How is "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" appropriate for children and adults?

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The subtitle of Garcia Marquez’s story is “A Tale for Children,” which indicates that the author intends for young readers to get something from the text.

One possible reason that the story is geared toward children is that it contains magical realism. The presence of the angel and the Spider Woman are fantastical facts in an otherwise realistic story. From the setting to the characters, the overwhelming sense of realism contrasts with the magical figures who inhabit the village at different points. While adults might recognize these characters as pure fantasy, children might view them as being the same as other human ones. A child’s ability to suspend disbelief makes this story accessible to them.

In addition, one could argue that Garcia Marquez’s story has a kind of moral. That moral is that people can take things for granted and that we have to treat everyone and everything with dignity and respect. On the other hand, the villagers’ abandonment of the angel in favor of the Spider Woman might also suggest that novelty always wears off; crowds are pleased with the same thing only for so long before moving on to the next. While the first “moral” appeals mostly to children, the second moral is a more nuanced social commentary that adults should glean from the tale.

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I would also add that like most fairy tales of the old days, such as Rumplestilskin, or even Sleeping Beauty or Snow White, or any fairy tale, really, there is a moral lesson that is perhaps more important than the titilation.

From those tales, children learn to be patient, to listen to their parents, to not trust strangers, etc. In Marquez's tale, the moral lesson to be gleaned is that a miracle must be appreciated, not exploited, or it will be taken away.

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An intriguing question. It is appropriate for children because of the wonder of it all: an old guy with wings plops into the mud and lives in this tiny village for a while. They try to feed him things like mothballs. Told that way, what's not to like?

It is appropriate for adults for that reason—the wonder of the images—plus the social satire that the children are likely to miss, such as the priest's approach.

Greg

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