A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

by Gabriel García Márquez

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How is the old man's appearance described in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings?

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Pelayo finds something “moving and groaning” in the yard.  He does not know what it is at first, but when he comes closer he sees a “very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn't get up, impeded by his enormous wings.”  Pelayo is afraid of the “nightmare” and runs to get his wife.  The old man is dressed like a “ragpicker,” and he does not look very impressive.  He is nearly bald with a few hairs, and has few teeth too.

[His] pitiful condition of a drenched great-grandfather took away and sense of grandeur he might have had. His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked were forever entangled in the mud. 

As the couple looks on at him, they sense something “familiar.”  Their neighbor declares that he is an Angel.  She thinks he was coming for the child, but was so old he did not make it.

The old man's appearance is full of contradictions.  He seems strange and familiar at the same time.  He is old and ugly, but also majestic.  His wings contradict the ordinariness of his otherwise normal appearance.  As the story continues, his behavior is the same mixture of human and other-worldly.

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