How does Garcia Marquez's use of setting contribute to the  Magical Realism or of creating a modern fable?"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Garcia Marquez Who is the mysterious old man and...

How does Garcia Marquez's use of setting contribute to the  Magical Realism or of creating a modern fable?

"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Garcia Marquez

Who is the mysterious old man and how is he treated by other people?

 

Asked on by beb381

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The merging of fantastic elements with realistic detail, blurring the reader's ability to discern the usual distinctions is what is known as Magical Realism.  The village of "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" may appear appealing, but it is a complex and disturbing fantasy as Marquez combines realistic detail with fantastic.

The first to see the old man are Pelayo and his wife, and their explanations are both realistic and fantastic:

  • In the rear of the courtyard of Pelayo's house,  a very old man lies face down in the mud, struggling because of his huge buzzard wings. [fantastic]
  • Pelayo and his wife stare at him so long that he "becomes familiar," so they form an explanation that he has been shipwrecked. [realistic]
  • The neighbor who "knows everything about life" explains that the man is a flesh-and-blood angel. [blending of realistic and fantastic]
  • Pelayo and his wife put the old angel in a chicken coop [blending of realistic and fantastic]

With the priest, there is a blurry distinction between the natural and the supernatural:

  • Father Gonzago arrives and "reviews his catechism" before looking at the pitiful man who resembles "a hug decrepit chicken."  When the priest speaks to him in Latin, he suspects that the angel is an impostor because it does not know Latin, and he warns the villagers that the devil uses "carnival tricks to confuse the wary." [supernatural]
  • But, soon, the courtyard has the "bustle of a marketplace and troops have to be called in to disperse the mob that almost knocks down the house. [natural]
  • When news spreads, invalids come to be cured; Pelayo and Elisenda cram their rooms with money as they charge admission [supernatural with natural] to see the old man in a nest with sacramental candles placed along the wire.
  • As the spectators pick at him, the angel speaks in his hermetic language with tears in his eyes.   Father Gonzaga waits for word from Rome.

The setting, then, becomes reduced to that of a fantastic carnival:

  • A woman who has been turned into a spider arrives.
  • The angel's miracles are ludicrous.  For instance, a blind man does not recover his set, but instead grows three teeth, Father Gonzago is cured of his insomnia, and Pelayo's courtyard is emptied of people.

After the people leave, the setting becomes more realistic:

  • The couple build a two-story mansion with balconies, high gardens, and netting so that the crabs will not enter.  But, the angel still remains.
  • The child starts school, but the drooping stray dying man of an angel remains.

The ending is less than fantasy, but has some fantastic elements:

  • Finally, he survives the winter and improves.  He flies off and Elisenda lets out a sigh because he is no longer an annoyance.

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