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The Pard

Everybody thinks that when God cast me out, I fell directly from Heaven to Hell. That’s not true. I was able to catch myself on Earth for a time. I was angered both by the fickle nature of the humans and God’s obliviousness of their flaws until I realized that it must be a test. Just as I convinced Him to to test Job, He decided to test me. I would have to prove that humans were vile and corrupt. Only then would God realize His mistake. Only when I proved it to Him would God acknowledge how terrible His precious humans were. Then God could restart, create new creatures without the mistake of free will, and He would lift me back to Him and raise me above Him. He would realize that I had been right the whole time. All I had to do to prove it was kill every miserable human on the face of the earth. It shouldn’t have been hard. Continue Reading »

Barbaric Christmas Decorations

   A little boy, two feet tall, gazed up with wide eyes around at all the sparkling red and green lights, the Snoopy stuffed animals and the tree decorations that glittered with glee. It was that time of the year. His grandmother held his hand as they walked down the aisle, amazed by these Christmas decorations. The boy saw all of this as a winter wonderland within this fluorescent-lit store. After he looked up and down at the shelves as they went along, at one point he shook his grandmother’s hand and shouted, “Look! Look!” as he pointed at a peculiar house decoration. He wondered about the shiny, plastic pretend legs for sale that had pointy, curved shoes with bells on top and red and green tights. They were just a single fake, mini leg with each a stick attached to insert into one’s lawn. All for just $9.99! “What’s that?” her grandson asked. His grandmother, uncomfortable, adjusted her plaid scarf and sighed with a tinge of sorrow.

   “Elf legs,” she told him and began to reveal a piece of history that is often unsaid. She continued and softly said, “You know how Mrs. Claus uses reindeer to fly around to deliver all the presents herself?” his grandmother asked him with a weak smile. “A long, long time ago, Santa, her husband, would send out his elves to deliver presents… until a fatal accident occurred one Christmas Eve…”

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I wrapped my scarf more tightly around my neck in an attempt to stave off the November chill.  A gust of wind blew rain in my face and I shivered.  It had been an unseasonably warm autumn until about a week ago, when the temperatures had plummeted and rain clouds came rolling in off the ocean.

I was standing there on the bluffs, the rain battering my face and the winds whipping the strands of my hair that had escaped my ponytail into my face.  Sucking in a freezing breath, I laughed it out again.  The sound was snatched from my lips and tumbled down into the ocean below.  I threw my hands out and tipped my face back, losing myself in the pure wildness of the moment.  I felt as if I could fling myself into the air and go hurtling along the winds in a great rush.

The fractured cry of a gull cut through my thoughts. Searching the sky for the source, I found the bird above me, wheeling and diving against the force of the wind.  I wondered what prompted him to brave this weather. Usually by this time, gulls had moved inland in anticipation of the drop in temperature and guarantee of rougher storms.

I followed the gull’s path as it fought the winds in an attempt to make landfall.  Every time it dropped a few feet in the air I tensed, half expecting it to fall from the sky.  It was sent shooting sideways by one gust and I gasped.  The rain billowed through the air, buffeting the gull.  I squinted against the needles of rain and watched it, afraid that if I stopped looking, it would drop out of the sky and dash against the bluffs.

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Anna looked around to see families walking around the brightly lit fairgrounds, but she knew that this night would quickly turn into sorrow. She could feel that something was going to go wrong. The tension of it consumed Anna as she walked in the midst of the crowds, food trucks, and fair rides, with her boyfriend by her side. Music from the roller coasters blasted in different directions, but Anna was in a whole other world. Consumed by her own unspeakable and dangerous thoughts, Anna walked silently with Jack.

Eighteen-year-old Anna had been troubled since she was a young two-year-old girl. Her mother would often find Anna tossing and turning in her sleep. When she would play on the playground, Anna would often find herself wandering away from the other children and onto the swings, looking at the clouds. Her mother told her when she was four years old that she had been cursed by an old witch, just a few hours after being born. Her mother never found out why she had been cursed or whether she had been the only one with this curse, but Anna’s mother was the only person who knew that she had the curse. Anna’s mother told her that when she was born an old grey-haired, soft-spoken lady had come into the hospital room and a few moments after the old woman admired the baby, Anna’s mother recalled her saying, “The curse upon you shall not be mentioned. The thoughts you think will be in fruition. It is done and it is finished.” Anna’s mother told her that the woman shuffled out of the room and when Anna’s mother got up to catch her, the woman was nowhere in the busy hallway. As a young child, Anna didn’t really fully understand it, but as she grew older, she wanted to know more about her curse and why she had been cursed.

