What is the theme of "One of These Days" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

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The short story "One of These Days " by Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a seemingly simple plot. A dentist wakes early and goes about his work. Although he does not possess a degree, he performs his work skillfully and with dedication. When the mayor arrives to have a tooth...

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The short story "One of These Days" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a seemingly simple plot. A dentist wakes early and goes about his work. Although he does not possess a degree, he performs his work skillfully and with dedication. When the mayor arrives to have a tooth pulled, the dentist does not want to help him, knowing that the mayor has been responsible for the deaths of many people. He sees that the mayor's condition is serious, though, and he changes his mind. However, he informs the mayor that the procedure has to be performed without anesthetic, and as he begins to pull, he states: "Now you'll pay for our twenty dead men." He pulls the tooth, and the mayor leaves.

It would be simple to say that the theme of the story is revenge. However, the revenge element is secondary to the more important themes of the use or abuse of power, and the adherence to professionalism by the dentist. If revenge were the main theme, it would have been more fitting if the dentist had shot the mayor with the revolver he had in his drawer. Instead, he closes the drawer and agrees to perform the procedure.

One of the main themes in the story is the way that power is used by the two main characters. Overall, the corrupt mayor obviously has far greater power in his ability to use his office to justify the threat of violence. In this situation, though, he is helpless before the dentist. There are limits to the mayor's power. He cannot pull his own tooth. Despite all the power he wields in his office, he must sit in the chair and make himself vulnerable to the dentist. He must also accept the conditions under which the dentist performs the procedure. He has no way of knowing if the dentist's explanation of the abscess is accurate or not. For this reason, he allows the dentist's moment of revenge without retaliation, but as soon as the tooth is pulled, the mayor is back in control.

The dentist's adherence to professionalism is another important theme. Marquez touches on this early as he describes the dentist working on false teeth, gold teeth, and bridges. The dentist has an opportunity to shoot the hated mayor, but he does not take it when he sees the man's condition. His professional ethics cannot allow him to turn away a patient in need. However, he uses the brief period in which the mayor is under his control to inflict at least some pain in return for the atrocities the mayor has committed. In the overall exchange, the dentist comes out as the far better man.

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Often we can find several different themes in a story, and it's possible to find evidence for each. "One of These Days" is a powerful story with many themes, but I think that power is one of the strongest themes.

The story is very much a play of power, and as we read, we see power exchanged between the dentist and the mayor. There is a bit of a back-and-forth on who holds the most power and who is most in control of the situation.

In the beginning of the story, the dentist is in control. We see him working slowly, taking his time and not paying attention to much. When the mayor arrives and asks for help, the dentist denies him. However, power changes hands when the mayor threatens to shoot the dentist.

Of course, it quickly switches back when we find out that the dentist also has a gun, and is ready to shoot the mayor as soon as he walks in. He doesn't, but he maintains control of the situation because the mayor's tooth has incapacitated him. The dentist uses his power to deny the mayor anesthesia and to make the extraction especially painful.

But, by the end of the story, power returns again to the mayor, and we know that even while the dentist held control over this situation, the mayor always had more power and always will. This is solidified with the comment that charging him and charging the town is the same, because in the end, bad tooth or not, the mayor has always been in control.

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Revenge, power, and corruption are three main themes in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s "One of These Days." Garcia Marquez conveys the theme of revenge by having the dentist Aurelio Escovar insist on completing the Mayor’s tooth extraction without anesthesia. In the story, the Mayor is suffering from an abscess. Although it is true that many abscesses do not respond well to anesthesia, there are other pain-control methods that dentists can use to deal with tooth abscesses. Because the dentist doesn’t even investigate any of these methods, the reader can assume that he is quite happy to extract the Mayor’s tooth without anesthesia. The reason behind this decision is simple: the dentist wants revenge. After all, while extracting the tooth, the dentist exclaims, "Now you’ll pay for our twenty dead men."

The theme of power is also evident in this story. The dentist, by pulling the tooth from the Mayor’s mouth, exhibits a certain amount of power. (Any reader who has been to the dentist has likely felt that power. After all, there are few experiences that make a person feel more exposed than having a stranger’s hands in the raw, inner-workings of his/her mouth.) However, in “One of These Days,” the dentist's power is brief. In reality, the true power belongs to the Mayor. It is, after all, the Mayor who tells the dentist’s young son that he will shoot the dentist if the dentist does not treat him immediately. Only a person with immense power would make that threat.

Finally, we come to Garcia Marquez’s last theme, that of corruption. We know that both the dentist and the Mayor are corrupt in their own way. The dentist is operating without a degree, and he has a gun in his office. So, in that sense, he is not law-abiding. However, the true corruption lies with the Mayor. Garcia Marquez highlights this fact when, at the story’s end, the dentist asks where he should send the bill. Should he send it to the Mayor or the town? When the Mayor responds, “It’s the same damn thing,” the Mayor’s true corruption is revealed. Clearly, Garcia Marquez is using the Mayor’s corruption as a metaphor for the corruption of all powerful politicians. By the end of "One of These Days," the reader sees the dentist as a weak, vengeful everyman who will employ all that is in his power to exact revenge on the corrupt and powerful.

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