Compare the characteristics of the spider woman with those of the old man.

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gabriel García Márquez provides a comparison between the spider woman and the old man with wings in his story “The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.” When comparing the two characters it is important to remember the genre is magical realism.

The old man, who has a pair of feather wings growing out of his back, appears after a storm at sea. He is unable to communicate because he speaks in an unfamiliar seafarer’s dialect. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to his existence. The members of the small community think he is an angel, but even the village priest is unable to verify this.  People pay to visit and gawk at the old man as he becomes a curiosity.  This makes Pelayo and Elisenda rich, prosperous people. At times he is kept as an animal and put on display, yet he seems to have some power over the well-being of Pelayo and Elisenda’s child. When the child is sick, the old man suffers until both he and the child recover.

The spider woman is also a curiosity who travels with a freak show. She can explain how her actions caused her to morph into an entity who is part woman, part spider. Her ability to tell the story of how she disobeyed her parents, and was turned into a being with the body of a large spider attached to a human head makes her captivating to those who listen to her story. This takes attention away from the old man with wings. People were drawn to her, and were willing to pay to hear her story, which is in contrast to the old man's inability to communicate his background.

In both cases, the characters contribute to the genre of magical realism.



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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

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