When Anna was four years old, she saw an airplane flying in the sky. As she looked up at the plane, she thought, A plane will crash into a building and it will fall down like my blocks. Two days later, two planes flew into two tall towers. Within two hours after the crash, the towers came tumbling down just like the wooden building blocks of a toddler’s tower. Continue Reading »


They say that red skies in the morning are a sailor’s warning. Unfortunately, that warning doesn’t apply to the Royal Navy. Every man on the ship felt a sense of unease when they woke to red skies and unnaturally calm seas. The glass water reflected the ship as it cut through the leagues. Men went about their duties onboard without saying a word. As soon as the wood deck was clean enough to mirror the sea, they stopped and finally voiced their unease to the Captain.

   “Hogwash!” the Captain shouted at the men grouped below him. “I didn’t take you men to be a bunch of pansies! If a little red sky scares you so bad then you had better just throw yourself overboard!”

   “We are no pansies, Captain,” a man with a mop said loudly, “but every sailor knows that a calm sea and red sky is bad news. We should be hesitant in our path forward.”

   “What’s your name, sailor?” the Captain asked with a glare.

   “Wakefield, Sir,” the sailor responded. His voice was strong but his body gave away his nervousness.

   “Well, Wakefield, my offer still stands,” the Captain said with a smile. “Feel free to take the mop to keep you company.” With those words, he turned heel and walked into his cabin. The rest of the crew stared at Wakefield for a moment before returning to their duties.

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Tidbeck, “Beatrice”

‘She says, I had no choice,’ said Josephine. ‘She says you’re holding me captive.’

This story seemed to be simply about a crazy man who fell for an inanimate object. But as we all know, that’s just not fantastic. So Tidbeck decides to give us a rather disturbing world where machine and human love each other and can even procreate. She then decides to take it a step further into the disturbing and have the new airship believe that she is being held captive and has been raped by the main character. These details make the reader’s skin crawl because we are put into the position of having to consider what it would be like to be the airship or the main character. Also, we have to consider what it says about humanity that we did not take into consideration the airship’s part in the story. We knew that she was not the original Beatrice. We knew that the main character was trying to make himself believe that she was even through the distance that she placed between them. The lack of consideration from the main character plays directly into the lack of consideration for the reader. It makes us question our own morals, but the question is disconcerting because we are thinking about an inanimate object.

“Women, who had gradually been disappearing into the hidden spaces of the new style, had at last become invisible”

In Millhauser’s “A Change in Fashion”, the popular fashion for women shifts away from the current style of fashion where skin and body shape were displayed to a fashion where the entire body, even the face, is hidden beneath fabric. What I found strange was the focus on Western culture. The narrator compares the dresses to “Victorian” style where, when I read the story I was reminded of the Islamic head coverings (172). I especially was reminded of the burka when the story describes how the face was covered by “an opaque fabric that permitted one-way vision” in much the same way burkas are made (175). I also felt that Millhauser juxtaposed societal views of the Hyperion dresses with the intent behind Islamic head coverings. In Islamic culture, the head coverings are used, for the most part, to erase the body of the woman which leads to, for many, a deeper emotional connection when a relationship is considered due to the fact that the person would fall in love with the woman and not the body. In Millhauser’s story the dresses were a method in which to “inspire fiery passion”, a direct contrast to the intent of the head coverings which seem to inspire the Hyperion, whether intentionally or not (174).

Another dress, designed for the wife of a software CEO, rose three stories high and was attached to the back of the house by a covered walkway.

