How is "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" a tale for children?

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The short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings " by Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells of a couple in a poor seaside village that discovers an old man with large wings in the courtyard of their house in the aftermath of a heavy rainstorm. The old man is...

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The short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells of a couple in a poor seaside village that discovers an old man with large wings in the courtyard of their house in the aftermath of a heavy rainstorm. The old man is injured and filthy, and he speaks in a language that they cannot understand. Although they recognize the possibility that the old man might be an angel, the couple locks him up in their chicken coop.

The priest comes and inspects the old man, but because he cannot speak Latin, which the priest considers the language of God, the priest thinks that he may be sent from the Devil. He decides to write to higher Catholic authorities to get their opinion.

When a crowd gathers, the couple realizes they can make money out of their captive visitor and charges admission to see him. This works well until a circus comes along with a more interesting attraction: a creature with the head of a young woman and the body of a spider. The old man eventually heals and flies away.

"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is subtitled "A Tale for Children." This subtitle can be interpreted in two different ways. First of all, it can be taken literally. Children would be more likely than adults to accept the aspects of magic realism that Marquez has written into the story. They are often exposed to fairy tales, myths, and parables, and they would take this tale as one more example of these genres. Whether they would be able to derive lessons from it or not, they would find the story entertaining.

The subtitle can also be interpreted as another component of the satire that runs deeply through the story. In labeling his story a tale for children, Marquez may be intending to infer that the opposite is actually true. The story is not meant for children but for adults. It satirizes the narrow-minded viewpoint that sees the arrival of a stranger with wings not as a miracle but as a threat—and then as an occasion for profit. It ridicules the church for its anachronistic methods of judging the strange old man. It exposes the pettiness, selfishness, and greed of the villagers when they are confronted with something mysterious and marvelous. These are all insights that would be recognizable to adults, not children.

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Although the story may be subtitled "A Tale for Children," I do not believe that it is a story that is directly aimed at children. The story is a fairly dark look at humanity. The old man is poorly taken care of throughout the story, and Elisenda and Pelayo use the old man as a get-rich-quick tool. They feel no remorse, sorrow, or guilt over their actions. In general, I feel that the discussions this story sparks are much better suited for teenagers. However, the question does specifically ask how the story is a tale for children.

I think the story is a tale for children because it has several very strong pieces of fantasy in it. First, there is a man with enormous wings. Second, there is a woman that has been turned into a spider for disobeying her parents. Third, the sick girl miraculously gets better shortly after the man shows up. These are things that adult readers will question, but a child will take these instances of fantasy at face value. It makes sense to a child that a man could have wings, that a woman could be changed into an animal, and that a child could magically become better with no explanation. Additionally, the plot of the story is not difficult to understand. There is not anything that happens that is over the head of a young reader. The themes, character analysis, and so on is beyond a child, but the story progression is very straightforward.

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"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is a short story by Gabriel García Márquez, and is subtitled "A Tale for Children."

The subtitle seems out of place because the story is so strange; an old man, assumed to be an angel, falls out of the sky and is taken in by a family. They try to figure out what he is, finally charging admission and becoming comfortably wealthy. Eventually, a new "freak" takes the angel's place in public interest, and the angel grows stronger with spring and flies off.

The story is somewhat like Aesop's fables, or the parables in the Bible; it is a straightforward account that leaves interpretation up to the reader. Children have an easier time accepting the presence of a man with wings, or a woman changed into a spider, and so instead of questioning the reality of the tale itself they are better able to question the moral; why are the family, who treat the angel poorly, allowed to profit from his presence? At the end, they have money and a new house, and the angel leaves, but was it there to serve a purpose? It fails to incite any religious resurgence in the town; in fact, with the woman/spider, it seems that some other power is at work. The subtitle may even be a joke on the part of the author, saying that it is meant to be read as a story instead of analyzed as literature.

The family suspects that the angel was sent to take their sick child, and in fact the child recovers while the angel remains in poor health throughout the winter. It is possible that the angel served to "take away" the child's sickness, and his presence had the unintentional effect of helping the family financially. In the end, the story is less a morality tale and more a fanciful story showing the incomprehensible mysteries of nature, and possibly heaven.

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