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Conflict in “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Márquez


The concept of conflict in literature denotes the ideological confrontation of the sublime and the low, good and evil. In general terms, a conflict in a literary work is a struggle of opposing forces: multiple heroes, the central character of the work and nature, or the hero with oneself. The struggle of opposites provides a special impact on the reader. Such a confrontation excites the imagination with the possibility of different options for the denouement of history (both positive and negative outcome of events). The conflict is needed, first of all, in order to set the ideological orientation of the plot. It provides the interconnection of opposite images, the harmonious alignment of the composition.

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Conflict In the Story

In the story “A very old man with enormous wings” there is a conflict between the landscape (nature) and the hero. At the beginning of the story, it rains continuously for three days, the newborn is threatened with death, and the spouses drive the crabs out of the yard. This picture becomes almost apocalyptic when an angel is found lying in the mud in the corner of the patio. Throughout the story, the reader’s gaze is turned to the only place on earth – the chicken coop in the yard of Pelayo and Elisenda (Marquez). The smallest details are visible: droppings, bread crumbs, lamps at the entrance; such a dirty, uncomfortable environment conflicts with the image of a pure, immaculate angel. Only at the end of the story, the reader’s gaze, along with Elisenda’s gaze, moves to the sky, beyond the horizon, where the angel flew away. Physically, Elisenda raises her eyes to the sky, but in a figurative sense this does not happen to any of the characters in the story.

The second conflict is the conflict of the main character – the angel – and the surrounding people. For many villagers, and the whole neighborhood as a whole, the angel was like a beast in a zoo. Some threw the remains of food into the old man’s cage, others plucked feathers from his wings, believing that they would help against diseases. Some cauterized the old man with iron, which is used to mark animals, to see if he reacts to pain. No one stood up for him, not even Padre Gonzaga, the representative of the church, when he could not make out what language the angel was speaking (Marquez). Soon everyone forgot about the old man with wings, as a new wonder – Spider Woman – appeared.

The third conflict consists in the representation and purpose of the angel and his appearance: the hero appears naked, dirty and defenseless. This toothless old man with battered wings does not look like the picture angels of Raphael, Botticelli, or Da Vinci. Perhaps it is such an angel that flies to cruel people: he is like a mirror that shows the souls of people as they really are.

Providing Challenges

The challenges faced by the heroes as a result of conflicts are related to the need for humanity. As a result of the conflict, people could have shown hospitality, empathy, respect for age. However, the people turned out to be cruel barbarians, and Pelayo and Elisenda also treated the angel cruelly and ungratefully. The challenges presented to people consisted in the ability to appreciate the good, not to take it for granted. Misunderstanding and unmotivated cruelty, unfortunately, were a reaction against the new and unknown. The challenge was also to revise the wingless, philistine life. The conflict of external and internal ideas about angels was supposed to encourage people to dream of something more important than material prosperity.

Giving Ideas

The conflict between the essence and the appearance of an angel is intended to prompt the reader to the idea of a break between spiritual life and material life. Because of his appearance, no one treats an angel as a celestial. Nevertheless, miracles happen in the life of the spouses, which they, immersed in the cares of everyday life, do not notice. With the arrival of the angel, the newborn is recovering, the material condition of the spouses is gradually recovering. Obviously, their primitive desires are being fulfilled: Pelayo started a rabbit nursery and refused a position, Elisenda bought high-heeled patent leather shoes and a lot of silk dresses. Thus, the conflict between the fact that an angel can still perform miracles (his inner essence) and looks earthly (external) suggests to the reader that the “non-angelic” appearance of an angel is a reflection of the scarcity of their spiritual and spiritual life.


Due to the introduction of conflicts into the novel, the ordinariness and cruelty of the human world, the inability of people to take time and reflect on their life are shown. This demonstrates the irrepressible desire of human nature to see different things, but not to understand their essence. The conflict in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel “A very old man with enormous wings” is a very philosophical tool that makes the reader think about who people truly are, about their soul, about human humanism, about the desire to be better. The fantastic and mystical elements of the conflict served to manifest and exacerbate the problems of the real picture of the world.

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Work Cited

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. North Dakota State University, 2007. Web.

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