One Hundred Years of Solitude
A Distorted Reality
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a book about history and culture; the imaginary town of Macondo is based on the author’s hometown of Aracataca, and the many events described in the novel – the civil unrest, the labor/commercial struggles, the technological changes – are historically accurate. Furthermore, Garcia Marquez’s narrative voice is borrowed: “The tone I eventually used in One Hundred Years of Solitude was based on the way my grandmother used to tell stories. She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness” (Fields). It may seem safe to say that Garcia Marquez’s novel is a work of reality, but this is not the case. Garcia Marquez’s unique style – his inclusion of fantastic events, nonlinear development, free-flowing sentences – blurs the thin line between realism and fantasy by infusing the fictional with an aura of believability and the commonplace with an aura of magic. The resulting confusion leads to the creation of a distorted reality, which ironically reveals and contains some surprising truths. The “blur” that marks the boundary between reality and unreality is dominated by Garcia Marquez’s tone. Aside from the unperturbed attitude with which he treats unusual events – his surprising calmness – the author’s use of sensual language and hyperbole dare to counteract the novel’s believability to create an ironically more cogent reality. As one critic commented on Garcia Marquez’s technique: “If you say you have seen a pink elephant, you will not be believed, but say that you saw seventeen elephants flying about that afternoon, and your story gains in verisimilitude” (Bell-Villada 96). Garcia Marquez’s masterful use of exaggeration accomplishes exactly that: his exaggerations offer a ring of truth. In fact, several of the extraordinary events described actually occurred in real life. One critic recounts Joseph Conrad’s attempted suicide in response to the possibility that a bullet can go through Colone Aureliano Buendia’s body without damaging a single organ (Pelayo 50). The distorted view of reality that appears in One Hundred Years of Solitude is deeply influenced by South American superstitions and folklore. In essence, Garcia Marquez redefines the urbane world of reality to fit with the jungle, Macondo version of reality. The assumption of Remedios the Beauty’s ascendance is treated like another everyday event, while the arrival of the first railway train brings women screaming down the street proclaiming the entry of “something frightful, like a kitchen dragging a village behind it” (Garcia Marquez 182). This reversal of “appropriate” reactions leads the reader to believe that reality has literally ceased to exist, and the book becomes a story dominated by fantasy. Furthermore, this distorted reality is as much related to politics as it is to culture. During Garcia Marquez’s lifetime and due to his political experiences, “truth has been controlled to the point at which it has ceased to be possible to find out what it is. The only truth is that you are being lied to all the time” (Bell-Villada 45). Thus these exaggerations, or semi-lies, actually embody a confused world in which they are reality, in which they are the truth. The town of Macondo does not only represent a microcosm of the country of Colombia, but also the continent of South America, and by Garcia Marquez’s intentions, the world and its history, from the time of Eden to the eventual Apocalypse. Garcia Marquez’s style, which seeks to achieve a confusion of truth or a truth of confusion, is highly unique. He approach to this novel was strongly influenced by his career as a journalist: “On a number of occasions, in fact, Marquez has said that for him there is no real difference between the writing of journalism and the writing of fiction–both are committed to the rigors of realistic representation–and his own ideal of the novel involves as much reportage as imagination” (Irvine). Taken from this point of view, the truth in the distorted reality is literal: Marquez is just another reporter, and his writings about friendly ghosts and reappearing magicians constitute just another daily column. Though the themes that appear in Marquez’s book are not new – the domination of the rich over the poor, the corrupt over the pure, and the “civilized” over the indigenous – the difference appears in the way Marquez makes the reader see these events in a completely new light. In other words, it is not necessarily what he says, it is how he says it. Enter Marquez’s magical realism with a dab of “political realism,” which end up revealing important secrets to a once blind and foolish reader, who should have discovered them on his or her own. Garcia Marquez’s style begins with the structure of the novel. The structure of One Hundred Years of Solitude may seem ordinary, but upon closer inspection one notices that, first of all, the chapters are all unnumbered. By doing so, Garcia Marquez presents the various events in the novel as a single entity, implying a link in time and the progression