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September 10, 2019

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“A Very Old Man with


Enormous Wings: A Tale for
Children”
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I. Close Reading

A. Genre: Magical Realism


The genre of the story is Magical Realism because the author paints a realistic view of the
world while also adding magical elements, there is an acceptance in the oddity of events from the
characters as if the happenings of the supernatural events are normal. The magical elements that
are being shown in the story are the old man with an enormous wing and the woman who as a
child was turned into a tarantula because of disobeying her parents.

B. Characters:
1. Pelayo – A father and the husband of Elisenda. He was the one who discovered the very old
man with enormous wings in their courtyard. He is also a bailiff in the story.
2. Elisenda – The mother of the child and the wife of Pelayo. She is the one who came up with
the idea of fencing their yard and charging five cents admission for anyone who wants to see
the angel.
3. The Very Old Man – He is the very old man in the story with enormous wings who suddenly
appeared in the courtyard of Pelayo and Elisenda’s home and who was being thought as an
“angel” by the neighbor woman, who she said must have been coming for the sick child of
Pelayo and Elisenda. He has eventually been allowed to take shelter in the chicken coop. In
the story, he was continuously being pestered by the people because of his unique physical
attributes.
4. Father Gonzaga – He was a woodcutter before becoming a priest. He doesn’t believe that the
old man was an “angel” because the old man did not recognize and understand the Latin
language, which for the Roman Catholics considered as a language of God. The result of this
doubt led him to write a letter to his bishop in order to get the final verdict from the highest
courts.
5. The Neighbor Woman – This character is the neighbor of Pelayo and Elisenda, who’s
according to the knowledge of Pelayo and Elisenda, ‘who knew everything about life and
death’. She was the one who believes that the old man is an “angel”, which was never clear
in the story of being true or not.
6. The Spider Woman – This character is part of the traveling show that suddenly arrived in the
town of the story. She is specifically a tarantula with the body-sized of a ram and with the
head of a maiden. She was changed into a spider because of disobeying her parents.
Additionally, the people lined up to see her and lose interest in seeing the very old man with
enormous wings because of their differential qualities and admission fee. Since the admission
to see her was not only less but also the people who paid were also permitted to ask her any
questions about her current state.
7. The Child – This is the child of Pelayo and Elisenda, which at the beginning of the story (as a
newborn child) became ill. Before he got his second teeth, he had gone inside the chicken coop
where the old man with enormous wings is staying. He also got chickenpox with the old man
at the same time.
C. Point of View
It is an omniscient point of view because the narrator is an all-knowing outsider who can
enter the minds of more than one of the characters. However, the areas of omniscient point of
view are only reportorial and not interpretative. Hence, the point of view could also be just
objective but dramatic.

D. Setting
 Time- On the third day of rain
 Place: Pelayo and Elisenda’s residence – courtyard, house and Chicken coop

E. Conflict
The conflict of the story is Man vs Society since the different attributes of the old man than
the usual norm was being scrutinize by the society and his lack of openness to share his origin
results to the decreasing interest of the people to know him more.

F. Tone/Mood
The tone of the story is satirical, because the story makes a powerful person seem less
important – the old man with enormous wings. Also, it criticizes the human nature in general
through the presence of the very old man as an ironic character.

B. Symbolism
Wings – the “wings” in the story symbolizes the identity of the old man as an angel that
the neighbors in the story have thought who he is. Wings ideally represent power, speed, and
strength but ironically in the story, it has been represented with weakness and old age.
Thesis Statement:
The very old man with enormous wings in the story serves as an ironic piece that criticizes the
human nature.

