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

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"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.

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

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