What is a good thesis statement for the short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A most unusual story, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is classified as Magical Realism.  This term of two words is indicative of the central idea of Marquez's story.  For, it is a parody of the act of interpretative process as it treats two facets of this process:  logical explanation and invention/imagination.

To develop this thesis, here are some main points to consider in the search for supporting details:

  • When the old man arrives, Pelayo attempts a logical interpretation, declaring that he is a castaway because he speaks with a "sailor's voice."  However, there is no real logical basis for Pelayo's reason, and it is rejected.  The next interpretation of the old man's appearance is made by a neighbor woman believed to know "everything about life and death."  Her humorously prophetic pronouncement that he is an angel also has no logical foundation.  Five other interpretations offer concrete explanations, but none are logical.  The old man is the mayor of the world, a five-star general, or the first of a race of winged wise men who will take charge of the universe. 
  • When the priest, Father Gonzaga is called upon as the "official" interpreter for the village, he simply sends a letter to the pope, a letter that is never answered.  In the end, there is no explanation for the old man; instead, in their unimaginative way, Pelayo and his wife exploit the old man with wings and make an exhibition of him, charging admission.  When the Spider Woman arrives, the people prefer her since she is partly human and provides them an explanation they can comprehend.  Soon, the old man becomes uninteresting and he is relegated to the backyard, parodying the way that reasons are thrown out.
  • Some interpretations of this story point to the angel's being imaginary, and because the people cannot utilize their magical/imaginative state, they fail to interpret the appearance of the angel.  They  refuse to understand that the magic of the imagination defies reason.  Lacking the imaginative, magical world from which he has come, the old man finally disappears as an "imaginary dot" on the horizon since there are magical events that occur that cannot be interpreted.  This imaginative process takes precedence over the logical as the reasons for the angel are, at best comical.  In addition, the reader becomes involved in the invention/imagination aspect of the story as he/she comes to understand that often the irrational is a natural part of life and, as such, must be accepted.
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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

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