PARIS - MARCH 10: A model walks down the catwalk during the Alexander McQueen Ready-to-Wear A/W 2009 fashion show during Paris Fashion Week at POPB on March 10, 2009 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

“A Change in Fashion,” in true Millhauser style, is written as an historical account of a future time, which, we find out at the end of the story, has already passed in its entirety.  Millhauser again uses exaggeration as his element of the fantastic, this time in the development of fashion to a place where its wearers are rendered almost obsolete.  This concept of fashion independent of its wearer is fascinating and hilarious.  Such wild exaggeration is cause for amusement, and I do not think that Millhasuer truly expects his readers to believe such a time would ever happen.  One wonders how society could reach the point where a dress takes up a city block and becomes its own sort of architecture.  I personally find it all ridiculous. I also wondered how everyday people thought about this fashion as it seemed like more of an haute couture trend than something practical. Overall, this story raised a lot of questions for me about how the entirety of this future hypothetical society would have functioned and if only the rich women could afford to “escape.”




“Fashion is an expression of boredom, of restlessness. The successful designer understands the ferocity of that boredom and provides it with new places in which to calmits rage for a while.”

clothingIn “A Change in Fashion,” vanishing, exaggeration, and boredom is a continuous theme that brings out the human experience of infatuation with what appears to be new and eventually boredom. Millhauser appears to be fascinated with vanishing and disappearing, which has been used in his other stories. The Hyperion dresses transform to be so big that the women can get out of them without anyone noticing. The dresses have become life-like. Similarly, the dresses consumed the women’s bodies, which protected them from “male control.” This part of the story seems to speak to the issue that women’s bodies are often sexualized by men particularly when there clothing shows more of their body. The idea of the dresses protecting them from “male control” is a representation of how men use how a woman dresses as an excuse for sexually harassing and sexually assaulting her, which is relevant to our society today (175).

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Was it possible that the great Tower didn’t actually exist? After all, no one had ever seen the entire structure, which kept vanishing from sight no matter where you stood. Except for a handful of visible bricks, the whole thing was little more than a collection of rumors, longings, dreams, and travelers’ tales. It was less than a memory. The Tower was a prodigious absence, a soaring void, a pit dug upward into the air. It was as if each part of the visible Tower had begun to dissolve under the vast pressure of the invisible parts, operating in every direction.

the towerIn Millhauser’s “The Tower,” he takes the Biblical Tower of Babel, but he changes it into another interesting place that makes the story unique from the Biblical story. Right at the beginning of the story, we are introduced to the setting of this tall tower that reaches up to heaven. This is similar to the Bible in that the people of Babylon were trying to build a tower that reached up to heaven, but they failed to God’s actions. The great Tower does reach heaven, but it presents different problems that are relatable to the human experience. In the story, Millhauser uses the horizontal versus the vertical world as a way of expressing problems such as the lack of mystery that came with reaching what was once unattainable. The main focus is to create a believable world in which drastic changes in our environment become ordinary and appear minute over time. He also presents the problem of communication in ways of messages traveling and making our stories sound more appealing than what is actually reality. This relates to how in the human experience we often exaggerate events that we witnessed so that our story and our lives appear more interesting. Furthermore, the idea of messages becoming changed over time as it is passed down from person to person is another part of the human experience.  It is similar to the game telephone in which the story changes over time and by the last person, the story is an entirely different story is comprehended differently.  This is also similar to how rumors are spread because details are changed and it can lead to what appears to be true to be false; similar to the mixup of what heaven looked like and what the plain city looked like.

“People began to turn elsewhere for the pleasures of the unknown and the unseen.” (157)

Millhauser’s story “The Tower” while using the fantastic element of exaggeration with the size of the tower, also makes use of the idea of duality in a never ending ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ metaphor.Multiple instances of this physical dichotomy appear: in and out, up and down, vertical and horizontal. More subtly, there is the mental dichotomy between the known and unknown that permeates the physical elements of life. The most obvious appearance of this contrast occurs when observing the people who live in and around the tower. Travelers would choose to settle into the calmer and easier life within the tower, while horizontal dwellers would feel the need to leave their portion of the tower in search of something else. Neither of the groups are able to truly be happy where they are. This theme of duality reflects the continuous human desire for more and better things that, even when quenched are unsatisfied. This dissatisfaction can be observed in the reactions to the completion of the tower, a marvel that quickly passed into “daily life” that left the inhabitants restless and unfulfilled (156). The tower was a goal, an unattainable aspiration that was never truly meant to be achieved. When it was, it was a shock and disappointment, because with the tower done, and people entering and exiting heaven, where would they turn their hopes to? There was hope in the unknown left.


