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“The search for Marvin Gardens”

Posted in Uncategorized by jgarcia1390 on the April 28, 2011

In Yi-Fu Tuan’s chapter “Visibility: the Creation of Space,” he makes a point to say that “A city does not become historic merely because it has occupied the same site for a long time. Past events make no impact on the present unless they are memorialized in history books, monuments, pageants and solemn and jovial festivities that are categorized to be an ongoing tradition” (Tuan 174). This statement by Tuan sums up a recurring theme in John McPhee’s short story “The search for Marvin Gardens.”
McPhee starts off the story by saying “the dogs are moving through ruins, rubble, fire damage, open garbage. Doorways are gone. Lath is visible in crumbling walls of the buildings. The streets are covered with shattered glass. I have never seen somewhere with so many broken windows” (McPhee 9). Though the place he is talking about seems run down and abandoned it is historic to him in that he has an obvious attachment to the place. It can be implied here that this place is made through previous events that McPhee has experienced here.
Giving the reader this type of imagery is what McPhee does throughout the story. He not only remembers certain places but compares them to places one can land on in a game of monopoly as well. Though the places he mentions range from a rundown neighborhood to a jail, he makes them seem beautiful in his comparisons to Park Place and other glamorous places set in the game of monopoly. McPhee proves that a place does not have to be physically beautiful to be considered beautiful. Tuan says it best when he states that “many places, profoundly significant to particular individuals and groups have little visual prominence. They are known viscerally and not through the discerning eye or mind” (162).
McPhee’s writing can best be described as literary art. By describing jails and rundown neighborhoods in a way that makes them interesting, McPhee “gives visibility to intimate experiences, including those of place” (Tuan 162). If we were to see these places in real life, we would not think anything of them. However, McPhee makes them something to think about by giving us vivid examples that are strengthened through his memories.
Through his writing of “The search for Marvin Gardens,” McPhee uses the idea of literary art beautifully. According to Tuan, literary art draws attention to areas of experience that we may otherwise, fail to notice” (162). I feel that McPhee, however, not only uses the concept of literary art but goes beyond it by not only bringing attention to these places but giving them meaning and beauty.

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