In Gabriel Garcia Marquez's short story, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," an unexpected visitor comes down from the sky, and seems to test the faith of a community. The villagers have a difficult time figuring out just how the very old man with enormous wings fits into their lives. Because this character does not agree with their conception of what an angel should look like, they try to determine if the aged man could actually be an angel. In trying to prove the origin of their visitor, the villagers lose faith in the possibility of him being an angel because he does not adhere to their ordered world. Marquez keeps the identity of the very old man with enormous wings ambiguous to critique the villagers and, more generally, organized religion for having a lack of faith to believe in miracles that do not comply with their master narrative.
In order to keep the origin of the old man a mystery, Marquez uses a technique known as magical realism. This combination of reality and fantasy helps to remove some of the grandeur behind the potential angel. When the old man is first introduced he does not descend from heaven in a blaze of light and glory, but rather lands in a "stew of mud and rotten shellfish" (313), during a storm that had lasted for three days. To investigate the "moving and groaning in the rear of the courtyard" Pelayo "had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn't get up, impended by his enormous wings" (313). This description is hardly the image that one would conjure up when visualizing an angel coming down from the heavens. Rather, Marque...
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...age people are able to rationalize that the angel is mortal, and just an annoying part of their everyday life. When the villagers cannot determine the true nature of the angel, they condition themselves to ignore what is standing before their very eyes. Only after the angel finally flies away becoming "an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea" (317) does anyone pause to look at the angel.
Works Cited and Consulted
Chanady, Amaryll. "Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature." Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed.Louis Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C: UP, 1995: 125-144.
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings." The Norton Introduction Literature. Ed. Jerome Beaty.N.Y. : W.W. Norton and Company, 1996.525-529.
Sandner, David. The Fantastic Sublime. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1996. 51-55.
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