A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

by Gabriel García Márquez

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In "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings," how do Pelayo and Elisenda profit from the angel's presence?

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In Gabriel Garcia Marquez's tale "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," the story centers upon the strange and magical appearance of an old man who has huge vulture-like wings. Early in the story, Pelayo and Elisenda, in whose courtyard the old man has fallen, try to figure out his mysterious origins. An old neighbor woman declares that the man is an angel while the local priest argues the man is human. 

Word of the old man spreads quickly and soon everyone in town arrives to see the "captive angel." Indeed, so many people come that they call in soldiers to control the crowd. Elisenda decides to fence in the courtyard and to charge five cents admission to see the old man with wings. 

Pelayo and Elisenda profit immensely from the proceeds of the crowds who want to see the angel. The narrator says that they were "happy with fatigue" because in less than a week they had so much money that their rooms were "crammed" full of it and the line of people to see the angel still stretched into the distance. 

After a time, a new sideshow appears in town - a woman who had been changed into a fearsome spider - that steals all the profits from Pelayo and Elisenda. Still, they are not unhappy because they made enough money to build a large mansion with iron bars (to prevent angels from getting in). Pelayo is able to quit his job and Elisenda wears expensive dresses. Despite their good fortune, though, they do not care for the old man with wings or fix up the chicken coop in which he is imprisoned. Eventually, the old man gains enough strength to fly away. At the very end of the story, Elisenda watches him leave and feels only relief that the old man will no longer be "an annoyance in her life."

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