The novel's main character is Florentino Ariza, an obsessive young man who falls madly in love with a young girl named Fermina Daza. After a brief affair in which they see each other only in passing, Florentino gets rejected by Fermina. Florentino literally becomes sick and when his mother, Transito Ariza, finds his son in a pool of vomit, she reminds him that "the weak would never enter the kingdom of love, which is a harsh and ungenerous kingdom, and that women give themselves only to men of resolute spirit." After that time, Florentino dedicates his whole life to one day winning back his true love. But that day comes only after fifty-one years, nine months and four days later, and in the process, Florentino gets plagued by love, as if one gets plagued by cholera.
The novel is set, roughly, in the period from the late 1870s to the 1930s in an unnamed city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia where death is everywhere in the form of cholera, the fatal and infectious disease of the small intestine. The symptoms of cholera include rapid heartbeat, lethargy, pallor, and sleeplessness. The symptoms of being in love are very similar, and Garcia Marquez argues that in extreme cases, unreturned love can be as painful and deadly as cholera. As a matter of fact, throughout the novel, we witness numerous times when victims of one, are often mistake...
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...uses sex as a cholera sufferer would use medicine to endure pain. In his mind, that's the only way to help him cope his insurmountable heartache and endure his desire for the woman who is the source of all his suffering.
In the last chapter of the book, the comparison between cholera and lovesickness becomes even much more obvious. Florentino orders the captain of the ship to falsely announce that there is an outbreak of cholera on board. The captain obeys him by raising the yellow flag, which signals cholera so that nobody other than Florentino, Fermina, and himself would be left in the ship. In truth, there is no case of cholera in the ship but the announcement is not completely false because Florentino has been infected by an unrequited love for Fermina for more than half a century. His relentless passion has plagued him as cholera had plagued other people.
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