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The story of Gabriel Garcia Marquez “A very old man with enormous wings” tells of an angel who falls from the sky at the yard of a poor family’s house. The author uses the genre of magic realism, which unites reality with fiction, to create the situations, in which the faults of society are revealed. Marquez introduces the symbol of an angel to show the ugly sights of society – people in the ordinary village where the angel lands do not understand, mistreat and misuse him. Eventually, they feel relieved as the angel flies away. Through the tool of introducing a fantastic storyline in the plot, the author raises the questions of morality, humanity, and religion in ordinary society.
The Use of the Genre of Magic Realism
The author uses the genre of magic realism – a style that uses a realistic approach to describing events with the introduction of some magic elements. The technique is probably used to generate unusual extraterrestrial circumstances in which the characters of the story have to reveal their real faces. With the appearance of a fantastic creature, the inhabitants of the village do not understand what it is. Similarly, miracles come to people’s lives, under the guise of gray everyday life and in an inhospitable attire, one just needs to be able to realize what they are. After all, this magical creature can perform miracles, but people do not need them.
The family near the house where the angel lands consist of ordinary village people, who are not brave enough to make up their mind. They need the opinion and support of a neighbor “who knew everything” (Marquez 1) to be able to identify the creature and to decide what to do with it. They are kind people, but they cannot realize that the miracle happens in the house immediately, as their child who was ill recovers right after the angel’s arrival.
Even though they provide shelter for the angel, they do not protect him from others, who burn his skin and throw stones at him. Eventually, the family has become rich by selling the tickets to those who want to see the angel. Nonetheless, nowhere in the story do they show respect and gratitude to the creature that indirectly helps the family to improve its life. Thus, the magic line of the story shows the problems of humanity in the village where the angel falls.
The angel is described as a strange creature – on the one hand, looks like an ugly old man in a dirty robe, but on the other hand, it has enormous wings, like those of an angel. “He was dressed like a ragpicker… His huge Buzzard wings, dirty and half-packed were forever entangled in mud” (Marquez 1). Marquez’s angel is a toothless old man with frayed wings, which does not resemble the pictures of Raphael, Botticelli, or Da Vinci.
Perhaps the author wanted to depict him as an angel who flies to the world of cruel people, mirroring the qualities of society where the creature lands. This reflection shows the soul of people the way it really is – bare, dirty, and defenseless. Thus, the symbol of an angel reveals the problems of morality and humanity in society.
The events in the story are interwoven with the topic of the role of religion in society. The local priest does not believe that the alien is a true angel, as he does not speak Latin, the language of God, “…his first suspicion of an imposter when he saw he did not understand the language of God or know how to greet His ministers” (Marquez 2). In the story, the church is shown as the body that cannot take decisions, recognize miracles, and where the local priests depend on the conclusion of the Pope in Rome, which never arrives. Thus, in times when a crucial decision must be taken, the church is incapable of making decisions or providing justice.
Despite the miracles that truly happened, society does not even believe in the magical nature of the angel. Not trying to understand, they consider him a stupid creature. “…The blind man who didn’t recover his sight but grew three new teeth, or the paralytic who didn’t get to walk but almost won the lottery, and the leper whose sores sprouted sunflowers” (Marquez 3). These miracles were interpreted as “mocking fun”, and the popularity of the angel falls as a new creature arrives at the village – a girl who turned into a spider for not obeying the will of her parents. Hence, people only believe in what they want, limiting their faith to an invented framework.
The story of Marquez “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is a very deep philosophical work that makes its reader think about who we are, our soul, humanism, and the desire to be better. Along with cynicism, our world has a place for miracles and mysteries. While reading this story, the ordinariness and cruelty of the human world are felt in a brutal manner. Through the elements of fiction, the author shows the inability of people to stop and to introspect their lives.
The author reveals a human’s desire to look at life events without analyzing and seeing their essence. In this story, everything is as real as it is irrational – the angel is both an ugly old human, and a divine creature that performs miracles. Society shows both compassion to the fallen angel and indifference to his destiny. The genre of magic realism has created a ground where the qualities of the main characters and of the whole society are exposed.
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. Web.