Written by Lyne Morissette
The use of Magic Realism in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"
There are not a lot of fantastic elements in this story, but their
importance makes up for this lack. A
good case of magic realism is the old man with wings.
This part is obviously impossible, but Marquez is treating this feature
as if it was part of the real world. “He’s an angel, she told them. He must
have been coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old that the rain
knocked him down.” (Marquez, 2004) There is no explanation about where he is from, why he ended up
there or why he is in such bad condition. The
focus is not on these types elements in magic realism, but more on the
interactions that this character has with others. Pelayo and Elisenda, the people who found him, did not
treat him as a miracle, as an amazing discovery; on the contrary, they did not
feel blessed at all, seeing him as an annoyance.
They started to make money out of him by displaying him in front of the
mob in exchange for an admission fee. Once
Pelayo and Elisenda got richer and saw that this miserable man was not
collaborating with them on the “show”, they were irritated by his presence.
Later, a circus came to town with all sorts of weird specimens.
There was a woman, who has been transformed into a spider for disobeying
to her parents. The spider woman is
another “magical” feature of the story and she symbolizes the show a
population expects from a circus freak. The
extraordinary feature the angel represents is how capitalism and egocentrism are
ruling this society and the Americans. Instead
of thinking about a miracle when they found him, they think about incomes and
trouble. Marquez wanted to show the
cold nature of this society by introducing an unexpected and impossible element
to the story.
Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” also contains some paradoxical utterances
such as “flesh-and-blood angel” and “hell full of angels”.
The use of these expressions just illustrates how the angel and the
population enter into conflict together, how the angel is the contrary of what
humans expect from an angel. What
is paradoxical is how people react to a creature like this old man.
He is an angel, but they treated him like he was something sent from hell:
“Then he came out of the chicken coop and in a brief sermon warned the
curious against the risks of being ingenuous. He reminded them that the devil
had the bad habit of making use of carnival tricks in order to confuse the
unwary” (Marquez, 2004). Ironically, even Father Gonzaga did not have pity for him.
Marquez, with the use of magical features, shows how people are in
reality. This paradox is
tremendously well presented in this short story, which is considered a model of
the magic realism genre.
Gabriel Garcia. “A Very Old Man
with Enormous Wings”. February 7, 2004. http://www.geocities.com/cyber_explorer99/garciamarquezoldman.html
Lindsay. “Magical Realism” Fall 1998. http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/MagicalRealism.html