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“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is an example of magical realism. This style of narrative combines fantasy and realism. These stories are seemingly true-to-life but also include symbolic, fantastical moments in a matter of fact tone. This style is intended to make the story appear to be a folk tale.
As an example of magical realism, the story of the old angel who is found in the backyard of Pelayo and Elisenda creates a tone of possibility but also a dream-like quality. The fantastic interplays with the ordinary. The chicken coop holds the angel covered with lice and dressed in rags.
The author’s approach to the story is unusual. There is no protagonist. Typical of a folk tale, the story is told in a straight forward manner using no dialogue. The presentation of the story seems focused on showing the reader about aspects of human nature.
The character of the old man appears to be neither fully heavenly nor human. He is portrayed as filthy, ragged, and sickly. He reacts to people but never interacts with them. The doctor examines the angel and is surprised that he is still alive.
The treatment by his caretakers is deplorable. How can man treat a heavenly being or anyone else with such disdain! Even though the young couple profit from display of the angel, their treatment of him never changes. There is no softness, kindness, or encouragement. He was poked, prodded, pulled---all to no avail. To show man’s inhumanity to “angel,” someone poked him with a hot poker to see if he was still alive.
The author portrays the angel speaking an incomprehensible language. It is as though he is caught somewhere between heaven and earth. If the human beings had treated him more kindly, possibly he would have been more inclined to interact with them. Yet, his treatment was deplorable.
Addressing the behavior of man, Marquez uses a satirical approach to the indicate man’s inability to help himself. Here was an angel entrusted to their care. How is treated? He is put in a chicken coop with chickens picking at him. The smell is horrendous and he is surrounded by chicken feces. Instead of realizing that this is blessing from heaven, they use him to make money. The behavior of the couple toward him is hostile.
The priest cannot communicate with the angel in Latin which led him to believe he could not be an angel. After examining him, the priest tells the crowd to beware of the old man because he could be the devil in disguise. Why does not the father encourage the people to treat the old man with compassion? Even if he were not an angel, he was one of God’s creations.
Even the female character in the story does not show kindness toward the very old man. He is a nuisance to Elisenda. When she stands in her new house which has been purchased from the exhibition of the old man, she calls her house a “hell full of angels.” She does realize what she has missed until she sees the angel fly away.
She kept watching him and she kept on watching until it was no longer possible for her to see him, because then was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon...
The old man stayed with the couple until they were able to take care of themselves and their baby. Had the couple analyzed their situation, they might have made a connection with the angle. Hopefully, Elisenda understood that something extraordinary was gone from
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