Does "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" share any similar themes with Gordimer's "Once Upon a Time", or Alice Walker's "Everyday Use?" Explain.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I see a similar theme between Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" and "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker.

In the story "Everyday Use," Dee wants an family quilt because it will look nice in her place, not because it holds any sentimental value for her. It is a quilt that has been sewn by her grandmother who is now dead, and for Dee's sister Maggie, it holds a great deal of value. Maggie is connected to what matters: not to the having of "things," but closely connected to those she loves and those who have come before her.

In "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings," all of the characters lose track of what is truly important, just as Dee does.  There is a man among them with wings. Because he does not fit their sense of what an angel "should" look like, they discount his importance. He does not explain his presence there. And even though he performs some "minor" miracles, but they, too, are disregarded.

Having been judged insignificant, he is dismissed—no one cares for him although he is old and unwell. (By the way, the old man is a Christ-like figure: as with Christ, he does not conform to what people—even the priest—believe an angel (or a King—God's son) should look or act like.

When the "spider-woman" arrives, because she speaks up for herself and tells them what they want to hear, they believe her. They find her more interesting and value her (even though she has the body of a tarantula and the head of a woman) based on how she appeals to their preconceived notions, not based upon who she is.

It seems amazing that people could ignore an angel, but is it often not the case that we lose sight of what is important based on what we see? Is someone sometimes judged less important if he/she is older, overweight or less than attractive? Is appearance sometimes more important that substance?

This speaks to the similarity I see in these two stories. Dee values the quilt based upon its appearance and how it will improve the look of her home. Maggie values the quilt based upon what it represents: her family and its past. She wants the quilt because it connects her especially to her deceased grandmother.

The town sees no value in the old man being an angel because of his appearance. They judge him on how he looks as opposed to what they expect of him: because he does fit their vision of a handsome young man in white with wings, they dismiss him. No one can see beyond his appearance. The true value of the old man is not in how he looks, but in who he is: an angel, a creature of goodness and miracles.

In both stories, appearance counts for everything to Dee and the people in Pelayo's house and town, rather than substance. This is the theme I believe the authors of these stories are trying to share with the reader.

Read the study guide:
A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

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