One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Struggle Between Fate and Free Will

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One Hundred Years of Solitude

Generation after generation of characters in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude face the same struggle between fate and their own free will. However, the unsolved problems of one generation - self-isolation, unhealthy romantic pursuits, poor decision making, and even the symbolic recycling of names - inexplicably and inevitably flare up again in the next. Not only do the characters experience the cyclical behavior in their own family, but in the outside world as well; making clear the author’s intention to criticize humanity’s inability to learn from their mistakes by emphasizing the cyclical nature of history as a theme.

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Though on a smaller scale, the circle of events in the Buendía family are ever-present. Names often recycled such as Aureliano and José Arcadio carry significant weight for generations down the line, representing undesirable personality aspects: tendencies for isolation and bravado to excess, for example. Not to mention the manner in which the family handles romance, which leads to either incest or futile, painfully long term romantic pursuits. Even though the repetition seems rather blatant, only the great matriarch Ursula seems to notice that “it’s as if the world were repeating itself” (Márquez 298) while her family continue to make the same mistakes. Due to the importance of the continuing names, the author points out that as individuals, behavioral habits are difficult to break once they’re deeply established. Many humans seek to avoid change even to a fault, thus characters in the novel paradoxically fight to be meaningful in their world, they ultimately pave the road to their fated destruction - just as their forefathers did.

Additionally, thematic cycles manifest themselves in the world outside of the Buendía family and Macondo in the form of politics and power. Indeed, the concept of the “revolving door” of political parties and ideologies resonates perfectly with characters in the novels, who struggle to remember which party represents what, and even who they’re fighting for. The liberal and conservative wars overshadowed the lives of several generations of characters and left several confused about their own perceived beliefs, wounded, or dead. Repeatedly, shadowy hands grappled for power in government and in Macondo while the citizens suffered; a criticism of the roundabout manner of politics that Márquez made clear. Nobody from the bottom of society to the very top seem able to learn from their mistakes and produce significant change, and unfortunately remain caught in the eternal cycle of a power struggle.

Sadly, for the ill-fated Buendías, the most significant cause of their demise came from themselves. The family seemed caught in a chaotic downward spiral and were unable to break away from their self-fulfilling prophecies - even the final one, since Aureliano Babilonia fulfilled his own prophetic death as Macondo was “wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment” ( 417) as soon as he read that it would. Even though that seems like a bad idea to say the least, the history of the Buendías is riddled with bad ideas, which ultimately destroyed them. Their past illustrates the author’s use of negative cycles to condemn humanity’s tendency to form such cycles, which can only lead to the same outcome that Macondo experienced - if not literal destruction, then to decay in the minds of those who live on, and certainly “not have a second opportunity on earth.” (417)

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