"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

The prose of the Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez is deeply philosophical and instructive. In one of his stories-parables “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”, the author is discreet, as usually in his comments. He does not give the assessment of the events and behavior of the characters; he just describes them and allows the reader to think and evaluate them. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is a subtle fusion of mythical and real. It is filled with the personages with different characters. However, all of them are united by one thing – they cannot accept the miracle. It seems that a very old angel appeared on the Earth by mistake, but he serves as a catalyst for negative human emotions. The following paper aims at analyzing the key characters of the story as well as discussing how an old angel influenced the people around.

 

Key Characters of the Short Story

Along with the angel, the residents of the small village Pelayo and Elisenda are the key characters of the story. At the beginning, they are concerned about their business – the man is collecting crabs in his yard, and his wife is sitting near their ill son. Pelayo is an ordinary poor villager who has no dreams and desires. Firstly, he does not consider the appearance of the angel as a God’s will, but as the trouble, and later – just as the source of money. However, it should be said that he is kinder than his wife and many other people. He decides to shelter the old man. Greedy and pragmatic Pelayo and Elisenda earned money on the angel and then put him into the hen house, where the old man was freezing. Indeed, Elisenda is a perfect match for Pelayo.

First and foremost, she takes care of the material prosperity of her family. Being a woman, she should have deeper emotions and be more sympathetic than her husband. However, like all other people, she is callous and heartless. It was her who offered to take five cents admission for all the people who desired to see the “miracle”. Marques used symbols and irony to describe his key personages and some things sound quite ironically: “the exasperated and unhinged Elisenda shouted that it was awful living in that hell full of angels” (Marquez n.p.). Pelayo and Elisenda do not understand who is the man who appeared on their yard. However, they do not even try to find out who this man is because the angel causes additional troubles only.

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Magic Realism in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"

The protagonist of the story – the angel, does not change the society, but his morality is in teaching the readers to open their hearts to the miracles. The angel does not understand the human language, and his appearance is far from the known image of angels. He is just a toothless little old man with a bald head. The angel does not fit the society; people characterize him as an unknown object. It seems that the old man does not understand who he is, and why he appeared on Earth. He is neither fully human nor fully divine creature. As a human, he has many diseases but the enormous wings are woven into his weak body.

Moreover, these wings are very natural. When the angel was ill, a doctor who examined him was truly impressed by his wings: “They seemed so natural on that completely human organism that he couldn’t understand why other men didn’t have them too.” (Marquez n.p.). People, who have found the angel, really live without wings. Henceforth, they live without the higher purpose as well as without the desire to realize themselves and their abilities. They have no inspiration and no feeling of unity with God. All of the personages refuse to see the magic in angel’s appearance. The material prosperity, such as a new house is the highest goal of the couple who found an angel.

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When spring came, the angel began to gain strength. He was reborn like the land; he became younger and stronger. Finally, the angel was strong enough to take off into the sky leaving those people that have not been able or just did not want to find a common language with him. The origin of the old man remains a mystery till the end of the story.

About Faith and Moral Principles

In this story, people have no faith and moral principles. Even the Father Gonzaga considered the angel as a competitor and incited parishioners against him; he was very angry that the angel did not honor the God's message. People who attended the church persecuted the poor angel by the candles stench, plucked his wings, and threw stones at him. The story teaches the readers that selfishness and spiritual separation kills the people. Initially, people have curiosity, misunderstanding, doubt, fear, but then they come to the angel to be cured.

However, no one cares about the angel’s health and his feelings. Actually, he feels terribly in that house. On Earth, he is in the waiting room, just waiting for something. Unfortunately, the people around him were not cleansed of evil and lack of spirituality; they did not manage to open their hearts to light. Without getting the desired things, people prefer to communicate with the circus female spider that can talk and answer any questions. At the beginning of the story, the author describes the landscape that reflects the spiritual atmosphere of the human existence. Pouring rain is associated with a great flood in the Bible “Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish.”(Marquez n.p.).

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The Symbolism of a Short Story

All the citizens of the small village live their lives full of prejudices. Actually, with the arrival of the angel, their lives did not change. Marquez says that the cruel, materialistic, non-spiritual people, who locked a miracle in a chicken coop, do not deserve this wonder. In the end, the angel leaves the town and goes to heaven – eternal and fair. The final of the story is perceived as a thought-provoking warning – the angels turn away from the people who live without love and compassion. Marquez makes the reader understand that such a civilization is doomed. According to those people, the angels are beautiful, fragrant, luminous, and wise; they are perfect. This weak old man cannot be an angel, and if he is – he is a wrong angel. There are no dialogues in the story – it is a description of the events and human characters. However, it is the Marquez’s language. He uses the words and images that are able to create mysteries out of something prosaic.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it should be said that describing the weak and helpless angel, the author emphasized the lack of compassion in people, their brutality and savagery with which they reacted to this amazing creation. Even those people who believed in his healing power treated him badly. These people were used to wingless and philistine life. They do not dream of something higher than material wealth, prosperity. Marquez symbolically, through allusions and allegories, showed the nature of a modern man who wants to have all the benefits and does not notice that unusual, sacred, salutary elements are the inevitable part of his life. It happens very often: people are dreaming of something better without noticing that they have the best things and it is only necessary to observe and accept them. With this short story, Marquez was trying to say that cruelty is the most terrible sin; it destroys the human minds and souls.

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