The term postmodernism is used differently in different areas. Postmodern literature may refer to the trends of writing that emerged after the Second World War. Also, postmodern literature involves literature that relies on several techniques of narratives such as paradox, fragmentation, and the undependable narrator. Mostly, postmodernism literature tries to address issues related to the assertive following of enlightenment thinking and other approaches to literature such as modernist literature. Although postmodern literature cannot be easily defined, there are however some features that can be used to identify it in writing. For instance, a postmodern author will try to avoid the quest or the meaning of writing a certain piece of work, a thing which modernist literature usually presents. Also, the postmodern author shows this search as in some parody.
Postmodernist authors have used several techniques and themes in their works. These include features like irony, black humor and playfulness, metafiction, pastiche, paranoia, hyper-reality and temporal distortion among others. The short stories, My Appearance by David Wallace, The Balloon by Donald Barthelme and The Bloody chambers by Angela Carter are exemplary works that bring out the idea of postmodernism in literature
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter is a short story that talks about a girl that is happy to be married to a wealthy man Marquis. For her, to marry this man was a solution for her to evade poverty that she had experienced with her single mother in their home. From the story, it is evident that the mother was not comfortable with the daughter getting married to the Marquis and even the girl did not love him. She asked her the question whether she loved the man. In her response, the girl responded by saying that she would like to marry him. The girl gets married to the Marquis, but the marriage does not last long. The man she gets married to is evil in the sense that he viewed women as objects. His evil is evident from the action he had committed of killing the previous wives he had married, and now he was going to murder his newly wedded wife, but he does not succeed in his mission. Angela Carter uses pastiche in this work. Pastiche displays because the Bluebeard tale inspired the Bloody Chambers story.
Moreover, Carter brings out an irony in the story. Irony can be seen from the Marquis who can be pictured as civilized in his castle an individual who is civilized. However, he turns out to be an inhumane and possessing animalistic behaviors when it comes to our knowledge that he had killed his parents. Also, Carter playfully describes the Marquis domination in the castle and the wedding night. The playfulness she uses aims at criticizing the Marquis dominance and the misuse of his position in the castle.
Donald Barthelme, a short story fiction author, also shows postmodernism in his literature. His short story, The Balloon is a satirical and playful on postmodernism. The story is about a balloon that was erected in the city of New York but had no purpose there. The narrator is the person who constructed it and also the observant of what the people would do when they see the balloon. The story is ridiculing the general thinking that there must be having a reason for anything that has is done. Some people try to interpret the reason as to why the balloon is erected there. It is out of this where the narrator mocks them. Precisely, this story is a story about reading a story. As one reads through the story, they try picturing the balloon and try to formulate some interpretations for themselves only to be cut short by the change of topic by the narrator telling them that there was no purpose for that balloon.
David Foster Wallace is also a postmodern author as we can see in his short story, My Appearance. This story is about an actress Edilyn who is married to Rudy and it majors on a night when this actress meets with David Letterman in a late night show. In the body of this work, it is inarguably evident that Wallace is tackling the task of wrestling past postmodernism’s self-reflection. The theme, Appearance is mocking the Late Night with Letterman. The author does this by attempting to get rid of the belief that the irrationality and the irony with metafiction is a simple means of inspecting and revealing reality. In this narrative, irony displays itself as the actress seeks to escape her profession by claiming to be free from illusions while the husband is trying as he can to help her so that she plays the postmodernism game well. The game is full of anxiety to such an extent that Edilyn wishes to take an anti-anxiety drug.
Angela Cater uses a very unique style of writing that can make her be labeled as a postmodern author. She uses the story, The Bloody Chambers to vividly address social evils emanating from male dominance while encouraging the empowerment of the female gender. Besides, she uses the tale to explore the various means of escaping the presumed gender roles. Besides this, Carter used the gothic styles and myths. She could subvert the original tale of Bluebeard to this story so that it suits what her themes are. Donald Barthelme uses a unique way of writing the story, The Balloon. In addition to being a narrative, the story is also philosophical in that it prompts readers to make judgments before they realize that the balloon had no purpose. As a postmodern author, he uses the minimalist style of writing, unlike the other writers in this case. On the other hand, David Wallace shows the place of irony and metafiction in postmodern literature, contrary to the other authors. He tries to compare reality with how things appear to be as we see in the story where the actress is dealing with anxiety.
The term postmodern is useful in short fiction classification. This usefulness is evident because various stories use different styles and are used to communicate different themes in the society. For instance, the postmodern literature works mostly express the enlightenment in this era and argue against inhumane treatments which were there in the modern era. They address themes like economies and national and international concerns. Again, postmodernism applies many and different styles of literature such metafiction, intersexuality, irony, parody and pastiche among others styles, unlike modernism which just uses the usual traditional styles of writing and therefore making it of much importance to use the term postmodernism so as to distinguish. Furthermore, as time goes by, new events and themes arise and literature is dynamic.
Barthelme, Donald. Sixty Stories. Putnam, 1981.
Carter, Angela. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. 2015.
Platt, Len, and Sara Upstone. Postmodern Literature and Race. 2015.
Wallace, David F. The David Foster Wallace Reader. 2014.