Magical Realism: Comparison of Examples

Magical realism is something that can change from story to story. The difference in its use in Kafka’s “The Bucket Rider” as compared to “Hello, Moto” by Nnedi Okorafor is the magical elements’ effects on the world.

        “The Bucket Rider” acts as more of a fable, where the narrative elements are not as stressed as the real issues that they are an allegory of. The narrator calls out to the coal dealer at one point, “My bucket is so light that I can ride on it.” implying that he is so poor that his bucket defies the laws of physics (Kafka). This is something that the narrator takes for granted, and something that the coal dealer’s wife does not react to, implying that this flying bucket is an ingrained part of this world. In contrast, “Hello, Moto” has the magical elements of the wigs that Rain and her friends wear. It is not taken for granted that all wigs have this power, nor that anyone else can do the kinds of things that the characters do when they have their wigs on. They are bewitching people, psychically consuming energy, teleporting, using clairvoyance, mind control, and more (Okorafor). The magical elements in the story are the fundamental source of both conflict and characterization, and drive the story forward.

        Both stories do contain some cultural significance. The “Bucket Rider” has implements of Kafka’s Bohemian upbringing, including the freezing winter and scenery of the mountains. However, the flying bucket itself⁠—the only magical element in the story⁠—has no cultural significance. In “Hello, Moto” the magic used is specifically Juju, a type of Nigerian folk magic. The LA Times says this on the topic: “Traditional animist practices and superstitions such as witchcraft, black magic, juju and native healing have long been part of Africa’s rural fabric…” (Kraft). In no way does the practice involve magic wigs, but the inspiration for the magic of the story comes from magic that has been practiced in Nigeria for centuries. Given the story’s message on culture, there is much more significance to its cultural origins than the flying bucket in “The Bucket Rider.”

        The representation of magical realism in “The Bucket Rider” and “Hello, Moto” are like night and day. “The Bucket Rider” asks the reader to suspend their disbelief for a single magical element that the story uses as an allegory. “Hello, Moto” includes cultural magical practices in a profound way to critique aspects of Nigerian culture. Yet, both stories are included in the genre of magical realism, and contribute to the core of what magical realism is: discussing reality using magical or fantastical elements.

        Magical realism is a genre first based on paintings, then applied to literature, and now film. In film, magical realism is used to present many different issues to discuss. In the case of The Future, magical realism is utilized to present the dying breaths of a failing relationship and the couple’s efforts to feel alive.

        Several magical elements are used in The Future that would classify it as magical realism. One such element is that Jason, the male lead, stops time. This is something that starts off as a joke, but turns into something he really is able to do. However, while in the real world, this ability would change everything, he instead uses it to stop Sophie in her tracks when she tries to tell him that she’s cheating on him. He argues with the moon that he knows what will happen, and would rather stop things here, now, forever, because he cannot bear to continue. It’s a thinly veiled allegory for what this character wants and what he is afraid of. He is afraid of the future that he does not want, and as such, would rather stop time, keeping everything in his life from moving, rather than move forward. But, when he tries to unfreeze it, he finds he cannot, and that he is just as unsatisfied as being stuck.

        The magical elements involving the other character, Sophie, are less about stopping time, and more about her needs. Sophie is presented as a bit of a childish character, and one of the things that represents this is her childhood shirt (aptly named “Shirty”), which she carries around everywhere for comfort. It seems like a fairly innocent thing, but as one review from The New Yorker places it, this movie’s purpose is, “to slide a serious tale of disconnection and distress under the cover of whimsy” (Lane). She attempts to get rid of the shirt, but it crawls its way back to her, and she wraps herself completely in it, and lets herself be swallowed by it. She’s tried to be more mature and outgrow things, but she feels safe in the shirt, and this immaturity will always crawl its way back to her.

        The importance of these differences in magical elements and their allegories is that they are very juxtaposed. Jason can’t seem to let go of the past. Sophie longs to feel mature and safe. Neither have their needs met, and are propelled into the future, unable to hold on to the past, and unable to truly feel ready for what is to come.

        The Future’s whimsical storytelling includes fairytale-esque magic that seems to grant these characters everything they want. The problem that these characters face is that these elements have no real place in the story other than to show the pinnacle of what these characters crave so desperately. In the end, Jason cannot stop time, and Sophie cannot escape into her shirt. Both have to grow up, and face their future.

Kafka, Franz. The Bucket Rider. Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer, 1931.

Kraft, Scott. “Resurgence of Juju : Modern-Day Africa Turns to Old Magic.” Los Angeles Times,

LA Times, 22 Sept. 1987,

www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1987-09-22-mn-9515-story.html.

Lane, Anthony. “Distant Shores.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 8 Aug. 2011,

www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/08/08/distant-shores.

Okorafor, Nnedi. Hello, Moto. Nnedi Okorafor, 2011.

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