Review: “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Márquez

July 14, 2010 at 11:46 am 1 comment

Leaf Storm“A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”
from Leaf Storm and Other Stories by Gabriel García Márquez
Reviewed by Foo Yang Yi (2I4)

“A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” is a story featured in Leaf Storm and Other Stories, a short story collection by Gabriel García Márquez. This particular story is an example of magical realism, where fictional elements (for example, magic) are used in a realistic atmosphere to perhaps understand reality.

This story depicts the arrival of an old man with wings in a seaside town or village, perhaps in a medieval setting due to the behaviours or actions of the characters. Naturally, this attracts the curiousity of the local residents, who either treat him as an angel, or simply have fun at his expense, usually by doing things like offering him papal lunches, or throwing him mothballs, fruit peels and breakfast leftovers as how they would treat a lowly animal. Eventually, at the end of the story, the old man departs, leaving some people feeling slightly relieved due to the hype that was caused while he was still around. This story might be a children’s story as Marquez claims it to be, but there are indeed many sides to it. Throughout this story, we are shown the antics of the villagers, their attitudes and good or bad sides, and other incidents (for example, the woman who is turned into a spider), as well as traits that apply to most human beings that we can observe while reading this story.

While there aren’t many of the typical elements we might see in a story, like a rising/falling action or a climax, the narration requires us to pay attention to the details for us to understand what is going on, and perhaps pick out what we observe. For example: “Pelayo and Elisenda were happy with fatigue, for in less than a week they had crammed their rooms with money and the line of pilgrims still waiting their turn to enter reached beyond the horizon.” I feel that details such as these are the more interesting parts in the story due to their showing of the more common, yet perceived as despicable, human traits.

While this book is entirely fictional due to its use of fantasy elements, the traits of the villagers parallel those of actual people (for example, their greed). Pelayo fences in the area and charges people five cents per entry to see the old man, and in the end is left with rooms crammed with money. Others do not seek individual gain, but gains for the community at large, such as making the old man the mayor, or giving him the position of a five-star general to win all wars. Some also treat him with insensitivity, like holding him captive in a chicken coop among hens, while having fun at his expense: “tossing him things to eat through the openings in the wire as if he weren’t a supernatural creature but a circus animal.” In the meantime, the old man is the only one who does not actively participate in these events, but merely tries to make himself comfortable and ignore the villagers. This tactic is disrupted when they burn him with a red-hot iron to try to induce rage or pain, therefore showing hardly any care for what he feels.

In conclusion, I think that this particular story is very interesting, and I recommend this for fans of the fantasy genre as well as for those who reflect a lot on what they have read.

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Entry filed under: Fantasy, Reviews.

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