Research Context Essay: A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or locally known as Gabo, was born in 1928 at a small Colombian village near the Caribbean coast. Because his parents were so poor, his grandparents chose to raise him, and later he would say that he drew much of his inspirational stories from his dear grandmother. Gabriel is said to be one of the greatest authors of the 20th century and one of the best in the Spanish language. He is the first Colombian ever to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. His works have received great acclaim and success.
He is most notably known for popularizing and co-creating the style magic realism, which uses magical elements and events in ordinary and realistic situations, it is in this fashion that he brought his work to life. ” (Maurya, 53) Marquez published his first collection of short stories in 1955 which included “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” and immediately the book was a complete success, however that particular story was not. A Very Old Man is perhaps the clearest and most famous example of a genre that Garcia Marquez helped to create: magical realism.
This style combines ordinary ife with fantasy and magic. It tends to be made almost completely of fiction. Being very similar to folk legends or fairy tales, “magic realism” avoids the morals found in most folk stories. Instead, magical realism creates a complex and problematic world free of moral lessons. A Very Old Man can be read in different interpretations. It seems like it’s an unusual story of a town dealing with an old lost angel on the first read. It also sounds like a children’s story, which is exactly what Marquez called it.
Marquez relies on the myths and legends of his South American heritage, and draws rom these native and simple sources. However, the story calls into question the manner in which people make sense of their world around them, and what they know to be their deepest truths. The style of magical realism he uses is a very realistic detail alongside magical details. Fantasy is joined together with the ordinary and this convinces the reader to accept both of these sides as they try to understand the story. It becomes very difficult to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not in Magical Realism.
Because of the layout of the story’s presentation of events, it is difficult to tell the difference etween magic and normal. Bernard McGuirk and Richard Cardwell say, “Magical realism expands the categorizes of the real so as to encompass myth, magic and other extraordinary phenomena in Nature or experience which European realism excluded” (McGuirk and Cardwell 45). Throughout the whole of the story, the unknown, doubt ambiguity are seen all throughout, and Marquez gets these results in a number of ways. In the setting and the events occuring, he uses the changing voice of the narrator to complicate things.
At first, the third-person omniscient point of view, the narrator, gradually eveals opinions on certain points, supporting some characters and condemning the others. Marquez always ties his story to a teller so we aren’t able to get a clean read on the situation, or even to know if it happened at all. This narrative level of uncertainty translates a simple moral tale that pretends to speak universally. Now the two major supernatural occurrences in the story are the old man with wings himself and the girl who has been turned into a spider. The people in the story treat the old man as an oddity, but not as a supernatural oddity.
They treat him ore as a freak of nature than something beyond nature. The old man appears to be nothing more than a frail human with wings, and so his status as an angel is endlessly debated. One character, Father Gonzaga thinks that he cannot be an angel because he lacks dignity and splendor. Of course this begs the question of whether the angel lacks dignity spiritually, or whether he lacks dignity because of the way he is treated – cooped up in a cage. Perhaps it is the people who lack dignity, not the old man. This was exactly the point that Marquez was trying to make to his audience. Men lack dignity.
The old man’s other supernatural characteristic – his incredible patience in the face of his treatment – does not make much of an impression on the majority of the people, who are happy to exploit him until bored with him. Marquez contrasts the supernatural in his story with natural details, in doing so he messes with the supernatural and the everyday. Pelayo does not see a large difference between a natural oddity like the crabs in his house, and a supernatural one like the invasion of a strange angel. Even when Pelayo and Elisenda build their mansion, they secure it from crabs and ngels alike, treating both as equally.
And still, the angel’s wings are described in gross detail. When he first appears they are crippled by mud. He is described at one point as a senile vulture, in another as a ‘huge decrepit hen among the fascinated chickens’, and in paragraph four the crowds treat him like a ‘circus animal instead of a supernatural creature. ‘ These ideas serve to blur the distinction between the real or natural and the supernatural. Garcia Marquez could be suggesting that a distinction like this is unnecessary, or that people are simply blind to it.
Whether it is a failure to impose the boundary or ignore it is a matter of interpretation – and the story, ultimately, invites interpretation more than it invites significant meaning. Gabriel wrote this story because there was a genuine need for it. The angel is the catalyst for the family’s recovery from their destitution. Before the arrival of the angel, they are just a poor family with a dying son living near the sea. Once the heavenly one is captured, the son recovers and the family uses the angel for financial gain. Marquez is specifically using this story show is audience it’s true human nature.
An incredible being falls to the Earth and the humans use it for gain. Eventually, the family grows to resent the angel and they wish it would vanish because as humans, we are cursed with selfishness. Instead of the simplistic, happy ending of the ordinary fairy tale, the characters are allowed to exploit what pains real people: their sinful hearts. “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 nnoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea” (275).
The original target audience, in my mind, was younger kids. The book is even mentioned by Garcia himself as being a children’s tale. But after some closer depth into the history of the story, we find that the name of the town itself isn’t even real, “… it is lived in this timeless, nameless village” (Faulkner 2). Some argue that this story parallels Marquez’s life’s work and how it was ill received by his audience in his time, pointing to similarities between the “angel” and Marquez’s work. This one nterpretation can relate his life as a writer to that of the angel’s life.
The angel would be Garcia Marquez and the villagers would be the public; the angel’s wings represent how extraordinary his work is and yet the villagers (his audience) cannot seem to understand the wings ( 330). “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is a very unique and interesting work. Though in its time it was not greatly appreciated. The narrator provides the only account of the story and leads the reader to assume that almost everything he or she says is fact therefore guiding us to accept the strange winged man.
The use of sensory details, describing the winged man as “decrepit” and actually very old, makes the reader see that this supernatural creature is not super at all; he experiences problems similar to that of a human. Through these literary elements, the reader is able to experience the unique style of Garcia Marquez’s magical realism, a style that allows the magic to seem altogether ordinary. Magical realism is not merely “the creation of imaginary beings or worlds but the discovery of the mysterious relationship between man [woman] and his [her] circumstances” (Little 122), but something much greater.