One Hundred Years of Solitude Essay

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One Hundred Years of Solitude

Since the beginning of time, man has clung to the notion that

there exists some external force that determines his destiny. In

Grecian times, the epic poet Hesoid wrote of a triumvirate of

mythological Fates that supposedly gave “to men at birth evil and

good to have”. In other words, these three granted man his destiny.

Clotho “spun the thread of life”, Lacheis distributed the lots, and

Atropos with his “abhorred shears” would “cut the thread at

death”(Hamilton-43). All efforts to avoid the Fates were in vain. In

every case their sentence would eventually be delivered. And it

appears that once the Fates’ ballot had been cast, the characters in

Greek myths had no chance for redemption. One must wonder if man, like

the Greeks portrayed, has any real choice in determining how he lives.

That issue of choice arises when comparing Gabriel Marquez’s One

Hundred Years of Solitude and Yasunari Kawabata’s Thousand Cranes. The

men in Yasunari Kawabata’s Thousand Cranes and Gabriel Garcia

Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude forever seem to be repeating

the lives of their male ancestors. These cycles reveal that man as a

being, just like the mythological heros, has no true choice in the

ultimate course his life will take. The male characters’ personal

development is overshadowed by the identity of their ancestors.

Clotho, it appears, has recycled some of her spinning thread. The new

male generations, superficially, are perceived to be woven of like

design. Kikuji Mitani and the male Buendia’s face communities that

remember their ancestors. As a result, their unique communities

inadvertently compare the actions of the sons to their respective

fathers’, having recognized the apparent similarities. Eclipsed by his

father’s aura, within his village, Kikuji’s identity has no separate

definition. To most townsfolk, like those at Chikako’s tea ceremony,

Kikuji exists as “Old Mr. Mitani’s son”(16). He and his father are

therefore viewed as essentially the same person. Kikuji can take no

action to change the village’s preformed perception.

In contrast, The Aurelianos and Jose Arcadios have been set into a

self that their name, not their upbringing, dictate. Ursula, after

many years drew some conclusions about “the insistent repetition of

names”(106) within the Buendia family. While the eldest Jose Arcadio

Buendia was slightly crazy, his raw maleness is transferred to all the

Jose Arcadio’s that follow. They tended to be “impulsive and

enterprising” though “marked with a tragic sign”(186). On the other

hand, the Aurelianos, corresponding to the open-eyed Colonel, seem to

be “indifferent”(15) and “withdrawn”(186) yet sparked with a “fearless

curiosity”(15). The Aurelianos’ tendency towards solitude that shut

the Colonel away in his later years, would generations later, give his

distant descendant Aureliano Babilonia the stamina to decipher

Melquiades scriptures(422). Together, this perfunctory family

tradition seemed to influence the course these men’s live’s would take

in the same way that Kikuji’s perception by his community lopped him

into the path of his father. And just as Kikuji could not change the

villages preformed opinions, the named Buendia males can have no hand

in changing their given characters.

The men’s selection of lovers, in turn, continues to perpetuate

their cycle of behavior shared with their relatives. Despite warnings,

Kikuji Mitani and the Buendia men engage in hazardous sexual activity

that harbors grave consequences. Lacheis’ lots, in this case, are

inevitable. Choice and independent action are impossible for these men

since Lacheis has distributed the familial key to their female

attractions. There is an eerie twist in Kikuji’s Mitani’s love affairs

with his father’s mistress and her daughter. His first encounter with

Mrs. Ota leaves Kikuji suspicious of the affair where agewise, “Mrs.

Ota was at least forty-five , some twenty years older than

Kikuji”(28). However, despite the generation gap, during their

encounter Kikuji had felt that he “had a woman younger than he in his

arms”(28). Mrs. Ota had substituted Kikuji as his father, thus forcing

Kikuji to follow in his fathers footsteps. Kikuji is not oblivious to

the strange path his love life seems to be taking, yet he does nothing

to resist. Instead, a defiant Kikuji asserting that he had not been

seduced determines, it was something else that had drawn him to her.

