A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings as a Perfect Example of Magical Realism

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A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings As a Perfect Example Of Magical Realism

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Role in Magic Realism
  • The Criticism of Magic Realism Genre
  • Fantasy vs Reality in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
  • The Symbolism in Marquez's A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
  • Conclusion


"A Very old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Marquez is a wonderful example of Magical Realism. We can say that A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is a magical realistic piece because it combines realistic narrative and naturalistic technique with surreal elements of dream or fantasy.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Role in Magic Realism

All throughout his life the author of A Very old Man with Enormous Wings, Gabriel García Marquez, was engulfed in the world of literature and storytelling. Growing up in Colombia Marquez listened to family tales and when he was a young adult he went on to pursue a career in journalism. Marquez faced many challenges in Colombia, concerning both him and his family. Eventually he moved from Colombia to Spain in hopes of having a better life. Gabriel García Marquez is now considered a master of Magical Realism, but ironically reality is a consistent theme in many of his pieces. Marquez has been quoted as saying that much of his early work mirrors the reality of his life in Colombia and this theme is the foundation of the rational structure of the books.

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Marquez has played a major role in making magic realism what it is today, and the style is generally associated with him. Magic realism was originally a style used to describe the writing of Jorge Louis Borges in Argentina. Marquez uses this style in his novels and also in his short stories. Magic realism is a blend of folk and fairy tale, yet unlike these forms of writing it does not provide a definite moral lesson. There is no simple meaning to be pulled out of the text, and the style has no specific reasoning for the events that take place in a story. Magic realism blurs the line between contrasting elements, such as the serious and the trivial, or the horrible and ludicrous. It violates the standard forms of realism and romance.

The Criticism of Magic Realism Genre

Magic realism is a very controversial form of writing. Many critics have claimed that European writers use the style to appropriate the fiction of others. Others claim that it is simply a literary trend that unimaginative authors continue to use to be up to date on the popular, nontraditional writing styles of today. Finally, some critics believe that the style limits the talents of the writer, and should not be considered as a serious literary form.

The acceptance of Garcia Marquez's writings does much to justify magical-realistic techniques but simultaneously proves that magical realism alone does not make a writer great. Garcia Marquez's creativity, knowledge, and captivating writer’s voice provide the best explanation as to why his work is so popular.

Fantasy vs Reality in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

In A Very old Man with Enormous Wings the angel represents the things in life that are beyond our capability of understanding. We are told perhaps he had come for the ill child but we aren’t sure. The fantasy of the old man with wings possibly being an angel is twisted into the reality of this poor family who gathers crabs and has a sick child.

As the story progresses we continue to recognize the fantasy of this possible angel being on earth meshing with the reality of human nature. We go on to see the poor family switch up from trying to figure out how to care for this “angel” properly, to disregarding any of the angel’s needs due to the fact that they discovered they could likely make a profit showcasing him for a cost. The angel’s value decreases as the story goes along. He quickly goes from being something to be admired and questioned to a disgusting being that is cast away with the chickens and not taken care of humanely.

Yet again we witness this peculiar mix of fantasy and reality as the angel is talked about in a spiritual sense as people tell of what the angel supposedly eats or what angels supposedly have the power to do, etc. but continue to abuse and torture him and keep him in a filthy cage. The fantasy is that this Supreme Being has landed on earth, but the reality of human nature is that when something is unfamiliar to us we naturally feel as if we have the authority to capture, study it, invade its personal space and take full advantage of it.

The Symbolism in Marquez's A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

Another blatant combination of fantasy and reality in this piece is that this story is about an “angel” but the angel is filthy and old. As humans when we think of heavenly beings we automatically think of beautiful, pristine, pure beings. When we hear the word “angel” our minds conjure up an image of a glistening flawless white robe on a porcelain toned being, perhaps with radiating blonde hair and a spit-shining halo. My point is, we have been trained to think of certain things in certain ways. Heaven means purity. Purity means without blemish or imperfections. So clearly, an angel - being from heaven - would be without blemish or imperfection. An angel coming to earth as anything less than perfect, instead of remaining respected and being treated as something heavenly, was abused and harassed because people assumed it couldn’t possibly be an angel - because this isn’t what angels look like. This is our mindset. This is how society has trained us to think. We have our ideas, we are familiar with our stereotypes, and it takes much training in the practice of open-mindedness to even think about letting our stereotypes go.

One may argue that considering the old man with wings as something less than an angel is simply convenient for everybody and that is why it’s done. Perhaps their minds were never changed from the original assumption that the old man is an angel, but rather, thinking of him as just “a very old man with enormous wings” kept them from feeling guilty in their repulsive treatment of the foreign being. Perhaps the people were well aware that this old man with wings was an angel (what else could he be?) but because he didn’t look how they wanted or expected an angel to look they wanted to justify their disdain by telling themselves and others that this old man was nothing more than an old man, who happened to have wings, so what’s the harm in messing with him? By dehumanizing the being the people easily rid themselves of a guilty conscience for their wrongdoing.


A Very old Man with Enormous Wings is a splendid example of Gabriel García Marquez adopting magic realism as “his” style and making it his own by the way he applies it in his storytelling. This story is truly a perfectly balanced mixture of reality and fantasy.

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