What special powers do some people think the old man has in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some people have exalted ideas about the strange old man who has landed, believing he is supernatural, or filled with "human truth"; others feel he is "a cataclysm in repose."

In this magical realist story, Marquez writes of a strange being who becomes subject to the interpretation of those who view him. After a severe storm, one of the main characters named Pelayo finds on his property an aged man, dressed like "a ragpicker," lying facedown in the mud. In spite of the man's efforts, he is unable to lift himself because of his huge buzzard wings that impede him. Terrified by this creature, Pelayo runs to his wife Elisenda, who looks at him for a long time. Then, they speak to this man and he responds with "an incomprehensible dialect with a strong sailor's voice." Later, he is described as using the "tongue twisters of an old Norwegian."

Pelayo and Elisenda call in their neighbor, who tells them,

"He's an angel....He must have been coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old that the rain knocked him down."

Later, the neighbors toss the old man things to eat through the wires of the chicken coop where he has been dragged. In this case, the "angel" is treated more like a circus animal. The next day, the priest, Father Gonzaga, arrives because he is alarmed by the news of this creature. Others follow and perceive the winged old man as a great being who should be promoted to the rank of five-star general.

One of the special powers that the old man with enormous wings is thought to possess is healing. It is believed that he has cured Pelayo and Elisenda's sick child because shortly after the old man arrived, the child "woke up without a fever and with a desire to eat." After this cure, others flock to be cured of afflictions and "a few miracles" are attributed to the "angel." But, the miracles attributed to him are termed "consolation miracles" since they are not complete. For example, there is the blind man who has not recovered his sight, but has, instead grown three new teeth; a paralytic who has not risen and walked, but has almost won a lottery, and a leper whose sores have "sprouted sunflowers."

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