of the decline of Macondo. The long, fluid, and eventful paragraph construction, combined with the long, flowing sentences, also conveys the unity of the plot and the rapid and unceasing course of time. The confusion is heightened by the literal repetition of names: one critic counts four Jose Arcadios, one Arcadio, one Aureliano Jose, three Aurelianos, seventeen Aurelianos from conquests during the Colonel’s warfare days, and three Remedios (Irvine). This absurd exaggeration by Garcia Marquez is a technique to point out an equally absurd consistency in the personality type of each name: the different names actually constitute a system of personalities that prevails through generations. The dichotomy between a complex structure packed with events and the names that remain unchanged over a century is essentially the truth Garcia Marquez is trying to bring to the surface: “repetition versus change of course is what human history is about” (Irvine). A seemingly confusing aspect of the book actually reveals an important meaning in the novel. The time aspect brings further confusion to the story. The novel’s timeline is basically linear, presenting an account of a town’s rise and eventual decline. Yet One Hundred Years of Solitude is packed with flashbacks and zigzag/circular time patterns. In fact, the first sentence of the book already contains the past, present, and future: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember the distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice” (Garcia Marquez 1). In addition, the time that appears in the novel fluctuates between periods of activity and periods of stagnancy. The growth of the town and the children takes place overnight, yet the slow physical decay of the village and the aging of the adults leave a bitter aftertaste that lasts for years on end. Consider the progenitor of the family, Jose Arcadio Buendia. He spends the end of his days tied to a tree, dwelling in his own bitterness and refusing to die. To add to the disarray, time moves circularly, as children take on the same identity as their ancestors, and when the town withers to the roots from which it grew, the book comes full circle. The capricious force of time plays an important role in One Hundred Years of Solitude. First of all, the decay of Macondo exposes the truth of “the horrors of lineal history” (Pelayo 45), which include the decline and eventual failure of man’s social, political, and religious institutions. However, Garcia Marquez’s inclusion of repetitive patterns provoked by mythical time creates “a mytho-poetic atmosphere that blurs sordid reality and thrusts the reader into a kind of temporal void where the laws of cause and effect end to become meaningless” (45), which is another truth in which a world of reality and fantasy turns meaningless. It is precisely because of Garcia Marquez’s juxtaposition of reality and fantasy that the essence of human nature can be seen and evaluated. From a reading of One Hundred Years of Solitude, the reader may assume that the author’s point is to say that the world is doomed to first fall into stagnation and decay and then be completely destroyed due to man’s lack of love, and spurred by his greed for power and money. The male characters in the novel do yield to this destiny; even Ursula states that she has finally discovered that the men are “incapable of love” (Garcia Marquez 282). The critic McMurray, however, argues that “ample evidence of eternal virtues is provided by Ursula, the archetype of feminine wisdom and stability; her husband Jose Arcadio Buendia, who embodies man’s heroic quest for progress and truth; their great-grandson Aureliano Segundo and Petra Cotes, whose sincere love makes them charitable toward others” (McMurray 148). Because of the novel’s stark irony of solitude in a prospering and expanding family, other readers might grasp the meaning to be the oppressive reality of everyone living alone in his or her own bubble in a world inhabited by billions of people, and of the ultimate meaninglessness of life. One Hundred Years of Solitude can also be viewed as an expression of moral indignation against exploitation, brutality, and degradation. But there is not doubt that the effect of the warped world of Macondo, which, as the reader discovers at the novel’s end, is a fiction within the fiction of Melquiades’ manuscripts, is the revelation of the warped world of humanity. It is best said by the critic Fields: “It would be a mistake to think of Marquez’s literary universe as an invented, self-referential, closed system. He is not writing about Middle Earth, but about the one we all inhabit. Macondo exists. That is its magic” (Fields 200).Works CitedBell-Villada, Gene H. García Márquez: The Man and His Work. Chapel Hill, NC: Chapel Hill University of North Carolina Press, 1990.Fields, Wayne. ” One Hundred Years of Solitude and New World Storytelling”. Latin American Literary Review 14 (1986): 73-88. Literature Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2001. GCPS, Lawrenceville, GA 21 April 2004
One Hundred years of Incest?
In the epic novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes about the Buendia family of mythical Macondo. Throughout the generations, the Buendias are plagued with incestuous relationships; by the end, they only succeed in isolating themselves from society and weaving unnatural bonds created by incest. The incestuous relationships in the novel allow the characters to “recreate” themselves, sinking the family deeper into isolation. Thus, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is not a book about incest. Rather, incest is used both as a catalyst for, and as a way to explore, the novel’s themes of memory and forgetfulness, circular time, and violence. Incest is a major theme of the novel from its beginning, when Macondo is founded. When Ursula marries her relative Jose Arcadio, she refuses to consummate the marriage, afraid of giving birth to an infant with a pig tail. When Prudencio Aguilar says that Jose Arcadio is unable to make his wife pregnant, Jose Arcadio murders him, only to be chased by his ghost; the fleeing couple form the town of Macondo. Although Jose Arcadio and Ursula are spared the fate of giving birth to a baby with a pig tail, Ursula continues to remember the threats caused by incest, often reminding her family not commit this sin. She remains the moral compass for her family until her death, and is the only one who remembers the past as more than a series of nostalgic recollections. Yet her power and influence are limited. She cannot stop her son JosÃ© Arcadio from becoming a gypsy or a male prostitute; neither can she dissuade her grandson Arcadio from becoming Macondo’s most despotic ruler or the Colonel from executing a man who deserved clemency. Powerless to stem the losses and tragedies that beset the family, she cannot help them avoid the fate set for them at the time of Macondo’s founding.The incestuous relationships in the novel particularly highlight character traits and emphasize the repetitiveness of character actions. Incest forges important links between the characters of present and past generations, further alienating them from society. For example, Auareliano and his aunt Amaranta enjoy a sexual relationship, halted only by Amaranta’s conscience. Two generations later, Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula-different individuals, but sharing the same names and many character traits-have a child together. Locked in a fierce passion, they forget about the outside world as the town of Macondo withers away. The theme of memory loss, and its being rooted in incest, is also tied to the notion of circular time. By forgetting their past, the Buendias repeat their ancestors’ mistakes and are unable to move forward in time. For example, when Arcadio returns after becoming a gypsy, he neglects the fact that he is related to Rebecca and marries her. Because no one connects the present to the past, the family allows this to happen. One significant metaphor for this inability is the “turning wheel.” As Marquez writes,There was no mystery in the heart of a Buendia that was impenetrable for [Pilar Ternera] because a century of cards and experience had taught her that the history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axel (Marquez 402).The wheel, representing circular time and repetition, spins throughout the novel. Yet, as Marquez writes, “the first of the line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by the ants…” ( Marquez 445). Thus, the fiber the wheel is weaving to tie the Buendia family together is delicate. The reader is aware that it is only a matter of time before it will be snapped. Not only does the family’s incest lead to the repetition of characters and their actions, however, but to violence, the culmination of the Buendias’ ignorance and passion. Their ignorance allows them to commit incest because they have forgotten how closely related they are, and now, this leaves them open to instability and violence. For example, Aureliano isolates himself, deciphering the ancient text of Melquiades, at the same time that his son, the last of the Buendia line, suffers the violent fate written for him since the founding of Macondo. Aureliano (III) must suffer this fate because of the actions of his predecessors. They forget their origins and do not realize how closely they are related. Their fate is written in Melquiades’s book, and they follow it easily. Thus, incest proves to be the crucial mistake of the novel and is ultimately the downfall of the Buendia family. By charting the path of the Buendia family, Marquez writes about the journey of humans. He does not give a moral commentary on incest, but rather a warning to remember the past to prepare for the future. The town and the family are fated to die because they do not have what is required to continue. Their commitment to solitude, fantasy, and desire doomed them; their lineage is unfit to continue because they do not know who they are or where they came from. Thus, the novel represents more than the Buendia family. It is a metaphor for the human race.
The GODDESS, the MATERNAL WHORE and the VINDICTIVE VIRGIN: Powerful Women in One Hundred Years of Solitude and Ulysses
Families in Ulysses and One Hundred Years of Solitude are often breeding grounds for distortion and curses, not of the stability and progress expected of most kin relations. Genealogies are either perverted or unsuccessful: The BuendÃa line, with its unrelenting spawning of repetitive names and its replicating, incestuous procreative urges, creates freaks like the final pig-tailed infant, doomed clones like the 17 Aurelianos and insanity in JosÃ© Arcadio BuendÃa and Colonel Aureliano BuendÃa. Even the opposite situation in Ulysses, with the stunted pseudo- family left by May Dedalus’ death and Bloom’s futile fatherly fantasies, suggest that relationships lead to regression and failure. Yet everyone is drawn inexorably back to this ‘original source’, this maelstrom of disruption. The family fold is so insular, inescapable – magical intervention lures Aureliano Segundo back to his home after he miraculously survives the plantation massacre, Bloom returns to Molly and their unhappy bed after an epic jaunt around Dublin – that it is a wonder how these families persevered for as long as they did.It is clear, at least, that fatherly guidance and paternal strength is not the sustaining force here. As Patricia Tobin describes the BuendÃas, “where…fatherhood is never more than a biological accident, in such a family one can hardly expect the triumph of the paternal promise that the present progeny will be identified as the continuation of past generations … Paternity confers neither legitimacy nor legacy upon the BuendÃas” (53). In fact, it is the women, an unconventional group of Atlases indeed, who simultaneously support yet continue to ruin the crumbling familial bedrock of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Ulysses. Neither the chaste innocents nor dutiful mothers of traditional epics, these women are the true origin and continuation of power – the maternal whores, the eternal (both living and dead) goddesses and the vindictive virgins. Feminine presence and will dominates these novels, driven by women’s unusual allure and control. Ãrsula, along with a coterie of distinctive females, rules Macondo with an iron matriarchal fist. Her apparently supernatural powers are reminiscent of the constant ghostly whisper of May Dedalus and bewitching attractiveness of prostitutes in Ulysses. However, before exploring these potent characters individually, it is crucial to examine them in comparison with their curiously incapacitated male counterparts, including the complacently cuckolded Bloom and the lovelorn, shuttered Aureliano BuendÃa. Carol Siegel proposes that Bloom is convinced of his “inability to ‘do a man’s job'”, especially considering his decade-long sexual dry spell with Molly (181). When Bloom hallucinates in “Circe”, he imagines himself anointed as the new “womanly man”, about to give birth, and, as Brenda Oded points out, “Bloom continues playing the role of motherly father in the closing sections of the novel” (Joyce 403, Oded 44). The recurring infantile, feminized ‘weak man’ with vagina envy only lends greater power to the women, who must overcompensate and diversify to make up for male inadequacy. For example, Bella Cohen retains her femininity while dominating Bloom, making her a doubly intimidating hybrid of hyper-gendered strength. Siegel furthers: “Bello, the “suckeress” threatens Bloom with a phallic but femininely high heels, “glistening in their proud erectness” … (Joyce 433). She refers to herself as a lady and tells Bloom to call her “mistress” although the stage directions assign Bella the male pronouns (Joyce 436) … Bello taunts Bloom for urinating sitting down and commands him to “Do it standing, sir!” (Joyce 438) … Bloom’s relationship to Bella is as changeable as their respective genders” (183).Bella/Bello’s ability to transcend gender boundaries, as well as evidence of Ursula’s and Pilar’s existence outside of time and May Dedalus’ return from the dead suggest a paranormal power, as if women in these novels are invincible goddesses. In almost every way, these women exhibit traits that show them to be superior to men. Molly’s sexual appetite far exceeds Bloom’s (and he is literally besieged by women in “Circe”, a chapter named after a legendary, mind-controlling witch), and even tiny, newt-like Rebeca can match JosÃ© Arcadio’s infamously lusty habits. Amaranta is just as ruthless as manly Arcadio (who, incidentally, is deposed by Ãrsula, who becomes a despot “who ruled the town” (116)) and Meme easily tops her father’s gluttonous exploits. These women reach the mythical excesses of classical gods while exerting total control over surrounding men. In much