A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

by Gabriel García Márquez

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What theme could be used to compare and contrast "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" and "The Guest"?

"\"A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings\" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez"
"\"The Guest\" by Albert Camus"

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Certainly, one of the characteristic themes of Camus in "The Guest" is the ambiguity of actions, and this theme can also apply to Marquez's story as "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" also reflects the concept that real life is far more uncertain than fiction.  For,often one must choose his own understanding of his environment.

This troublesome nature of interpreting one's environment concerns Daru of "The Guest" as he finds himself in conflict with his own feelings regarding his national loyalty and his obligations as a French colonist. He performs his duty of accepting the prisoner from Balducci, not wishing "to hurt the old Corsican"; however, he tells the gendarme of the Arab, "I won't hand him over" to the authorities.  When the Arab sleeps in his room with him at night, Daru feels imposed upon him "a sort of brotherhood" with the man.  Nevertheless, at the same time, he has a sense of emptiness and vulnerability regarding the gendarme's departure from him.  Then, too, his decision to allow the Arab to choose his own fate is interpreted by the Arab's followers as a betrayal and Darub is castigated by his "own people" and is left feeling alone "in this vast landscape he had loved so much." In his ambiguity of action, Darub is condemned by the other Algerians.

The understanding of one's environment is also problematic for the characters Pelayoand his wife Elisenda in Marquez's story as it is in Camus's narrative.  With Pelayoand his wife, for instance, there are opposing interpretations offered to them by the neighbor woman "who knew everything about life and death" and the priest Father Gonzaga who suspects an impostor and writes to the Supreme Pontiff "in order to get the final verdict from the highest courts."  Yet, in contradiction, the physician who tends to the son and the angel when they contract chicken pox is surprised at the "logic of his wings."

While Marquez seems to ridicule man's desire to explain the ambiguous in a sort of fairy tale of magical realism, Camus treats his work more seriously, extending to it Existentialist motifs. In his "mocking fun," Marquez seems to suggest that it may be necessary to limit one's insistence upon precisemeanings and moral lessons, and to be prepared to enjoy "the sheer wealth of possibility and comic misunderstanding that is presented."  But, Camus finds the conflict between colonist and colonizer very serious--a question of one's essence, in fact.  And, with the ambiguity of attaining a true identity, Daru is environed where "nothing had any connection with man."  For, while neither he nor the Arab can live outside the desert, Camus writes, Daru experiences the existential aloneness of man in the "vast landscape he had loved so much."

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