Posted by Emily on .
I am the WORST writer. English is my weakness. I just wrote this literary analysis. I would go to the writing center at my school, but the paper is due tomorrow and it doesn't open until after my class. I would appreciate it SO much is someone could just quickly scan this and tell me if I have any grammar errors or if it makes any sense at all. :)
When a writer of literature attempts to make the readers of his story understand what the various themes and ideas are, he does not simply state what they are, he must use techniques such as point of view, character, setting, tone and style, and symbolism to reinforce his main points. In “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” Gabriel Garcia Marquez uses his wonderful imagination along with these techniques to illustrate the supernatural, doubt, and human nature themes that make this story not just a work of fiction, but great literature.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez is well known for writing in the style of magical realism. According to the Oxford Companion to English Literature “Magic realist novels and stories have, typically, a strong narrative drive, in which the recognizably realistic merges with the unexpected and the inexplicable and in which elements of dreams, fairy story, or mythology combine with the everyday, often in a mosaic or kaleidoscopic pattern of refraction and recurrence.” Magical realism becomes apparent immediately in the first paragraph, with the description of rain: “The world had been sad since Tuesday.” This sentence combines the supernatural element (the world being sad) with something ordinary (the fact that it has rained). Other inexplicable elements in the story, such as the old man and the spider woman, combine with other realistic aspects, such as the details of Elisenda and Pelayo’s life and the way that the villagers react when they find out about the “angel.” As hinted by the title “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” the story is about an old man with wings, and thus, is supernatural.
As indicated by the subtitle of “A Tale for Children,” the little village that the story is set in seems to have a strange feeling to it, almost like a child’s dream. This village is a place where a neighbor woman can have a vast knowledge of life and death, where a girl can be transformed into a spider, where acrobats can fly and not gain any attention, and where a strange old creature with wings can land in the courtyard of a family. The multitude of crabs in the house: “…they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Peyalo had to cross his drenched courtyard and throw them out into the sea…” (pg. 320, Kennedy, Gioia), and the description of the sky and beach: “Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights had glimmered like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish,” give the town odd, eerie physical characteristics that add to its dreamlike, supernatural setting.
The story begins with a bleak and grim tone, with the child dying of crabs, the dark and gloomy description of the day, and the woman recommending that the old man should be clubbed to death. Later in the story it becomes demeaning: “the hens pecked at him, searching for the stellar parasites that proliferated in his wings, and the cripples pulled out feathers to touch their defective parts with, and even the most merciful threw stones at him, trying to get him to rise so they could see him standing.” The bleak, grim and demeaning tone of the story give it an eerie feel which adds to the overall supernatural element.
“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is told from the point of view of someone who seems to know everything about all of the characters in the story and can narrate in a way that invites us into the thoughts, feelings, and actions of all of the characters. This type of narrative is called the third-person omniscient point of view. In this case, the story seems to be told by an unknown voice, unlike the collective voice of the town, such as in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”.
The way in which this certain unknown voice chooses to tell the story is to leave us uncertain and doubtful as to what is true and what is not. At times, the narrator makes statements so strange and outlandish that we are forced to make our own decisions.“The most unfortunate invalids on earth came in search of health: a poor woman who since childhood has been counting her heartbeats and had run out of numbers; a Portuguese man who couldn't sleep because the noise of the stars disturbed him; a sleepwalker who got up at night to undo the things he had done while awake; and many others with less serious ailments” This quote illustrates how the narrator chooses to leave us in the dark about which ailments these people actually have. We all know that stars make no noise. What could the narrator mean by that? We are left uncertain and full of doubt which leads us to make our own conclusions. Does the woman simply have a heart condition? Does the man have too many worries causing him sleep deprivation? Is that sleepwalker someone who has done bad things in the past and is trying to make up for them in his old age?
The old man’s character is considered to be flat and static, since so very little is known about him other than his physical characteristics. This contributes to the theme of uncertainty by making us guess what his other characteristics are, such as his personality and attitudes toward the situation. Exactly who or what the old man is, is never made clear. Is he a real angel? Some type of mythical creature? Simply an old man who somehow has wings? We don’t know his name, his origin, or much else about the old man. Even though he is the main focus of the story, his character is left this way in order to maintain a feeling of confusion which is a major theme.
From beginning to end, Marquez uses only negative qualities of human nature to describe the characters actions. Cruelty is one of the biggest aspects of human nature demonstrated in this story. The neighbor woman, after being introduced to the old man, suggests that they should just kill him, to club him to death, without even knowing for sure what he is or where he came from. When Peyalo and Elisenda decide to lock the old man up in a chicken coop, they drag him in, allow their hens to peck at him, people to throw stones at him, and even to be burned by an iron: “He awoke with a start, ranting in his hermetic language and with the tears in his eyes…” The fact that Peyalo and Elisenda did absolutely nothing about this shows a lot about both their own, and the onlookers (who also do nothing to stop the inhumane treatment), characters. Pelayo and Elisenda are both greedy, for charging people to see the old man, and cruel, for their maltreatment of the poor, defenseless old man. Ignorance is another nasty element of human nature that we find in this story. The neighbor woman, who automatically assumes that the old man should be clubbed to death, and the priest who claims that the old man cannot possibly be an angel because he does not speak Latin both show ignorance. The stupidity of these two show a lot about their character.
Marquez is obviously a very talented writer who knows how to utilize the elements of writing to construct a brilliant piece of literature. Even though the story is only a few pages long, there is still very much to work with in terms of interpretations. Different people will get different meanings from the work because of the elements of writing that combine with the themes, which is a goal of a good piece of literature.