A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Questions and Answers
by Gabriel García Márquez

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What is the effect of the author’s minimal use of dialogue in the text?

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The short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells of the reaction of a seaside village to the arrival of an old man with large wings like an angel. However, the wings are damaged by a rainstorm and the man can no longer fly. Instead of treating him with respect, the family in whose yard he lands locks him in the chicken coop and charges admission for the villagers to observe him. The old man is a popular attraction until a girl who has been changed into a spider arrives in town as a carnival act. The chicken coop eventually falls apart, and as the old man crawls about the family's house, he begins to heal. In the end, his feathers grow back and he becomes strong enough so that he is able to fly away.

This story is an example of a genre of literature known as magic realism, a type of literature that has realistic settings but also deals with elements of the fantastic. The story contains only one line of direct dialog and very few lines of indirect dialog.

Dialog serves several purposes in literature and stories. It assists in character development, provides information, advances the plot, and gives immediacy and dynamism. Refraining from the overuse of dialog, Marquez causes the reader's perspective to step back from the immediacy of the situation and see the story in a broader sense, as a sort of myth or parable that reveals aspects of the human condition. The characters, in turn, function as archetypes that reflect various facets of humanity. The priest, for instance, becomes a theological authority figure, and the child represents the innocence in human nature that is able to approach and appreciate the incomprehensible or spiritual.

The story works only because the reader is able to suspend disbelief and accept the elements of magic realism as if they were true. Too much dialogue would have broken the spell of the suspension of disbelief that Marquez manages to cast over his readers.

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