To what extent, if any, does it matter whether Pelayo’s guest is an angel? Explain.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells of an old man with large wings who appears in the courtyard of the Pelayo family in the aftermath of a three-day rainstorm. The old man is almost bald, has few remaining teeth, and is dressed in rags. His wings are filthy and have lost many feathers. He speaks in a language that they do not understand.

A neighbor to the Pelayos, immediately upon seeing him, identifies the old man as an angel. Whether this is important or not depends upon the attitudes of individual characters in the story. For instance, it is important to the woman who identifies him as an angel because she considers angels malevolent and dangerous. She claims that the old man's intention was probably to kidnap a child, and so she thinks that the Pelayos should club him to death.

Pelayo and his wife don't seem to care whether he is an angel or not. Pelayo drags the old man to the chicken coop and locks him in. Later they profit from the old man's misfortune by charging admission to the villagers to see him. This works well for a time. They are able to earn enough money to construct a better house. However, at the end Pelayo's wife considers the old man a nuisance and is glad to see him fly away.

To the priest, Father Gonzaga, it is extremely important whether the old man is an angel or not. He goes inside the coop to inspect the old man and attempt to speak to him. The old man answers in his strange language. This makes the priest suspicious because according to the priest's understanding an angel should be able to speak Latin, which the priest considers the language of God. The priest is further skeptical because of the old man's smell and the parasites on his wings. He tells the villagers that perhaps the old man is not an angel but a deception of the Devil. He considers the issue so important, though, that he announces his intention to refer the question to higher church authorities.

We can see, then, that the degree of importance of the old man being an angel varies according to the viewpoints of the people observing him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial