Homework Help

I would like to know any comments on the translation of "A Very Old Man with Enormous...

user profile pic

dekali | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted February 15, 2011 at 2:47 PM via web

dislike 1 like
I would like to know any comments on the translation of "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I would like to know any comments on the translation of "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

3 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 15, 2011 at 4:21 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

In this story, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I always am reminded of the Bible verse:

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  Hebrews 13:2 (AKJV)

Dale Evans and Roy Rogers had a baby with Downs syndrome, who died before her second birthday. Dale wrote a book about her entitled, Angel Unaware.

The question is: if an angel walked among us, how would we act—would we notice?

We tend to value those around us based upon our perceptions of them which sometimes are prejudiced, and often have no basis in fact. How childish! This is, in my opinion, how the old man with the very large wings is treated in the village where he finds himself.

When he appears on the beach after a violent storm, Pelayo and his wife are not sure what to make of him. Aside from the wings on the man's back, they believe he may be a marooned sailor. He cannot move. Unsure what to do, a neighbor proclaims their visitor an angel, and tells them to kill it—it will only bring them trouble.

This part of the story is difficult to understand: in our culture, should an angel appear, I would think many would be baffled or disbelieving, but I cannot think people would want to kill it.

Pelayo and his wife cannot kill the old man, but put him in their chicken coop until they can send him out to sea on a raft. The next day, a crowd arrives to see the old man. This seems natural, as he is unusual, however, I still can't understand how the people only gawk at him rather than insisting to care for him. For them, he provides a show. Some envision that he might be a great ruler or "father a super-race."

When the priest is called upon to share his opinion, he does not believe the old man is an angel. Father Gonzaga and the letters from Rome showed no sense of concern over the angel; in fact, they look to his appearance, and so make their judgments. After all, the old man doesn't look like an angel.

When the old man sleeps for a long time, fearing he is dead, the people put a hot brand on his side to see if he stirs—which he does!

These two items: the priest's failure to recognize the old man as an angel because he doesn't look like one (who would know?), and the branding of the old man's side, remind me of the reaction to Christ in the New Testament. Jesus came, the long-awaited Messiah, but not as a powerful king to overrun the Hebrews' oppressors (Rome), but as a peacemaker (appearance); during his crucifixion, he is stabbed in the side with a spear, to see if he is alive.

An even stranger creature arrives at the village—so the townspeople leave the old man alone. Pelayo and his wife are not unhappy: they have been given a great deal of money and build a new house. During all this, the old man has remained aloof, angel-like only in the extent of his patience.

A doctor visits and is amazed that the old man lives. Elisenda, Pelayo's wife, grows impatient with the old man, and he grows even closer to death, but as spring approaches, the angel grows new wings and begins to get stronger. One day, he simply takes off.

I believe an angel did dwell among them, but the people could see no blessing in his presence. This, too, reminds me of Christ's time on earth. Praised by many, misunderstood by others, he ultimately returns from where he came, and the old man does the same. The townspeople were blind to the incredible gift before them—an angel!—and so the old man flew away.

user profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 16, 2011 at 8:15 AM (Answer #3)

dislike 0 like

I think #2 makes a number of valid points about this excellent short story. However, I also think that this story has a lot to do with symbols and signs and our need to interpret them. Through reading all of the strange and mysterious happenings, Marquez seems to deliberately be taunting us with the question of what it all means. By offering us no significant clues or answers to this question, Marquez seems to be pointing towards the futility of trying to make meaning from meaningless, random events. This another aspect of the story that must not be neglected.

user profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 28, 2011 at 10:54 AM (Answer #4)

dislike 0 like

This story makes me think of Frankenstein, Shrek, or The Elephant Man.  We fear what we do not understand.  We are instantly transformed to mob behavior...grab your pitchforks and torches!  Chase him, beat him, kill him.  This is the material world's effect on an otherwise good person...the Good Samaritan, if you will.  Alone, a person would be more likely to treat the old man (angel) with kindness.  In a mob, being goaded by fear and miscommunication, people become monsters.  The story tells us something about ourselves.  It is a strong suggestion to look inward and wonder about how we would treat a person who means us no harm, but who frightens us because of his strange or different appearance. 

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes