What do the "old man" and the spider-woman symbolize in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"? Compare and contrast those two characters.

3 Answers | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

While both the Spider Woman and the Old Man with enormous wings are phenomena, the Spider Girl is a phenomenon that the viewers can comprehend because the people are permitted to ask her questions about her "absurd state" and they may examine her as one does at a freak show.  This condition is one with which the viewers are familiar.  So, they are more willing to accept this girl with the "heart-rending"  tale that contains  "so much human truth and with such a fearful lesson" over the "haughty angel who scarcely deigned to look at mortals."

Besides, the people think, the few miracles that are attributed to the angel demonstrate "a certain mental disorder."  For instance, the blind man has not regained his sight; instead, he has grown three new teeth.  The paralytic has not walked, but he almost has won the lottery; the leper's sores were not healed, but they sprouted sunflowers.  These "consolation miracles" which mock real ones have put the Old Man out of competition with the Spider Girl whose tale has verisimilitude for her audience.  Hers is a tale that can be comprehended; his is inexplicable.

meanicecream's profile pic

meanicecream | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

The birdman represents a messiah (someone with extreme importance of that religion), or religion itself, and how the croud (humanity) tends to treat religion.

The birdman does absolutely nothing wrong yet he gets caged like a side show freak. The group who caged him up are not greatful for the extreme wealth he brought upon them.

Unfortunately, I don't have much to say about the spider women other than she is probably a fake; she isn't tiny which means she probably has a costume on; she charges money to be viewed which means she probably needs that money to buy more things to eat other than the meatballs people throw into her mouth.

deltaurus's profile pic

deltaurus | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

The old man represents a tale in literature while the spider women represents a fable. The key difference between a tale and a fable are:

A tale ends unclear with no real moral or purpose to the story and leaves you asking questions.

A fable ends quite clearly. You do not have any questions because the fable answered them all through out the story.

Fables are more preferable to society, that is why in the story everyone likes the spider women better than the old man. The old man does not tell us anything about himself and the people do not like that. They assume many different types of things about the old man and leave it at that.

The spider women also represent a simpler work of fiction while the old man represents a complex one such as the work of fiction he is apart of.

We’ve answered 318,930 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question