Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

"The doctor who took care of the child couldn't resist the temptation to listen to the angel's heart, and he found so much whistling in the heart and so many sounds in his kidneys that it seemed impossible for him to be alive. What surprised him most, however, was the logic of his wings. They seemed so natural on that completely human organism that he couldn't understand why other men didn't have them too."
I first came across Gabriel Garcia Marquez when I was thirteen. A friend told me about his most famous work, One Hundred Years of Solitude. I bought a copy, and immediately fell in love with the book. Now, almost seven years later, I still love Marquez’s work, and I’m doing my undergrad thesis on OHYS.

We discussed his short story A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings a couple of weeks ago in my Fiction class, and I loved it, too, mostly because it showcased Marquez’s trademark magic realism. The story is about Pelayo and Elesenda who find the very old man with enormous wings in the title. At first, they want to put him on a raft with food, but change their minds when the townspeople start paying to get a look at the old man.

The story shows us how so-called “freaks” are marginalized by society. The old man in the story is imprisoned in a chicken coop, and no one understands the language he speaks. I guess the same can be said about the people we consider “freaks” or “abnormal.” They're misunderstood, and imprisoned in the impressions we’ve formed about them, no matter how wrong.

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings is a great introduction to the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and a great treat for his fans. The story can be read here.


Eclectic Indulgence said...

I would like to know what you enjoyed about 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' because I really found it boring and did not get all the fuss.

I'm not a big Rushdie fan, but I think his 'magic realism' in "Satanic Verses" was much better, though I didn't like the work overall.

Perhaps I just don't like Magic Realism?

My review:

Sam said...

I checked out OHYOS from the library last weekend although I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I'm not a big magic realism fan, but I hope I enjoy it.

LifetimeReader said...

Good luck with your thesis. I haven't read OHYS yet, but I loved Love in the Time of Cholera. Lovely blog!

Laurie said...

"A Very Old Man With Enormous WIngs" is one of my favorite stories of all time, and plays well with my high schools students too. The beauty of Garcia Marquez's language in this story, even in translation, will send shivvers up one's spine every time, and the richness of possible interpretations here offers much to ponder, to question. Plus, how can you read this and not feel overwhelming compassion for TVOMWEW? Talk about a work that inspires empathy for "the other".
Re: interpretations...I don't entirely agree with the idea that the story is about "freaks" alone, but rather about how humans tend to assign their own meanings to anything they can't immediately categorize - to their own detriment, and most often to the detriment of the undefined "other". Also, it's worth noting that the townspeople also believe TVOMWEW to be an angel, or some magical being able to grant wishes, so he's really a cypher that they assign qualities to on the basis of his wings and "foreignness".
I'm so pleased that we share this favorite text.
Love in the Time of Cholera still slays me too, although I'm with Eclectic Indulgence on OYoS.

mel u said...

Hi-I just posted on this story and linked back to your very insightful post-

Jenny O. said...

I've never gotten around to reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, but I have read Love in Time of Cholera, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and Of Love and Other Demons. LiTOC really knocked me on my ass, though...everytime I hear the world almonds, or think of almonds, or hear a church bell ringing I think of that novel. It's unforgettable.

Stephanie M. Hasty said...

i, too, love garcia marquez. my favorite short story is 'the handsomest drowned man: a tale for children' it!


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