II. Summary
The story, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: A Tale for Children” by Gabriel
Garcia Marquez started at the setting of the house of Pelayo and Elisenda wherein they were
killing many crabs. It has been the third day of the rain, and their newborn child had a high
temperature all night. One day, when Pelayo is returning home from the sea to throw the crabs,
he noticed movements in their courtyard, then he discovered that it was an old man, a very old
man with enormous wings. Frightened by what he saw, he immediately ran to get Elisenda who
was at the time putting compresses on their sick child. After both getting into the courtyard, they
have observed that the fallen body was in a pitiful condition, they both thought that the old man
was a lonely castaway from some foreign shipwrecked by the storm due to his strong sailor’s
voice. Despite their thoughts of the identity on the old man, they have still called their neighbor
woman that is an all-knowing lady about life and death, maybe for verification. And just by one
look, the lady has concluded that the old man is an angel who must have been coming for the
sick child, but it was knocked down by the rain.
On the next day, everybody knew about the angel. Meanwhile, Pelayo dragged the angel
out of the mud and locked him up in the chicken coop. When the rain stopped and the child woke
up without a fever, Elisenda and Pelayo have decided to put the angel on a raft with fresh water,
but when they went into their courtyard, they have found their whole neighborhood in front of
the chicken coop. Afterward, Father Gonzaga also arrived and observed the old man.
Acknowledging the neighbor’s guess about the old man as an angel, he then talked to the man in
the Language of Latin, but it did not understand. He then concluded that the old man is not an
angel but an impostor for it doesn’t understand the Language of God. So, he writes a letter to his
primate to inform the Supreme Pontiff and to receive a final verdict from the highest courts of the
church.
As time goes on, the people gathering around the house of Elisenda and Pelayo are
increasing in numbers that they must call a troop for not to knock their house down by the mob.
But with the increasing interest of the people to see the old man, Elisenda then got the idea of
fencing their yard and to charge five cents per admission for the people who wanted to see the
angel. The two owners of the house received tons of money from the admission fees. But the old
man didn’t take part in the act, but instead, he just made himself comfortable in the chicken coop.
As days go by, people started to lose their interest in the old man or angel as they say. The people
have especially loss more their interest when a traveling show arrived in their place, with them
is a spider woman with the size of a ram and with the head of a sad maiden. People flocked into
this outlandish lady because of its lesser admission fee and its willingness to answer questions
from the people about her current condition. But the owners of the house did not lament this
situation because they have already received much money from the admission fees. With the
money, they have built a two-story mansion with balconies and gardens and high netting, Pelayo
also set up a rabbit warren and have his job as a bailiff for good, while Elisenda bought satin
pumps, high heels, and dresses for herself.
As the story goes on, and when the child learned to walk, Elisenda and Pelayo were
careful that the child would not get too close to the chicken coop, however, before the child got
his second teeth, he would go inside the chicken coop to play. Then at the time when the child
began school, the chicken coop was destroyed due to the sun and rain, so the old man with
enormous wings started to go in so many places inside their house.
One morning when Elisenda was cutting bunches of onions for their lunch, a strong wind
suddenly blew into the kitchen. So, she went into the window and caught the angel attempting
to fly. At first, it was very clumsy, but the old man managed to get an altitude and then he
successfully flew. From what Elisenda have witnessed, she felt relieved for herself and the old
man. So, she watched the old man fly until the last onions that she cuts and until it was no longer
possible for her to see him, “because then he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an
imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea”.

III. Supporting Details to the Thesis Statement

A. New Historicism
The author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was a Colombian who was born in 1927. He helped
popularize the genre of “Magical Realism”, this is evident in most of his stories. His works are
adored by many people until now because of his given talent of effortlessly blending supernatural
and magical events with the natural and normal surroundings. His written works do not just
appeal to the common readers but also to the literary critics. Additionally, his legacy includes
receiving several international awards for his invaluable contribution to literature including the
1972 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature.
As a child, Gabriel was raised by his maternal grandparents until he was eight. According
to the Famous People, his grandmother, Doña Tranquilina Iguarán was an avid storyteller who
regaled the young boy with folklores and tales about dead ancestors, ghosts, omens premonitions
and supernatural events but told in the most natural tone. This fact could have put great influenced
on the written works of Marquez, especially in the story of, “A Very Old Man With Enormous
Wings: A Tale For Children” wherein he blended the supernatural things such as the old man with
enormous wings and the spider woman effortlessly as if such things happen in the normal world.
Another thing that would have put influenced in this work of his was his experience as a child,
wherein his grandfather takes him to the circus each year. “Circus” has been emphasized in the
story, the author describes how people or onlookers in a circus treats the animal, an excerpt in the
story mentions “tossing him things to eat through the openings of the wire as if weren’t a
supernatural creature but a circus animal”. Also, on how Elisenda and Pelayo treat the old man as
a circus sideshow. His childhood experiences might have put influenced for him to write such
great magic realism works, and he might be inspired by other writers before and during his age
that shape his works.
Other thoughts would be that maybe he felt like the very old man in the story because of
the time when he wrote this work, he was already a popular writer. He was making a name for
himself. As observed, celebrity writers struggle with how their fame affects their creativity and
how they would be accepted in the outside world. Perhaps Marquez thinks that the oddity of the
very old man with enormous wings is like him. In the story, the old man is being attacked on his
appearance as an angel, pressuring him things on what should an angel physically looks like and
its required qualities. In relation to the author, since he already reached his fame at this time people
would be saying stuff on how he should write the work and expectations are being thrown to him.
However, like the very old man, he accepts for who he is – his old and weird but that’s him. He
doesn’t get affected by what others dictates him on what he needs to be.
Moreover, this story was published in 1955 so this could have been written a few months
or a few years from that time, and in Colombia, at that said period there was a war called La
Violencia, wherein it started in 1948 and when a well-known liberal leader, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan,
was assassinated. Consequently, a period of violence again begun – it was known as LA
VIOLENCIA. During this war, approximately 300,000 Colombians lost their lives. So, in relation
to the story, this could have been written by Gabriel Marquez due to the bad traits of the human
nature that he has witnessed from the war, on how human tends to be greedy on their platforms
and preferences and being a survivalist just for themselves.

