6 December 2013 The Willing Suspension of Disbelief

Download 12.38 Kb.
Size12.38 Kb.


Christina Mertz

Dr. Page

ENGL 201-02

6 December 2013

The Willing Suspension of Disbelief

Fiction can become reality in a reader’s mind, and it can take on a life and a dimension all its own. Readers have an important role to play in this process. In order to fully appreciate a fictional work, they must look beyond any parts of the work which seem impossible. When they do this, they get to experience the literary miracle of a suspension of disbelief, and they are able to completely immerse themselves in the work. Every work of fiction requires a suspension of disbelief, but two books that utilize its power in particularly interesting ways are Love in the Time of Cholera and Don Quixote.

Love in the Time of Cholera begins with flowing words and elegant sentences that make readers feel like they are in a sort of fairy tale paradise, complete even with talking animals. Just like a fairy tale, this world is undeniably beautiful, but it also has a streak of evil and darkness; readers learn this in the first sentence, when they discover that someone has died. With this news, they feel immediate sympathy; right away, then, they have suspended their disbelief, for while they know that the characters never lived, they still allow themselves to feel their pain. This first sentence of the novel ends with the dramatic phrase “the fate of unrequited love,” certainly reminiscent of fairy tales (Márquez 3). With this first introduction to the book, readers see that they are in a land of drama, fairy tale, and fiction; when they continue reading, they are agreeing to suspend their disbelief in such a world. From the very beginning, then, Love in the Time of Cholera requires a willing suspension of disbelief from its readers.

As the story continues, Márquez drops subtle hints to readers about the aura of magic that he wants them to feel in his tale, further encouraging them to suspend their disbelief. For example, when discussing the slaughter of the animals in Urbino’s home, he says that the only one to escape was “the giant lucky charm tortoise” (Márquez 23); by adding adjectives that create a sense of the surreal and supernatural, the author very subtly lets readers know that they are dealing in a world that is not as realistic as it might seem. Again, when Urbino and Euclides are searching for sunken ships and treasure, Márquez makes the scene feel slightly unreal, so that readers must suspend their disbelief to fully appreciate it. He tells of an uncountable number of ships at the ocean’s bottom which are somehow in even better condition than the ships in the bay, and he furthers the unreality of the scene by telling readers that “it seemed as if they had sunk along with their own space and time, so that they were still illumined by the same eleven o’clock sun” as when they had crashed (Márquez 92-93). In these ways, then, Márquez subtly places his readers in a slightly unreal world, and so he requires them to suspend their disbelief to understand the story fully.

Furthermore, he uses the suspension of disbelief to make his readers better grasp the tale’s theme. Through Love in the Time of Cholera, Márquez tells readers about true and false love. By placing the story in a fictionalized, dramatic world, he helps readers to feel that they are lost in the fairy tale nature of love just as much as the characters are. By suspending their disbelief and fully immersing themselves in the story, readers question the line between fantasy and reality, feeling slightly disoriented, just like they might feel if they were in love. In this way, then, Márquez masterfully uses the suspension of disbelief to deepen his readers’ understanding of the story and the ideas behind it.

Don Quixote is another book that uses the suspension of disbelief in an interesting way. In this novel, readers are expected to understand that Don Quixote’s worldview depends on his madness. To fully appreciate the story, though, readers must be able to see the world from this viewpoint. Without suspending their disbelief, they would see Don Quixote as nothing more than a madman, but when they suspend their disbelief, they are able to sympathize with him. In this way, Cervantes requires that his readers suspend their disbelief to fully appreciate his tale.

In addition, Cervantes uses the suspension of disbelief within the story itself. As readers go through the story, they see Sancho Panza falling under the same spell of madness that has taken his master. When he first begins following Don Quixote, his only reason is that he wishes to be rewarded with an island, and as he sets out on his first adventure, “[he] r[ides] his ass like a patriarch” (Saavedra 1571), already beginning to live a fantasy. However, he is able to recognize his master’s madness in dramatic events like the windmill and the flock of sheep; he accuses Don Quixote of having “‘windmills on the brain’” (Saavedra 1573) and repeatedly tries to stop him from his insanity. Over time, though, he becomes frustrated and furious, and Don Quixote says that Sancho is “‘no saner than [he is]’” (Saavedra 1625). When Sancho thinks Don Quixote dead, he begins to cry out a dramatic eulogy praising his master; at this point, forgetting entirely that Don Quixote is not really the “pride of [his] family, honour and glory of all La Mancha and all the world,” it seems that he has crossed the threshold of madness at last (Saavedra 1629). Through the course of the tale, Sancho becomes more invested in his travels with Don Quixote, and his master’s insanity begins to rub off on him. In this way, Cervantes makes the suspension of disbelief just as important for the characters as for the readers, so adding an interesting double layer to the tale.

Both Love in the Time of Cholera and Don Quixote require the suspension of disbelief for a true understanding of their ideas. In Cholera, Márquez places his readers in a world that is almost completely realistic, but he drops hints that give the story a slightly magical quality; almost subconsciously, then, readers suspend their disbelief in the story’s world and in some of its more absurd events. Don Quixote, on the other hand, requires readers to suspend their disbelief more dramatically, as they are reading about a madman’s antics throughout the entire novel. In both of these works, a suspension of disbelief adds significant meaning to the story. In Cholera, readers are able to experience some of love’s magical and surreal qualities when they let go of their disbelief, and in Don Quixote, they are able to sympathize with the knight errant when they allow themselves to believe in the world as he sees it.

Works Cited

Márquez, Gabriel García. Love in the Time of Cholera. Trans. Edith Grossman. New York: Vintage Books, 1988. Print.

Saavedra, Miguel de Cervantes. “Don Quixote.” The Longman Anthology of World Literature: Compact Edition. Ed. David Damrosch and David L. Pike. New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2008. 1549-1664. Print.

Download 12.38 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2023
send message

    Main page