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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

by Gabriel García Márquez

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Discussion Topic

The miracles and special powers attributed to the old man in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings."

Summary:

The old man in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is attributed with miracles and special powers, including healing the sick and performing inexplicable acts. However, his miracles are often ambiguous and doubted by the villagers, who are skeptical of his divine nature despite witnessing unexplainable events.

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What miracles are attributed to the old man in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"?

This information can be found in the paragraph that also discusses the woman that had been turned into a spider. Three miracles are attributed to the old man, but the miracles are not seen as entirely amazing or good things. In fact, they actually hurt his reputation. The first miracle deals with a blind man. Rather than being granted sight, he grew three new teeth. The second miracle involved a paralytic almost winning the lottery rather than being able to walk again. The third miracle has flowers spouting out of the sores on a leper. The people believe that for some reason the old man must be mocking them rather than granting them correct miracles. His reputation is further damaged by these failed miracles, and the people grow even more tired of him.

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What special powers is the old man believed to have in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"?

Some people have exalted ideas about the strange old man who has landed, believing he is supernatural, or filled with "human truth"; others feel he is "a cataclysm in repose."

In this magical realist story, Marquez writes of a strange being who becomes subject to the interpretation of those who view him. After a severe storm, one of the main characters named Pelayo finds on his property an aged man, dressed like "a ragpicker," lying facedown in the mud. In spite of the man's efforts, he is unable to lift himself because of his huge buzzard wings that impede him. Terrified by this creature, Pelayo runs to his wife Elisenda, who looks at him for a long time. Then, they speak to this man and he responds with "an incomprehensible dialect with a strong sailor's voice." Later, he is described as using the "tongue twisters of an old Norwegian."

Pelayo and Elisenda call in their neighbor, who tells them,

"He's an angel....He must have been coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old that the rain knocked him down."

Later, the neighbors toss the old man things to eat through the wires of the chicken coop where he has been dragged. In this case, the "angel" is treated more like a circus animal. The next day, the priest, Father Gonzaga, arrives because he is alarmed by the news of this creature. Others follow and perceive the winged old man as a great being who should be promoted to the rank of five-star general.

One of the special powers that the old man with enormous wings is thought to possess is healing. It is believed that he has cured Pelayo and Elisenda's sick child because shortly after the old man arrived, the child "woke up without a fever and with a desire to eat." After this cure, others flock to be cured of afflictions and "a few miracles" are attributed to the "angel." But, the miracles attributed to him are termed "consolation miracles" since they are not complete. For example, there is the blind man who has not recovered his sight, but has, instead grown three new teeth; a paralytic who has not risen and walked, but has almost won a lottery, and a leper whose sores have "sprouted sunflowers."

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