No One Writes to the Colonel Themes
by Gabriel García Márquez

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No One Writes to the Colonel Themes

One theme in the novella is government repression. The colonel has waited an eternity for a pension that does not arrive, and the government has not lived up to its promise to support him when he agreed to give up fighting with the rebels. His son was killed for passing around subversive pamphlets at a cockfight, and so many people have been killed in the political violence and martial law in which the country is immersed that the colonel remarks that the funeral he attends at the beginning of the story is notable because the person died because of natural causes (no one has died of natural causes in a while). The colonel lives in a state of privation because he can not feed himself and his wife, but no help is forthcoming from the government.

Another theme is the importance of the community. The townspeople claim the rooster as their own and believe that it belongs to them, not just to the colonel and his wife, when the colonel attempts to sell it. In the end, the colonel agrees with them, and he decides not to sell the rooster, even resigning himself to eating, in his words, "shit," to support the rooster. He is willing to sacrifice his own well-being for the betterment of the community.

A final theme is hope and the lack thereof. The colonel has endlessly hoped for over half a century for something better to come along, including the arrival of his pension and the payoff from having the rooster in his possession. It is this hope that keeps him sustained, but, in the end, the colonel gives up his hope. He has no hope or idea of what he and his wife will eat while they wait for the rooster to pay off, and he abandons himself to existing without hope.

Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Although the background for the story is la violencia, the protracted civil war in Colombia, and although the colonel’s problems stem from being a member of the losing party in that civil war, this is not a political novel except in an indirect way. Although García Márquez is a committed leftist, he is by no means a propagandist. His interest in this novel is in the heroic dignity of his protagonist and in his work’s carefully controlled style—the style of the colonel himself. The atmosphere of the story is more pervasive than the social world of political repression and futile underground resistance would seem to suggest. It is a world of decadence and decay as concretely...

(The entire section is 650 words.)