“A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” Write Up by Leni Negron

 

Summary:

This story was about how a small village was affected by a man with angel wings. One day, a man named Pelayo finds an old man who has wings after returning from disposing of the crabs that have infested his house. They neighbor who was very knowledgeable told them that the man was an angel sent to take their young child, who was very ill. They found themselves unable to kill him, and soon the whole village knows of the arrival of the angel. Meanwhile, their son wakes up and is healthier than ever. Father Gonzaga shows up at Pelayo and Elisenda’s home where the people are debating what to do with him, and he decides to write a letter to his bishop so the bishop can make a final judgement. Elisenda eventually begins to charge admissions to see the man and lots of people pay to see him in hopes of curing their ailments, from insomnia and poor health. However, the angel remained unmoved, only reacting to being branded by a hot iron because the people thought he had died. As Father Gonzaga waited for a response to his letter, a circus came in town with a spider woman and people were drawn towards that instead of towards the angel, who had performed minor and useless miracles. Elisenda and Pelayo did not mind because they had enough money to build a new house that could not be infested with crabs and allowed the man to stay in the chicken coop until it fell down. He bothered Elisenda mercilessly and she only worried when he got sick because she was unsure of how to deal with a dead angel. He recovered fully, and one day he flew away as Elisenda watched with happiness.

What can we take away from this?

The wings! This story revolves around the wings of the old man, but the story is not about the man’s wings. They simply drive the story forward. The old man’s wings are what make him spectacular, but they are also what drives the people to abuse him and do evil things to him. Pelayo and Elisenda use his wings to exploit him to their village for their advantage. And they finally allow him to escape the village. Garcia Marquez uses the old man’s wings as a central focus, making the wings the center of everything in this story, but also not creating the story about the wings.

Supernatural! There are a number of supernatural elements in this story which are interwoven with regular, everyday moments. This technique made the supernatural aspects of the story more believable because they were introduced in ways that we are already familiar with, such as the spider girl being turned into a spider because she disobeyed her parents. Everyone has been disobedient at some point, but (I’d assume) none of us have ever been turned into a spider. Yet we are still able to accept this girl’s story as the truth.

Characters! Each character had a drastically different perspective on the old man, but none of them were very positive. Elisenda saw his as an opportunity to make money but was never thankful for him, and instead was relieved when he flew away because she found him burdensome. Pelayo likewise saw him as a scary figure and allowed his view of the man to be changed by the neighbor and his wife. The neighbor viewed him as an angel and called for him to be killed. Father Gonzaga’s interpretation of the man is the first time that he is described as human, with wings. But he does nothing to help the man, instead waiting for those in a higher position to decide what to do for him. When the child is brought back into the story, he seems to have no aversions to the old man.

Overall theme! There were two overall, huge themes that I found: Patience, and “give and receive.” The theme of patience is strongest with the old man. He remains patient throughout his sufferings and his mistreatment, as if he knows one day he will be healed and return to wherever he came from. Father Gonzaga, less apparent, shows his patience through waiting to cast judgement until he hears from the bishop. Elisenda, though unhappy, is patient with the old man in her house until he leaves, and she is happy to see him go. The “give and receive” theme is a little bit harder to make a case for, because the giving and receiving is subjective and can be argued. Elisenda and Pelayo give home and shelter to the angel, who in return allows them to live a stronger and more stable life (although through immoral means).

Questions:

  • What was the purpose of the child in the story?
  • What could each of the characters tell us?
  • What is the purpose of the spider girl in the story?
  • How do you think Garcia Marquez effectively integrated a realm of magic into his story?
  • Commentary on Christianity/humanity as a whole?
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