One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

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Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Conceived as a family saga, One Hundred Years of Solitude ostensibly tells the story of five generations of the Buendia family. More importantly, however, the novel functions as a phantasmagorical odyssey and serves as a metaphor for the intangible enchantment and mournful existence that defines the essence of Latin America. Set in the imaginary locale of Macondo, identifiable in part with Garcia Marquez's birthplace of Aracataca, the novel evolves both as a chronological history and a microcosm of biblical allusion from creation to apocalypse. An extraordinary artistic achievement, One Hundred Years of Solitude incorporates a broad range of literary traditions, thematic and structural complexities, and narrative mastery that form a cohesive and seemingly flawless creative entity.

Macondo is founded by Jose Arcadio Buendia, patriarch of the Buendia family and guiding force of a community in exile, who conceives the setting as an earthly paradise, deliberately segregated from the reality of the outside world. Instinctively doomed from its inception, Macondo is eventually penetrated by evil in the guise of modern civilization and the once wondrous creation begins its century of decay, despite the arrival of a symbolic flood intended to cleanse Macondo and seemingly return it to Eden. The purge, however, is only temporary, and the decimation by foreign intervention, exploitation, economic opportunism, corruption, political despotism, and civil war is ultimately complete; in ritualistic fashion, Macondo is swallowed by the jungle which surrounds it.

Offering either insight into his artistic purpose or perhaps playfully evading the issue, Garcia Marquez once commented that his intention in writing what would become his most significant novel was merely "to tell the story of a family who for a hundred years did everything they could to prevent having a son with a pig's tail, and just because of their very efforts to avoid having one they ended by doing so." Taken at his word, Garcia Marquez seems extremely fortunate in having produced such a monumental success; however, the creative genesis for One Hundred Years of Solitude is more appropriately the culmination of his life and expectation as an author. Thematic elements in the novel as well as the setting of Macondo are instrumental in much of his earlier fiction, including Leaf Storm (1955), No One Writes to the Colonel (1961), and In Evil Hour (1962). Of most importance, virtually running as a current throughout his literary oeuvre, the concept of solitude ceremoniously graces the novel's title and serves to identify Garcia Marquez's artistic legacy. Perceptively analyzed in the critical study The Labyrinth of Solitude (1961) by Octavio Paz, Mexican poet and critic, the concept itself is meant to reflect the symbolic isolation of both a people and a culture. Emphasizing its literary significance, Garcia Marquez referred to solitude as "the only subject I've written about, from my first novel until the one I'm working on now."

One Hundred Years of Solitude is remarkably crafted as a story within a story; however, the reader discovers this arrangement only toward the end of the novel, reinforcing its cyclical structure within a chronological line of development. Attempting to unify fantasy and reality into a single presence, Garcia Marquez creates a novel which negates the rational in favor of the dream, allowing the ordinary to become a source of wonderment and conversely to make that which is wondrous a source of ordinary possibility. Consequently, the "magic" of Garcia Marquez's fiction affords him his greatest strength as an author.

Themes

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Solitude
The dominant theme of the novel, as evident from the title, is solitude. Each character has his or her particular form of solitude. Here solitude is not defined as loneliness, but rather a fated seclusion by space or some neurotic obsession. In fact, the danger of being marked by solitude is its affect on others. "If you have to go crazy, please go crazy all by...

(The entire section is 3,073 words.)