An Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Essay Example
An Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Essay Example

An Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Essay Example

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  • Pages: 16 (4256 words)
  • Published: October 1, 2017
  • Type: Essay
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The themes of doubt and ambiguity in the story make it challenging as it presents important facts that remain unresolved, lending itself to various interpretations. The story establishes the reality of the old man and his peculiar wings, but his true identity remains uncertain. It is uncertain whether he is an angel from heaven or a human with a sad fate and wings, or something else altogether unexplained.

Deliberate uncertainty in a story, especially a fairy tale, can leave readers feeling cheated as they expect a clear-cut meaning and revelations from the author. If not provided, there could be a perceived failure by either the reader or the writer. However, in many other forms of writing like realism, ambiguity is intentionally used to make the story feel less like a traditional tale and more like real life. This is because real life is f


ar more uncertain than stories, and readers are often left choosing among several possible explanations of events.

Readers typically only know part of the story in daily life, but writers are expected to provide a clear and complete understanding. However, magic realism often employs ambiguity to great effect, which is admired by critics. While there are rules that writers must follow even when dealing with magical or supernatural elements, Garcia Marquez challenges these norms. He insists on breaking them and utilizes the fantastic elements to create the story. This leaves the reader unsure of how to interpret and trust the narrator.

At times, the protagonist of the story highlights the absurdity of the villagers' superstitious beliefs, while at other times, the reader is encouraged to accept impossible events as truth. The transformation of

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person into a giant spider and a man who is incapable of sleeping due to the noise of stars are examples of such impossibilities that may leave readers questioning if they genuinely occurred or are simply figments of imagination. Some may interpret these events as poetic metaphors meant to be interpreted beyond their literal sense, while others may suspect the author of teasing readers by presenting limitless miraculous possibilities only to thwart expectations later. It's important to appreciate this kind of story without relying solely on clear moral lessons and meanings. Instead, one must be open to experiencing the abundance of possibilities and comic misunderstandings that arise. Ambiguity can help to emphasize the inherently uncertain nature of assigning meaning to events.

Literary critics have long been interested in the challenging task of interpretation, especially in regards to this story. This may explain why Garcia Marquez remains a popular subject for scholarly analysis. Theories emphasize that every “reading,” whether of literature or life, is heavily influenced by one’s context, personal interests, and point of view. Although this influence may be observed in others, it is often unconscious when analyzing oneself. The assumptions behind one’s thinking are so familiar that they go unnoticed. Some argue that explanations are inventions and that the “true meanings” can never be reliably determined. While this extreme viewpoint may not be adopted, it reminds us that confident pronouncements about the world are seldom as rational or disinterested as we may perceive them to be. The peculiar thought-patterns of the villagers can be seen as a parody of this universal human tendency.

In the text, it is observed that individuals have a tendency

to convince themselves of irrational ideas, disregarding any contradictory evidence. They are prone to making impossible conclusions and believing in untrue notions such as angels consuming mothballs, and even go as far as naming an old man as the "mayor of the world." However, they are easily swayed by a more appealing truth. This comedic exaggeration of ignorance by Garcia Marquez highlights a common trait that can be found across cultures, namely an unquestioning loyalty to conventional wisdom and a stubborn belief in one's own ideas. The author also puts the reader in a similar position, where they must either accept seemingly absurd conclusions or abandon all hope of comprehension.

Garcia Marquez's story denies clear meanings, complicating the reader's understanding of truth. Literary context often invites readers to search for symbolic meanings and hidden messages in characters, but there are no clues to help confirm or deny interpretations. The reader may question whether the story even has a meaning at all and is left to decide for themselves. Despite engaging the reader's thinking like a fairy tale, the suspicion remains that they may end up as foolish and gullible as the villagers.

In the story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," Bird-Man, See, and Elisenda are the main characters. Elisenda plays an active role in decision-making with her husband Pelayo. Together, they discover and try to understand the strange old man who has appeared. Elisenda is the first to suggest charging admission to see the "angel," which ultimately leads to their wealth. Despite her newfound riches and impressive mansion, Elisenda finds the old man to be a constant annoyance, always in her way and

seemingly useless. This feeling intensifies over time as she continues to shoo him away like a stray dying man.

