Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
Chronicling the history of a family that begins with José Arcadio Buendía and ends with Aureliano Babilonia one hundred years later, One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the history of the fictional town of Macondo. One Hundred Years of Solitude is also, in a sense, one hundred years’ history of Colombia as well. The work mixes the magical and the factual in a manner that is as true to human experience as the purely factual is.
José Arcadio Buendía marries his cousin, Úrsula, despite their fear of engendering a child with a pig’s tail. They have three healthy children: Aureliano, José Arcadio, and Amaranta. Each of these names reappears in subsequent generations, but Aureliano predominates, the first Aureliano fathering eighteen Aurelianos of his own, one with his wife and seventeen others with seventeen different women encountered during his stint as Colonel Buendía in the Colombian civil war.
José Arcadio develops a friendship with a traveling gypsy, Melquíades, who often brings the future to Macondo with him. He introduces José Arcadio to the magnet, the telescope, and ice. Melquíades also leaves a manuscript written in a strange language. Succeeding generations of Buendía men return to this manuscript, seeking to decipher it. The manuscript’s meaning is not clear until the birth of the last Buendía, son of Aureliano Babilonia, grandson of Aureliano Segundo, and Amaranta Úrsula, whom Aureliano discovers...
(The entire section is 407 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
One Hundred Years of Solitude traces the Buendía family dynasty through six generations of chaotic decline. Family patriarch José Arcadio Buendía founds the almost-perfect town of Macondo with three hundred inhabitants, all under age thirty. A man of “unbridled imagination” who always goes “beyond the genius of nature and even beyond miracles and magic,” José Arcadio devotes his life to the quest for knowledge, but he is finally overwhelmed by the intensity of his own pursuit and spends his last days chained to a chestnut tree, preaching in Latin against the existence of God.
José Arcadio’s son, Colonel Aureliano, shepherds Macondo into a period of political rebellion and conflict reminiscent of the civil wars that were part of the lore and culture of García Márquez’s youth. A giant American fruit company develops the town, but worker exploitation erupts in a violent strike, and thousands are killed in a secret massacre. Úrsula, matriarch of the family and José Arcadio’s wife, struggles to save the family from an evil destiny for more than 130 years. Her death, however, signals the demise of the family and of Macondo. At the end, the two surviving Buendías together conceive a child, who is born with the prophesied curly tail of a pig. Both the child and his mother die, leaving the father alone.
Until its final pages, the novel seems to be written from the perspective of an omniscient author. At the conclusion, the reader learns that the story has been the unfolding of the prophecy made by the old gypsy Melquíades, who had long ago recorded the history of the...
(The entire section is 663 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Standing before a firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía remembers the day that his father, José Arcadio Buendía, had taken him to see ice for the first time. This had taken place in the early years of Macondo, the town that the elder Buendía, his wife Úrsula, and others had founded after José Arcadio and Úrsula had sought to escape the ghost of a man who José Arcadio had killed. The dead man had accused José Arcadio of impotence, when the real reason that the Buendías had avoided sex for so long after marriage was that they were afraid of producing a child with a pig’s tail, something that had already happened between their two “inbred” families.
Soon after the founding of Macondo, gypsies begin to visit the town with incredible inventions, the wonder of which ignites the scientific curiosity of José Arcadio. Through these visits the Buendías meet Melquíades, a wise and magical gypsy and author of a mysterious manuscript. On one particular visit by the gypsies, right after the town learns of Melquíades’s death in a far-off land, José Arcadio Buendía and his sons are introduced to ice, which the elder Buendía calls “the great invention of our time.”
José Arcadio and Úrsula Buendía have two sons, Aureliano and José Arcadio, and two daughters, Amaranta and Rebeca, the latter of whom they had adopted after she had shown up on their doorstep, orphaned and with her parents’ bones in a canvas sack. The two sons both father illegitimate children by Pilar Ternera, and the older son, José Arcadio, soon runs off with the gypsies. An insomnia plague attacks the town and brings with it a temporary but severe loss of memory. Melquíades, who has died “but could not bear the solitude,” returns to Macondo. A conservative magistrate, the peaceful town’s first, settles in shortly thereafter.
An Italian dance teacher, Pietro Crespi, arrives to tune the pianola and to teach the Buendía girls the latest steps. He begins to court Rebeca, which touches off a lifelong jealousy and bitterness in Amaranta. Meanwhile, Melquíades continues to be a presence (as would his manuscript) in the Buendía house. José Arcadio (the elder) attempts to photograph God, begins having visits from the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar (the man he killed years before), starts speaking a strange language (later identified as Latin), and is tethered to a chestnut tree in the backyard. Aureliano falls in love with and marries Remedios, the magistrate’s barely pubescent daughter, who dies, pregnant with twins, just days before Rebeca’s scheduled marriage to Pietro Crespi.
José Arcadio (the son) returns, enormous and tattooed, and...
(The entire section is 1093 words.)