A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

by Gabriel García Márquez

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Who is the narrator of "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"?

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The narrator of "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is a third-person omniscient speaker who stands outside of the events in the story. He is omniscient because he enters into the minds of various different characters. Strikingly, however, he never communicates the thoughts of the winged old man, leaving him as mysterious to us as he is to the villagers.

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"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is told by a third-person omniscient narrator who stands above the story, informing us of what is going on from a place outside of the story's events. Strikingly, however, this narrator seems only to be able to relay the thoughts of the villagers in the story, particularly Pelayo and Elisenda, the couple who find and care for/exploit the old man. We also learn the thoughts of the priest, who evaluates whether or not the old man is an angel, and we are privy to the collective voice of local people, who react to the visitation of this old man as a strange event and insist, despite the warnings of the priest, on considering him an angel.

What we might most like to know, however, are the thoughts of the old man himself. Yet we only see him from the outside, as the villagers do. For example, when Pelayo and Elisenda try to speak to him,

he answered in an incomprehensible dialect with a strong sailor's voice.

Because they can't understand what he says, we can't either. Because they have no access to his thoughts or interiority, we do not either. Therefore, although the narration is clearly omniscient—it moves in and out of different people's minds—the speaker chooses to limit this omniscience. By not explaining to us who the old man is or what he is thinking or not thinking, the narrator leaves this figure as mysterious to us as he is to the villagers.

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“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a short story that falls into the category of magical realism. It is told through a third-person omniscient point of view. This means that there is not a character that narrates the story. Instead, the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all the characters and is able to share them with the audience.

This gives each character more depth and meaning, so it works well for character development. The audience is able to know things about characters that other characters do not know. In magical realism, this point of view gives the audience an opportunity to determine what is real and what is not based on a fuller understanding on the characters instead of what the characters know about each other.

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The third-person omniscient point of view—or God's eye perspective, if you will—is particularly appropriate to the story, as it makes it much harder for the reader to figure out whether the old man really is an angel or just a con artist. Furthermore, the story's point of view separates us from the characters and their actions, thus heightening the sense of magical realism that pervades the unfolding events.

On the one hand, the story takes place in a recognizable place, a remote coastal village somewhere in Latin America. Yet at the same time, the events that occur are strange and beguiling. It is these two paradoxical elements that combine to form magic realism.

Thanks to the third-person omniscient point of view, what we see is what we get, and so we are forced to decide for ourselves what's real and what isn't in the narrative. This draws us deeper into the story, making us more anxious to find out what happens next and to see how this remarkable fable will eventually pan out.

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Gabriel García Márquez's story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is a classic example of magic realism in storytelling.

The narrator is a standard third-person omniscient viewpoint; there is no one character telling the story, no "I" or other personal pronoun, and the use of metaphor and stylistic strokes show that no one in the story is simply telling it to someone else. For example, the last lines of the story:

She kept watching him even when she was through cutting the onions and she kept on watching until it was no longer possible for her to see him, because then he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea.
(Márquez, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," salvoblue.homestead.com)

--show that the narrator can see the inner thoughts of the woman. Normally, if there was a narrator telling the story, inner thoughts of other characters could only be guessed. However, it is normal in third-person omniscient to show multiple viewpoints. The narrator therefore takes a backseat to the story itself, instead of intruding with opinions and bias. In this manner, the story could be told by any person, either present at the scene or recounting a story told by another. The effect is to remove the need for judgement from the author and place it on the reader, who must decide what the story means personally.

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