the same way that Bella lorded over Bloom, Ursula “had found the route that her husband had been unable to discover” and Amaranta Ãrsula re-entered Macondo “leading her husband by a silk rope tied around his neck” (40, 405). Returning to Bella, Jonathan Quick claims her power to be the “greatest of all. She is a potent figure of female ascendancy, breaking out of Carmen’s role as victimized free spirit and overwhelming men out of her deep knowledge of her sexual vulnerability” (236).But even without the contrast to men, the women of these novels are still idol-like in their omnipotence and mystery. From Stephen’s musings on a midwife and how “one of her sisterhood lugged me squealing into life. Creation from nothing … this is why mystic monks. Will you be as gods?” to the association of Miss Kennedy and Miss Douce with the legendary Sirens to Ãrsula looking like “a newborn old woman” at her death, women are portrayed as the harbingers of life and destruction, who can even decide when they die (Joyce 32, Marquez 368). They are the end-all and be-all of the universe, directed with a wave of Ursula’s “archangelic arm” or her presence “in so many places at the same time” or even her improved clairvoyance (359, 266). According to Arnold M. Penuel, “…Ãrsula, who loses her sight in her final years, becomes something of a seer, commenting on the lives of the other characters as if she were a composite Greek chorus” (552). However, these marvelous or magical powers are limited, almost ironically so. Pilar lives to age 145, not forever. The bevy of prostitutes can insinuate themselves in Bloom’s dreams, but he easily avoids them when they pass on the street. Ãrsula can predict the future, but cannot prevent her family’s demise. It’s as if women are demigoddesses – nearly almighty but equipped with an escape clause. These defects are kinks in these women’s plans to resurrect their families using superhuman methods.Regardless, if the women of these novels have divine origins or skills, then their temple is the brothel. All roads lead to the whorehouse in both Ulysses and One Hundred Years of Solitude because prostitutes are necessary to hereditary survival. The bastardizing of genealogy, normally a sign of sexual wantonness and pleasure being prioritized over familial yield, is here represented as an injection of innovation in an increasingly stagnant and doomed lineage. But promiscuity and productivity are an uncomfortable pair, as evidenced in Molly’s mother Lunita Laredo, who is a vessel for “painfully contradictory images that emerge with the ‘idea’ of her mother, both a common whore and a sexual adventuress, an ethnic exotic and a racial outcast, a woman whose body alternately evokes shame and pride in her daughter” (Quick 226).The enormous role of the prostitute in the generative faculties of the families is also meant partly as a parody of the paternal epics of the Gilgamesh or Beowulf variety and partly as a celebration of the sexually liberated pagan mother figure. Siegel mentions a passage in which, “in his drunken babble of ‘Circe or, what am I saying, Ceres’ altar’, Stephen confuses, as Bloom does, the ‘laughing witch’ with the fertile mother” (183). Rather than a blood network extrapolating from a heroic male epicenter, these novels flout epic tradition by giving ultimate power to prostitutes, who consider men to be transitory and peripheral. Throughout One Hundred Years of Solitude, the fate of the BuendÃas hinges on prostitute and fortune-teller Pilar Tenera’s ability to give birth and the unmarried Petra Cotes’ fruitful influence on livestock. In similar language, immediately following insinuations of Molly’s 25-plus whorish affairs, she is described as Gea-Tellus, or Earth Mother, “big with seed” (592, 606). Even the actual prostitutes “a necessary evil”, are invested with maternal tendencies and the promise of maternal abilities. Even “Zoe, urging Bloom to follow her up the stairs, is both whore and mother with “the hand that rocks the cradle” and at a touch reduces Bloom to his baby-self (Joyce 408)” (Siegel, 182). In other cases, however, rather than the prostitute taking on maternal characteristics, mothers are instead re-identified as licentious whores. May Dedalus is the most visible example according to Oded, who claims that May “is cast in two roles, that of the ghost of the murdered parent and that of the guilty queen” (43). She is both Gertrude and Ann Hathaway, filled with doubly-defined “amor matris” for Stephen, someone who “had loved him, borne him in her arms and in her heart” (23). Her character reverses the role of the prostitute in much the same way that Pilar Tenera does: They spark incestuous lust while leeching thoughts and passion from those who guiltily desire them, in order