Every day here is like deer season.  We are allowed to flourish in this space free of men our age, only seeing them when we choose, allowed to be more genuine relaxed versions of ourselves.  Do we appreciate it enough?  For us, it’s more than just one day a year, so the novelty wears off.  You don’t need boys to get into petty squabbles, but they sure help.  We belong to ourselves as much as we belong to the numbers we attach to our self worth. GPA, weight, shots on goal; this is what it is to be a girl.  It’s pulling yourself out of bed for your 9:00 am after staying up until 4:00 working on a paper.  It’s doing one more pull up.  It’s crying in your friend’s arms in a bathroom stall for reasons you don’t understand.  It’s raw emotions that you allow yourself to feel because there’s no man around to make snide comments about overreacting.  Here, we can be the best, the worst, the most genuine, and the most artificial versions of ourselves, and no one can tell us not to be.  Every day here is like deer season.

“It was said that no matter how close you examine one of the Master’s little pieces, you always discovered some further wonder.” (123)

In Millhauser’s short story “In the Reign of Harad IV” the point of view shifts from third person objective to third person limited omniscient seemingly for a main purpose of exposition and foreshadowing. By beginning the story in an objective point of view, the narrator is able to foreshadow the Master’s final goal in the first paragraph. This would be impossible to do with a limited omniscient point of view due to the Master not being able to understand how those who did not share his experiences perceived his work. Thus, the foreshadowing he would be able to offer would be of a different nature that could inform him but would not necessarily warn a reader. The foreshadowing that comes shortly after this first foreshadowing is offered by the Master; the Master realized that the “stirring restlessness” he felt was due to an urge to construct ever smaller creations (124). He could not even recognize when the foreshadowing of the restless feeling appeared to him.
The narrator, both objective and limited, is immediately trusted until the new apprentices attempt to view his new construction and praise him despite having “seen nothing” (131). This hollow praise calls into question the previous wonders the narrator described. The visit also enforces the Master’s isolation from the world as he sinks deeper and deeper into the world of the invisible.
The fantastic in this story is exaggeration. The Master creates smaller and smaller figures, moving from the visible world of miniatures and later crossing into “the dark kingdom of the invisible” (129). This desire to constantly outdo oneself, even to the point where the oneupmanship is impossible to perceive, as well as the “stirring restlessness” relates to the human experience of ambition (124).

…he understood that he had traveled a long way from the early days, that he still had far to go, and that, from now on, his life would be difficult and without forgiveness.

“In the Reign of Harad IV” has an excellent example of an unreliable narrator. Theimages
protagonist, a master miniaturist in the service of Harad IV  becomes dissatisfied with the work he is doing one day and resolves to challenge himself by making something smaller. He crafts tiny baskets of apples, a tower contained within a thimble, and many other wonders.  With each achievement the
kingdom is awed but he still feels restless and begins to inch down to a scale not visible to the eye without some aid from magnifying glasses.  Eventually he reaches the realm of the invisible and can no longer see his work even with the aid of magnifying glasses, but he “knows it’s still there”.  This is where an unreliable narrator comes in and tests the suspension of our belief. Is there really “an ivory oblong box” or a “peacock, radiant with unseen colors?”  The Master knows they’re there but knows also that no one else can see them.  Are they really there? We don’t know.  All we know is what he has told us and we must choose whether he is someone we’re willing to trust.

The other town, when we enter, suddenly casts over our town a therness, an otherness, which we find pleasing, if a little confusing. It’s almost as if we can’t feel our town, cannot know about it, until we’re there, in the other town, imagining our town on the other side of the woods. So perhaps it’s true, after all, that when we visit the other town we aren’t escaping from our town, as some say, but entering it at last.

