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...
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.