I read a sentence in a story in my book which was:

The little girl, (not so little anymore; the bumps her feet made under the covers, were half way down the bed, their big double bed that they let her be in for naps and when she was sick) had at last arranged herself, and from the way her fat face deep in the pillow shone in the sunlight sifting through the drawn shades, it did not seem fantastic that some magic would occur, and she would take her nap like an infant of two.

Should I interpret the highlighted part as meaning that "the occurring of the magic had become so common that it did not seem fantastic anymore" or does it mean that "as she has grown older, the imaginary magic wouldn't happen and thus the fantasy is not worth having"? Although I strongly believe that the former should be right, seeing the premises I started having second thoughts?

  • It looks to me like this is from a piece (short story maybe?) by John Updike, called "Should Wizard Hit Mommy?".
    – Lorel C.
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 18:59
  • It is not clear from your question why you are having second thoughts. Is it something in the story? It is hard to answer your question without context. Note also that interpretations of literary text are often a matter of opinion. Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 21:26

1 Answer 1


I think the word fantastic has a different meaning here than you'd expect.

Much of the time, fantastic means something like "extremely good". In this case, however, it's being used to mean, as Google's dictionary puts it, "imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality" or "unbelievable". It's no coincidence that fantastic and fantasy sound so similar.

You can see an example of this usage in the title of the book and movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The beasts are "fantastic" not because they're especially good, but because they're magical and seem like they couldn't exist in the real world.

Looking back at your passage, "it did not seem fantastic" means, roughly, "it was not hard to believe".

In other words, the passage is saying that, because of the way that the girl was laying in the bed, it seemed reasonable that some magic would happen.

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