the other town“The Other Town” is a mysterious yet intriguing quite story that grabs the reader into these two towns—vastly similar, but also noticeably different. The story is approached from both an objective point of view and first-person point of view. The story is written almost like a newspaper article, but we the narration is objective because the narrator themselves live in the town and is critiquing the actions as well as opinions of other citizens in the town. Similar to the “The Dome,” this story is written to inform the reader of a place we are unfamiliar with and show us what makes this place different from what we know as the familiar. Millhauser chooses not to follow the common format of stories such as the presence of a protagonist or antagonist. Instead, Millhauser focuses in on the setting of the story and creates in detail, a conflict between the two towns. Millhauser approaches the conflict of the story in an obscure way, which brings out the fantastic. He presents the conflict by detailing how the citizens interact and are so involved with the other town as well as the lack of secrecy that the replication of the other town brings. Millhauser’s creation of the other town, which sole purpose is to replicate the lives of the main town, reminds me of social media and reality television. Similar to the citizens in the story, who often don’t realize what is going on where they live in until they go to the other town, social media users often don’t realize what occurs in their own homes or town until it is through the camera lens or post of another person. Along with the precise replication of the town which invades others privacy. Social media and reality television can open the curtain to no privacy and it can expose the missteps or blemishes in people’s lives. It may seem enjoyable and entertaining when we are looking into someone else’s life, but when it is our own it can be perceived as intrusive. I think Millhauser used such a strange setting and circumstance of having a replicated town to reinforce the differences of perception: the outside looking in vs. the inside looking out.

The maker of miniatures, knowing that they would never visi him again, returned with some impatience to his work; and as he sank below the crust of the visible world, into his dazzling kingdom, he understood that he had traveled a long way from the early days, that he still had far to go, and for that, from now on, his life would be difficult and without forgiveness.” (p. 131)

 Millhauser injects the fantastic into his short story “In the Reign of Harad IV” as he describes a king’s craftsman, the Master, who is an expert at creating extremely small, detailed miniatures. When the main character is first introduced, the story seems relatively realistic even with the detail that the Master has been asked to refurbish the king’s “toy castle” with more than 600 miniature rooms. At firstUnknown the descriptions of what he creates
are comparable to real-life small things we know, such as a “miniature orchards a basket of brillia
ntly lifelike red-and-green apples, each no larger than the pit of a cherry, and as a finishing touch he had placed on the stem of one apple a perfectly reproduced copper fly.” (p. 124)

The story veers into the fantastic, though, as the Master is driven to carve even smaller objects, so tiny they are practically invisible to the human eye. It is fantastic how insanely small these miniature pieces become, edging toward the impossible: “From the pit of a cherry he carved a ring of thirty-six elephants, each holding in its trunk the tail of the elephant before it.” (p. 125) The Master then begins creating pieces that are in the “realm of the invisible,” (p. 126) crossing over into projects that are so small that no one can actually see them with their own eyes. The Master recreates the King’s toy palace in exquisite detail, but all of  it is “entirely invisible to the naked eye.” As the Master works on his “imaginary kingdom,” (p. 129) he becomes so focused and concentrated on working within his new, invisible world that he becomes isolated from the rest of the real palace and people while his old apprentices take over his old tasks.

I think this story relates to the human experiences of loneliness, isolation, ambition, and the idea of being replaced. As he spirals into madness and the obsession of the invisible and miniature world takes over him, he notes that the castle, the king, and his apprentices move on. Life continues without him, leaving him to be left behind creating and sculpting things that cannot be seen. It also relates to the human experience of loneliness and isolation because he is utterly alone as he creates these worlds of art that cannot even be seen by the human eye. No one can see or understand his world, leaving him be to his invisible world, assuming he must have gone mad. A reader can relate to this kooky situation because there is a universal feeling of being misunderstood or of being alone, whether it be actually alone or alone in one’s endeavors. The story speaks of ambition, too, as it expresses this experience in the form of the Master’s desire to exceed his old feats and surpass his own work, over and over again, by creating smaller and smaller works. Although this enters into the surreal and fantastic world, the audience is able to relate to the sense of wanting to accomplish more than they already have and to feel like they have surpassed expectations, even if it is their own. The Master clearly has a hunger to create the smallest sculptures possible, so he continues to, despite the loneliness and isolation it brings him, along with a life of being forever misunderstood.

“I felt like a damn fool whenever I actually said anything about this kind of feeling and she looked at me like she could start hating me real easy and so I was working on saying nothing, even if it meant locking myself up.”

