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The Short Stories 87

86 Gabriel Garcia Marquez

tlJe1j all of the same gender and age group? Are tlley a couple, 'and if so. to elaborate one or more perspectives that culminate in an Integrated ;/~
are they marned or wunarned? Are tlley a father and son or daughter? lusion. An integrated illusion roay be temporary m the sense that what
Are tllel) Just friends? The possibilities for interpreting the filcts of the the reader holds to be a fact on one page may prove to be altogether
opening sentence are numerous and may vary from reader to reader. different after he or she turns the page. Illusion may also operate in the
A reader may also ask: where is this story taking place? Any attentive sense that what the reader. comes to understand might be what he or
reader may imagine a tropical place where banana trees grow near the she wanted to read into the story. The reader brings into the story hIS
sea. but the question remainS as to exactly where. or her own education and upbringing, induding religious beliefs. race!
The fact that so many speculations and inqulnes may be drawn from gender. and age.
the opening sentence proves. on the one hand. that most readers bring As the title of "Tuesday Siesta" implies: "at that hour (when the two
to the text their own active participation, whether knowingly or not. On women got off the train], weighted down by drowsiness. the town was
the other hand. as the reader continues. the text answers many of the taking a siesta" (101). The reader concretizes the information and elab-
inquiries. According to British literary critic Terry Eagleton. the reader orates an image. which, in reception theory, is referred to as an illusion
makes implicit connections. fills in gaps. draws inferences. and tests out of the townsfolk. This illusion is almost immediately contradicted by the
II, hunches. The reader~ in the terminology of reception theory, as Eagleton
notes, concretizes the literary work: without his or her continuous active
text. What comes next in the story contradicts both the short story's title
and the illusion that the reader was conc[etizi.ng~ the townsfolk. at that

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participation there would be no literary work at all (Eagleton 66).
"Tuesday Siesta," as well as the other short stories reviewed in this
chapter. is filled with indetenuil1ncies (elements within a narrative -text
hour, are not asleep and instead carefully observe the two female char-
acters in their progress through the town.
The reader's efforts-of trying to reconcile the indeterminacies (gaps
that depend for their effect or result on the reader's interpretation). How~ or questions) of the text with his or her own illusions-continue through-
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ever. due to ambiguity in the use of language. the interpretations may
vary in a number of different ways.
The reader's response to the indetermmades (questions) of tllet) and
out the text. for Garda Marquez's short stories do not necessarily move
through time in a linear fasruon. He employs backgrounds and foregrounds
(the use of devlces and techniques such as the flashback or the mtenor
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where in "Tuesday Siesta" might be influenced by his or her own interests monologue so that language calls attention to itself). He also creates dif-
ferent layers of meaning, which the reader continually attempts to un-
and viewpoints. The reader eventually knows that the indeterminate they
j ~~ tI means an old woman and her young daughter, both dressed in black derstand, either consCiously or not.
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and traveling by train. However. the more the reader learns in response Garda Marquez deliberately leaves elements of his short stories in a
it I I to his or her inqui!le5~ the more complex the text becomes. rather vague and often ambiguous fashion. TIUs is. mdeed, his writing

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At the end of the short story the reader may not necessarily have
answers to all the indeterminacies (questions) that the narrative may
have provoked. Was the old woman once a citizen living in this town?
style. To be able to read Garcia Marquez's short stories according to
reception theory, the reader must be willing to read the text with a crit-. '
lcal awareness that allows for a viewpoint different from his or her cus-
tomary expectations. This is not necessarily because of Garda Marquez.'s
\ Is the town so typical that we need not know its name? Why is there so
use of magic realism. the absurd. the supernatural, or the elements of
much pride and dignity in the old woman"s behavior? The reader has to
j end the story on his or her own terms. Eor the ending is an mdetermi~
nacy.
the underworld, but because the main premise of reception theory is a
belief that the act of reading should open the reader to new viewpoints:

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In reception theory, the ad of reading 15 always a dynamic one, mov-
ing both in time and space. The reader. whether successful or not, strives
TIuough the act of reading the reader must be willing to question his or'
her values and allow them to be transformed.
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~ to make sense from what he or she reads. The reader organizes the ma-
1 terial as it is bemg read, selecting what he or she considers relevant and
t concretizing certain information. In concretizing, the reader attempts to
see in the text not what he or she is already prepared to see and under-
stand! but what "Tuesday Siesta" suggests. nus in tum allows the reader
84 Gabriel Garcia Marquez The Shorr Stories 85

where she came from or to care about her. In fact. there is tl; mutual reception theory. According to Iser, aU texts have certam gaps. wluch
hatred. as reflected m the woman's words and the attitude of the town. the reader must fill to derive his or her own understanding of the text.
Do not even drink their water. she tells her daughter, and above alL no The text itself! however. demands that the reader react on the basis of
matter what. do not cry (IOn. what the text conlarns.
In "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings." the wmged old man is Reception theory critics generally group the readers into two catego-
viewed as an oblect, not a human being. He is Isolated in a cage as if he ries: the real render and the lrypotlJeticn[ render. The real reader is defined
were, indeed, an anima!. His isolation is total. He does not speak the by a specific reading public such as the one m literature classes or those
same language, Ignores the town's social and cultural codes. and is the whose responses are recorded by critics in relation to a gIven literary
only one of his kind in the town. work; this reader is also identified as the implied reader. Thus. the real
At the end of "Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon," Balthazar lies drunk reader and the implied reader are the same.
m the street as if he were dead yet no one offers him aSSistance. not even The hypothetical reader is a category often identified as the so·called
the Christian women who are seen walking to church that very morrung. ideal reader (Iser 27). The hypothetical reader can be constructed or re-
In "Isabel's Mono19gue," the solitude suffered by Isabel is perhaps the constructed from a soaal and historical knowledge of the times. The
most poignant variety that a person may bear. She seems to suffer 50 hypothetical reader (also identified by theoreticians as the ideal reader),
sevecely that she talks to herself as if she has iost her mind. of all possible readers is the one. I5er notes, born from the bram of the
;J; : In "Big Mama"s Funeral;' the solitude of Big Mama, ironically, is the philologist (someone who studies languages from lingUlStic and histor-
greatest of aU. Everything about her is bIg, Ulduding her solitude. Al- ical backgrounds), the critic, or the author hlm- or herself (Iser 28). The
though she is as rich as King Midas. Big Mama lacks what humans need hypothetical reader is the one capable of understanding exactly what the
most, iove and sexual companionshIp. She dies a VlIgin, with no family author meant when writing the text; as this is an Impossibility, thIs
to mown her passing or continue her bloodline. She is indeed the epit- reader IS purely fictional and has no baSIS in reality (lser 29).
ome of solitude. alone in the forgotten town of Macondo. where. accord- Reception theory is seemingly prescriptive. TIUs literary theory as-
i ing to the narrative voice in One HUlldred Yenrs af Solitude. none of its sumes that the real reader may be able to activate, or Ulterpret. the gaps
1 i' ~ inhabitants will have a second opportunity on earth. that the author intentionally leaves for the reader to fill. Reception theory
I allows for different possible ways of reading the same text. The real
I reader is capable of. and willing to, understand the text individually but
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j ALTERNATIVE READING: RECEPTION THEORY sees the role of the text to be stronger. It 15 through the text that the

j Reception theory focuses on the reader's role in literature. as opposed


implied reader makes inferences, elaborates illUSIOns, and arnves at con-
clusions, in accordance with his or her hIstortcal, cultural, and individual
to analytical criticism.. a literary theory that pays particular attention to circumstances.
the text as a self-contamed work (see Chapter 3). As such, reception The five short stories selected for tlus chapter are all challenging. Bemg
theory is mterested m the act of reading-that is, the mechanics and use able to interpret them successfully puts great demands on the reader. By
of language. as interpreted by the reader. It focuses on how the reader examming "Tuesday Siesta" in detail In terms of a reception theory
responds to the facts found in the narrative, the inferences a reader model. readers should better understand how the theory works In prac·
makes when reading a given text. and methods that help to brmg the tice.
reader mto a form of consaousness that allows for the criticism of his How does the reader react to the use of language in the opening sen-
or her own identity and beliefs. Thus, the reader IS an active entity 10 tence of "Tuesday Siesta"? What are the reader's inferences when the
the creation of meaning. The text has mearungs that are activated only following is read: "the train emerged [rom the quivering tu.nnel oE"sandy
when the ceader reads them. Thus. it 15 up to the reader to activate the rocks, began to cross the symmetrical, mterminable banana plantations,
potential Viewpoints present m the text through which Garcia Marquez and the air became humid and they couldn't feel the sea breeze any
interprets the world. In the latter half of the 19705. literary critic Wolf- more" (99).
gang Iser was among the theoreticians who paid special attention to The reader may ask: who are thet;? Are there two people or more? Are
Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers r
Second Series

Julia Alvarez by Silvio Sirrns GABRIEL GARCIA r


Rudollo A. Anaya by Mrtrgnrile FemnIJriez O/mos
Mayn Angelou lJy Mnn) Tnlle Lupton MARQUEZ
. !
Ray Bradbury by Robill Anne Reid
Louise Erdnch by Lorelln L. Stook~J

Ernest T. Gaines by Knren umrea" A Critical Companion


john Irving by lo.sit P. CmupbelI
Garrison Keillor by MarCin Songer
JamaIca Kincaid by Uzabet/I Parflvismi-Ge/Je:rt Ruben Pelayo
Barbara Kingsolver by Mnn) [elll! DeMnrr
MaXllle Hong Kingston by E. D. Huntlel)
Terry McMillan by Pllu/elte Ricliards
Larry McMurtry by folm M. Reilly
Toni Mo.rison by Missy Dc/lIl Kubitschek
Chaim Polok by Sn/l{ord Stemlic11f
Amy Tan by E. D. HI/ntley
Anne Tyler by Palll Bail
Leon Uris by Knllllt:en Shine Cnlll
Glona NayLor by C/rades E. WilSOIl, Jr.

CRITICAL COMPANIONS TO POPULAR CONTEMPORARY WRITERS


Ka thleen Gregory Klein, Series Editor

G)
Greenwood Press
Westport, Connecticut • London
Ubrary of Congress Cataloging.in.Publlciltion Data
1 dedicate this book both to
Pelayo. Rub~n, 1954- Gerald A. Lamb~ my adoptive father~
Gabriel Garda MMquez. ; a critical comparuon ; Rub~n Pelayo.
p. cn.-(Crltica! companions to popular contemporary writers. ISSN 1082-4979) and to the memory of my mother.
Includes bibliograpWcal references and index.
ISBN G-313-3126D-S Calk. paper',
1. Garda M4rquez, Gabriel. 1928- -Criticism and interpretation. I. Tille.
D. Series
PQ8lBO.17.A73Z665 2001
863'.64-dc21 2001023337
British Ubrary Cataloguing In PubUcation Dahl is available.
Copyright e 2001 by Rubl!!n Pelayo
All rights reserved. No porlton of thIs book may be
reproduced, by any process or technique, without the
express wdtten consent of the pubUsher.
Ubrary of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2001023337
ISBN: 0-313-31260-5
ISSN: 1082-4979
First pubUshed 10 2001
Greenwood Press. 88 Post Road West, Westport, cr 06881
An imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.
www.greenwood.com
Printed in the United Slates of America

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