A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel García Márquez

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Describe the old man that is found on the beach in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings."  

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Besides his huge buzzard wings and his apparent age, as evinced by a bald skull with only a few hairs and missing teeth in his mouth, the creature who lands in Pelayo and Elisenda's yard after days of rain defies real description.

With its subtitle of "A Tale for Children," Marquez's story, whose fictional landscape challenges traditional modes of fiction with its magical realism, seems to beckon readers to employ their imaginations in their reading of his tale. Certainly, this employment of imagination is what the characters exhibit as they first view this strange creature.

  • Here are the characters' different perceptions of the old man with enormous wings:

--Pelayo and Elizabeth, who look so long at the old man that he becomes "familiar to them," decide after hearing him speak in some "incomprehensible dialect" that he is a castaway from some foreign ship wrecked by a storm.
--A neighbor woman "who knew everything about life and death" dogmatically declares that Pelayo and Elizabeth are wrong. She insists that the old man is an angel knocked down by so much rain.
--Other neighbors feel that the old man with enormous wings is a "fugitive survivor of a celestial conspiracy" and want to club him to death.
--Rather simple-minded people think he should be named mayor.
--Others of "sterner mind" feel that he should be promoted to five-star general.
--The local priest, Father Gonzaga, decides that the old man is definitely not an angel, and he is much too human because he has parasites in his main feathers and a smell of the outdoors; in short, he does not measure up to the "proud dignity" of angels. Moreover, he does not understand Latin, the "language of God."
--The doctor who treats the child is amazed at the logic of the old man's enormous wings. They seem so natural that he wonders why others do not have such wings.

From these various judgments of the bizarre creature who lands in the yard of Pelayo and Elizabeth, an understanding comes to readers as to why Marquez subtitles his story "A Tale for Children." Certainly, the various characters exhibit a childlike point of view toward the old man with enormous wings and the events that they witness, interpreting them in accord with their own limited imaginations.




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