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“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”: Summary & Analysis Essay

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Updated: Jan 18th, 2019

The short story ‘A very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ is basically a complicated narrative focused on a subject that is familiar to many people. It explores human nature where different issues such as indifference, greed and jealousy which are common in human beings are tackled. Marquez uses various literary techniques to narrate the story.

For instance, the fact that it is not easy to identify the actual main character in the story is a literary technique. While the old man with enormous wings seems to be the central character in the short story, he does not clearly appear to be the protagonist in the story. The author does not only try to invoke the thinking of the readers about their nature but also shows them how they should handle the seemingly small miracles that occur in their lives (Gradesaver 5).

The short story effectively brings out the theme of magical realism. The qualities of characters like Elisenda and Pelayo are combined with interesting qualities of the spider woman and the flying man to explain the major themes in the story. In addition, the author uses a unique way to describe the continuous rain that pounds the earth.

An ordinary setting where the homes of Pelayo and Elisenda are invaded by crabs and the muddy scenes of the beach brings out the message in story well. This dream like setting is important since it introduces the old man with enormous wings who is covered with tattered clothes and looks like a mythical creature.

At some point in the story, the angel is prodded since he is considered to be a funny creature. Marquez takes this instance in the short story to write powerfully about the angel by saying that he is the only one participating actively in his action. The only quality he possesses that could be described as supernatural is patience (Marquez 4). The author uses only two sentences to sum up the angel’s condition and the crowds of people. He compares the angel with the rest of the people to show how different he is.

His indifference causes disappointment in the crowd but he remains patient instead of condemning them. The story repeatedly makes allusion to the biblical story of Job who is compared with the angel. The angel and biblical Job are similar in that they both go through many tribulations but they can do nothing about their suffering. However, they exercise patience until they win their battles. Marquez tries to pass across the message that patience is itself a miracle.

“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is a short story full of satire. It generally satirizes the human nature and also criticizes the Catholic Church. Father Gonzaga seems unconcerned about discovering the mysterious nature of the angel although he is a religious leader. Contrary to what is expected, he is told to investigate whether the language the angel speaks has any connection with Aramaic language.

He is also told to determine the number of times the old man can be forced to go through the opening of a pin. The absurdity of the Catholic Church is depicted when the followers come to a conclusion that the old man with enormous wings might probably be a fisherman from Norway who got stranded. This conclusion serves to detach the Catholic Church from reality. However, the church seems to succeed in its tactics after the old man finally flies away (McDougall 59).

The criticism leveled against the Catholic Church in the short story is a reflection of the criticism that is leveled against all human beings in general because they do not value life. Human beings are presented as lacking in vision as evidenced by the wise woman who thinks that she knows everything.

Elisenda concentrates on looking for a procedure to follow and bothers herself with the selfish pilgrims instead of paying attention to the unusual beauty of the angel. However, she regrets her actions towards the end of the story after the disappearance of the old man. The message Marquez is passing across is that most human beings never realize their significance in the world.

Reading the short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” the reader cannot fail to notice the half-spider which is characterized by strangeness. Marquez uses imagery to expound on the most important needs of human beings. The spider is presented as giving attention to all those who need it and teaches them some lessons.

This quality combined with fear is typical of human beings. The implication from this scenario is that indifference is an undesirable quality among human beings. Marquez employs two distinct miracles to show the quality of human beings of ignoring what they consider inappropriate (Reinholtz 134).

When the angel goes outside the house, this is the period that Marquez writes some of the most interesting things about him. He says that she cannot stop looking at him even after she has finished her work and she continues watching until she cannot see any more. This is because he has ceased being a disturbance to her and has become a figure of imagination in her life.

Despite the fact that the angel has brought Elisenda many things such as security, good life and money, she cannot hide her joy when he leaves. Naturally, human beings might be expected to express ungratefulness and Marquez brings out one of the most important themes in the story, the failure of human beings to see what comes their way.

Though it might not be possible for human beings to have angels near them or experience miracles, they hardly appreciate things that are regarded as normal for them. Human beings may spend all their lives looking for something only to realize that what they are looking for disappeared from them without their knowledge.

The short story effectively brings out a disheartening mood and a sense of inspiration. The human beings involved in the story do not care about the suffering of their fellow human beings. The story is also inspiring in the sense that the old man with enormous wings is patient enough and battles with the difficulties he experiences until he finally attains freedom.

Most of the characters in the story possess qualities that many people would not want to be associated with. It is only the priest who is concerned about the old man with enormous wings and tries to find out his nature although he does not achieve much success.

The people from the town and those who come to visit are interested in finding out the nature of the old man but the theories they advance concerning his nature only portray insensitivity. Majority of the town residents including father Gonzaga view the old man as a creature that is not created by God.

Though Elisenda and Pelayo at first take some time to stare at the old man, their treatment towards him is careless and does not show any genuine curiosity. He is viewed as an unnecessary burden and though he brings them some money, they do not understand or assist him.

Works Cited

Gradesaver. A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Summary and Analysis. 2011. Web.

Marquez, Gabriel. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. New York: Longman, 2010. Print

McDougal, Littel. The Language of Literature. New York: McDougal Littell Publishers, 2002. Print

Reinholtz, Eric. Bloom’s How to Write about Gabriel García Márquez. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print

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