English 363

Response #3
October 19, 2011, 2:39 am
Filed under:

Caitlin Machicote

Professor Alvarez

19,October 2011

Response #3



Confusion by Inconsistency : Lack of Clarity of Time in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ “Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon” 



            Short stories often confuse readers. These micro-narratives contain strange progression of time because of their length. Whereas it is obviously difficult to write a novel, it is also difficult to write a short story because the timing has to be completely right. When an author writes a short story and after the reader completes it, if the reader is unclear about how much time has passed it should not be seen as an effective story. Many authors like to leave their stories with ambiguous endings, Marquez did not choose to do this with his short story “ Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon”, however his ambiguity lies in how much time has passed and how many days went by in the story.

            Manfred Jahn, strives to explain time in “ Narratology : A Guide to the Theory of Narrative”. Jahn points out many conventions that most authors usually follow when they write their pieces. It is important to mention that writers do not have Jahn’s guide in mind, however when a reader looks at Marquez’ story through Jahn’s lense the reader will find some major inconsistencies.

            After reading “ Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon”, the typical reader  is left unclear about how much time has passed, Jahn would refer to this as story time. “The fictional time taken up by an action episode, or, more globally, by the whole action. To determine story time, one usually relies on aspects of textual pace, intuition, and text-internal clues. Note that story-time may have a highly subjective element to it, especially in figural and reflector-mode narration. If necessary, ‘clock-time’ needs to be distinguished from ‘mind-time’”( Jahn N5.2.2). Marquez’ short story has many references to time, however it is not clear if when these actions are mentioned if they are the typical action of the character, or if the character is actually making this action at the time he mentions it. Marquez’ characters seem to instantaneously appear in other places without any transition. On page 153 in Marquez’ story all of a sudden he is at Jose Montiel’s house with no mention of how he got there, or how long it too him to get there. This could be partially due to the fact that this is a short story and Marquez’ only has a limited amount of pages to tell his story, so it would not be wise to mention the action of getting to the house, or how much time had passed.

            The title of the story itself references a time of day, afternoon, and considering that all of the story is below the title, the entire story would presumably take place in the afternoon. This is the major inconsistency of the story. It is labeled one thing ,but in fact represents something else. The story starts in the afternoon when Balthazar completes the bird cage, however time progresses and it is unclear if one day or many days have passed between the first afternoon and when Balthazar is laying on the floor before five ‘o clock mass.

            In this short story there are many references to time, and Marquez makes many attempts to define time. He does give the clock time as Jahn references, however although the reader knows what time these events are happening, the reader does not know which day they are happening. Months and days are mentioned, such as February and April, but it is unclear whether the narrator is reflecting on events that usually happen in these months or on these days, or if the event is current. It is possible that “ Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon” occurred at the start of lunch and progressed until the following early morning where Balthazar is laying on the floor drunk, however the story time is unclear.





















Works Cited



Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. “Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon.” Trans. Gregory  Rabassa and J.S. Bernstein. Collected Stories. Harper Perennial. 73,77. Print.



Jahn, Manfred. “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative.” 28 May 2005. Web. 27 June 2011.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Caitlin, nice writing here. I wish you had been in class to workshop this piece of writing so you could see the importance of using the right verb for each sentence. I can see you could use the “to be” writing revision step. Take a look at the class notes to get an idea as to what I mean. I’ll be taking off points in the next few responses and your final paper for too many “to be” verbs. I think you could also get rid of the adjective “many” as well.

The title here looks great. Remember you don’t need the space before the colon, but you do need one after, like you have here.

The works cited is very close, but not quite. You should give a dash for the page numbers in the Garcia Marquez citation, not a comma.

In general, why do you think authors play with time in narratives? What kinds of effects do they produce for readers? Do they make fiction narratives more realistic? Or less realistic? Why?

4.5 out of 5 possible points.

   salvarez 10.22.11 @ 2:38 pm

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar