Atomic Chaos Described In Literature Essay Research

Atomic Chaos Described In Literature Essay, Research Paper

February 19, 1999

Engl 1102


During the peak of events in the Second World War, the United States decided to drop two atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading to the final end of almost a decade of turmoil and tension. The introduction of a new atomic power led humanity to discover a new reality, polished by the realization that the future would be a reflection of an irreversible decision. Hence, it is true that from the time of the atomic chaos forward, the fate of mankind had been changed and was never to be the same again. In John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums,” and Gabriel Garcia Marqu?z’s “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World,” a similar “fate” is developed. The two stories presented have their plot evolving around an alien element that arrives in the society where the characters belong, bringing about an immutable transformation to their lives — just as the people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were introduced by the atomic bombs, and forced to coexist with it. The changes introduced in the stories are opposite to each other, since Steinbeck depicts the transformation of the protagonist Elisa as a negative and pessimistic disclosing of her own self and Marqu?z shows that the changes brought from an exotic element brings hope and light to a dull village, creating a more vivid and colorful environment.

In both stories, a foreign and mysterious person lands in a naive setting, interfering the routine of the characters by its mere presence. The antagonist in Steinbeck?s short story is a man whose attitude, as well as behavior, take the protagonist (Elisa) to a world never explored before. By the end of the short story, Steinbeck shows that Elisa is “crying – like an old woman” (201), conveying to the reader that the strange man she had met before had slowly murdered the “over-eager, over-powerful” (194) young woman she was in the beginning of the plot. On the other hand, in Marqu?z short narrative, a corpse named Esteban, arrives from the sea and his existence takes the inhabitants of a little village with “twenty-odd wooden houses… no stone courtyards… no flowers… on the end of a desert like cape” (218) to find the inner depths of their souls, transforming their dwelling to a place where “the wind is so peaceful… and the sun’s so bright that the sunflowers don’t know which way to turn” (222). Thus, Steinbeck and Marqu?z both show how a simple event can change the course of the lives of those who witness it, but also in showing how a relationship to the bizarre can yield different results and alter the course of their lives.

The similarities between the stories of both authors first start with how the foreign element is brought about in the plot. “The Chrysanthemums” begins when Elisa listens to “A squeak of wheels” from the road, followed by the observation that what she sees is “a curious vehicle, curiously drawn” (195). This enigmatic appearance starts the disclosing of the plot, where action encompasses this single event. Nevertheless, “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” commences when the village children observe a “dark and slinky bulge approaching through the sea” thought to be “an empty ship” (218). In the image portrayed by Marqu?z, one can understands that a puzzling discovery about the approaching object would be disclosed, and regardless of the effect of this discovery, it would bring about irrevocable alterations to their lives. What this parallel between the two stories shows is a similarity of how both plots start with an unknown source advancing towards a protected fortress of habits, and possibly disturbing its methodical conduct. This assumption holds to be true in both literary works, where the corpse and the foreign man dramatically change the behavior of those who witness its presence.

There is more than one similarity between both short stories, and another resembling detail is the fact that as the characters undergo the effect of an alien element in their lives, they are also deeply affected psychologically. The extent and level of how the protagonists of both stories are closely touched by their experiences is shown as two opposites in a spectrum. At one end, Elisa – who is portrayed as a pure and na?ve woman of “eyes clear as water” (194) in the beginning of the plot – has her innocence torn away, as she realizes that the world outside of her reality is a cruel and ruthless one. However, she does not avert from the uncompassionate truth but tries to coexist with it, “turning up her coat collar” (201) hiding her tears of anguish and bitterness from the eyes that were once clear and pure. Conversely, as Marqu?z’s village encounters Esteban ashore, they realize the “desolation of their streets, the dryness of their courtyards, the narrowness of their dreams” (221) in comparison to the grandness and beauty of the corpse. As Esteban’s body is sent back to the ocean, the village people “pained” to return him as an orphan, and decided that “through him all the inhabitants of the village became kinsmen” (221). Consequently, as the people developed a link to the corpse, they also created an awareness of an outer world knowing that “everything would be different from then on,” bringing the last element in Pandora’s box into their existence, constructing “wider doors, higher ceilings, and stronger floors…” and “paint their house fronts gay colors” (221). The element of hope and change to accommodate a new member shows how the corpse, unlike the stranger in Elisa’s life, brings a positive effect to the village.

The characters of each story equally endure the changes forcefully interjected in their conventional existence, guiding these traditional and common people to their zenith, or the highest point followed by an unpredictable and irreversible result. Nonetheless, the moment of change in both narratives also show the past challenged by transformations that can no longer allow harmony and the status quo to persist, yielding in different results. The characters of both Steinbeck and Marqu?z short stories are individuals that are presumably in a traditional surrounding, carrying out routinely responsibilities appearing like no force would be able to break its systematic conduct. Yet, as an invincible power of change is delivered in the two stories (both solidified in the image of a man), different ramifications of a same event result. In Elisa’s case, a dramatic modification to her personality occurs, as she is forced to change is delivered in the two stories (both solidified in the image of a man), different ramifications of a same event result. In Elisa’s case, a dramatic modification to her personality occurs, as she is forced to acknowledge a reality to which she was never exposed before, having the thin glass around her protected world broken into pieces. Contrastingly, Esteban’s village learn through the corpse the beauty of the world surrounding them, and the necessity to incorporate this beauty to their own lives.

Marqu?z, Gabriel Garcia. “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World.” Discovering Literature. Eds. Hans P. Guth and Gabriele Rico. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1997. 218-222.

Steinbeck, John. “The Chrysanthemums.” Discovering Literature. Eds. Hans P. Guth and Gabriele Rico. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1997. 194-201.


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