Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a Colombian Nobel prize winner commonly regarded as one of the best authors of the 20th century (Echevarría). His works famously blend elements of fantasy and realism to explore solitude, violence, and the human condition (Echevarría). A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is a short story by Marquez that follows the disruption caused by the sudden appearance of a mysterious old man with wings in Pelayo and Elisenda’s courtyard. Marquez uses these two main characters to illustrate humanity’s inability to recognize or appropriately deal with the sublime once it arrives in their lives.
tailored to your instructions
for only $13.00 $11.05/page
Characters are arguably the most crucial part of any literary work because they move the plot forward and make it compelling. Authors imbue their characters with certain personality traits and force them into conflicts against themselves, others, or society. Their subsequent actions and interactions shape the storyline and reveal the work’s overarching theme, either for the edification or entertainment of the reader. Some characters are vividly described and distinct from any other, while others are simply placeholders for general humanity. The ultimate lesson they have learned — or failed to learn, in some cases — is the principal meaning behind the work the author was attempting to express.
Marquez uses indirect characterization to portray Pelayo and Elisenda as ordinary members of the working class. There is no explicit description of their identity, thought process, or general life situation. They are vague outlines for readers to project themselves onto. The only information provided by the author in the opening paragraph is that they have been throwing crabs back into the sea because their newborn is ill from the stench. From these context clues, it is understandable that they are from a lower socioeconomic stratum of society. This is further solidified by the statement that Elisenda has a twisted spine from sweeping garbage in the marketplace. However, their attempt to fight the crab infestation shows them as still willing to take action and improve their life circumstances.
After discovering the mysterious winged man, Pelayo and Elisenda become active agents that move the plot forward. Pelayo is the one that finds the old winged man in their courtyard and locks him in the chicken coop once a neighbor proclaims that the old man is a lost angel. Then, Elisenda decides to take advantage of the crowd’s interest and charges a five-cent admission rate to see the “angel.” The couple builds a “two-story mansion with balconies and a high garden” for profit, leaving the man to rot in the coop (Marquez). Elisenda and Pelayo are religious people, but they only treat the intruder as a profitable circus act despite his possibly divine origins. Through their actions, Marquez reveals humanity’s tendency to ostracize and exploit the unknown rather than express any compassion or understanding.
In conclusion, Pelayo and Elisenda’s actions shape the storyline and reveal the underlying message of Marquez’s work. Their sparse biography and characterization make them general representatives of humankind rather than distinct personalities. Therefore, their cavalier and exploitative attitude towards a possible angel is ultimately an indictment of human cruelty. Instead of reacting with awe or trying to understand the old man’s origins, Pelayo and Elisenda treat him as a commonplace source of income. Ultimately, it must be concluded that miracles must be happening all the time, but humanity has not learned to recognize them.
Echevarría, Roberto G. “Gabriel Garcia Marquez.” Britannica, Web.
Marquez, G. G. “A very old man with enormous wings.” Translated by Gregory Rabassa. NDSU, Web.
as little as 3 hours