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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.

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