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Free Essay Borges Circular Ruins

The Circular Ruins by Jorge Luis Borges Essay

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“The Circular Ruins” by Jorge Luis Borges

“Green is derived from blue and green will become more brilliant than blue”

Chinese Proverb

The Chinese have a proverb about the evolution of humanity, and in particular, the nature of intellectual relationships. Although the color green is composed from the color blue, it often shines with a more brilliant luster than its predecessor does. This is a metaphor for the pupil and teacher. The pupil learns knowledge from his teacher, but will outgrow his teacher and eventually surpass him in wisdom. I believe this accurately describes the progress of human knowledge throughout time. In fact, it is quite obvious how technology and science have improved as time goes on. There are dramatic…show more content…

Borges allows the reader to observe the sufferings of a fallible god. In fact, the entire story outlines the anguish and frustrations of the magician. He starts off as an irrelevant man, only one of the many others who lived in the “infinite villages upstream” (45). But his task gives him a purpose and sets himself apart from the other villagers. The peasants start to leave him food and respectfully “worship” him in doing so. But as this so-called god proceeds to spend days manipulating his dreams so that he can create a man, he does not do anything for the peasants in return. Even after the son is finished, it is the product of a selfish act. The magician created the son to give his own life meaning. Neither the son nor the magician appear to do anything for the other people around them. They are merely “charmed” men. In addition to being a selfish god, the magician is imperfect in that he experiences failure, insomnia, and frustration. The magician fails in his first attempt to create the son and finds he must rely on superstition or good luck (he begins again when the moon is “perfect” in order to be successful in the second attempt).

Once the son is created, the magician proceeds to teach him and it is subtly apparent that the son is indeed less flawed than his creator is. One could even say that the magician’s desires to make the son as perfect as possible, both physically and mentally, were carried out. The son quickly learns his lessons and becomes

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Borges was a great admirer of Lewis Carroll’s comic fantasies, as seen in Borges’s neatly summarizing the theme of “The Circular Ruins” with a quotation that stands at the head of the story: “And if he left off dreaming about you . . . ” from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871). The reference is from a chapter of Carroll’s book in which Tweedledee shows Alice the sleeping Red King, tells her that the king is dreaming about her, and asks, “And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?” Alice says she would be where she is now, but Tweedledee disagrees “contemptuously.” He says, “You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!”

Borges puts this notion, used for comedy in Carroll’s book, to chilling effect in “The Circular Ruins” as the realization of the dreamer at the end of the story comes with enormous impact. Critics have called the story one of the most horrifying of Borges’s works, yet it is simply the logical extension of a philosophical notion that informs the majority of Borges’s fiction.

This notion, usually called “idealism” with various adjectives prefixed to it, can be traced to a number of philosophers whom Borges himself cites in various works. For example, the eighteenth century English philosopher George Berkeley developed a philosophy called “pluralistic idealism,” which holds that the so-called real world perceived as around one exists only in one’s consciousness. His German contemporary Immanuel Kant took this idea even further. Kant’s “critical idealism” holds that matter does not exist if it is not sensed by the individual. The often-quoted question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” is a question to which the idealist answers “No.”

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