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Comparing “A very Old man with enormous wings” and “My singular Irene” Essay

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Updated: Sep 11th, 2019


A very Old man with enormous wings is a story about a married couple Pelayo and Elisenda who found a strange being. The being was classified as an angel by a diviner in the village because he had wings attached to his body. However, he was too feeble to support himself. He became the center of attention for the people at that village. The couple then decided to charge a viewing fee for those who came to view the strange creature.

My singular Irene is a story which features the role and place of Irene as a wife who was married to a controlling husband. She was quite submissive to her husband but was also quite exploited. Irene and the angel were exploited by those around them yet they remained helpless. This essay will compare and contrast the two stories discussing the symbolism of repression and triumph together with their significance in the modern society.


A very Old man with enormous wings story features an old man found in the courtyard of Mr. Pelayo. The old man was very weak to the extent that he was unable to rise up from mud. His wings prompted the family of Pelayo to seek clarification from a woman who was known for her understanding of life and death.

Her explanation that he was an angel who had come to take away Pelayo’s child was shocking and the news spread like a bushfire in the village. Pelayo took this man and locked him up in a chicken coop together with chicken. He was helpless and repressed in that he could not speak out for himself thus he was powerless. His inability to stand up on his feet and to speak up made him a subject to the decision of the family (Marquez 1).

In the story my singular Irene, confinement was Irene’s place. Her husband could not agree to have her walk around because he felt that it was his responsibility to protect her. He restricted people who visited their house: “I was not going to permit my wife to run around as if she had no one to protect her. Not that.

And no visitors either” (Almanzar 9). Irene had no freedom to engage in whatever she wished to though she was not locked up like the angel. Whenever she went out with her husband he easily got annoyed by her behavior of gathering butterflies and he could not give her time to enjoy what she liked doing. In case they were on a trip, it was the husband who made decisions: where to stop, for how long and what she could do in the course of the journey.

Irene did not have a right to freedom of expression though she could speak to her husband unlike the angel who could not say anything to anyone. Her husband planned for everything on behalf of their family. She rarely asked for anything from the husband. Instead it was the husband who decided when to do something for her. She lived as a captive in her own home:

Since women have their whims and poor Irene seldom asked me for things and, except for when she visited her mother, she spent weeks and months tied to the house taking care that everything was in order on my return from a trip. (Almanzar 8)

Irene’s husband failed to understand what his wife needed even if he thought he was taking care of her. He did his best to buy her what he thought she needed; “it seems a lie to me that she has left the comfort of her house without any regrets, but it is rather because of what occurs to one on the day least expected” (Almanzar 8).


The old man was alienated from everything around him. He did not fit to be a human being though mostly he resembled a human being. He was locked up with the chicken as if he was a chicken. Some people even tried to feed him on moths; this is quite inhumane (Marquez 1).

On the other, Irene was alienated from all her friends and almost lost her senses. She was under a psychological torture which made it quite difficult for her to live a normal social life (Almanzar 9). Alienation of the two victims denied them chances to become what they desired in their hearts.


The two victims did not receive love; Irene was more psychologically exploited while the angel was mostly physically exploited. Villagers in Pelayo’s neighborhood mistreated the weak angel. On the second day early in the morning, Pelayo and his wife Elisanda found a large crowd of people making fun of this man outside the chicken coop.

Later on, father Gonzaga arrived and the people eagerly waited to hear what he could say. He spoke to him in Latin but the old man did not reply. The father despised him saying that the old man did not suit the wisdom of the angels (Marquez 1).

Pelayo and Elisanda took advantage of the strange angel. More people kept on coming to see the strange old man and this gave Elisanda a bright idea: “Then got idea of fencing in the yard and charging five cents admission to see the angel” (Marquez 1). After a few days, the family had collected a large sum of money with which they built a big mansion with balconies.

It is ironical that they made money out of him yet they did not provide him with good basic needs such as food and shelter: “He spent his time trying to get comfortable in his borrowed nest, befuddled by the hellish heat of the oil lamps and sacramental candles that had been placed along the wire” (Marquez 1).

Irene’s husband wanted Irene to remain within the confines of the house as a housewife. This was a demand not a request; “I had to be firm and demand more attachment to household. At first she accepted my imposition unwillingly” (Almanzar 9). This is a clear indication that she was controlled by the husband which was against her wishes as a wife. The man had a low opinion of women and boasted that he wanted a woman with little sense.

He wanted her as a wife because she did not have much sense. He thought that such women could not ruin their husbands’ lives. From her appearance she looked humiliated, “she didn’t think too much, although she often showed signs of weariness, of wanting to escape” (Almanzar 10).

Modern Repression and Triumph over Repression

The two stories are significant and quite relevant in the modern society. The poor are exploited with no one to speak out for them. The angel was used to make wealth for Pelayo and Elisanda whereas he lived a miserable life with the chicken. In the modern society, the rich and the leaders are likely to use the poor who work so hard for them, yet they get underpaid and never improve on their lives.

It has become normal for international corporations treat its employees unfairly by underpaying them and exposing them to dangerous work environments. This especially happens in third world countries where governance is weak and government officials are corrupt.

Father Gonzaga could not convince his people. The author referred to the people as sterile and noted that the pleading of father Gonzaga was in vain “His prudence fell on sterile hearts” (Marquez 1). This is an insinuation of how it is hard to educate people.

On the other hand, Irene represents women in society who live in a male dominated society. Women live in accordance to what their husbands say; by being commanded on which work to do, which friends to have, where and when to go. Their failure to meet their husbands’ demands exposes them to being abused.

The alienation from other people depresses them. They do not enjoy being married and thus a time comes when they cannot bear it any longer and therefore they run away from their homes ending up in separation and divorce. As a matter of fact the number of divorces in the modern day society is quite high. There are many cases where people marry and divorce a number of times. This cuts across every nation whether you are looking at the developed nations or the third world countries.

The two stories also portray an energy that does not serve any good cause. The old man had wings, yet he could not stand. Irene was very hard working yet she did not enjoy her life. Both stories are marked with triumph of both victims. The angel got stronger and fled while Irene left her home. The wings of the angel got stronger at same time when Irene was running after the butterflies.


The two stories are similar in that the main characters are exploited, mistreated, confined and alienated. They both came to a time when they could not bear it any longer and left their homes of exploitation. This is relevant in the modern society representing the poor, overworked, underpaid and disrespected wives.

Works Cited

Almanzar, Jose. My Singular Irene. New York, NY: Prentice Hall, n.d. Print.

Marquez, Gabriel. A very old man with enormous wings: A tale for children. Homestead, n.d. Web.

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IvyPanda. "Comparing "A very Old man with enormous wings" and "My singular Irene"." September 11, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparing-a-very-old-man-with-enormous-wings-and-my-singular-irene/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Comparing "A very Old man with enormous wings" and "My singular Irene"." September 11, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparing-a-very-old-man-with-enormous-wings-and-my-singular-irene/.


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