to become unbreakable links in the evolutionary, genealogical chain. While Arcadio is literally sexually attracted to his mother Pilar, Stephen is intensely affected by his mother May’s spirit. Oded argues that “though she is physically absent, the ghostwoman with ashes on her breath haunts Stephen and does not let him create … The surrogate mothers – Ellen Bloom, May Dedalus, Molly Bloom, Old Gummy Granny and Mina Purefoy – make up a maternal hell that must be conquered” (43). Ultimately, prostitutes help save and expand families in these novels, but at what costs? Their presence, however powerful, is unhealthy because it dilutes the purity of the genetic pool and encourages the kind of sexual deviancy that Ãrsula tried to avoid with her futile chastity garment. With whores who are inevitably mothers and vice versa, deified women who have the prophecy but not the will to prevent genealogical curses and virgins who are either so barren or so vituperative that they cannot be expected to produce, it’s as if the maternal prostitute serves the pointless function of prolonging and perverting lineages that are already fated to die out. The prevalence of morbidly dangerous virgins in these novels questions the extent to which poisonous sexuality can determine a woman’s power. Joyce and MÃ¡rquez’s examples are nothing like Spenser’s religiously chaste Faerie Queen or the sweetly innocent Eve. Without requiring technical virginity, these women are the black widows of the families, filled with malicious antipathy toward love, sex and reproduction. Men die to obtain Remedios the Beauty while Amaranta prefers to weave her own funeral shroud rather than accept suitors. In a way, this ability to enforce abstinence, with Amaranta and Remedios the Beauty remaining pure while none of the men can resist sex, adds to women’s power. For example, “Remedios, la bella’s virginity was sterile and perhaps even more destructive than Amaranta’s … the productive human relationships of the two “bad women”, Pilar Tenera and Petra Cotes, also lend credence to the validity of the thesis of this study that a major, if not principal, thrust of Garcia MÃ¡rquez’s portrayal of Amaranta is the demythologization of virginity” (Penuel, 558-9). Virginity is not a perfect state to aspire to; rather, it reeks of death and inhibited growth. Childlike Remedios dies painfully of a laudanum dose while prudish Fernanda del Carpio constructs funeral wreaths and sabotages the consummation of her marriage. In the “Nausicaa” episode, lame-footed Gerty MacDowell is plagued by a “strained look on her face! A gnawing sorrow is there all the time” because she has been promised into a loveless marriage (288). These virgins are united by similar auras of tragic abnormality, of desiccated hope rather than blooming potential.Siegel, when describing Bloom’s mental adventures in “Circe”, demonstrates the womanly reinvention at work in these two novels as Bloom’s consciousness forms “an even more elaborate knot as his hallucination ties together mismatched twins, the Virgin mother, diseased whore, and happy male-violated male in one identity…” (184). Each of these feminine archetypes – the all-seeing but ineffectual goddess, the lewd mother and the vicious virgin – helps in reconfiguring preconceptions of gender and, consequently, of family. Using these experimental figures, MÃ¡rquez and Joyce attempt to preserve flawed lineages by shifting the balance of power to women and then opening up their confined roles to allow more movement and unexpectedness. While they help facilitate the epic journeys of the obvious male protagonists, the Blooms and the Arcadios, by ensuring their reincarnation despite their troubled families, these unusual women are also completing epic journeys of their own. By being equally responsible as men for the preservation and destruction of genealogy, they reserve a significant position for themselves and all other women in future epics.WORKS CITEDOded, Brenda. “The Maternal Ghost in Joyce.” Modern Language Studies, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Autumn 1985). Pp. 40-47.Penuel, Arnold M. “Death and the Maiden: Demythologization of Virginity in GarcÃa Marquez’s Cien anos de soledad.” Hispania, Vol. 66, No. 4 (Dec. 1983). Pp. 552-560.Quick, Jonathan. “Molly Bloom’s Mother.” ELH, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Spring 1990). Pp. 223-240.Siegel, Carol. “‘Venus Metempsychosis’ and Venus in Furs: Masochism and Fertility in Ulysses.” Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer 1987). Pp. 179-195.Tobin, Patricia. “Response: GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez and the Genealogical Imperative.” Diacritics, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Summer 1974). Pp. 52-55.
