A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

by Gabriel García Márquez

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How does the element of fantasy support the theme of "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"?

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This excellent short story is an example of magic realism, which is a literary form characterised by elements of fantasy that are juxtaposed with everyday, realistic settings. The elements of fantasy are clear to all of us: the sudden, mysterious appearance of the angel, combined with other, freakish characters such as the woman who was transformed into a spider for dancing all night without parental permission. However, it is important to ask what Marquez is trying to say through this story.

Much has been written on this vexing question. The very fact that there is so little to grasp about an obvious theme leads some to suggest that Marquez has actually written a very clever story about the nature of interpretation by considering how the villagers view the appearance of the angel. What they make of their surprise guest is governed by speculations, supersitions and gossip. They show the influence of stupid ideas in their thinking by stating the fact that mothballs are what angels eat. Throughout the story, they seem to show their ignorance by their faith in their own wisdom. Of course, the irony of this theme goes deeper, as it seems that Marqez thrusts us as readers into this very role as we struggle to interpret and understand the fantastical elements of his story. When we ask what the angel represents, perhaps we are falling into the same trap as the villagers: trying to rely on conventional wisdom to understand something that is beyond explanation, and showing our own ignorance in just such a way.

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