A Master of His Domain

A Declaration of My Views and Insight

Archive for the category “Cortázar Posts”

Cortázar’s “Bestiary” of a Tiger

“Bestiary” is a tangling story of a girl who went to visit her relatives for the summer out in the country. Like many of Cortázar’s pieces, this story was full of mystery, intrigue, and questions. The main character Isabel, seems to be a very intelligent and observant girl. She notices a lot about the other people in the house, especially between Rema and The Kid. Her first strange observance of the two was at night when she was heading to bed. Rema had come to give The Kid a cup of coffee and when she give it to him, his fingers touched her’s very slightly. This was enough to bring some fear to Rema, and she immediately jerked her hand away from him. I saw this as very strange. I immediately questioned, “Why was Rema acting this why?” The next day, Isabel saw Rema’s hand next to her ant farm and began to imagine the ant’s crawling up her hand, and this reminded her of that strange experience with The Kid and the coffee cup. This led me to believe that there was a bad relationship going-on between Rema and The Kid. Even later on in the story, as Isabel is heading to the kitchen late at night, The Kid stops her and tells her to “tell Rema to make [him] a nice cold lemonade and bring it to [him].” This part kind of freaked me out a bit. He could easily go to the kitchen and get himself something, or even have Isabel bring it back for him, yet he tells her to get Rema to do it. Rema’s response is even more chilling to me, she tells Isabel that she will “make the lemonade and [Isabel] can take it.” She is very fearful of The Kid for something, and she can’t even bare to bring him a glass of lemonade. Something is going on in this household between this characters, and it almost frightens me inside somehow because of the mysteriousness of it.

Also quite odd and intriguing is the recurrence of this tiger on the property. We never actually see it or know why it is there, but it just is and we know the people can’t go near it. Isabel’s aunt and uncle even have hired a crew of grounds people to let them know where this tiger is at all times. At first I had thought this tiger was some sort of metaphor or symbol for The Kid, but then there is a point in the story where the tiger is in The Kid’s study, and he cannot even go in there. The tiger doesn’t do anything, and I’m not even sure if it has any sort of role or significance in this story besides scaring the characters. Maybe that’s it, maybe the tiger isn’t supposed to have a deeper meaning. Maybe its one and only purpose is to arouse curiosity in readers and scare the inhabitants of this house into staying away from it.

“Bestiary” was a quite interesting read. It’s subtle undertone of fear and pain help to reveal its classification of a magical realist story.


How A Yellow Flower Can Be Uncanny

The idea of strange and fearful things can be stirring in itself. Yet, would it be strange to have these feelings when you look at something natural and beautiful? In Julio Cortázar’s short story, “A Yellow Flower,” the stories main character sees a small yellow flower growing by itself in the grass, and he has these same feelings; feelings of fear, loneliness, and mortality. The man has been battling with the struggle of his life continuing on through a boy he spots on a bus. The boy ends of dying “mysteriously” and the man thinks he will be happy with his recurring life finally coming to an end, yet he actually finds that he wants someone to continue the life he had. As he ponders this, he comes across this flower on the grass, and he stops in memorization as he sees this flower and what it represents to him. This flower could possibly represent the beautiful life that he brought to an end by coming into this boy’s life, or it might reveal how now that his continuation of life has been severed, he can continue on with his own. But for me, I feel this flower was a symbol of the boy who he contributed to killing, and now that this flower (the boy) is dead, there will be no one to carry on this life he lived.

This story is uncanny to the effect of the man supposedly having some sort of “blood line” that will continue on and on forever. The people will not necessarily be related through blood to him or his family, yet their lives with have occurrences and events that are very close, if not exactly the same to his. It makes me this of this picture:

In this picture, I see the man’s life as the little girl. His life will go on and on for however long, maybe infinity, in the same exact fashion, possibly there will be some small variations, but as a whole it will be almost identical. This is what he put to a stop by the boy, Luc’s, life ending.



The House Is Taken Over! But By What?

The line between the real and the imaginary can sometimes be quite thin. I found myself trying to decipher what was really imaginary in the story of “House Taken Over” by Julio Cortázar. I didn’t know what exactly Cortázar was trying to say to us, as readers, through this story, but I think I made some small connections with it. This story tells of a quaint pair of older siblings living in the large, colonial house of their ancestral family. This brother and sister spend a large majority of their time cleaning the house and just enjoying their free-time. The sister, Irene, consumes all of her free-time with knitting. This could possibly be because she refused to marry two men in her life, and she compensated for her lack of ability to take the joining vows of marriage by weaving together wool and yarn, only to undo her work and start over. The brother, who remains unnamed, and who is the narrator of the story, likes to spend his time reading French literature. I thought this was quite interesting because when I think French, I think very feminine, emotional, risqué, romantic things. So this brother could also be trying to make up for a moment in his life. The brother’s fiancée-to-be, María Esther, died before he could propose to her. He even seems to have some disdain for this unfortunate event when he states she “went and died on me before we could manage to get engaged.” It seems to me like he couldn’t get over her death, so he turned to French novels and literature to fill his love loss.

Now to turn to the pretty confusing part of this story, the entrance of “them.” Right in the middle of the story, the brother/narrator was going to get some sort of drink called a mate, and when he was heading to the kitchen, some strange noises could be heard down the hall. He immediately is filled with some sort of fear and closes the door to their side of the house, and locks these things on the other side. I was having the hardest time trying to figure out when these things came into the story, why they were there, and what they were? I read the story and reread the story over and over trying to discover some clue to what the answers to these questions were. The only thing I could think of to give meaning to these creatures is that the old brother and sister are simply psychotic. They have been stuck up inside this old house, cleaning it over and over again, lost within their obsessions. It seems pretty logical to me to think that they simply went a little crazy and started imagining things. This is a great transition for the meaning of “magical realism” in this piece. Magical realism is the seamless encounter of fantastical or magical occurrences in a work within the real.

I found this story to be interesting in the aspect of magical realism and literal realism. Are these events in the siblings’ life magical or paranormal while still seemingly real, or is it an actual psychosis that is happening to two real people? I guess we can never really know.

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