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What is the symbolic significance of the old man and his enormous wings? Since he’s...

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mileycyrus | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted December 12, 2007 at 8:11 AM via web

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What is the symbolic significance of the old man and his enormous wings? Since he’s called an "angel", is there a religious significance to his physical appearance? Why does the narrator stress such details as his "dirty and half-plucked" wings and his grossly physical, animalistic traits? How is the oxymoron "fresh-and-blood angel" central to the meaning?

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 13, 2007 at 7:17 AM (Answer #1)

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The center of this story is the dark side of human behavior - hypocrisy, greed, fear and paranoia.  The old man represents humanity, but his wings suggest that he has escaped, flown above the crowd.  He is an old man instead of a young man because the elderly should be respected for their wisdom - but as is often the case - they are often shunted aside by the selfish young.  His wings also connect him to innocence and spirituality because a man with wings is often intrepreted to be an angel.  And he is innocent, having done nothing to harm the people of the community.  However, the fact that his wings are in such bad shape suggest that he is fallen, and thus the spirituality of the people has fallen. 

By being a fresh and blood angel, he shows the good and bad of humanity.  When the old man arrives, Elisenda and Pelayo plan to kill him, but Pelayo doesn't have the heart for it.  He shows compassion.  But he does lock the man up and his wife does plot to make money off the deal.  They benefit from the man but do not appreciate his presence.  However, their child is the only one who appears to treat the man well.  Good and bad, a contradiction - just like they oxymoron of his appearance.


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