Compare a very old man
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” tells the story of a strange occurrence in a coastal village, when a couple suddenly found an old man with wings - Compare a very old man introduction. Dubbed “a tale for children” by Garcia Marquez himself, it uses a literary style called magic realism, in which both realistic and fantastical elements are combined. In the story, the couple is said to have “overcame their surprise” after they found the winged old man, and “in the end found him familiar” (171). It also seems common for the fictional village to have visitors that do not have the usual human characteristics. There is a girl who was turned into a spider because she disobeyed her parents, and the man who couldn’t sleep because he was disturbed by the noise of the stars.
But what is interesting to note in this story is that even though the protagonist is the old man with wings, it is not really his story. All throughout the story, readers will wonder, who is the old man? What is he? Is he an angel? Is he from this world? The story does not provide an answer to these questions, nor does it hint on any possibility. This makes sense, because the story is about the people, the villagers.
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This is the same with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil”. The story revolves around the minister, and it is his story. The conflict in this story, as with Garcia Marquez’ short story is the mystery behind the main character. The questions asked by the readers are, why does the minister wear the black veil? Why does he not let people see him without it? So on and so forth. But “The Minister’s Black Veil” also does not provide answers. Some readers may say that the minister wore the black veil because he had sinned, and that it was his only way to repent. But that is not the point. Answering the questions regarding the mystery behind the old man with wings and the black-veiled minister is useless, because both stories do not ask its readers to answer riddles. The mysteries will be mysteries, and readers will never agree on the truths behind them.
What is the point then of both stories? Both had mysterious characters, and unanswered questions. It is certainly easy to overlook the other thing that both stories have in common: the people. In Garcia Marquez’ story, the people are awed and intrigued by the appearance of the “angel”, that they treat him as both divine being and freak. In Hawthorne’s story, the people in the Puritan community are scandalized due to the sudden change in their minister, which caused them to spread rumors. What are common between these two groups of people are their values shown, and their reactions to the change that they observed.
Though the people in both stories have different backgrounds and cultures, their attitudes are the same. They attempt to understand and explain what they do not understand by making up rumors and spreading them, incorporating local superstitions, beliefs and myths. Religious beliefs are not spared; they too get mixed up in the rumors spread by the people. They disapprove of changes, and see these unexplained things as either divine or evil, but mostly evil. This act results in the protagonists to be abandoned or alienated. In “The Minister’s Black Veil”, the protagonist withdraws from the people when he found out their fear of him. However, in the other story, the old man, whether because he is senile or just do not care about the world, does not mind the people leaving him. The readers do not really get an idea as to how the old man thinks.
Perhaps, the story is a “tale for children” that is why the story seems to lack the characteristics of a traditional story. There is also no clear epiphany, unlike with Hawthorne’s story. Nonetheless, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is a story of magic realism, having a fantastical character in the winged old man, and a realistic portrayal of a group of people and their community that knows nothing else besides what they are.
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”. [First Published 1972.] Rpt. The Heath Introduction to Literature. Eds. Alice S. Landy and William Rodney Allen. Sixth Ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. 171-176
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Minister’s Black Veil”. [First Published 1836.] Rpt. The Heath Introduction to Literature. Eds. Alice S. Landy and William Rodney Allen. Sixth Ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. 138-147.