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A Study of Imagery and Motifs in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Book, a Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

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The short story, A very old man with enormous wings was written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1968. One day, Pelayo finds a very old man with enormous wings in his courtyard. It has been raining for three days, and it appears that the man was in a shipwreck. Neither Pelayo nor his wife Elisenda can communicate with the old man, however, because he speaks a language they don’t understand. Pelayo and his wife bring the old man to their crab infested house and eventually throws him in their chicken coop, where they make him a prisoner. Seeing an opportunity to raise some money to build a new house, the couple start charging curious villagers a small fee to see the winged man, whom they assume to be an angel. The symbol in this story are the wings of the angel.

The symbol in this story are the wings because wings represent power, speed, and limitless freedom of motion. In the Christian tradition, angels are often represented as beautiful winged figures, and García Márquez plays off this cultural symbolism because, the wings of the man in the story convey only a sense of age and disease. Although the old man’s wings may be dirty, bedraggled, and bare, they are still magical enough to attract crowds of pilgrims and sightseers. When the village doctor examines the old man, he notices how naturally the wings fit in with the rest of his body. In fact, the doctor even wonders why everyone else doesn’t have wings as well. They suggested that the old man is both natural and supernatural at once, having the wings of a heavenly messenger but all the frailties of an earthly creature.

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The theme in the story is the existence of cruelty and compassion. This story is an example of the human response to those who are weak, dependent, and different. There are moments of cruelty and harshness- throughout the story. After Elisenda and Pelayo’s child recovers from his illness, for example, the parents decide to put the old man to sea on a raft with provisions for three days rather than just killing him, a concession to the old man’s tricky situation but hardly a kind act. Once they discover that they can profit from showcasing him, however, Pelayo and Elisenda imprison him in a chicken coop outside, where strangers pelt him with stones, gawk at him, and even burn him with a branding iron.

Even though he was kept as a prisoner and gawked at by the town residents, the very old man still had his wings. He was used for the selfish needs of those around him. Even though he went through all of the things that Pelayo and Elisenda put him through his wings were a representation of freedom.

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