God’s Power and Existence in ‘El Milagro Secreto’
The existence and power of God have been controversial and ambiguous topics for a long time. Does God exist? Can God intervene in the real world? In a modern world filled with technology, material things, and tragic events, it is sometimes easy to doubt the existence of God. But in his short story, El Milagro Secreto, author Jorge Luis Borges examines the omnipotence of God and the things that God can do for God’s loyal followers.
To develop his theme of the importance of the power of God, Borges uses literary references. In this story, he refers to religious texts, such as the Koran, and religious authors and philosophers. Borges begins his story with the quote:
And God made him die for a hundred years and then encouraged him and said:
-How long have you been here?
“One day or part of a day,” he replied. “(Qur’an, II, 261)
First, it is important to recognize that this quote is from a religious and sacred text. It lets the reader begin reading the story by thinking about the idea of God and having the concept of God in his or her mind. It is also very interesting to consider the meaning of the quote, not just where it comes from. This story talks about the relativity and flexibility of time in the hands of God. In this quotation from the Qur’an, it shows the power of God when God causes a person to die for a hundred years, and to revive him at any time God wants. Borges chose this quote intentionally and it serves as an important role in planting ideas of the omnipotence of God in the minds of the reader. Borges uses other literary and philosophical references to continue developing his subject. For example, he refers to Jakob Boehme (18), a religious mystic, the Sepher Yezirah (19), which is the book of creation in Judaism, and the Jewish poet and philosopher, Abraham Ibn Ezra (21), to name some examples. The meaning of these references are not obvious, but when you discover what and who these references are, the importance appears. The protagonist of the story, Jaromir Hladik, reads much of these authors and religious texts, so the reader can not help but think about the existence and importance of God at least in the context of Hladik’s life. In general, references to religious philosophical texts are subtle but nevertheless important, and make the reader think of God and his importance.
Another typical style of Borges is the use of suspense to show and not simply write about the power of God. Many times, real life is very ordinary and predictable. It is not often that a person witnesses divine intervention or God’s help. For this reason, Borges uses suspense to create contrast between the real world and the supernatural world, and to emphasize the power of God. For example, when Hladik is in the library looking for God, Borges writes: “A black-eyed librarian … said to him: … My parents and the fathers of my fathers have searched for that letter [with God]; I have been blind looking for it. He took off his glasses and Hladik saw the eyes, which were dead “(23). Borges could write only about his finding of God, and not about the process and journey of Hladik looking for God. But, creating the character of the librarian with strange features and fear creates suspense and makes it much more satisfying when Hladik finds God. The use of suspense in such a rare and strange situation shows that God is unpredictable and powerful. Also, there is a lot of suspense at the moment just before Hladik’s death: “A heavy raindrop grazed one of Hladik’s temples and rolled slowly down his cheek; the sergeant shouted the final order. The physical universe stopped “(24). The tension rising before the shot causes the reader to think about whether God will intervene or not, and when God does intervene, it is more impressive. This quote and the use of suspense help to show that in the end, God has all control to do what he wants. In general, the use of suspense compared to the normal life of Hladik places emphasis on the power of God, but also the importance of God, because He saves the life of Hladik.
The tale of the “El Milagro Secreto” is a story that is very complex and difficult to understand. But it is clear that Borges tries to develop the theme of God’s power, using specific stylistic elements as references to erudite texts, and religious philosophers and suspense. These typical stylistic elements of Borges help their purpose of showing the omnipotence of God, and makes us think of the anciet question of the existence and the power of God. But, this story suggests that when you believe in something or someone loyally, magnificent things can happen.
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