“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”
“Treat others just as you would like to be treated,” they say. As people, we often see others who are different as strange, and don’t necessarily treat them as we would like to be treated. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez describes the story of an old man that appears to be an angel. This angel, however, is not the typical angel one would imagine, as he is in a “pitiful condition,” and others view this angel as a weird, unknown creature. Marquez portrays the ideas of magical realism, which is infuse magical elements with realistic elements, as well as revealing human relations in everyday occurrences. Marquez ultimately shows how the old man is not well accepted within the society, as he is different from others, viewed as a lowly object, and mistreated.
First, the idea of human relations in magical realism is shown by the people in a society tend to not accept those who are different because being “different” is often known as being “abnormal.” The old man is not the same as others; he stands out with his “huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked.” The mundane situation of a feeble old man, in this case, is combined with a creature that has magical characteristics, such as wings and feathers, partially resembling an angel. In addition, this old man with enormous wings does not have the greatest man-to-world relationship, as he is outcasted due to his unique features. His wings “seemed so natural [on a] human organism that he couldn’t understand why other men didn’t have them too.” While the man does have wings, which appear to be strange, they seem to be very natural if other men were to have them as well. By combining the fantastic element of wings with the mundane feeling that the wings appear to be very natural for a human to have, the old man is magical, yet realistic. Marquez uses a combination of these everyday and magical elements, and depicts the theory of magical realism by showing how this man is not socially accepted for his aesthetic differences.
Next, the relationship of man to world is not equal, and is portrayed with how the world views this man. Due to this man not being socially accepted, he is viewed as a lowly, weird creature, rather than an ordinary member of the society. The man with enormous wings is not seen as an equal to each of the people, as they “toss[ed] him things to eat through the openings in the wire as if weren’t a supernatural creature but a circus animal.” Though this man should be viewed as a supernatural angel, he is seen as a lowly member because he does not live up to the ideals of the “normal angel” that society would like to see. He is different, and therefore he is abnormal and viewed as unworthy in society’s point of view. Not only that, but he is also not able to live a normal life, as Elisenda “got the idea of charging five cents admission to see the angel.” With such idea, the man is being thought of as a zoo animal, per se, that can be observed through a cage or fence. He is not seen as a regular being, or a supernatural angel, but rather a lowly and unworthy member of the society. Through these the angel’s fantastic, yet mundane characteristics, Marquez reveals the essential aspects of human relationships.
Finally, the mistreatment that society gives this man is due to his seemingly abnormal and supernatural traits. This weak old man with wings and feathers has “hens peck[ing] at him, searching for the stellar parasites that proliferated in his wings,” along with the “crippes pull[ing] out feathers to touch their defective parts with,” and the “merciful [throwing] stones at him.” This man is being used and mistreated for his unique characteristics, as a result of him being the hybrid of magical and mundane features. The society does not wish to take care of him, nor do they care about his well-being. Eventually,while Elisenda is “cutting the onions,” the man flies across the sky, “in some way with the risky flapping of a senile vulture,” and she felt like “he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot in the horizon of the sea.” This half-angel-half-man is of no worth in her opinion, and she is glad that he is out of her life, no longer being an “annoyance.” With his fairytale-like features, the feeble old man with enormous wings is not the ordinary creature; therefore his relationship with other humans and the world is weak. These ideas of magical realism point out how this man is outcasted in society, with his “abnormal” magical, yet realistic traits.
In conclusion, man does not easily accept one that does not resemble him. Gabriel Garcia Marquez characterizes the essentials of human relation in magical realism through the life of an old man with angel-like characteristics. This man is not well-accepted within the society, as he is different and abnormal. He does not look the same way that other people or angels do, is viewed as a low member of the society, and is mistreated and used for the wrong reasons. As a result, the old man’s relationship with the world is debilitated. With mankind having a prejudice against those who are different, how can there be any variety in the world?