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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

by Gabriel García Márquez

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How are the story's plot elements related to the presentation of the character in "A Vey Old Man With Enormous Wings"? How do the angel's behavior and attitude determine the turns of the narrative?

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In Gabriel García Márquez's short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," the plot elements are intricately woven with the presentation of the central character, who is the old man or the angel. The narrative explores themes of human nature, compassion, and the supernatural through the interactions between the angel and the other characters.

Character Presentation and Plot Elements: The angel in the story is presented not as a majestic or awe-inspiring figure but as a decrepit, old man who is both pitiful and mysterious. His arrival in Pelayo and Elisenda’s courtyard during a stormy night sets the stage for the unfolding of the plot. The physical state of the angel, with his bald head and tattered wings, contrasts sharply with the traditional, grandiose images of angels. This juxtaposition drives the narrative and influences the reactions of the characters within the story.

As the story progresses, the plot reveals more about human nature than about the angel himself. The townspeople’s reaction to the angel—initially one of curiosity and wonder, eventually turning into exploitation—highlights themes of exploitation and desensitization. Elisenda and Pelayo, for instance, start charging admission to see the angel, turning him into a spectacle for financial gain.

Angel’s Behavior and Narrative Turns: The angel’s passive and resigned attitude in the face of exploitation is critical to the development of the narrative. Despite his seemingly miraculous nature, he does not perform grand miracles (aside from some ambiguous, small-scale ones) and suffers from human-like ailments and indignities. This behavior influences the plot significantly, as it shapes the community's response to him. His lack of resistance allows the townspeople to exploit him without moral restraint.

Moreover, the angel’s mysterious powers are hinted at but never fully revealed, which maintains the story’s magical realism style. His eventual recovery and flight away from the village mark the climax of the story, symbolizing transcendence and the ineffable nature of the miraculous. His departure leaves the townspeople and even Elisenda with a sense of relief, yet also a poignant recognition of their own losses and failures.

In conclusion, the angel’s behavior and attitude are central to the turns of the narrative in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings." His presence acts as a mirror reflecting the moral and ethical stances of the human characters, and his passive endurance serves to expose their tendencies toward cruelty, exploitation, and indifference, while also leaving room for introspection and redemption. The plot, intertwined with the angel’s mysterious persona, challenges the reader to contemplate the complexity of human emotions and the ambiguous nature of the supernatural.

Expert Answers

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The generated response is correct in its identification of the plot elements related to the presentation of character in “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings.” It also offers a good explanation of how the angel’s behavior and attitude determine the turns of the narrative.

You may want to pay special attention to the reactions the angel (if that is indeed what the old man is) inspires in the people who see him. He is so different from them and from what they expect angels to look like that their reactions range from fear to curiosity to cruelty. As the generated response notes, most people treat the man/angel with great disrespect, and the man/angel, for his part, does little to discourage this or encourage other treatment. Likely, he simply cannot do so in his condition, but it is interesting to think about how people’s reactions tie in to a character’s behavior.

The story also encourages readers to examine their own attitudes toward those who are different from them and how they respond to such people. In fact, they are nudged to recognize whether or not they behave like the townspeople and to examine their motives for their actions.

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