Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 299
The villagers treat the old man like a ''circus animal;’’ they toss him food and speculate about what should be done with him. Some think he should be made ''mayor of the world,'' others want him to be a ‘‘five-star general in order to win all wars,’’ and still others...
(The entire section contains 299 words.)
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The villagers treat the old man like a ''circus animal;’’ they toss him food and speculate about what should be done with him. Some think he should be made ''mayor of the world,'' others want him to be a ‘‘five-star general in order to win all wars,’’ and still others hope he will father a superrace of ''winged wise men who could take charge of the universe.’’ The village priest arrives to inspect the captive, and presumably to make a more reasoned judgment on his nature. Father Gonzaga suspects ''an impostor'' at once and finds the old man's pathetic appearance to be strongly at odds with the church's traditional image of heavenly messengers. Finding the old man smelly and decrepit, his battered wings infested with insects, and showing no knowledge of church etiquette, the priest concludes that ''nothing about him measured up to the proud dignity of angels.’’ Despite his skepticism, he refuses to give a definitive ruling on the old man, choosing instead to write letters to his church superiors and wait for a written verdict from scholars in the Vatican. In the meantime, he warns the villagers against reaching any rash conclusions.
But word of the "angel" has already traveled too far, drawing fantastic crowds and creating a carnival atmosphere; events unfold quickly, described in language that suggests the exaggerated, dreamlike world of fairytales.
Surrounded by all this hectic activity, the old man takes ‘‘no part in his own act,’’ keeping to himself and tolerating the abuses and indignities of his treatment with a patience that seems to be ‘‘[h]is only supernatural virtue.’’ Drawn by the crowds, traveling circuses and carnivals arrive in town—including one that provides formidable competition for the puzzling attraction of ''a haughty angel who scarcely deigned to look at mortals.’’