A very old man with enormous wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a magnificent illustration of society’s deficiencies. The story primarily focuses on individuals’ lack of value, judgements towards the neighbor and highlights the nature of human beings and inconsistency of faith by contrasting the communities reactions to the old man.
When an angel comes into your house, what will you expect on him? A white clean dress, gorgeous sparkling wings and a kind-hearted person with warming smiles always on his face? Normally, angels will have all of these characteristics. However, the old man in this story not only violates our expectation but he also disappoints the hopes of the villagers. At the beginning, the story is set with an unpleasant scenario: a drab town in which the inhabitants lead mundane lives without much aim or ambition and inclement weather. There is a strong sense of sickness and decay. A busy family suddenly find an old man who just crashed in their patio. The appearance of the old man obviously frightens the family and the villagers “he dressed like a ragpicker”, “there were only a few faded hairs on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth”; moreover,his unimpressive wings was described as “trewn with parasites” and “dirty and half-plucked.”
The way he appears is completely different from what they imagined. Intentionally, their expectations are pushed on him like you’re an angel, you’re supposed to come up with magic and beauty. Contrary to the crowd’s ideas, he’s just a normal person. He literally might not have a celestial body of an angel; however, the old man represents humanity who stands out as being different from the rest of society. In my opinion, angel is a creature that you barely observe through naked eyes or in such inadequate pointviews; angel is the way your heart truly feel it. Marquez gives wings to the old man which also implies that he’s an “angel”. Using an angel as a symbol, the author shows that ignorance often lead human nature to uncivilized behaviours. The old man epitomizes both natural and supernatural at once, having the wings of a divine messenger but all the frailties of an earthly creature.
Angel comes into these villagers’ lives and instead of being interested and curious about this different person, they persecute, exploit it and this poor creature is treated cruelly. The story itself is rather strange because none of these people are nice, compassionate or humane. They show a lot of ignorance in how they treat the old man and their ideas about him. Even the church, which represents for enlightenment, turns out to be more noise and bureaucratic and doesn’t have anything effective or constructive to contribute. Villagers have such a narrow perspective that they don’t appreciate what they have. This fantabulous creature is there but they don’t go to any trouble to learn more about him or figure out what he is except with derision, with fear, with cruelty. They simply say you’re not what we ordered and just overlook all of the interesting qualities about him. He’s smelly, groos, has bugs in his wings and doesn’t seem to engage with people. After all, the villagers did throw him in a chicken cop.
Though the old man has his wings, his other attributes don’t match what Pelayo and Elisenda expect an angel to be like. He seems too familiar and human to be angel, even if he does have extraordinary wings on his back. Definitely, he isn’t an “angel” that God send to us; however, the old man brings indirectly to Pelayo and Elisenda: money, a mansion, and a better life and most importantly their child begins to make a miraculous recovery, yet nobody attributes this to the “angel”. The old man might be a sailor who associates with the sea, sings sailor songs called chanteys; unluckily, his ship could had a crash and then he drifted to this coastal area. Or he might be a missing man that his family is looking for. Whenever he comes from, the old man deserves well treatment instead of being exploited for personal gains because after all, the old man is only human and these villagers should have appropriate behaviors towards him.
At the of the story when the “angel” takes gain enough strength to take fly straight up to the sky in front of surprising speechless eyes of Elisenda, she watches the old man as he flapped around, trying to get a grip on the air “she kept watching him even when he was cutting through the onions and she kept watching until he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea.” The old man leaves these ungrateful and cruel people behind and he will go to other happy places in which he truly belongs to. After bearing his suffer with such patience, he wins his freedom at the end by finally regaining enough strength to fly away.
The story is full of enigmas, and the its power lies on its ability to raise questions instead of ‘absolute truths’. It helps us, as a human beings, look at the world with new eyes free from the mundanity and familiarity of the real world. Furthermore, Marquez has clearly made a true statement about the poverty of many people’s faith, how even if an angel visited them they would fail to recognize it for what it was.
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