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

Expert Answers

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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.

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