Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Love in the Time of Cholera is a celebration of life over death, love over despair, and health over sickness. It is the story of Florentino Ariza, who was rejected by Fermina Daza in his youth. He maintains a silent vigil of unrequited love for fifty-one years, nine months, and four days, until he meets Fermina again at her husband’s wake and renews his suit. The novel spans a period from the late 1870’s to the early 1930’s, and it is set in a South American community modeled after Cartagena, Colombia, and besieged by civil wars and plagues.
Florentino, an eighteen-year-old apprentice telegraph operator, sees thirteen-year old Fermina and falls madly in love. Fermina’s father finds out and sends his daughter on an extended trip to remove her from temptation. She returns years later, rejects Florentino, and accepts the proposal of a cultured physician and cholera specialist, Dr. Juvenal Urbino. Although Florentino continues to love Fermina throughout the years, he also continues his own social relationships—engaging in 622 long-term liaisons, which he records in a series of notebooks—and becomes president of a riverboat company. Then Florentino learns that eighty-one-year-old Juvenal has died, falling off a ladder trying to capture a condescending, bilingual parrot. Although Love in the Time of Cholera does not have the extended fantasy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, touches of unexpected, delightful humor—like the...
(The entire section is 603 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Dr. Juvenal Urbino has been called to the residence of his friend Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, who had taken his own life the previous evening. From a letter that his friend left him, Urbino learns that Saint-Amour spent his final night with a female companion and that he was actually a fugitive who had indulged in cannibalism. Devastated by this knowledge, Urbino finds his whole day unsettled. Late that afternoon, he falls to his death while trying to retrieve his parrot from a tree. Dr. Urbino’s funeral takes place the next day, and after the funeral, and after years of waiting, one of the guests, Florentino Ariza, tells Dr. Urbino’s widow, Fermina Daza, that he loves her.
The relationship between Florentino and Fermina begins more than fifty years earlier, when Florentino, then working at a telegraph office, delivers a message to Lorenzo Daza at his home and immediately falls in love with Fermina, whom he sees in the sewing room. After this, Florentino sits daily on a bench in the park across from the Daza house, reading poetry but mostly waiting to see Fermina. After a brief correspondence between them, Fermina agrees to marry him and, after two years of secret courtship, they begin to plan the wedding.
When Fermina’s father discovers their plan, however, he takes his daughter to Valledupar, the home of his relatives, where she finds a sympathetic friend in her cousin Hildebranda Sanchez. With Hildebranda’s help, Fermina continues to correspond with Florentino over the telegraph. Lorenzo finally realizes that he cannot control his daughter and gives her her freedom. In the midst of preparing for her wedding, however, Fermina, in an abrupt about-face, calls off the engagement.
Eventually, Fermina meets Dr. Juvenal Urbino, a new doctor in the city who has just returned from his studies in Paris. He is committed to fighting cholera, and when Fermina is diagnosed as possibly having the disease, Urbino visits her house. Although he finds her in perfect health, he returns repeatedly to the Daza household to see her. Initially, Fermina resists the doctor’s suit, but her cousin Hildebranda finally persuades Fermina to marry...
(The entire section is 885 words.)