The “something else” was generational fate stepping in to turn the

cycle, overriding Kikuji’s notion to choose. Later, when Kikuji takes

Fumiko, this patterned love affair cycles once again. He is doing the

same thing as his father had done before him, but with the next

generation. Though Kikuji does not feel guilt about the association

(93), he cannot explain why he chose Fumiko over a near perfect

Inamura girl. In the Buendia family, too, sexual relationships provide

evidence for a continuing predestined cycle. Only in One Hundred Years

of Solitude, these relations exist in the form of incest. From the

beginning of the novel the Buendia family is aware of the dangers of

interbreeding. A preoccupied Ursula is apprehensious about

consummating her love with Jose Arcadio Buendia because of the family

legend of the an incestual Pig’s tail(20). Nevertheless, she abandons

her fears of a mutant offspring under the heavy persuasion of Jose

Arcadio Buendia, and succumbs to the marriage. In the years to follow,

the pattern of incest continues when Jose Arcadio sleeps with Pilar

Ternera(30-31). Jose and Pilar are not related through blood, but Jose

Arcadio had come to look at Pilar as a comforting mother. In that

scope, the phenomenon becomes based on a sense of safety that rests in

the family not just on lust. Once again, their relationship becomes

incestuous. With nearly every incestuous love fair that comes to front

the Buendias thereafter, the woman warns of the curse but the man

presses on. And for one hundred years, though time and time again

characters commit the sin of incest, the Buendia curse is not

fulfilled. In the end ,however, when Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano

unknowingly unite, they reenact the fated Buendia curse of years

before. Born to them is a child with “the tail of a pig”(417). The

pattern of the Buendia’s incestual choice is so uncanny and so

repetitive that like Kikuji’s reliving of his father’s life, it

becomes evident that the phenomenon is far more than a simple

coincidence. Kawabata and Marquez are distributing the males these

lots to show how small the individual’s role is in determining his

fate.

Though the men make various attempts to stray from fates path,

their efforts prove futile as their struggles always bring them back

to where they began. When Atropos decides to snip away at their

livelihoods, their valiant efforts to outwit and avoid are no match

for their chosen fate. Nevertheless, at one point or another both

Kikuji and the Buendia men naively attempt to override their fate.

While not always a conscious effort, their futile divergence always

results in failure, reaffirming the strength of their predestination.

Being an inert character, Kikuji often times fails to take action.

Thus, his rebellion is manifested in thoughts of disagreement. Chikako

is a constant source of unpleasantness for Kikuji. He is disgusted

with himself for having let her take some control of his life. Yet

Kikuji, like his father, cannot seem to rid himself of the intrusive

Chikako. In response to the neuter’s meddling, Kikuji takes slanderous

shots behind her back. He complains to Mrs. Ota of Chikako’s

“Poison”(30), but refuses to confront her. Thus he cannot get her out

of his life and his fated oppression is continued. Kikuji’s thoughts

of divergence take hold again when he realizes there is something

wrong becoming involved with Fumiko. With her he is tormented,

“conscious of Fumiko’s mother, Mrs. Ota,”(132) but through his

inaction, Kikuji lets himself be pulled into another devastating

relationship that ultimately ends in the suicide of his newfound love.

His thoughts symbolized his divergence, yet his inert tendencies keep

him on the course life had laid.

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano

went beyond assuming tradition by investigating if they were in anyway

related. In doing this, they made a conscious effort far superior than

any Buendia before them to examine their relationship and prevent the

incest. Indeed, they knew the danger associated with incest, so they

tried to avoid it. Their efforts, of course, proved in vain. Their

inquiry remained superficial as they “accept(ed) the version of the

basket”(415). Aureliano Babilonia was trying to “spare themselves”one

“terror”(415) but ultimately exchanged it for the true destruction

that fate would bring. The couple had the chance to further probe, but

stopped short and took the easy route of fate’s guidance. This

comfortable path led them to the final deliverance. Their fate is

fulfilled when a child with a tale of a pig is born unto them. Their

horror is comparative to Kikuji when he learns of Fumiko’s suicide and

finds himself left only with the despised Chikako. The quest for the

most meaningful life had been swiftly cut for these males despite

their ardent objections. The modern world may not believe in the

Grecian Fates, but that doesn’t destroy the value of their underlying

theme. The Fates were an attempt by men to explain the unexplainable,

the coincidences in the odd. In One Hundred Years of Solitude and

Thousand Cranes there are many events that can’t be explained

rationally, specifically why the male characters continue to repeat

actions that promise condemnation. Thus, the character’s efforts to

shape his destiny ultimately becomes futile in the face of the desires

of some unknown manipulator- characterized by the theme of Fate.

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