Elisenda becomes increasingly frustrated with the situation and eventually screams about living in a hell full of angels. She is the only witness to the old man's departure as he tries out his regrown wings. Elisenda's reaction to his departure suggests sympathy for him and a hope that her life will return to normal. From the kitchen window, she watches silently as he disappears over the horizon, letting out a sigh of relief for both herself and the old man. Father Gonzaga, a former woodcutter and village priest, is a moral and intellectual authority due to his religious training and standing in the community. He is uniquely qualified among the characters to determine whether the strange visitor is one of God's angels or just a Norwegian with wings.

Nevertheless, Father Gonzaga's comprehension of church doctrine does not allow him to arrive at any firm conclusions. He advises the villagers to refrain from forming their own opinions until he can obtain a conclusive response from Vatican scholars. Father Gonzaga is unable to provide an explanation and is kept awake at night by the enigma until his congregation loses all interest in the elderly man. Upon scrutinizing the angelic being, Father Gonzaga swiftly suspects that it is a fraud.

Despite his derelict condition, undignified appearance, and unbearable odor, the old man appears "much too human" to be accepted as a perfect immortal or divine being. Instead of relying solely on his senses, however, the narrator tests the old man based on church teachings about angels. He greets the

old man in Latin, but the lack of response seems suspicious, as it suggests that the "angel" doesn't understand the language of God or know how to greet His ministers. The narrator conducts further tests based on letters from higher church authorities, including checking if the old man has a belly-button and if his language resembles the biblical dialect of Aramaic. Despite all these tests, the narrator cannot come to a final judgment about the old man's divinity.

Despite Father Gonzaga's warnings, his flock eagerly jumps to conclusions, as he is unable to provide the answers they seek. As a comic authority figure, he can be interpreted in various ways. However, he proves to be ineffective in his role as a spiritual authority, as well as a source of wisdom and enlightenment. His superiors in the church hierarchy also offer little assistance and focus instead on obscure theological abstractions, such as quantifying the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin.

The portrayal of the Catholic Church and organized religion in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" may be viewed satirically. Additionally, critics argue that Father Gonzaga's inquiry methods are a parody of the scientific method, and his ineffective communication with church scholars highlights the futility of bureaucracies. Some see a reflection of themselves in the character of the cultural authority, who is unwilling to acknowledge their own limitations. The story follows Pelayo, the town bailiff, who discovers an old man with wings after a storm. Pelayo and his wife, Elisenda, exhibit the strange visitor as a carnival attraction and profit greatly from his temporary fame.

Within a week of paid

admissions, the couple had amassed enough funds to transform their modest dwelling into a luxurious mansion by village standards. Pelayo leaves his job and establishes a rabbit warren on the outskirts of town, exchanging his administrative role for the life of a gamekeeping squire. Though the discovery of the winged creature brings them prosperity, it also introduces chaos and intricacy to their lives – not exactly the kind of fortune they expect to repeat. When designing their new home, Pelayo and Elisenda ensure that it is equipped with iron bars on the windows to prevent any angels from entering.

"Spider-Woman" was the main attraction of a traveling carnival and was known as the woman who had been turned into a spider for disobeying her parents. Despite the presence of an old man, the villagers were more interested in seeing her, causing Pelayo and Elisenda's courtyard business to come to a halt. According to legend, as a child, she had gone dancing all night against her parents' wishes. Later on, she was struck by lightning and transformed into a terrifying tarantula that was as big as a ram while walking home.

Displayed with a mournful maiden's head, the spider-woman offers a more satisfying spectacle than the confusing old man. In addition to being as grotesque and fantastic as the "bird-man," she offers lower admission fees. Moreover, she freely communicates with her guests, sharing her sad tale and inspiring empathy for her condition. Her story has an easily understandable "meaning" and imparts a clear moral lesson that validates the villagers' conventional beliefs.

The focal character of the story, Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, contradicts religious

and folk beliefs of angelic nature and doesn't explain himself. The old man's existence poses unsettling questions without offering any comforting reassurances. He lacks a name but is aptly described in the title as a very old man, in feeble health and frailty due to old age, with an extremly large Bird’s wings sprouting from his back. The tale follows other characters' farcical endeavors to interpret him, give some significance to his sudden arrival, and finally tolerate his bothersome existence. However, even at the end when he departs by flying away, the enigma endures.

The image of angels is often associated with the concept of a "winged humanoid", leading many villagers to assume the winged creature found by Pelayo is an angel. However, the creature contradicts traditional beliefs of angelic perfection and power. When discovered in the courtyard, the creature was in a pathetic state, laying face down in mud, dressed like a ragpicker and with half-plucked wings infested with bugs. Even Father Gonzaga notes that the creature's appearance lacks the proud dignity of angels. Therefore, the creature's condition strips away any sense of grandeur he might have had.

Throughout the story, the villagers treated him with disrespect and without any reverence, refusing to give him any dignity. He was treated like a sideshow freak, constantly being examined and scrutinized, despite being the source of the family's great fortune. Elisenda grew increasingly annoyed and unhinged by his constant presence, despite his importance to their success. Though he was standoffish towards most people, he only showed affection to the couple's young child, causing the villagers to view him as a haughty angel who barely acknowledged them. Despite

his mistreatment, he was held prisoner for years in a filthy, battered chicken coop that left him exposed to the elements. He was even branded with a hot iron and pelted with stones and garbage like a circus animal.

When considering his harsh imprisonment, it is evident that the protagonist's sole supernatural attribute is patience. However, this virtue is stripped of its heavenly connotation and instead represents the patience of a disillusioned dog. The narrator uses imagery that portrays the elderly man as impoverished and frail, opposing traditional godly ideals. Furthermore, the comparison of the man to birds is done with ignoble species such as buzzards, decrepit hens, and senile vultures.

Despite his mysterious origins and unexplained wings, there is an undeniable element of magic surrounding him. However, despite performing miracles, they often fall short of expectations. While he is unable to fully restore sight to the blind or cure the leper's sores, he does grant them consolation miracles - such as growing new teeth or sunflowers from their wounds. Some suggest that these types of miracles could be attributed to a form of mental disorder or misfiring magic powers caused by senility.

The old man's actions could be interpreted as either practical jokes or a way to retaliate against the mistreatment he received from the crowd. When Pelayo and Elisenda offer him shelter, their sick child miraculously recovers - although it's unclear if this is coincidence or yet another instance of failed magic according to the neighbor woman's belief that he is an angel of death. Additionally, despite being visibly frail, the old man demonstrates remarkable inner strength. He gradually deteriorates throughout the story and is

deemed by a doctor to be "impossible to be alive." Towards the end of the story, his death seems inevitable.

After years of being useless, the old man's wings grow new feathers and regain their strength with the arrival of spring. This allows him to escape the village permanently. Although he is not accustomed to living on land, his association with the sea is also evident as he washed up from over it with a tide of crabs during a three-day storm. His initial attempts to fly away are accompanied by a wind that seems to come from the high seas. Pelayo and Elisenda initially mistake him for a foreign sailor, possibly because of his strong sailor's voice and unintelligible speech. One early plan involved setting him adrift on a raft with provisions.

As his wings regenerate, the old man beneath the stars sings sea chanteys. The significance of this connection and its interpretation is disputed by critics. However, in Garcia Marquez's other works, the sea is a prominent theme and symbol, representing a powerful natural force capable of both great gifts and destruction, and the supernatural. Many of his stories involve unusual strangers from the outside world arriving by sea and having a profound impact on small towns. Moreover, Pelayo and Elisenda's child is somehow connected to the old man.

Initially, the newborn appears to be unwell, but upon the arrival of an "angel," he swiftly recovers. A "wise neighbor woman" suspects that the "angel" was sent to bring forth the child's demise. Interestingly, both the elderly man and the child contract chicken pox simultaneously, prompting the old man to display uncharacteristic tolerance as he allows

clever misdeeds to occur around and near him with grace. Sadly, besides these instances, their relationship is not explored further. Due to the mistreatment faced by the misunderstood outsider that is the old man, he evokes primarily pity, which is an unexpected feeling for an "angel" to elicit.

