What are the major conflicts in the short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"? What point of view does the author use?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrative point of view of this story is third person. More specifically, the story is third person omniscient. This means that the narrator is essentially looking down at all characters from a "god-like" perspective. Readers can get insights into multiple characters from this perspective without having to have the characters say or do anything. The narrative point of view is limited in one aspect as well. Readers do not get any views of what the old man with wings is thinking about. He remains as much of a mystery to readers as he does to the people in the story.

The conflict in this story is very unique. There seems to be a conflict ready to happen between the old man and the people, but that conflict never develops. The old man doesn't harm the people or struggle against them. He is passive. You could say that the old man does have a conflict with himself. His main struggle is to regain strength and escape. I would say that the main conflict present in this story is an internal conflict that involves each villager's thoughts about who the old man is and what should be done about him. While the main idea of that conflict is the same, each character struggles in slightly different ways with it. For example, some characters struggle with how to monetize the old man, while other characters wrestle with what the old man means in terms of religion.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first form of conflict that we encounter in the story is man vs. nature. It has been raining for three days, and the house is full of crabs. While sweeping the crabs out of the house, Pelayo discovers the winged man. That encounter introduces the conflict of man vs. the supernatural. You could say that the conflict man vs. society exists between the winged man and the rest of the people.

The story is told in a third-person narrative style. This narrator, according to the eNotes study guide is unreliable, seeming to

direct the reader all over the map and to be inconsistent in his own attitude to events. The villagers' wild ideas about the old man are often presented as obvious delusions, characterized as "frivolous" or ‘‘simple'' by the narrator. But at other times, he seems no more skeptical than the villagers...as if it presented no mystery at all. Though they are wise in ways the villagers are not, and see through the various fanciful interpretations of the visitor, readers come to feel that the narrator may not fully understand the old man himself. Such an unreliable storyteller makes a mystery even more mysterious, complicating efforts to fix a definite meaning to the tale.


thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A different conflict in the story is the issue of the old man’s true nature. While Pelayo and Eliseda try to ignore the wings of the old man and subject him to human nature, they assume the old man is a sailor washed ashore after a shipwreck. A neighbor, however, points out the wings on the man and suggests the winged man is actually an angel. 

It does not take long for the spectacle to attract people to Pelayo’s home, and the mystery brings along the village priest. Additionally the situation introduces a conflict with religion because the priest is convinced that the man is not an angel but an imposter. He writes a letter to his superiors informing them of the man, but the church does not show any sense of urgency on the matter. 

The narrator of the story tells the story in third-person and is equally perplexed by the mystery, which remains unresolved after the old man flies away in the end.

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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

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