Social Concerns / Themes

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 791

In some ways," remarked Garcia Marquez in an interview with Marlise Simons, "all my books are about love. In One Hundred Years of Solitude (1970), there is one love story after another. Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1983) is a terrible drama of love. . . . This time love is more ardent. Because two loves join and go on." Referring to Love in the Time of Cholera, Garcia Marquez admits to crafting a deliberate and clearly sentimental celebration of the theme of love. This is a novel of passion, romance, pursuit, rejection and at long last fruition. Youthful love is portrayed against aging as well as ageless love. Yet inherent in the novel is a complexity of purpose which enables Garcia Marquez to explore a far more intricate landscape. What on the surface appears an old-fashioned love story is in effect a tale ravaged by the passage of time. For some, love endures, but for others, love fades from view or disappears entirely. For those without love, existence is consumed by the "torrents of memory," old age becomes a wearisome companion, and the joy of living is silenced by the inevitability of death. Set in an unnamed Caribbean port city, seemingly a composite of the Cartagena and Barranquilla of Garcia Marquez's early career as a journalist, the novel spans a period from the late 1870s to the early 1930s. Intertwining the lives of his three principal characters, Garcia Marquez blends the precise detail of ordinary life with the extraordinary pageantry of human experience. The novel begins on a Pentecost Sunday when the eighty-one year old Dr. Juvenal Urbino returns home agonizing over the suicide that morning of a beloved friend. He promptly meets his own death by accidentally falling from a ladder while attempting to capture a pet parrot from the top of a mango tree. It is this incident which at once evokes the distant longing of unrequited love and predetermines the future course of the novel. In mourning for her husband, the newly attired widow Fermina Daza is approached by Florentino Ariza who repeats to her a vow made fifty-one years, nine months, and four days before "of eternal fidelity and everlasting love," As the inconsiderate Fiorentino is shown a rather hasty exit, the destiny of the would-be lovers quietly enters through the same door. At this point, Garcia Marquez returns some sixty years to re-create the story of each of his protagonists played out before a backdrop of progress, passivity, civil war, and cholera epidemics.

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Modeled in part on the courtship of his parents, the relationship between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza begins when the two meet and fall in love, an affair carried out by letter, telegram, and serenade. When the romance is discovered by Fermina's father, he hurriedly takes her away on what becomes a "journey of forgetting." Upon her return, Fermina rejects Florentino and eventually marries the far more eligible Dr. Juvenal Urbino. Devastated by the rejection, Florentino embarks on his own journey only to return determined to win back Fermina's love. The task proves more arduous than anticipated, and Florentino must wait nearly half a century to realize his objective. In spite of his declaration of fidelity, Florentino is hardly idle in his vigil, recording in some twenty-five notebooks entries of 622 long-term liaisons, that is "apart from the countless fleeting adventures that did not even deserve a charitable note." Meanwhile, he dedicates himself to the pursuit of fame and fortune in preparation for his final conquest, rising to become head of the River Company of the Caribbean. In the end, love does indeed triumph; at least a kind of love. The lovers are finally united when he is seventy-six and she is seventy-two. This time they journey together up river aboard the New Fidelity , raising the yellow flag of...

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  • Characters
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