100 Years of Yellow
Color is omnipresent; we are educated about color, see it and use it every single day, and identify countless objects with it. Colors are prominent characteristics of our surroundings that may periodically go unnoticed, but are exceptionally significant in our everyday lives. The colors of streetlights and street signs are crucial to maintaining order, we are drawn to different things because of their colors, and artists produce masterpieces with combinations of colors. Gabriel García Márquez uses numerous colors to illustrate major themes in his magnificent novel, 100 Years of Solitude. When delving deeper into the story, the use of one color, in particular, evolves from being quite mundane to being rather meaningful, and that is the brilliant color yellow. A detailed interpretation and analysis of yellow color symbolism in Gabriel García Márquez’s 100 Years of Solitude provides a better understanding of the colorful picture being painted.
Márquez first introduces the color yellow to his story as a symbol for hubris and delusion through his main character, José Arcadio Buendía, the founder of Macondo. José Arcadio Buendía has an “unbridled imagination” that runs wild with “the urge to discover the wonders of the world” (Márquez 2; 9). He becomes obsessed with the possibilities of alchemy and in an attempt to double his wife’s gold, her “precious inheritance [is] reduced to a…pestilential syrup,” a dark yellow color “more like common caramel than of valuable gold” (Márquez 7). Another specific instance of this symbolism occurs when the foreign man, “attracted by the magical fascination of Remedios the Beauty,” approaches her after mass “with a yellow rose in his hand” (Márquez 195). This poor gentleman’s fruitless pursuit causes him to lose his grasp on reality and become a demoralized drunkard, caught up in the “sloughs of abjection and misery” until the train cuts him to pieces on the tracks (Márquez 195). This notion of being in over one’s head and reaching for something quite unattainable is prevalent throughout the entire novel and is the overarching reason for why the city of Macondo ultimately expires.
The color yellow serves as a backbone for one of the novel’s major themes; prosperity is only temporary. The train that Aureliano Triste brings in on the railroad is the most obvious use of this symbol. Márquez writes, “the innocent yellow train was to bring so many ambiguities and certainties, so many pleasant and unpleasant moments, so many changes, calamities, and feelings of nostalgia to Macondo,” and indeed it did (Márquez 222). This train brings all kinds of new, exciting, and “marvelous” inventions that the people of Macondo “did not know where their amazement began” (Márquez 223). Aureliano Triste introduces light bulbs, shows films in a theater, French folks bring music and phonographs, and a telephone is installed in the radio station. But this thrill does not last long, for the audience sees the films as “gypsy business” and never again return to the theater, the phonograph becomes so popular and commonplace that they lose interest, and “even the most incredulous” become “upset” that the telephone has a crank while the phonograph possesses no need for one (Márquez 223; 224). Márquez narrates this short-lived attention perfectly; “It was as if God had decided to put to the test every capacity for surprise and was keeping the inhabitants of Macondo in a permanent alternation between excitement and disappointment, doubt and revelation, to such an extreme that no one knew for certain where the limits of reality lay” (Márquez 224).
Among the revolutionary inventions, gadgets, and unexpected, “theatrical creatures” that the train ships to Macondo is Mr. Herbert, a businessman with “topaz eyes” who becomes enchanted with the town’s bananas (Márquez 225). Mr. Herbert changes his enterprise to banana farming, transforming Macondo into “an encampment of wooden houses with zinc...
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