A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
By Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Critical Analysis
Callora, Hanna Krishna S.
AB English 2
English 12 TTHS 4:00-5:25
The story is set in a coastal area and it opens with an ongoing rainfall that has turned the world gloomy and gray. Everyone in this town was feeling sad because of the state of the beach and the stench of rotten fish. It was March and the rain had made the light weak during daytime and replaced the glimmer of the sands of the beach with “a stew of mud and rotten shellfish.”
At the beginning of the story, we learn that crabs have been crawling into the house of Pelayo and Elisenda that “on the third day of rain,” they had killed so many of them. After throwing them away into the sea and walking back home, Pelayo found an old man writhing and groaning in the mud. Afraid that he might have come to take away their baby, Pelayo locked him inside the chicken coop. The chicken coop becomes the dwelling place of the angel, where he lived among chickens and patiently endured the poking and prodding of curious people.
It covers the period from winter up to spring, which usually suggests death and birth.
The story has a supernatural setting for the world behaves strangely. For one thing, there are swarms of crabs that crawl into the house and must be killed. Another is the darkness that the world gets at noon. There is the arrival of a very old man with wings and the strange half-woman-half-spider who have stolen the attention of the curious people. But the most interesting part is not the supernatural setting itself but the annoyance of the townspeople towards these seemingly strange events as if these things happen everyday. This juxtaposition of the real and surreal is consistent throughout the story as well as the attitude of the people, which can be seen in the way they treated the old man with wings.
It is important to note that while there are major characters in the story, there is no true protagonist, which is most definitely the intention of the author. For instance, while the old man with wings was the hub of all activity in the story, his character has never really been fleshed out. We, as readers, would expect that he would have at least done something as revenge to those people who have treated him cruelly but he never did anything. This literary technique is effective in getting the themes of the story across – one of which is the nature of man.
Pelayo is a typical man of the house who would do anything to protect his family. He is seen as the only one who shows a hint of kindness and compassion towards the old man for he has given him a place to stay and has actually taken responsibility for him.
Elisenda is Pelayo’s wife and the more practical between the two of them for she is the one who suggests that they charge an admission fee to anyone who wishes to see the old man with wings. Her attitude towards anything even remotely supernatural is that of annoyance, which is seen in the way she treated the old man. Regardless of how much her family has gained from the arrival of the old man, she reduces him to a mere nuisance, which can be viewed as man’s nature to be ungrateful.
The old man is the manifestation of the author’s juxtaposition of the real and unreal. He is both human and a surreal being. The only strange thing about him is the fact that he has wings, which made the people think he was an angel. He has developed indifference towards the people and has endured their constant poking and prodding. The story tells us that the only supernatural quality he has is his patience. His character is never fleshed out and we never really learn in the end about his true nature, which is consistent with the themes of the story. Language Used
The juxtaposition of the real and surreal is also seen in the language used by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. For example, he presents the supernatural events in such a way that dismisses...
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