What do the three people who are consulted about the angel symbolize in the story?"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A most unconventional story, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" presents along with its magical realism a bit of satire in the three people who are consulted about the old angel with buzzard wings,dirty and half-plucked.

1.  Elisenda - The wife of Pelayo is called by her husband to examine the appearance of the very old man with huge buzzard-like wings.  As the husband and wife, Pelayo and Elisenda, stare for long periods at the unsightly angel, they

very soon overcame their surprise and in the end found him familiar. 

But, when they try to speak to him, the angel replies in an incomprehensible dialect with "a strong sailor's voice."  So, they consult a neighbor woman who "knew everything about life and death." Still, in true capitalist fashion, Elisenda becomes an opportunist and decides to sell tickets to see it.

2. The wise neighbor woman - The neighbor who "knew everything about life and death," the woman takes only one look before she determines that the angel has come for Pelayo and Elisenda's child.  As a satiric representation of the superstitious character of the Columbian people, the neighbor woman suggests that the club the old angel to death--one must eliminate what one does not understand.

3. Father Gonzaga - representative of the Roman Catholic Church which also exerts great influence in the lives of the Colombians, Father Gonzaga follows the canon of the church--"he reviewed his catechism in an instant"--in dealing with this fallen angel.  The priest speaks to him in Latin, which all celestial beings understand since it is the language of the Holy Church.  However,

nothing about him measured up to the proud dignity of angels.

So, in observance of the hierarchy of the Church, Father Gonzaga determines that he must write to his bishop so that he, in turn, can write to the Pope, the Supreme Pontiff, "in order to obtain the final verdict from the highest courts."  Thus, nothing is really done because of the bureaucracy of the Church.

All three of these characters interpret the existence of the man with enormous wings within the realm of their particular delusions thereby creating the ambiguity and absurdity that is thematic of Marquez's narrative.

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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

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