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A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Magical Realism

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of the greatest writers from the 20th century. He was born in Aracataca, Columbia on March 6, 1927. For the first eight years of his life, Marquez and his parents lived at his grandparent’s house. When his grandfather passed, they moved to Barranquilla. Marquez went on to receive a wonderful education and would study law. However, he inevitably became a journalist. Early in his career he worked as a correspondent for Paris, but he later moved to Mexico City. In Mexico City, he wrote the novel that brought him fame and wealth, One Hundred Years of Solitude (Britannica). In 1982, Marquez became the fourth Latin American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Sadly, he was diagnosed with cancer in 1999. He later passed away on April 17, 2014 in Mexico.

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings was published in 1955. It is a story about an angel who shows up to a rather small town with no explanation of being there. Pelayo and Elisenda, the main characters of the story, find the angel by their house battered and in less than ideal condition. The angel is an old man. He is dirty, his wings are torn, and he is lying face down in the mud. The angel is imprisoned in an old chicken coop in Pelayo and Elisenda’s yard because they are afraid. They are afraid because they do not understand him. Although the angel mumbled and was literally not understandable, he has misunderstood in the sense that no one knew where he came from, why this man had wings and why he was in their town. In the beginning of the story, the audience is told of the sick child that belongs to Pelayo and Elisenda. The child begins to recover when the angel arrives, yet no one in the town attributes it to the angel’s presence. The angel is not understood as the miracle that he is. Even though the angel had ‘enormous wings’, Pelayo, Elisenda and the others seem to focus more on the angel’s human characteristics rather than the ones that make him an angel. They believe he seems too human to fit their idea of what an angel should be. When the angel is found, “lying face down in the mud” he is quickly imprisoned (Marquez). Instead of thinking of and trying to understand why the angel was there (to help the child) he was locked away. Marquez and the angel can be compared as both being misunderstood. The comparison comes from all writers having their own style that can be misunderstood if readers do not take the time to read into their works.

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While Marquez was writing A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, there was a civil war going on between Columbia’s conservative and Liberal parties. In this story, as well as many others, Marquez uses magic realism to bring his stories to life. Marquez’s technique of ‘magic realism’ is defined as an author placing a fantastical element within a realistic setting. The angel, a magical being, is placed amid an old, non-exciting town. The angel in the story can symbolize Christianity. He is something unknown to the community. He soon became the talk of the town. The angel becomes quite the spectacle as, “the curious came from far away” (Marquez). Throughout the entire story, even though he is treated like a circus freak show, the angel remains incredibly patient. Patience is a major characteristic of Christianity. The towns people are not used to this idea and therefore view the angel as a threat. They are skeptical instead of attempting to get to know the angel and why he is there. It is evident that the town is not accepting of change. Instead, the angel is used as entertainment. Elisenda takes it even further and begins to make a profit by charging others to come and view the angel. This is an interesting turn to the story. It exemplifies Marquez’s belief that religious ideas are frequently corrupted by the opportunity to gain selfishly. The angel is not viewed as the gift he is, rather he is just seen as a foreign object.

The idea of magic realism can also be seen in the angel’s appearance. Angels are thought to be pure and clean. However, this angel was, “… dressed like a ragpicker. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth…His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked, were forever entangled in the mud.” (Marquez). This represents the idea that, although the angel is magical, he is still human. Meaning not all miracles have to be other worldly. They can be simple and can happen anywhere and at any time

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