Love in the time of cholera The novel “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1985) is one of the most acclaimed Spanish modern classics. Reviewers describe the novel as a prose masterpiece filled with intense emotion and description, especially with regards to expressing texture, taste, smell and pleasure in relation to specific places and incidents (Jones, 1997). This theme of the novel is about life and love in a South American country that is much like the author’s country of origin of Colombia, hence the ease in effectively describing settings within the novel (Bell-Villada, 1990).
Marquez incorporated much of Colombia’s cultural strife and society in the novel and in his other writings. He was successful in effectively illustrating the large gap between the rich and the poor, along with the injustices in South America. He was born in 1928 in the small town of Aracataca and was raised by his grandparents and when he was eight years old, his grandfather passed away. He often expressed that it was during the time spent with his grandfather that all of the most exciting things happened in his life and after his death nothing exciting ever happened (McNerney, 1998).
When Marquez explained that he created stories from a single image and his image of this story was, “two old people dancing on the deck of a boat dancing a bolero” (Matuz and Gills, 1988).The setting of “Love in the time of cholera” was during the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century in a Spanish city in South America. The novel begins with de Saint-Amour’s suicide and Urbino, the town’s medical doctor, is called as to come to investigate. Saint-Amour had taken cyanide to end his life because two issues, his getting older and his belief that his mistress doesn’t really love him, lead him to believe that he was destined to experience unrequited love” (Garcia Marquez, 1989).
His desperation of getting older was truly the core of his own suicide. Urbino is saddened by his friend’s suicide and reflects on his own aging self, ending with Urbino’s death. The plot of the story involves Florentino, who loves Urbino’s wife and has been waiting for her for exactly fifty-one years, nine months, and four days can now re-profess his love for her. After the funeral, Florentino tells Fermina how he feels, he tells her of his vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love (Garcia Marquez, 1989).
She expresses anger towards Florentino and tells him to leave her house forever because he is destroying her husband’s memory by what he just had done. But strangely, she dreams that night of Florentino, a love she passed on so many years ago.The middle of the novel tells a tale of love between Fermina and Florentino, but also chronicles Fermina’s long marriage to Urbino. Conflict in the story involves the separation of Fermina and Florentino, initiated by Fermina’s father and yet the two individuals kept in contact, by telegraph, which was the same setting as Garcia Marquez’s parents.
The point of view of the novel is that of Florentino and the entire novel illustrates the strength of his devotion to Fermina. Once during the years apart, he happened to see Fermina’s reflection in a restaurant mirror, and he had to buy it from the owner and persuaded him to sell it so he can take it home, this was a good representation of the mystical realism the book had. He believed that her reflection was captured in the mirror and having the mirror gave him a sense of having her. By the time they are able to be together because of Urbino’s death, Ariza is seventy-six and Daza is seventy-one years old.
He was not an attractive man but he also was not faithful to his love on this earthly plane, but was only faithful on the spiritual plane. Florentino’s drive for writing, which mirrors the ability of the author, puts him to writing hundreds of sexual encounters. He estimated that this long-term love status lasted for 622 encounters. He had written them in twenty-five notebooks that he gave the title of “Women”.
Florentino has a romantic belief in love and would do anything, even total devotion to his love. He loves writing love letters and that is how he won the love of Fermina when they were young. It took almost two years to win Fermina’s heart back again. Florentino persuaded Fermina to take a cruise with him up the Magdalena River on a boat that was named New Fidelity.
Their love grew and eventually they consummated their love on this cruise. How Marquez described their aging bodies as a reflection of the time that had passed between them. On the first night of the trip, when Fermina finally allowed Florentino to touch her hand, they realized how different this now was than when they first touched when they were younger, but soon realized how really it was the same. It is depicted in the novel that “the hands made of old bones were not the hands they had imagined before touching and in the next moment however, they were” (Garcia Marquez, 1989).
Their love making was too hurried at first and not as satisfying as they would have hoped by still they are satisfied with the simple joy of being together (Garcia Marquez, 1989).The title of the novel reflects many aspects of the novel. Urbino first met Fermina because she became ill during a cholera epidemic. Fermina’s father thought that possibly she had cholera, but she just had the stomach flu instead.
