“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

I really hoped you enjoyed reading this story. What Gabriel Garcia Marquez brings us into a world where angels, people transformed into spiders, and an acrobat has bat-like wings exists in a mundane world we can still see ourselves in. The story opens with Pelayo and Elisenda, nursing a sick child, discover a angel has fallen into their courtyard. Now, we have be made to think of angels as beautiful figures; however, what imagery does Marquez use to describe this angel:

He was dressed like a rag-picker. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth, and his pitiful condition of a drenched great-grandfather had taken away any sense of grandeur he might have had.  (380)

This is an angel, when examined up close, is “much too human.” His wings are more buzzard-like, having lost many feathers with parasites. As the narrator remarks, “nothing about him measured up to the proud dignity of angels.” Herein lies the tension – the angel is both magical and real, existing in the fantastical and the everyday.

Yet, Marquez takes our attention away from the angel to refocus it on how everyone attempts to understand this enigmatic creature. Pelayo and Elisenda seek out the advice of the neighbor woman, who advises them to club the angel to death. The Father Gonzaga seeks to test the angel against canonical knowledge – does the angel speak Latin? The townspeople treat him like a roadside attraction: they throw breakfast leftovers at him in the chicken coop. Finally, Elisenda capitalizes on the angel, charging spectators 5 cents.

The inability for anyone to understand the angel speaks to the idea of magical realism. As Luis Leal defines it, “In magical realism, the writer confronts reality and tries to untangle it, to discover what is mysterious in things, in life, in human acts…” The pleasure of magical realism lies in the wonder and confusion, the events that challenge our perception of reality.



About Anthony Funari

Hi, thanks for taking time to stop by my blog, Renaissnace Matters. So here's a little bit about me . . . I am student, scholar, reader, writer, teacher, and general enthusiast about the European Renaissance, a.k.a the Early Modern period. In May 2010, I graduated with my doctorate in English Literature from Lehigh University, focusing my dissertation on the literary reaction to the Scientific Revolution. I currently have an article in the recent issue of Early English Studies (EES). Also, keep an eye out for my forthcoming book through Palgrave MacMillan, Francis Bacon and the 17th-Century Intellectual Discourse.
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