Kindness and generosity are two of the traits that are taught in the society, people are advised and urged to be generous to their neighbours and to show kindness to the weak in the society. However this advice is not followed even by those that give it, selfishness and cruelty is all that is displayed in every sector of the society including the religious institutions that are supposed to set a good example to the society when it comes to matters concerning compassion.
It is true that selfishness and cruelty are part of human nature, but again the degree to which people continue to express them is disheartening and it affects the society and surrounding culture (Entrican Wilson, 56). In his book ‘“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” Gabriel Garcia brings out the theme of selfishness and cruelty very clearly right from the beginning of the book. He uses the character of the old man who is weak and helpless throughout the book to show how cruel and selfish people are to the weak in the society and also how they are willing to exploit other people for their own gain without any care of how they feel.
The first characters that helps to bring out the theme of cruelty in the book are Pelayo and his wife Elisenda, it is explained in the book that the weather during that time was very cold and the old man looked very frail but their first instinct was not to cover him and give him some wa...
rm clothing as would be expected from compassionate individuals . Their first thoughts was to get rid of him because they did not want to have anything to do with someone as weak as him and their reaction changes when they are told by their neighbour that the old man was an angel an assumption gotten from the large wings on his back.
Though the two decided to let the old man stay for the throughout the day, they still did not offer him anything to eat nor drink, they just left him outside in the cold and Pelayo even spent the whole afternoon watching him with a club in his hand despite the fact that the old man was too weak to even stand on his own let alone attack anyone. The cruelty in these two characters is seen when they prefer to lock the old man in the wired chicken coop to spend the night with the hens without offering him any food despite the fact that he was human being just like them.
The way that Pelayo and his wife are described in the book shows that they are poor and this is illustrated by the fact that they spent most of the nights killing crabs that entered in their old house meaning they were too poor to afford a new house. This presentation of the poor state in which Pelayo and his family lived in however does not trigger some compassion in them to help the old man further illustrating that cruelty in the society is not demonstrated by certain social classes but rather by
every individual irrespective of their social status (Goodwin, 32).
More cruelty and selfishness is demonstrated after Pelayo’s child recover from the fever a recovery that is attributed to be because of the old man. Pelayo and his wife are ready to get rid of the old man who is still weak even after he had led to the recovery of their only child. The two were not concerned about what would happen to the old man after they put him on a raft and set him to sea with only provisions for three days because he was of no use to them (Garci?a, 8). This situation is only changed when they discover that they could benefit from him by charging the people who came to see him at their home. What is sad is that even then, they do not bother to offer the old man a better place to stay but they just left him with the chicken as they gained wealth from letting other people humiliate him.
The whole scenario of the old man getting caged while people paid some fee to come and watch, feed him and even do cruel things such throwing stones and burning him with iron brings about the issue of wild animals in parks. One cannot help but imagine the things that these animals go through while they are locked down. They have to withstand everything done to them whether good or bad because they are helpless while the people and organizations that own them continue to accumulate wealth from the whole situation (Goodwin, 34).
The people in that society as presented in the book saw the old man as a means to solving their problems; the sick plucked his feathers without his consent not caring whether they hurt him or not while the onlookers threw stones and poked him without showing any sense of compassion for the old sickly man (Garci?a, 12). Throughout this entire ordeal, Pelayo and his wife did not bother to defend the old man from this brutality because all they were concerned about is the money that they gained further emphasising selfishness in humanity.
What is even surprising is that the church that is always preaching about the need to show compassion as earlier illustrated did not at any time come to the rescue of the old man. Father Gonzaga’s main concern throughout the book is how he was going to convince the people that the old man was not an angel instead of looking for ways to convince the people to show some kindness to this helpless being (Goodwin, 65).
It is worth noting that people travelled from very far away regions just to come and see these presumed angel and they did not mind paying the required fee that had been put in place by Elisenda just so they could get their problem solved (Goodwin, 78). They were however disappointed when they could not get the helped that they hoped to get and started losing interest in the old man this further strengthening the theme of selfishness in the book. In-fact when a travelling show of a woman who had been