In "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," how do the villagers treat the old man?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is a story that defies the traditional forms with magical realism, a literary style which challenges the reader to reassess modes of thought. When the bizarre creature lands in the mud of their yard, Pelayo and Elisenda do not know what to think; however, after they stare at him for a long time, they "overcame their surprise and in the end found him familiar." Nevertheless, they consult with a neighbor "who knew everything about life and death." She declares that the old man is an angel who must have come for the sick child, but the rain knocked him down because he is so old and frail. She advises Pelayo and Elisenda to club him, but they do not have the heart. One the day after the neighbor's visit others arrive to view the old man.

  • The many neighbors stand in front of the chicken coup where the old man sits; they toss things to him as though he were a circus animal.
  • Father Gonzaga arrives and says good morning in Latin. When the old man cannot understand or reply, the priest suspects he does not know the "language of God." He warns that the man with wings full of parasites may be a devil. So he promises to write to the "Supreme Pontiff in order to get the final verdict from the highest courts."
  • Some people think that the old man should be given the rank of five-star general "in order to win all wars."
  • "The curious" come from a great distance, and a traveling carnival arrives; as a result, the old man is ignored.
  • Invalids arrive, hoping for a cure.
  • "Penitents" bring him "papal lunches," but he refuses everything but eggplant.
  • Cripples pull out feathers from the old man and touch their afflicted parts with them.
  • The owners, Pelayo and Elisenda, exploit the old man and charge admission. They make enough money that they can renovate their house and buy some frivolous gifts for themselves.
  • Finally, Pelayo and especially Elisenda grow weary of this old man with enormous wings which have been molting. When he flies away, Elisenda heaves a sigh of relief.
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