The short story “The Day We Were Dogs”, first published in 1993, was written by Elena Garro. She was born in Pueblo, Mexico, on December 15, 1920. I feel that the story definitely has to deal with magical realism. “The Day We Were Dogs” has too many magical elements that are treated as normal not to be magical realism. However, I also felt that the story has some unreal elements that are not treated as normal. Therefore, I feel that the story may also fit into the genre of fantastic literature, which creates questions about the unreal elements. Given this fact that the story hovers between magical realism and fantastic literature, it can not be absolutely defined as an example of magical realism.
After reading “The Day We Were Dogs”, I felt that some things were treated as normal. One of the characteristics of magical realism is the fact that the girls might be dogs. To me, this is an obvious magical element. A human can not turn into a dog in any way, shape, or form. Also, a magical realist characteristic is when one of the girls touched a worm with her fingertip and it became a red ring (208). If she is a dog, I find myself asking: Why is he touching the worm with his fingertip? In addition, Eva rested her head on her fore paws and closed her eyes (209). The fact that the girls are switching from a human back to an animal seems magical to me. Most importantly, these magical elements are treated as normal by the characters, a necessary criteria for magical realism (Faris 172).
The sun beating down, the earth burned, and the dogs’ food was heavy as bags of rocks (209), however, in my opinion, is an example of an unreal element that is questionable. Dog food is heavy, but I do not think that it is as heavy as rocks. I felt that it was somewhat an exaggeration. Therefore, I feel that it is a fantastic element, one that is questioned (Todorov), rather than an example of magical realism in which the unreal is treated as normal.
Grounding the magical elements in reality is also a characteristic of magical realism. I found some realistic elements in the story “The Day We Were Dogs” as well.
The Misidentification of The Day We Were Dogs
The Misidentification of The Day We Were Dogs
“The Day We Were Dogs,” published in 1993 by Elena Garro, illustrates the common error of misidentification of Magical Realism. The fact that Garro is a Mexican author and that fantasy is so closely related to Magical Realism often causes the reader to associate this particular work with Magical Realism. However, this work also contains fantastic elements as well as sublime characteristics, which make it difficult to classify as a strictly Magical Realist work.
As “The Day We Were Dogs” can be interpreted in so many different ways, the explanation of the details of the story become much more difficult. Are the two girls, Eva and Leli, pretending to be dogs or did they actually become dogs for a day? Each reader may have a different view of this important question, and this view may alter how he or she classifies this work.
The short story does contain several magical elements and even fulfills several of the characteristics of Magical Realism as described by Faris. Should one assume the girls are actually in the canine form, one should notice that the girls are understood by the people around, even though Toni is not. The servants understand when the girls tell them to prepare lunch for three dogs. The men at the murder scene, as well, understand the “dogs” when they question what the dogs saw. This interspecies communication holds a magical aspect due to its nonoccurance in reality (Faris 167). The communication that exists between the “dogs” and Toni, another dog, one could understand. Toni communicates by some speech, but mostly by his actions. He bares his teeth during lunch so he might take the meat and, therefore, prove himself to be the head of the pecking ord…
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…the story goes against its classification of Magical Realism in that hesitation occurs by both the reader and the characters. Where does one classify such a work? That answer truly depends upon one’s own interpretation and opinion.
Faris, Wendy B. “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction.” Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995: 163-190.
Garro, Elena. “The Day We Were Dogs.” Latin American Writers: Thirty Short Stories. Ed. Gabriella Ibieta. New York, N.Y.: St. Martin’s Press, 1993: 206-212.
Simpkins, Scott. “Sources of Magical Realism/ Supplements to Realism in Contemporary Latin American Literature.”
Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke
UP, 1995: 145-159.