The term “supernatural” has several meanings and is used in both everyday speech and scholarly works on philosophy, psychology, and literature. In its most general meaning, the adjective “supernatural” means something not explained naturally, which is not subject to the laws of nature. In the field of fiction, the term supernatural is usually close to the concepts of fantastic and wonderful. Although this genre is often contradictory and causes a lot of criticism, great writers were able to convert it into great artworks.
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Supernatural in literature
The use of the supernatural in literary works, particularly those written by Le Guin and Marquez are related to features of the human psyche. Something unusual, magical, always excites the reader. Both in religion and the supernatural, a person can seek evidence for the existence of anything beyond human understanding. It gives hope that short human life is not all that can be expected in the future. For these reasons, authors use the supernatural in their works. In essence, they want to capture the readers’ attention completely and, through fantastic images, point them to a complex problem that requires attention. The interest readers show in supernatural events can serve as a significant factor in the work’s success.
Supernatural in The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Le Guin’s story provides intense criticism of the state with its inoperable principle of social and political justice and an emphasis on the repressive nature of each social system. Moreover, the story expresses skepticism about the effective structure of any state. Omelas’ inhabitants live in well-being and abundance, and they are truly happy. However, their beautiful, suffering-free lives depend on the torment of one child, permanently locked in a tiny basement (Le Guin). All residents are aware of this and nevertheless accept the game’s rules because it is unreasonable to sacrifice the interests of an absolute majority for the sake of one resident, even a child. It is how a seemingly ordinary story-parable turns into a serious dilemma when it comes to real justice and social reality. Residents who give up well-being and challenge the city’s system – are those who walk away from Omelas.
Supernatural in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
At the heart of Marquez’s plot is a family who discovered an old man with wings in their yard. Rumors of an angel living in a fisherman’s family circled the village quickly, and crowds of people went to look at it (Márquez). Just at this point, the writer draws some ethical parallels. He describes how the local population reacted to the angel. For many rural residents, it was like going to a zoo. Some threw food into the old man’s cage, others took a feather from his wings to cure themselves. Some burned the old man with iron to see if he was feeling the pain. Nobody protected the angel, even the church. The horrors people can do with the alive creature and their cruelty cause pain to readers.
Biblical The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Readers also see the disclosures of human sins in biblical stories. The Parable of the Prodigal Son by Luke is a famous one. The Bible is not just a phenomenon of culture but its core, as the Bible deals with the issues of life and death of a man who seeks the way to the truth and right. The supernatural element in the story is the embodiment of God in the image of the father of sons, who is ready to accept repentant lost souls (Plumptre). It is a story about endless parental love and forgiveness.
Le Guin and Márquez made extremely skillful use of the supernatural element. Their invented worlds are almost identical to the real world, but one fantastic detail appears in them – Le Guin’s child and Marquez’s old man. Through the attitude towards the supernatural characters, human vices are revealed. These short stories address an incredible number of problems that will remain relevant for subsequent generations.
Le Guin, Ursula K. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas: A Story. HarperCollins, 2017.
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Márquez, Gabriel García. A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. Penguin Books, 2014.
Plumptre, Henry Scawen. Lectures on the Parable of the Prodigal Son Luke Xv. 11-24. HardPress Publishing, 2019.