What is the moral of "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"? How is the message applicable to the reader?

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Defining the moral of “The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: A Children’s Tale” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a difficult task. The genre of the story is magical realism but it contains elements of fantasy. One lesson that can be learned from the story is the importance of respect in treating those who are different, disabled, or strange because their value to the world may be unknown. They may be angels among us.

In this story, the man with wings surfaces during a tumultuous storm. When Pelayo finds him, his son is ill but recovers after the appearance of the man with wings. The family attempts to set him out to sea believing he was washed ashore, but he survives and they bring him in. Another neighbor declares he is an angel, but that is disputed by the parish priest who defers to the Pope. The strange man becomes something of a carnival attraction bringing prosperity to Pelayo’s family until a greater oddity, the spider woman, comes along. He is mistreated and forced to live in a chicken coop. Although he becomes quite frail, he perseveres through abuse and sickness until he is allowed to live in the household. For the family, it seems that each time their child faces illness or misfortune the strange, elderly, angel-man provides relief, even though the wife considers him a nuisance. In the end, in spite of all the mistreatment, he regains his vitality as his wings grow back and he flies away.

Was he truly an angel among humans? It is hard not to look at the good fortune the unusual creature brought to the family, and to realize that even though he was a great oddity, he provided valuable contributions by his mere existence. This message is applicable to the reader in their everyday dealings with their fellow man.


alexb2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't believe there is one moral to the story. If there is one, it could be that expectations are never going to be met, and the world is an ambiguous place.

The story defies the expectations of the reader, just as the man with the wings defies the expectations of society. The message may simply be that the world is a strange place, difficult to know, so don't think you know what's going on. This is applicable to the reader because the same is true of the story.

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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

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