Comparing the Train in The South and One Hundred Years of Solitude

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In One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and "The South" by Jorge Luis Borges, many similar devices are used by the authors. Their presentations and their uses are sometimes similar and at times dissimilar. There is one device that is used by both authors that is one of the most prominent devices in both works--the train. The presentation and use of the train in both texts is different, but in both it is a method of transportation and an evil entity that is an active symbol of change.

Juan Dahlmann, the protagonist in Borges' "The South", cuts his forehead on the edge of a recently painted door and is poisoned. He is taken to a sanitarium where he makes a gradual recovery. After his release, Dahlmann takes a train to his ranch in the South for further recuperation.

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the train is brought in by Aureliano Triste, a son of Colonel Aureliano Buendía, when his ice business outgrows the local market. With the coming of the train, Macondo becomes verily linked to the outside world.

The train in "The South" is presented as a sleek, mystical, and evil entity. Before Dahlmann leaves for his ranch, he visits a café where there is a black cat, sleeping. It is almost as if it is lying in waiting for something. The cat is described as "the magical animal"(1). Immediately following is a description of the train, which is described as being lying waiting. A connection between the mystical animal and the mechanical train has been established. The train has become a mystical beast. It begins to move when Dahlmann gets on, it stops to let him off, it takes him where it feels. The beast decides Dahlmann's fate. Cats are often seen as beasts of evil omen. The linking of cat and train brings an evil aspect to the train.

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the train is presented as concrete and real, but terrifying and with a malevolent, living connection: the snake. There is no mystical imagery and sleekness surrounding it. Instead, it's plain and simple, just "the flower-bedecked train."(2) The first Macondian to see it describes it as "something frightful, like a kitchen dragging a village behind it."(3) The train has "a whistle with a fearful echo and a loud, panting toom-toom"(4) The train is very much like a snake, a symbol of evil.

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