Despite having magical qualities that make him a potential figure of wonder, the old man's human vulnerability keeps him from being seen as much more than a suggestion. Additionally, there is an equal suggestion of a potential "dark side." Pelayo's initial impression is that of seeing a nightmare and the old man's unpredictable magic powers make him dangerous. This is observed when he flaps his wings causing a whirlwind of chicken dung and lunar dust, creating a panic that seems otherworldly when burned with a branding iron.

The arrival of the old man with enormous wings is a moment that fills the villagers with terror. Even though he eventually becomes passive, his demeanor is still regarded with caution and fear, as if he were a cataclysm in repose. Despite bringing miraculous wealth to Pelayo and Elisenda, the experience of having the old man around is unnerving, making Elisenda feel as if she were living in a hell full of angels. As the couple design their dream home, they make sure to angel-proof it with iron bars. The story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" was adapted into a Spanish film in 1988, directed by Fernando Birri, with some modifications from the original story.

The film featuring Daisy Granados, Asdrubal Melendez, and Luis Alberto Ramirez can be found with English subtitles on Fox/Lorber Home Video, Facets Multimedia, Inc., or

from Ingram International Films. While Garcia Marquez presents the plot in an undivided manner, this discussion will separate it into four stages. The story starts with the arrival of the "old man," and concludes with his departure. Between these events, which take place over a number of years, there are two periods: the initial occurrence when his visit causes a stir, and a prolonged period during which interest in the peculiar outsider gradually fades away. The setting of this tale is an anonymous coastal village from an indeterminate time in the past.

A prolonged rainstorm has led to crabs from the beach invading Pelayo's house, causing a strong odor that he believes may be affecting his sick newborn child. When disposing of the crabs, Pelayo notices a figure lying on the ground in his courtyard. As he approaches, he discovers it to be an extremely old man who has fallen face down in the mud and is hindered by his enormous wings. Pelayo and his wife Elisenda are both initially amazed by the pitiful "bird-man," but as they observe him, he begins to seem somewhat familiar to them. Although they cannot comprehend his language, the old man possesses a powerful sailor's voice that further adds to his enigmatic presence. Despite the mystery surrounding his wings, the couple concludes that the old man must be a foreign sailor who has been shipwrecked.

After being discovered by Pelayo and Elisenda, an old man is believed by a neighbor to be an angel. Despite the neighbor's advice to kill him, Pelayo opts to lock him up in his chicken coop with intentions of disposing of him by setting him adrift

at sea. The next day, they are greeted by a crowd of curious neighbors who learn of the captive angel in Pelayo's house.

The villagers view the old man with contempt, treating him as if he were a spectacle to be fed and speculated about. Some propose him to be made the “mayor of the world,” while others suggest him as a “five-star general” to win all wars. There are those who desire him to sire a “winged wise men” super-race to rule the universe. Father Gonzaga, the village priest, inspects the captive and assumes him to be an “impostor,” his woeful appearance at odds with traditional church depictions of angels.

The priest, upon encountering the old man, finds him to be malodorous and frail with bug-infested wings while also lacking in knowledge of church customs. Thus, the priest deems him unworthy of being an angel. Although skeptical, the priest refrains from making a definitive judgement on the matter. Instead, he writes letters to his church superiors while awaiting a verdict from Vatican scholars. The priest cautions the townspeople not to hastily draw any conclusions. Nevertheless, news of the "angel" spreads, attracting large crowds and creating a festive atmosphere akin to that of fairy tales. Amidst the spectacle, the old man remains aloof and endures mistreatment with superhuman patience.

Traveling circuses and carnivals are a popular attraction that draw large crowds to town. Despite being highly regarded, one particular attraction, an angelic figure who refuses to acknowledge mortals, faces stiff competition from a new sensation: the spider-woman. Unlike the majestic image of angels, the spider-woman's origins stem from fairytales and folk legends. Her humble

beginnings as a young girl who was struck by lightning while disobeying her parents led to her transformation into a giant tarantula, though she retained her human head. Despite appearing monstrous, the spider-woman is able to connect with her audience by speaking to them and sharing her story, which serves as a cautionary tale about obedience. In contrast, the old man who runs the puzzling attraction does not engage with his audience and remains mysterious, challenging their expectations.

Although he does perform some miracles, they are equally puzzling and appear to be either practical jokes or the result of a supposed “mental disorder”. These disappointing miracles ultimately ruin the angel’s reputation and when the woman who had been transformed into a spider crushes him, the crowds disappear from Pelayo and Elisenda’s courtyard as suddenly as they had arrived, and the unexplained mystery of the “bird-man” is quickly forgotten. But, thanks to the previously paying customers, Pelayo and Elisenda become wealthy and build themselves a luxurious two-story mansion with balconies, gardens, high netting to keep out crabs during winter, and iron bars on the windows to prevent angels from getting in. Despite their lavish lifestyle, the ruined chicken coop and its ancient captive still remain. As years pass, the couple’s child grows up playing in the courtyard with the old man who stubbornly survives despite his infirmities and neglect.

Upon examination by a doctor, it is surprising that the old man is still alive, and the doctor is impressed by the naturalness of his wings, even questioning why they are not more common. Despite initial mystery and wonder, the bird-man becomes a constant irritant to Elisenda, as she

seems to encounter him everywhere in the house. She becomes so frustrated that she even screams about living in a "hell full of angels". Eventually, the old man's health declines further and he appears close to death.

As the chilly winter transforms into the warm and bright days of spring, the elderly man's health starts improving. It appears that he's aware of the change and its significance. He attempts to avoid the family's gaze by spending several days sitting motionless in the corner of the courtyard. During the night, he hums melodious sea shanties to himself. Gradually, his wings start getting covered with stiff, fresh feathers. One day, in the courtyard, Elisenda spots him trying them out. Although his initial attempts to fly are awkward and involve flapping fruitlessly, he eventually manages to take flight.

Elisenda feels relieved as she sees the old man go, viewing him as an insignificant dot on the horizon of the sea. Garcia Marquez defies expectations in creating the character of the old man, playing with traditional angel stereotypes. Angels are typically portrayed as supernatural beings that exude qualities such as grandeur, perfection, wisdom, and grace. However, Garcia Marquez contrasts this with his portrayal of the old man. Despite his physical resemblance to humans, angels are typically considered super-human in every possible way.

Upon encountering the old man, one's initial reaction may parallel that of Father Gonzaga - finding him to be too human. Garcia Marquez portrays a being with mortal flaws and senility, described as a "drenched great-grandfather", in unworthy and undignified circumstances. The imagery of his feathered wings prompts comparison to birds; however, even this allusion is degraded and unremarkable, labeling

him as a "senile vulture" or a "decrepit hen", rather than a magnificent eagle or graceful swan. The villages must grapple with comprehending an apparent "angel" who does not align with their anticipated expectations, similarly to how the reader is positioned by the author. Garcia Marquez further deviates from typical literary practices by amalgamating various types of imagery.

On the third day of rain, the world had been sad since Tuesday. This line provides a factual weather report, while the subsequent sentence utilizes poetic language to portray human emotion being projected onto the weather and the world. These two perspectives are familiar to readers: a literal interpretation of fact and imaginative use of language that elicits emotional responses. While readers approach factual accounts logically, they anticipate creative descriptions in imaginative stories to provoke evocative effects.

Throughout the story, Garcia Marquez combines realistic and magical details in a way that suggests both attitudes are valid and not sufficient by themselves. This ambiguity is strengthened by inconsistencies in the narrative voice. The narrator presents odd imagery to the reader, who looks to them for interpretation. For example, when the narrator confirms the reader's suspicion that Father Gonzaga's approach is futile despite his confident assurances to the crowd. Narrators not only present facts but also direct readers on how to interpret information. However, this narrator seems to redirect readers in different directions and be inconsistent in their attitude towards events.

The narrator in the story sometimes portrays the villagers as having ridiculous beliefs about the old man, calling them "frivolous" or "simple". However, there are moments where the narrator appears just as willing to believe in the fantastical as the villagers

do. The spider-woman's transformation, for instance, is presented as plainly magical without any suggestion that it should be seen as unusual. Despite being wiser than the villagers, readers may find the narrator lacking in their understanding of the old man's true nature. This unreliable storytelling only serves to deepen the mystery and makes it difficult to assign a definite meaning to the story.

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