The theme of Gabriel García Márquez’s short story “Big Mama’s Funeral” might be the corruptive nature of entrenched power. As her name suggests, Big Mama has a large influence on her kingdom. She has ruled over Macondo for a long time. Her reign has given her and those around her a perverse quantity of influence.
Big Mama’s personal doctor, for instance, was granted the “lifetime privilege” of being the only doctor in Macondo. No other doctors could establish themselves in Macondo. When the lone doctor becomes arthritic, rather than let other, healthier doctors treat the people of Macondo, he maintains that he has the exclusive right to treat everyone via messengers and other specious means.
To make matters worse, it doesn’t appear as if the doctor is skilled at his job. He treats Big Mama with “bloated toads” and “leaches”; that’s not exactly modern, scientific medicine. Yet, again, through the family doctor, Marquez highlights the theme of how entrenched, long-lasting power produces corruption, stagnation, and lackluster standards.
Of course, Big Mama’s longstanding power corrupts more than Macondo’s medical establishment; it also corrupts religious practices, sexual mores, and people’s general view of reality. Big Mama is given a lavish, opulent funeral. It’s as if the people are marking the death of a magnificent, charitable deity instead of a despotic ruler who, in reality, continually hobbled and subverted Macondo.