References:

Britannica, T. E. of E. (n.d.). Memoir. Retrieved from


https://www.britannica.com/topic/memoir-historical-genre

(n.d.). Who was Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Everything You Need to Know. Retrieved from
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/gabriel-jos-de-la-concordia-garca-
1446.php

NobelPrize.org. “The Nobel Prize in Literature 1982”. Nobel Media AB 2019 (29 Aug 2019.
Retrieved from https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/1982/marquez/facts/

Pike, J. (n.d.). Military. Retrieved from


https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/la-violencia.htm

B. Cultural Interpretation

In the story, Pelayo and Elisenda can be seen as not a religious type of couple, this was
shown when they haven’t even got a single thought that the very old man could have been an
angel due to its “wings”, instead they have just thought that the very old man with enormous
wings is a castaway sailor due to its strong sailor’s voice. While their neighbor woman could be
seen as a religious and an all-knowing type of person about life and death due to her immediate
guess about the origin of the old man, stating about that the old man is an angel sent to get the
child but failed because he was knocked down by the strong rain. But even though the couple
could have not been a religious type, they have still immediately believed on what their neighbor
woman had said without even a confirmation on the facts if what was said is true. So, in relation
to the culture, people usually tend to believe everything immediately without seeking
confirmation and verification to know if the said facts are true, hence some people tend to use
what they hear to judge the person.
Second thought would be being firm in the religious or mythical belief of the people before
and until now instead of trusting to put it into the hands of the scientists. Just like in the story
people stand firm of what they believe in, stating that the old man is an angel, without seeking
scientific reasoning or finding answers through science. Third, is when human get too
opportunistic to the advantage of their self without considering the health of other people. In
relation to the story, Pelayo and Elisenda haven’t really put much importance to the old man and
later on they have set up an admission fee to see the old man without agreeing with him first also
without considering his health on the matter. In conclusion, the story, “A Very Old Man With
Enormous Wings: A Tale For Children” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez shows several details of the
faults or the bad traits of humans in general, especially when there is something unexpected that
comes into our lives that we aren’t expecting to happen and/or if there is someone who is an
outsider that unexpectedly comes into our circle.

C. Psychoanalysis Interpretation

Human minds are not always consistent with his or her beliefs throughout his or her
lifetime because of the surrounding factor and the influence in the opinions and actions of other
people. In the story, Pelayo and Elisenda wasn’t a religious person or could be a type of people
who don’t believe in mythical creatures with wings, in fact when they have seen the old man with
enormous wings at first they have thought that it is a castaway sailor but then since their neighbor
woman had said that it is an angel who must have coming for their child who is sick, they have
immediately tended to believe it. Moreover, humans also have a survival instinct to save up their
selves or just for their greed and satisfaction, in relation to this in the story, was when Pelayo and
Elisenda set up an admission fee to see the old man without setting up an agreement with it first.
Another thought in the content of the story that criticizes human nature would be how
people set a standard of belief and then the criticizes the people who don’t meet the said
standards. This can be seen when Father Gonzaga was disappointed when he saw the old man
who the people thought was an angel, stating that the man is an impostor. Lastly, humans usually
favor people who are entertaining them sufficiently than a boring one. This is written in the story,
wherein the people show earnestly first their interest to the angel but because of its snobby
personality for it doesn’t entertain questions to the people, so when a traveling show came
carrying a spider woman whose admission fee is lesser than the angel and entertain the people’s
questions and concerns well, people immediately shifted their interest to her. This shows humans
ever-changing shifts in their interest on what interest them more.

IV. Readers Response


The story of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, entitled “The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings:
A Tale for Children,” is very confusing. It is confusing because there is no clear explanation or an
exact given identity to the old man, hence it gives the readers unending questions to the content
of the story. The group believes that the story gives no answers but only questions, it is the task
of the readers to seek answers on their own, hence create their interpretations. However, the best
way to define the story is that it is a behavioral story, it uses the genre of magical realism to
indirectly define or describe the imperfect character and attitudes of the human nature in general.
That is why the thesis statement of the group is, “The very old man with enormous wings in the
story serves as an ironic piece that criticizes human nature.” The most confusing character in the
story is the very old man with enormous wings since he just suddenly appeared in the story to a
certain community. Although he doesn’t interact verbally to the people in the story, his
appearance serves as an important piece that influences the characters’ behaviors and in result
create important realizations to the readers about humanity’s behaviors that are being criticized
in the story. Such behaviors are the following, first is being opportunistic without considering
other people’s welfare that is affected this is evident when Pelayo and Elisenda set up an
admission fee to see the old man with enormous wings. Second, people have a certain standard
for their beliefs and then criticizes people who don’t meet the said standards, one example in the
story is when Father Gonzaga called the old man as an impostor when it doesn’t understand
Latin, when in fact the old man wasn’t stating himself to be impersonating as an angel or
anything. Third is humans ever-changing shifts in their chosen belief, in relation to the story
Pelayo and Elisenda who tend to believe about angels, but they immediately believe their
neighbor woman when she said that it is an angel. Those are the attitudes or behaviors of the
human nature that are not totally bad but can be criticized.