Gabriel García Márquez offers much food for thought in the short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.” Pelayo and Elisenda are shock and frightened when they find an old man with wings in the mud near their house. A neighbor insists that he must be an angel, yet the couple and their fellow townspeople do not treat him as such in any way. In fact, they make him into a spectacle, keeping him prisoner in an old chicken coop, and Pelayo and Elisenda charge admission to people who want to see him.
Indeed, plenty of people want to see him. Some believe that he might give them the miracles of healing they have so long desired. They light their “sacramental candles” before him and pray, but there are no real miracles. Their faith is misplaced. They do not understand that God is the One in charge of miracles and that when they occur, it is on His terms and in His time. Indeed, even the local priest, Father Gonzaga does not know what to do with this “angel.” He is pretty sure that something is not right about him, for he doesn't understand Latin and ignores the priest in the same way he ignores everyone else. What's more, he just doesn't look like an angel. He is too scruffy, and the priest has no faith that he is from God. Father Gonzaga writes to the bishop and the pope for help but never receives any satisfactory answers.
Most people come to see the old man with wings out of mere curiosity. He is something new introduced into the monotony of their daily lives, and he is also a target at which they can focus their frustrations. They throw things at him and never give him a moment's peace. In fact, they are sometimes extremely cruel, even burning “his side with an iron for branding steers” to get some reaction from him. The poor man gives them little satisfaction for their efforts, but this continues until another attraction catches their attention as a carnival arrives in town featuring a woman in the form of a giant spider. Pretty soon, Pelayo and Elisenda find themselves alone with the “angel.” Their neighbors are fickle and have short attention spans. They are always seeking something new and quick to leave behind the old when they find the new.
But Pelayo and Elisenda don't mind because they have made plenty of money off of the old man with wings. They have made enough, in fact, to build “a two-story mansion with balconies and gardens” and “iron bars on the windows so that angels wouldn't get in.” They are plenty happy to take the money, but they don't want the “angel” on whose pain they have gained it. They keep him in the chicken coop and later in an old shed, never once thinking that, without him, they would still have been in their tiny little house filled with crabs. He is merely something to be used for their own benefit. In fact, Elisenda is greatly relieved when, one day, the “angel” flies away.