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Garcia Marquez's

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"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"

Critical Analysis

If I ask you to picture an angel, what do you see? Is it a vibrant white, majestically dressed individual with lush and strong wings who commands reverence with his presence? What does this ethereal creature stand for? Righteousness? Protector of good and the purest form of a celestial being besides God? If you have read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" then you may have been introduced to a conflicting image of an angel. This angel is in no way similar to the one described above. Actually, we are not even sure he is an angel. What we do know after reading this story is that the creature presented represents the overwhelming need of humans to understand and interpret every facet of their lives. The angel does not fit the general consensus of what an angel is and leaves human expectations unmet. This story embodies the nature of humans to explain, categorize, and label any affair that is not already so.

Marquez's story is written in a fairy tale format with strong magic realism elements throughout. This style combines real, normal details of day to day life with fantasy and blurs the reader's division of reality and magic. This method of writing emphasizes the attempt of man to apply logic and knowledge to all matters. Marquez is so skilled in this technique that we come to view the fact of the old man with wings as acceptable, just as the characters in the story do. At the same time we are searching for the moral or the inside joke or the scientific reasoning as to why this man is possible. We, as readers, are equivalent to the priest in the story who warns his fellow villagers that "the devil had the bad habit of making use of carnival tricks [...]" (544). Or maybe we side with the old medicine woman "who knew everything about life and death [...]" and announced him as an angel (543). My point is that things cannot just be left unexplained and accepted as is. Instead, they must be dissected and have judgment and opinion offered from every angle. The mysterious nature of this creature's existence is the central problem of the story but the main idea underneath it all is the search for understanding.

There are four major points in the story that begin with the arrival of the old man and end with his departure. This timeline also can be viewed as the cycle in which humans partake when dealing with the unexplained. With the arrival of the old man, the people are shocked and swept up into what his coming means. The old medicine woman believes he has come for the sick child, while other individuals comment that he should become "mayor of the world [...]" or a high ranking general (544). The excitement of this period spills over into the short lived extraordinary sensation of his presence. This period entails the constant viewing of the old man and the various means of understanding and communicating



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