A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
Garcia Márquez’s A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings takes into account the supernatural existence and human response to it through various thematic expressions. Magic realism manifested through two supernatural characters in the story shape the plot, setting and style of the story. Supernatural characterization not only moves the plot toward a conclusion but it remains the central problem of the story. The plot and Garcia’s narrative style is marked with various elements of magic realism.
Garcia unlimited imaginative substance weaves the story with real content to make sense.
The angel like bird-man remains the centre of attention and his inexplicable and incomprehensible nature moves the plot as it poses a dilemma for the masses in the story. Furthermore, another supernatural incidence takes the lead from the bird-man i.e. the spider like woman. The setting in which the bird-man appears has an aura of supernatural. It has been raining for three days and “[t]he world had been sad since Tuesday.
Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish. The light was so weak at noon…” All these setting have something mysterious about it. It seems to be a herald and manifestation of supernatural happenings. Garcia style is upto mark here as he ends this setting-up of mysterious circumstances with the introduction of a supernatural occurrence i.e. the arrival of “man with the enormous wings”. So he creates a fictional world with the realistic elements and details and this creation, the fictional components reside alongside with real details. So it is balance mix of reality and fiction that is a hallmark of magic realism.
Garcia’s characterization of the both supernatural characters is a beautiful balance mix of reality and supernatural elements. The old man has human characteristics as well as angelic qualities. His enormous wings, his persistent patience despite the oddities of human and his content over the suffering afflicted on him through various means are all manifestation of a non-human angelic nature and disposition. Yet he has a feeble and frail body. Father Gonzaga also considers him non-angelic as he does not possess the decorum and magnificence of an angel. Garcia poses a question here whether old man lacks these angelic qualities innately or the behavior of the people around him compels him to act so poise-less. But it is obvious that Garcia blends the human angelic character to produce a supernatural effect and to create a mystery about him (old man).The attribution of human like qualities serves another purpose as it helps him to be recognized by everyone and no one questions his existence to be real. Garcia further leads his reader to grant same type acceptance for the old man. It shows that character of old man is not a static character as it produces different kinds of emotions in the heart of the people and the readers as well. This is a manifestation of his dynamics although he does not change much except some physical changes in the end.
Garcia Márquez lends another supernatural element to the characterization of the old man. Miraculous things start happenings with his arrival. Pelayo’s child recovers and rainfall that was consistent for past many days stops. As a direct result of his presence, the family of Pelayo flourishes. Many other miracles come about although not as it ere thought but it consoles the affected in one way or the other. “[T]he blind man who didn’t recover his sight but grew three new teeth, or the paralytic who didn’t get to walk but almost won the lottery, and the leper whose sores sprouted sunflowers.” Garcia labels these miracles as “consolation” miracles. The spider-girl is introduced to augment the supernatural theme of the story. It further manifests people paradoxical tendency toward the reception of supernatural. People at large do not accept old man as totally supernatural make a mockery of him. On the other side they accept the supernatural element in the story of the spider-girl. Their response to old-man and spider-girl is different. Garcia further exposes the human follies that instead of learning the true nature of the supernatural, people take pleasure in them and look at them as object of entertainment only.
Garcia employs a variety of sensual imagery to produce the supernatural effect in the story. This imagery helps us to consider him a real supernatural character that is totally different from the typecast supernatural characters. First he employs the visual imagery to take the old man something tangible, touchable and real. Readers and people in the story can see his “a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth” and “his wings…strewn with parasites” and his feathers that “had been mistreated by terrestrial winds…”this visual imagery helps to produce a concrete and real character that is not a figment of Pelayo’s mind. Additionally, people can feel his smell and can sense the surface of his wings. This imagery and its supportive language contribute toward developing the supernatural character of the story. Where old man is represented by strong sensual imagery, his supernatural traits are also emphasized. But Garcia put a haze on the peculiarity of real and the supernatural elements in the story and leaves it to the people and the reader to decode about the character of bird-man. This further enhances the supernatural nature of the story.
Although plot of the story follows a straightforward and uncomplicated line of events but people responses how to deal with the old man creates interest. The preliminary reaction was a wicked one where people asked to beat him death. But with the passage of time, this response turns into a cherished one where he is seen as a celebrity. The introduction of the spider-girls further changes the plot that ends with the flight f the old man.
Above-mentioned discussion and supporting arguments clearly manifest that Garcia Márquez employs a variety of fictional elements to reinforce the primary them of the story i.e. the supernatural existence and human reception of it and he does it in a subtle and skillful manner.
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