The Contrast of Real and Fantastic

The Contrast of Real and Fantastic

Justin D. Fike '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2004

In Anne McAffrey's novel Dragonsong, the main character Menolly must find a way to express her increadible musical gif""t, which had previously been oppossed by both her parents and her society because of her gender. Though we readers can easily relate to both Menolly and her struggle, the world in which she lives is a foreign one of magic and fantasy, of Dragons and the all-consuming Thread. This close linking of things familiar and fantastic is one of the elements that make Menolly's story so facinating. On the one hand, Menolly is obviously a very normal girl, with normal desires and emotions, and for the first part of the story at least, a life that we could recognize and relate with to some degree. However, as her adventures continue, Menolly encounters more and more of the fantastic and mysterious elements of her world of Pern. For example, after leaving her home to live in the wild, Menolly is caught away from cover by an approaching storm of the flesh-devouring Thread: "In the distance, low on the horizon, were lighting flashes against a grey sky. Thread! Fear rooted her to the ground; she nearly choked on the half-chewed mouthful of greens" (117). The fear Menolly experienced is instantly relatable to anyone who has ever sat awake and night as a child, listening to the floorboards creak in the darkness outside their door. However, the circumstances Menolly is facing are entirely fantastic.

She heard the whoosh, heard the fire lizards' startled chirrups, saw the shadow and fell the the ground covering her head instinctively with her hands, her body taut for the first feel of flesh-scoring Thread. She smelled fire-stone, and felt the air heavy against her body. "Get on your feet, you silly fool! And hurry. Leading edge is nearly on us!" Incredulous, Menolly looked up, right into the whirling eyes of a brown dragon. He cocked his head and hummed urgently. [119]


1. Would the story have been nearly as effective if the main character had been more heroic or fantastic in nature, rather than basically normal and relatable?

2. Is McAffrey's use of the dragonrider as a deus ex machina intended to underscore its mysterious and fantastic nature by placing it in contrast to the very relatable human experiences of the previous paragraphs?

3. Is it significant that both of the major turning points of the story occurred when Menolly encountered the fantastic in her world?

4. Is Menolly's musical gif""t intended help define her character as gentle, sensative, and lively or is it simply a plot device? What part did her musical nature play in her ability to Impress the fire lizards?

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Last modified 2 February 2004