Thursday, March 17, 2011

Option 1 - Borges Prompt

The Circular Ruins may be thought of as one of the works of Herbert Quain. Herbert Quain writes of symmetry, backwards worlds, and mysteries, but what most represents the Circular Ruins is the story of Statements. The Circular Ruins parallels much of what was said about Herbert Quain’s Statements. The imagination, the fantasy, and the vanity all ring true in both stories.

Quain believed that “of the many kinds of pleasure literature can minister, the highest is the pleasure of the imagination.” (111) This statement explains The Circular Ruins and everything that it symbolizes; it also was his explanation of Statements. In the Circular Ruins, the dreamer musters up his best idea of a son and a man totally through his imagination. With this imagination, the dreamer is fully satisfied with his outcome and “his days were, in general, happy” (99), once he is able to accomplish this man all from his dreams and imagination.

Quain also states “There is no European man or woman that’s not a writer, potentially, or in fact.” (111) I think that the writer could be the sorcerer in the Circular Ruins. A writer is someone who uses his or her imagination and creates a piece of artwork. Essentially, the sorcerer is doing this in the Circular Ruins by using his imagination to conjure up a man, who is a piece of artwork in the end.

However, “Since not everyone is capable of experiencing that pleasure, many will have to content themselves with simulacra.” (111) This is what the sorcerer does. He must create an image or a representation to completely experience the complete pleasure of literature or imagination. Quain wrote Statements, which were based on this theory.

Finally, Borges explains that “One of the stories hints at two plots; the reader, blinded by vanity, believes that he himself has come up with them” (111). I think that the reader can be interchanged here to be the sorcerer. The sorcerer has believed that he has created this imagination of a man, but really the God of Fire is the creator. The God of Fire is the inspiration to create the man, and he himself actually makes this dream a reality. The other plot that may be in the Circular Ruins is the thought that the dreamer has that his creation will not discover he is actually just an imagination. However, in the end, the imaginary man realized that he “was but appearance, that another man was dreaming him.” (100) I believe that both the dreamer and the imaginary man were blinded by vanity. The dreamer thought this man was so perfect and he had educated him so well, he did not think that he would realize that he was imaginary. The imaginary man thought he was so perfect and could do the unthinkable which was walk through fire that he never realized until the very end he was indeed imaginary. Vanity blinded the dreamer in two plots, however, just as Borges stated.

With these few last words in A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain, I believe that The Circular Ruins may be part of the works of Statements. With the exclamations of Borges and Quain, we can see that these two stories run parallel and one is definitely part of the other.


  1. The way you focused on mainly the fact that the sorcerer of "The Circular Ruins" definitely made your argument very effective. It showed that you were able to make multiple connections with one aspect of the story to that of another work of Herbert Quain. I think you could have spent a little more time elaborating on your explanation of the connection of the dreamer to "A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain" because it would show that you found as strong of a connection as you did with the sorcerer.

  2. This is the most specific and focused essay on this topic that I've read so far. Rather than relying on a string of generalizations about Q., you pay attention to the specifics of what Borges has to say about one of his stories, and apply it to Q.; you also, incidentally, get the point that Q. isn't a real author, which not everyone has been 100% clear on.

    The most effective thing here was your analysis of the duality of the story; if there is anything here which is subject to expansion, and would be promising for a revision, it's this; the question is whether other elements of this story can be analyzes from this poitn of view.