Butler chooses to have us read this story from first person point of view, which is effective because it gives us the protagonist’s direct and immediate thoughts. We may struggle to understand that “hello” means “You are still connected to me, I still want only you.” Through this point of view, we also are able to read the story as if it were actually through his eyes. This allows us to view the wife as he would be viewing her. It also allows us to see the world in a different way. This creates an interesting aspect in the reading of the story.

Another smart choice is to have this character, who was quiet and self-sheltered, turn into a parrot in his afterlife. He essentially turned himself into a parrot at the end of his life, so he returned as one. Could this be a comment on how people affect their reincarnation by the choices they make in life? Is it possible that the way we end our lives is the way we will start it in the next one? If so, Butler makes this comment hilarious and depressing. Having the husband die from suffering head trauma and having him killed himself with head trauma is a startling and heartbreaking detail. It’s made more heartbreaking through the fact that he gets another chance to be with his wife, only to be tortured by watching her infidelity. As we’ve continually discussed in class, this is a comment on the human experience of mistrust and grief.

“But now she appears from the hallway and I look at her and she is still slim and she is beautiful, I think—at least I clearly remember that as her husband I found her beautiful in this state. Now, though, she seems too naked. Plucked. I find that a sad thing. I am sorry for her and she goes by me and she disappears into the kitchen. I want to pluck some of my own feathers, the feathers from my chest, and give them to her. I love her more in that moment, seeing her terrible nakedness, than I ever have before.”

parrotThrough the portraying of reincarnation of a husband into a bird with the first-person point of view, we are able to hear the thoughts and emotions of the deceased husband (the parrot) who sees his former wife sleeping with various men. We are also able to learn about his death as a human being which was due to her unfaithfulness to him. What makes this story fantastic is not just the reincarnation, but how Olen uses this unique circumstance to bring out the human experience. The human experience that we see in this story is the former marriage of a man, whose wife has been unfaithful to him, how she has easily moved on despite his death, and his love for her in spite of her adulterous behavior. I think the theme of this story is: undying love, loss, and the power of love–even if it means death due to the unattainable love you so desperately need and want. I think that Olen chooses the parrot not just for humor, but also to portray the lack of language/communication that not only hinders the parrot from expressing himself to his wife or to the men she is sleeping with, but it also symbolizes his lack of communication with her during their marriage, when he knew she was cheating and lying to him when she said, “I love you.” I think the lack of communication illuminates the pain of the parrot’s love for his wife both before his death and as a parrot, which helps us as readers to empathize with him.

 Eisenheim deliberately crossed boundaries and therefore disturbed the essence of things.” p. 235

Millhauser’s “Eisenheim The Illusionist” is a fantastic story of an illusionist who crosses boundaries between reality and magic. Further into the short story, we discover how some of his tricks seem to have a fantastic presence instead of being mere tricks that have reasonable explanations. Millhauser describes hoUnknown-1w the audience eventually couldn’t understand how his performances worked, as in the mirroring mirror in which the identical image of the person stabs themselves and dies and their ghosts float up. It begins to get extremely clear later on that this is a fantastic story that cannot happen in our reality , especially when Eisenheim conjures up the first girl from thin air then the two younger children who charm the crowds and create an obsession with them. Eisenheim concentrates for a while until a black fog appears, and then he turns into the form of the children. It is even said how the boy’s parents died long ago, and that he did, too. The audience members reach out to touch them, but their hands go through them. At the end, when Eisenheim is being arrested, Herr Uhl’s hands go right through him, Eisenheim now a ghost-like, magical being as his creations were. After that, his entire being becomes darker and disappears into nothingness. The surrealness of the story in which he performs these illusions that are utterly impossible and does the impossible to himself, as well, is very fantastic. The character Eisenheim  is himself quite fantastic with what he does, but also his personality is very wild as he masks himself, creating a rival for himself, against himself, and at the end, revealing it is actually him. I love how this story steps across the line between reality and the fantastic, just as magic tricks do, but this story is on a real magic level, crossing the line into completely fantastical.

Millhauser tells this story as an imagined past and imagined history from a third person view. The narrator is very distant and informative, teaching the readers the full history of Eisenheim and the events that occurred long ago. This informative, knowledgeable voice of the narrator is very persuasive and powerful in making the reader believe that the events described are true and the narrator is credible. This style of writing works extremely well for such a fantastical story because it helps the audience become immersed in it.  

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