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 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...
(The entire section is 1093 words.)
Part 1 Summary
The Founding of Macondo
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, tells the story of the Buendia family and the fictional town of Macondo. The first part of the book's opening line, "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice," serves to catapult the reader into the future, while the second phrase pushes the reader into the past. From this point onward, however, the book moves in fairly straightforward chronological order, with only occasional forays into the past or the future.
The first chapter introduces Jose Arcadio Buendia, the founder of Macondo, his wife, Ursula, and the gypsy Melquiades, who brings inventions to Macondo. Jose Arcadio and Ursula also have two sons introduced in the opening chapter. The older, Jose Arcadio, is large, strong, and physically precocious. The younger child, Aureliano, is quiet, solitary, and clairvoyant.
One of the more difficult features of the book is that the characters share the same names. That is, in each generation of Buendias, there are characters named Jose Arcadio and Aureliano, just as there are female characters called Remedios, Amaranta, and Ursula. The characters named alike share similar characteristics. For example, the Arcadios are physically strong and active, while the Aurelianos are intellectual, with some psychic ability.
(The entire section is 337 words.)
Part 2 Summary
The Growth of Macondo
In the beginning, the town is young; it is a place where no one is over thirty-years-old and no one has died yet. Except for occasional visits from Melquiades and his troop of gypsies, the three hundred inhabitants of Macondo are completely isolated from the rest of the world. Although Jose Arcadio leads a band of townspeople on a mission to try to establish contact with the outside world, he is unsuccessful. Later, Ursula sets off to find her son Jose Arcadio, who has unexpectedly run away with the gypsies. Although Ursula does not find her son, she finds a route to another town, connecting Macondo to the world. As a result, people begin to arrive in Macondo, including a governmental representative, Don Apolinar Moscote. Aureliano falls in love with Apolinar's beautiful child, Remedios.
Another new arrival to the town is the orphan, Rebeca. The family adopts her and raises her as a sister to their daughter, Amaranta and grandson, Arcadio, the missing Jose's illegitimate son by Pilar Ternera. Meanwhile, the village contracts a plague of insomnia and memory loss. The people of Macondo resort to placing signs everywhere to remind themselves of the names of things. Of course, they also forget how to read. Through the intervention of Melquiades (who died in the previous chapter, only to return because he was bored) the town is saved.
Not only does Melquiades return from the dead, the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar...
(The entire section is 478 words.)
Part 3 Summary
The Buendias at War
The middle portion of the book includes accounts of the seemingly endless civil wars and of the activities of Aureliano Segundo and Jose Arcadio Segundo, the twin sons of the late Arcadio. When the wars are finally over, Colonel Aureliano Buendia retires to his home, where he leads a solitary life making little gold fishes. His solitude increases, and he is overcome with nostalgia and memories. After recalling once again the day that his father took him to see ice, he dies.
Meanwhile, Americans arrive in the prospering town of Macondo to farm bananas. The farm workers eventually launch a strike against the American company, protesting their living conditions. Soldiers arrive and slaughter some three thousand workers. Jose Arcadio Segundo is present at the slaughter and narrowly escapes with his life. When he attempts to find out more about the massacre, however, he discovers that no one knows that it even happened. No one has any memory of the event except for himself, and no one will believe that it really occurred. Likewise, the official governmental account of the event is accepted: "There was no dead, the satisfied workers had gone back to their families, and the banana company was suspending all activity until the rains stopped."
(The entire section is 211 words.)
Part 4 Summary
The Decline of Macondo
The rains, however, do not stop. Instead, they continue for another four years, eleven months, and two days. Over this time, the rain washes away much of Macondo. When it clears, Ursula, the last of the original Buendias, dies. She takes with her the memories of the founding of the town and the relationships among people. This failure of memory leads to the union of Amaranta Ursula, great-great-granddaughter of the original Jose Arcadio Buendia, to Aureliano, great-great-great grandson of the same man. Aureliano, the bastard child of Amaranta Ursula's sister, Meme, had been raised by the family since his birth. Nevertheless, only his grandparents, Fernanda and Aureliano Segundo, knew the secret of his parentage. His match with Amaranta Ursula recalls the original Ursula's fear of incest: the marriage of one of her aunts to one of her cousins led to the birth of a child with the tail of a pig. Likewise, Amaranta Ursula's relationship with her nephew Aureliano results in the birth of a child with the tail of pig, thus bringing the story of the Buendias full circle.
In the closing chapter, Amaranta Ursula dies giving birth, and her son is left in the street, to be devoured by ants, due to the carelessness of Aureliano. Aureliano's reaction is surprising:
And then he saw the child. It was a dry and bloated bag of skin that all the ants in the world were dragging towards their holes along the...
(The entire section is 369 words.)