What metaphor is there in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"?

Expert Answers
Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The overarching metaphor is that of the fallen angel, the old, decrepit being who arrives on Pelayo and Elisenda's farm. His degenerative state is a reflective metaphor for the impoverished state of their faith. Marquez writes:

There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth, and his pitiful condition of a drenched great-grandfather took away any sense of grandeur he might have had. His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked, were forever entangled in the mud. They looked at him so long and so closely that Pelayo and Elisenda very soon overcame their surprise and in the end found him familiar.

A miraculous being has landed in their midst, yet the couple soon treats the angel like a sideshow attraction rather than a servant of God. Like Eve before her, Elisenda sees a way to exploit her situation:

Elisenda, her spine all twisted from sweeping up so much marketplace trash, then got the idea of fencing in the yard and charging five cents admission to see the angel.

Never cognizant of the miracle, and because they cannot connect their expectations of God's ways to reality, the angel leaves. The couple is no more enlightened than before the angel came. Soon Pelayo and Elisenda will descend into a pit of mortality. As the old angel finally flies away, Elisenda observes his departure and "let out a sigh of relief, for herself and for him." It's too hard, she seems to say, to deal with God's expectations.

Read the study guide:
A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question