Magic and the use of the supernatural is something that is a hallmark of the style of Marquez, and in particular the way that his fiction is seen as an example of magical realism, or the way in which stories are told based on supposedly real events but have elements of the fantastical interweaved throughout as if they were yet another part of this reality. One principal way in which this can be seen in this book is through the dreams and visions that various characters have that predict Santiago's death. Santiago himself has a dream at the beginning of the book that even his mother, a famous interpreter of dreams, is unable to correctly translate:
He'd dreamed he was going through a grove of timber trees where a gentle drizzle was falling, and for an instant he was happy in his dream, but when he awoke he felt completely spattered with bird shit.
The covering with "bird shit" clearly corresponds to Santiago's imminent death in this vision. The many dreams and visions that occupy the pages of this novel serve to create a surrealistic tone that dominates the story. In a sense, magic realism delights in creating such an ambience of surrealism that makes us question what precisely is "real" and what is not, and forces us to challenge ourselves about the process of discerning between these two supposedly concrete states. The use of magic creates a messy overlap that makes us suspect magic may be more a part of everyday life than we would like to think in our rational moments.