In another part of the novel, Florentino becomes ill and believes his symptoms meant he had cholera, but his was because of his suffering from unrequited love. He had two episodes like this when he was a young fellow and another when Fermina allowed him back into her house after banishing him a year before when her husband had died. At the end of the novel Florentino also has the boat captain fly a cholera flag to have privacy. It works because of the bodies in the river could be victims of another cholera epidemic.
But they have problems when they found difficulty is parking at the dock because of the flag and Florentino vows to protect her with his love and under the cholera flag meant forever. When Gabriel Garcia Marquez was interviewed by Marlise Simons he was asked what intrigued him about plagues he replied, “They make people want to live more. It’s that almost metaphysical dimension that interests me” (Matuz and Gills, 1988).The novel is very complex and should not be interpreted literally.
It allows the characters Florentino and Fermina to claim their age but to still explore life with vigor. Author S.M.J.
Minta wrote, “It is a novel about commitment and fidelity under circumstances which seem to render such virtues, absurd, about refusal to grow old gracefully and respectably, about the triumph sentiment can still win over reason, and above al, perhaps, about Latin America, about keeping faith with where, for better or worse, you started from.” (Matuz and Gills, 1988). Marquez’s writing of love is truly heart felt and inspiring. His love and imagination for writing is clear in this novel.
The mystical realism in his novels flows so easily because it is so evident in his own life. Galen Strawson wrote, “Garcia Marquez’s insight into human turpitude and pettiness is inseparable from and amusement and forgiveness, and from intense affections” (Matuz and Gills, 1989). This is a good description of what the novel was all about.Garcia Marquez’s references were made towards his grandmother’s influence in his writings and especially when looking at the mystical aspect of his writings.
His grandmother, Tranquilina Iquaran Cotes believed in the supernatural and it was incorporated into their daily life, “many of the tales he heard during this period find their way into his fiction, it is the matter of fact tone with which his grandmother said the most outrageous things that characterized his work” (McNerney, 1988). Many of his female characters mirrored his grandmother’s attitude and beliefs. Female characters were fundamental in his writings, just as they were to him in reality. Women were strong, but knew their place.
With Fermina Daza her duties were to her husband up until his death. When an event happened to a character it was usually on a grand scale, such as the love Ariza has for Daza, this was said to mirror Marquez’s life he would say, “Everything that happened to me in the street had an enormous resonance in the house. The women in the kitchen would tell the stories to the strangers arriving on the train, who in turn brought other stories to be told” (McNerney, 1988).Marquez said his first contact with the written word was when he was five by way of his grandfather.
And it was on a trip as an adult to his grandparent’s home that gave him the inspiration to be a writer. His use of symbolism was probably because of his grandmother and is blended with all of his writings. The novel “Love in the Time of Cholera”, revolves around a strange love triangle between a husband and his wife who through the course of fifty years showed how another man loved the woman enough to wait until her present husband would die then he could replace him having the woman for himself. As the story unfolds Fermina Daza, the female character and wife of Urbino’s the doctor, only married him for security but after awhile began a love for him.
The man who had loved her all during this time, Florentino Ariza, believed his love was beyond this realm, spiritual making it indestructible and forever. Florentino believed that love constituted his entire reason for being. With Marquez’s writing of Florentino he linked love and suffering very well. Marquez’s grandmother would say, “Take advantage and suffer all you can now that your young things like this won’t last your whole life” (McNerney, 1988).
The reflection of Florentino’s mother underestimation of her son’s ability to love was probably the same with Marquez’s grandmother. When asked what was the creation of “Love in the Time of Cholera” Marquez replied that “it came from two sources the first was the love affair between his parents”, which he compares to his parents and the other was a story he had read about the death of two Americans who for forty years had meet in Acapulco, but on their last trip they had taken a boat ride and was killed by the boatman and robbed. It was because of their deaths and how their romance was found out that intrigued him (Matuz and Gills, 1988). ReferencesBell-Villada GH (1990): Garcia Marquez: The man and his works.
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Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall. Matuz, R (ed.
) and Gills, MK (1988): Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 55. Detroit: Gale Research Company. McNerney, K (1998): Understanding Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press.