perspective also encodes the ideological frame of Western culture through quest structures that are imbued with cultural traditions. Consequentially, a dominant Western quest structure, which depicts the coming of age enlightenment of eco-warrior protagonists, subverts the author's interrogation of Western epistemological frames and disrupts the magical realist mode which privileges subaltern perspectives. Quest frames focus the text upon rescue rather than the promotion of indigenous agency encoding eco-warrior action: the intention to promote the rights of indigenous tribes, the deliverance of indigenous people from evil forces, and the continuation of valiant adventures. …

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