Fatalism in One Hundred Years of Solitude
In Marcus Aurelius’ book, Meditation, he advised for one to “Suit [themselves] to the estate in which [their] lot is cast. ” Fatalism, often associated with predestination, is the belief that every event including all actions we as humans partake in are caused by outside forces beyond our control. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez uses irony to reveal how preventing a prediction guarantees its fulfillment. Fatalism, as revealed in the novel, requires a state of peace of mind which can only be achieved when characters escape active emotional involvement in life and accept the fate which they have been given.
Apprehension over fatalism traces back to the beginning of the predicted marriage of the two cousins, Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula Iguaran. Long before Ursula’s unease of the result of incest, “their own relatives tried to stop [their marriage]” (Gabriel Garcia Marquez 20) because “they were afraid that those two healthy products…would suffer the shame of breeding iguanas” (20). The notion of breeding animals was not a concern in which neither Jose Arcadio nor Ursula had control over in that “there had already been a horrible precedent” (20) that had set the stage for what was to become Ursula’s ultimate anxiety.
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Ursula, the withstanding matriarch of the Buendia family “would have been happy…if [her] mother had not terrified her with all the manner of sinister predictions about their offspring” (20), but because of this forewarning, Ursula will forever “[make] full use of her faculties…[so that] no one but she determined the destiny of the family” (228) and avoid producing children with animal traits. Unlike Ursula’s constant worry of incest and its consequences, Jose Arcadio willingly chooses to take disinterest in this phenomenon.
When Ursula confides in Jose Arcadio about the incident in which their son, Aureliano, had predicted that the pot of water will spill, Jose deems it of no importance and simply “interpreted it as a natural phenomenon” (15). This certainty and fatalism in seeing the future, in accordance to Jose Arcadio’s point of view does not change a thing. It is as if, looking forward or back, nothing can be changed. This impression of the unchangeable future and the tangible present, which is ultimately the past , is seen in Jose Arcadio Buendia’s disinterest in his sons.
Due to Jose Arcadio’s non fatalistic ideas, he is able to fulfill his fascination of the unknown by taking on projects, experiments, and inventions instead of worrying what the future held for him. According to Jose Arcadio, “[he] was in no condition to resist. It was all the same to him” (pg 139), attempting to defy what is already prearranged would only take away from his priorities, evidently contrasting from that of Ursula’s belief. The story of the Buendias, even with Ursula’s relentless effort, reveal the limited amount of control an individual has over his/her own destiny.
Aureliano Triste’s sketch of the railroad is a “direct descendant of the plans with which Jose Arcadio Buendia had illustrated his project for solar warfare” (221) and when Jose Arcadio Segundo isolates himself away devoid of contact from others to study Melquiades’s manuscript, his face reflects “the irreparable fate of his great-grandfather” (313). Even though characteristics are largely influenced by genetics and by surroundings, life, to an extent, is subject to certain laws because all human beings go through a lot of the same experiences, which goes on to correspond to a conventional pattern.
With this pattern in mind, it can be deduced that Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula Iguaran are essentially the only two characters within the novel; all their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are merely variations of their strengths and weaknesses. Through the repetition of names and characteristics, Gabriel Garcia Marquez draws the connection that: history is cyclical, human nature does not go through a great deal of changes, and that the Buendia family is trapped into a cycle of repetitions.
No matter whom the character the reader is introduced to, the reader is able to quickly learn to expect the unexpected just as Pilar Ternera, whose quiet wisdom helps guide the Buendia family, no longer needed her cards to “tell the future of a Buendia” (289). Not only did Jose Arcadio Buendia and his wife relocate to Macondo to escape the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar, but also to prevent future generations of incest from eventually producing a child with a pig’s tail.
What they did not realize, however, was that by fleeing, they increased the chances of intermarrying because the town of Macondo was so small that it was of no surprise that Buendia relatives themselves married one another, knowing that they may trigger the infamous legend from happening. As the novel progresses, it becomes more and more evident that even as the Buendias move forward along the straight line of time, they find themselves returning to the beginning of time in a shrinking oscillating spiral. The people of Macondo and the Buendias often have a meaningful present, but their lives sooner or later ose meaning because they are incapable of seizing control of their own history. To be fatalistic about the future and accept the possibility that terrible things may happen can cause us to feel better when good things happen. This, unsurprisingly, is Ursula’s critical weakness. Her focus in preventing the pig’s tail from happening took away from what she could have done alternatively. For it was not in Ursula’s control, but in Melquiades’s Sanskrit writing that Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano Babilonia would “engender the mythological animal that was to bring the line to an end” (416).
It was not in her control whether a Buendia child was or was not to be born with an irregularity. The future and collapse of the Buendia family was already decided for. Had Ursula not troubled herself with the problem of incest, she may have been able to participate in other pleasurable matters just as Jose Arcadio engaged in recreation with science. Fatalism, in a sense, is a form of nihilism where nothing has meaning, nothing can be known, and nothing can be done to make a difference. This leads to a belief that nothing is worth fighting or living for.
It can become a rejection of any personal commitment just as Jose Arcadio put his interest in making discoveries before being a father figure for his sons and daughter. Fatalism, consistent with Jose Arcadio Buendia ideas, enables us to accept things that cannot be changed just as he uses fatalism as a rationale for not caring about what happens or about how other people are affected by what happens based on a feeling that his efforts will be futile. But with this attitude, he was not hindered from doing what he wanted to do. He was free to live his life as he pleased without constantly fearing the future.