The significance of names in Gabriel García Márquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” serves several purposes.
First, several major characters remain nameless in the story. These include the boy child, the titular angel-person, the neighbor woman, and the spider woman, who is referred to only by her physical appearance. This gives the story a folktale, universal quality that makes it seem like it could be set in any time or place. In addition, the anonymity could indicate a lack of importance about these characters’ individual identity. Although they play significant roles in the story, their personalities are either enigmatic or one-dimensional. Much like the stock characters common in folktales, they are simultaneously important and irrelevant.
This serves in sharp contrast to the three named characters in the story. Pelayo and Elisenda both have names with Germanic origins, although this could be insignificant. The name Elisenda roughly means someone who walks through temples, which has a heavy religious connotation. This is ironic because Elisenda is not a devout religious believer, as her name suggests; in fact, she is the mastermind behind the money-making scheme that profits from the supposed angel. Father Gonzaga, as an official representative of the church, is the most skeptical of the angel’s authenticity, even going so far as to write to the Pope. His inability to believe goes against his role as a spiritual leader in the community. In these ways, García Márquez might be suggesting that supposedly religious people in the story are actually not very spiritual at all.