Magic Realism In A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

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Magic realism, a genre so dreamy yet real- a representation of a day dream, you are awake in real life but your mind is imagining stuff far from reality. “Magical realism is a specific characteristic of Latin American literature, which emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. This style of narrative fuses reality with fantastic and fabulous elements, so much so that it becomes difficult to distinguish the borderline between the two” (Yadav, 2016). It is a fusion of reality and imagination, which is something quite difficult for a writer to do, but some excel in it like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, his works depict the features of magic realism mostly. According to Remembering “Gabriel Garcia Marquez, icon of magic realism”: “He is a Colombian writer who won a Nobel prize for literature in 1982, and his works were translated into Many languages.” He also said when he took the noble prize that “I have the impression that in giving me the prize, they have taken into account the literature of the sub-continent and have awarded me as a way of awarding all of this literature”. When you read a magic realism work, you find yourself stuck in a dilemma, is this reality or magic? “Although this strategy is known in the literature of many cultures in many ages, the term magic realism is a relatively recent designation, first applied in the 1940s by Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier, who recognized this characteristic in much Latin-American literature”(Britannica). We can also find strange creatures that do not live with ordinary humans, angels maybe; like in Marquez’s short story “ a very old man with enormous wings” a story that talks about a strange creature found in a small town, and people start to treat it as an angel falling from heaven. We can find exploitation, weakness, and confusion in the story, in addition to supernatural elements. This paper analyzes the short story of Gabriel Garcia Marquez “A very old man with enormous wings”, in respect to the features of magic realism, setting, characters, themes, style of writing, and narrative point of view.

The story starts in a very dull gloomy setting in a town so normal, a person named Pelayo and his wife living by the seaside with dead crabs and rotten jelly fish; a detail that also depicts a negative atmosphere. But then a strange creature appears lying on the ground with his face buried in the sand, when they approached him they found that he is a human with enormous wings. This is where Marquez began the journey of magic realism; where people thought this creature is an angel.

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The theme of exploitation began when they took this assumed angel to their house and started treating it like a circus animal, getting a lot of money from the people to enable them to see the living miracle to the extent that they build a new house at the end of the story. Also, people wanted him to show them his ability to perform miracles, but once they knew he couldn’t do any, they didn’t come anymore to see him. This theme is attributed to the theme of weakness, which is evident in the character of the old man who was helpless and vulnerable. Although the people thought that he was an angel capable of performing miracles, they exploited him in every way possible to benefit from his existence.

Another major theme is the theme of confusion, which appeared in the characters of nearly each character in the story. First, Pelayo and his wife when they saw him for the first time not knowing what this creature is. Second, when the priest saw him and doubted that he is an angel.

In addition also the theme of ambiguity is prominent in the story as it is all revolved around mysteriousness. Since the beginning of the story Marquez Started with unknown backgrounds like killing crabs, rotten jelly fish, and “ Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing “ which delivered a very ambiguous sensation of what the story will be talking about, not to mention the strange creature that Paleyo and his wife found. Marquez used the element of ambiguity and mysteriousness as a main means to give the readers the sense of a non-realistic story which is totally opposite to the setting which is very ordinary and realistic.

The major characters in this story are the old man (the angel), Pelayo, his wife, the priest, pelayo and his wife’s neighbor. First of all, the angel is the center character of the story, where everything revolves around him as “the magic is an integral part and the most important feature in this literary mode, in the magical texts we can find apparitions, spirits appearing and supernatural acts happening, lifeless things procuring characteristics of invigorate creatures, individuals turning out to be undetectable and so forth”(yadav). He is patient, weak, but very powerful in the eye of others, they expect from him miracles, but on the contrary, the is very weak that he can’t even stand up, couldn’t heal the sick as assumed, which was expected from him as he is an angel in their belief.

Pelayo and his wife symbolize selfishness, greediness, and exploitation of the old man for their own sake, they start to collect money from the people to enable them to see the old man as they were putting him in their chicken coop.

We can also find the priest, a much respected man apparently in the town known for his wisdom. He doubted that the old man is angel for his inability to understand God’s language and also his incapacity to perform miracles and heal the ill. Finally, Pelayo and his wife’s neighbor, a woman assumed to know everything about the alive and the dead, which told them that he is an angel and what to feed him.

The style of Marquez’s writing matches the characteristics of magic realism, mostly adding super natural elements like: the angle, the woman who was turned into a spider, and some other imaginary creatures and beliefs. Also, the mysteriousness factor takes a huge part in the writing style where nothing is certain, all is doubtful.

The narrative point of view is third person (omniscient) narration, which helps the reader to know about everything in detail not only a single aspect or a character in the story. In addition, it gives a pinch of mysteriousness to the atmosphere of the story.

When analyzing Marquez’s “A very old man with enormous wings”, the characteristics of magic realism were found; where he added some elements defying logic as the angel, the woman who turned into a spider in addition to the ability of the old man to fly at the end of the story. It also includes a normal setting and time, a town in the real world with ordinary people.

Finally, reaching the end of the analysis in respect to the features of magic realism, Marquez was brilliant in fusing both real and magical elements together in the story through his realistic setting and most characters, supernatural characters, mysterious style of writing, in addition to third person (omniscient) narration.    


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