A Magical Realism
This story is that of a strange, but very interesting one, that involves a lot of things happening within just a matter of a few pages. “The Healer’ by Aimee Bender seams to be just like any fiction fairytale, when in reality, it falls more into the category of a magical realism. As a fairytale, this story is short and quick, involving unsupernatural things. But what makes this a little different than an ordinary fairytale and more of a magical realism story is the fact that Bender uses fictional components in what seams to be an otherwise realistic world. The full and correct definition of magical realism according to the Webster Dictionary is “a literary genre or style associated especially with Latin America that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction.” Bender uses the approach of containing unanswered questions at the end of the story that make you think, but help draw back to the point of the story, which is that of magical realism.
Aimee Bender gives the story a lot of unanswered questions at the end of the story that leaves you wandering what happened and why, and makes you wish there was more to the story. In other words, she leaves you hanging. One major question, most of us know. It’s the one at the very end. That question is, where does the ice girl go at the end of the story when she leaves town and never comes back? “When the town discovered she disappeared, there was a big uproar, and everybody blamed the fire girl” (Bender, p. 132). Even though the fire girl just sat in her metal house with her hand in an ice bucket, people still blamed her for the disappearance of the ice girl. But the question is, where did she go? This unanswered question shows that it’s not uncommon for a fairytale to have someone disappear, but the fact that the girl who disappeared was one of the two majestic creatures that made this story what it was, and the fact that she could heal people and then she randomly left, puts people in a panic. Sure, people panic over a someone disappearing, but this was a magical and unrealistic character that disappeared instead, which provides evidence that this story is a magical realism story.
How it works
Another unanswered question is why did the friendship between the fire girl and ice girl end in the first place? I’m sure everyone has their theories, I know I do. My theory is that maybe the ice girl didn’t like all the attention the two of them were getting as they got to junior high and the ice girl started to realize she was different from everybody else and thought she’d blend in better if she stayed away from the ice girl and hide her hand while at school. “After a while, the ice girl said she was tired of the trick and gave it up and they stopped being friends” (Bender, p. 122). This quote backs up my theory. She got old enough to understand that the two of them were different from the rest, and so she no longer wanted to do their famous trick anymore because it brought too much attention. In the eyes of the narrator, “I remember one afternoon, on the playground, the fire girl grabbed hold of the ice girl’s hand and- Poof- just like that, each equalized the other” (Bender, p. 121). This famous trick they did was miraculous. It’s like they completed each other. They connected in a way no one else could, as they contain these unrealistic features in this realistic narrative. Again, we see the magical realism as humans can connect on levels no one else can, such as spouses and such, but these girl’s connected on an unrealistic level as one had a hand of ice and the other girl a hand of fire, and they neutralized each other simply by touching hands, but the minute they let go, they were merely just fire and ice, separate from everyone else, including each other.
The last major question that stood out to me, and I’m sure others who read this as well, was that of why did bender write this story in past tense instead of present tense? Bender seams to be telling this story through the narrator who is reflecting back on her childhood. The narrator states in the first line of the story “there were two mutant girls in the town: one had a hand made of fire and the other had a hand made of ice. Everyone else’s hands were normal” (Bender, p. 121). To me the narrator is reflecting on a crucial part of her past experience who shaped her into who she is today. The way the story goes, it sounds as if things changed after those two girls came to town. The fire girl constantly burned things and people were scared of her and she didn’t have any friends. “I tried but I never knew what to say” (Bender, p. 123). She talks fondly of the girls and seams to long to be a part of that inner circle between them and is constantly trying to find her way in with the two. “For Christmas that year, I bought her a log” (Bender, p. 123). She didn’t get the ice girl anything because she didn’t know what exactly to get her. “I want you to come to the jail, I said, and give her [the fire girl] a little relief” (Bender, p. 126). She gets overly involved, trying to fix a problem between two iconic girls, when it’s not her job to do so, as it does not concern her. She convinced the ice girl to go over help the fire girl in prison, which led to the ice girl cutting the fire girls fire hand off, which in the end made things worse as more fire came about and she could no longer control the fire unless she kept her hand in ice at all times. She would watch the fire girl burn Roy and she knew the ice girl went to the hospital to help people, and she even visited the ice girl. Its okay to care for someone and even like someone and want to be friends. But where the magical realism comes in is the fact that she is so obsessed as a kid on two iconic girls who live in her town. As to why this story was wrote in the past tense, I’m not fully sure.
This was no doubt an iconic story, and one you can’t easily forget. After reading this story for second time, it occurred to me that this story was not just a fairytale as it did not have as such a happy ending, but more it seemed like a realistic story with a fictional additive, that of the ice and fire hands of the two girls. Aimee Bender used multiple unanswered questions to help make this story just that. The biggest question was where the ice girl went when she disappeared and even why did she leave. Another question I thought about early on in the story was why the friendship ended. Lastly, I got to thinking, why was this story told in past tense instead of present tense. Sadly, I cannot answer these questions, only except give my theories on them, as like I said, they’re unanswered questions.