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A Precursor of the Cinema

On the advice of a friend, Crane filed suit; the case was decided against him, but the product was withdrawn after the parents of children with Animate Paint sets discovered that a simple stroke of chrome-yellow or crimson lake suddenly took on a life of its own, streaking across the page and dripping brightly onto eiderdown comforters, English-weave rugs, and polished mahogany tables.

This sentence from Millhauser’s story caught my attention for a number of reasons. I find it funny that parents are concerned about paint crawling up their blankets and walls, but also fantastic because paint cannot climb up walls!!! It stays on the paper it’s placed on! Unless a child uses it elsewhere. The very specific detail of the two colors, the chrome-yellow and crimson lake, also catch my attention because I wonder if it’s only those two colors that can take on a mind of their own. The idea of the two colors then made me think of the blood that snaked its way through the house to Ursula’s feet in One Hundred Years of Solitude. The two scenes are very different though. For starters, this is simply paint. It isn’t blood. Both crawling up walls as if they were alive is creepy, but one idea–the blood– is more loaded than the other–the paint. The greatest comparison that my brain mustered was the reactions. The VERY DIFFERENT reactions. Parents instantly worried when this paint started taking on its own life, taking the paint away from their children, and having the product withdrawn from sales, a very typical parent reaction to something they feel may harm their child. In the scene from Marquez’s story, the blood that flowed from Arcadio’s ear found Ursula in her kitchen and she followed the trail back to the source! Her only written reaction is her saying “Holy Mother of God”, but when she found the source, there is no sense of the way she reacted. It’s strange that she even decided to follow the trail of blood knowing it was blood!

However, I bet the parents of these children instantly backed away from the traveling paint since their first reaction was to have the product removed from stores. Two similar scenes, different flowing liquids, and different reactions. It’s the worlds in which these two scenes were created that gives their different reactions the fantastic element. I feel that it is more effective in Marquez’s story because this world of Macondo goes through so much horror that following a blood trail is just what needs to be done to know the truth, but a trail of blood is nothing too much for these people to handle. That’s how far-fetched things in their world are, we would never follow trails of blood, but they did. Their foreign reaction, foreign to us not themselves, is what shocks us most. Blood is blood, but following it as if it were some sort of trail to buried treasure is too extreme! Millhauser has already created this world where these strange paintings move and he advances the level of weird by selling paints that move like the paints he uses in his still life pieces. What I find truly fantastic about that is the world’s need to have an answer to his work. The public is dying to know how he does it, how he makes his work seem lifelike and these paints are one step closer to figuring out how he does it! What do the people do? They have the paints removed, it was too much for them to handle, the possible truth was too much for them to handle.

In Ursula’s world, it’s just easier to know the truth. In this world of Millhauser’s, if it’s too strange, the truth is better left unknown.

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