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Literary Analysis Essay of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"

0 August 07 2014, 23:38 in Literary Essay by stephen

Literary Analysis Essay of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It was published in 1955 as part of the book Leaf Storm. In this story, the author combines the natural with the supernatural. It follows the story of Pelayo and Elisenda whose child is sick. One day, while walking on the shore, they found a sickly old man with enormous wings and incomprehensible language. Believing he is an angle, the couple decides to keep the man in their chicken coop. News about an angel soon spread throughout town which prompted people to visit the old man. After staying with the couple for many years, the man regains his strength and flies away (Marquez 14). Central to the narrative are themes of cruelty and compassion – both of which are exemplified by the characters in the story.

In this story, Gabriel Garcia Marquez examines the common response of humans to those who are different and weak. And in most cases, the response is categorized as either compassion or cruelty. In the first part of the narrative, the audience sees glimpses of compassion which is embodied by the couple. After seeing the senile and weak old man by the shore, the couple thought that he must be an angel who had come to take their child to heaven. They then decided to consult their neighbor, who then advises them to kill the man by clubbing him to death. However, the couple felt a sense of compassion for the stranger; and instead of killing him the couple chose to keep him in their chicken coop. It is in here that the audience can detect the sense of kindness from the two main characters despite of the old man’s strangeness. In the same way, the old man displayed compassion towards the impoverished couple which is evident in his choice not to leave. The old man’s extreme patience, despite of all the fuss around him, enabled the couple to have a better life.

Alternately, the story is also filled with much cruelty which is similarly expressed by the behavior and actions of the main characters. One of the most obvious expressions of cruelty in the story is when the couple decided to keep the man in their chicken coop. While they decided not to kill the man, they nonetheless placed in a part of their home that is almost inhabitable. The couple also imprisoned the man in a part of their house where the people could gawk at him and even hurt him by throwing stones.

Elisenda also displays cruelty towards the old man. Despite the money and material rewards that the man brings, the wife still perceives him as annoying and a nuance. Hence, she often chases him out of their home with a broom. She similarly took advantage of the old man as she charges admission fee to the visitors who came to see the "angel”. Elisenda soon realizes her cruelty towards the man when she sees him flying away. In this part of the story, the author paints an image of the wife who finally realizes that something wonderful and heavenly has forever left her life.

In both cases, it is evident that the author creatively combines compassion and cruelty as he shows both naturally coexists with one another. This concept of coexistence between good and bad is perhaps best exemplified by old man. He is portrayed as someone who is so natural and yet is also supernatural at the same time. This irony indicates that the author tries to communicate that in this world, both the good and bad coexist with one another.





Marquez, G. Leaf Storm and other stories. NY: Harper Collins, 2005

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