The Comparison of One Hundred Years of Solitude with Things Fall Apart
By Justin J.R.K. KirkeyAn Involved Essay: The Comparison of One Hundred Years of Solitude with Things Fall Apart Things – and societies – fall apart. Societies are born; they grow, thrive, decline, and finally perish. Their procession through these phases, though, can be very different. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, a novel that tells the story of the rise and fall of the Buendia family, can be compared with Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, a novel that tells the story of a man whose world slowly disintegrates around him. Both novels share the major overarching themes of social disintegration and change, but differ in the ways that the two described societies deal with that change. Other points of contract between the novels are the way they treat the roles of men and women in society, isolationism vs. internationalism, fate vs. free will, and supernatural events. In both novels, the reader experiences the progress and decline of a civilization. In Things Fall Apart, reader learns early on about the status of the Igbo people of Umuofia, in Africa. “Umuofia was feared by all its neighbors. It was powerful in war and in magic, and its priests and medicine men were feared in all the surrounding country” (Achebe 11). The novel puts the notion of a thriving people who have relied on customs and traditions for as long as anyone can remember. This time is the civilization’s high point. Okonkwo, the main character of Things Fall Apart, is a proud and prominent member of the Igbo community, an upholder of “the way things are.” A successful wrestler and husband to three wives, he always has an aura about him that suggests that he is born of a grade higher than the rest of society. However, as the title suggests, things fall apart. With the coming of the white man, Okonkwo’s world begins to slowly cave in around him. To some people in his tribe, this may seem like a great occurrence. Some might think that this is the natural progress of civilization, and depending upon differing viewpoints, it could be. In Things Fall Apart, though, the gradual coming of the white man signals the end of a time. It hearkens a changing world and the end of a way of life for the Igbo people, especially for Okonkwo, the upholder of its customs. The reader of One Hundred Years of Solitude experiences similar high and low points of civilization. In this novel, though, the path towards social disintegration is different. One Hundred Years of Solitude spans several generations of the Buendia family in Macondo, and as the novel progresses, one can notice that time seems to flow in a circular manner, repeating itself numerous times. This suggests that civilization is a continuing history, but that it simply circulates over and over again. Each new Buendia family member born over the course of more than a century receives a name that has been in the family in the past. The recycling of names reiterates the recycling of time. For example, the founding father of Macondo, Jose Arcadio Buendia, has two sons: Aureliano Buendia and Jose Arcadio. In the following generations to come, 21 more Aurelianos and five more Jose Arcadios appear. Those sharing a name inherit similar personality and physical traits as well, emphasizing the sense that all has occurred before. As one very prominent female character states, “It is as if time were going around in circles and we have returned to the beginning” (Fuentes). The way that the novel progresses this way, though, is ironic. Naturally, one would think that the Buendias should be progressing, but they are simply making the same mistakes over and over again. Their civilization stagnates, unable to follow the normal path of a society. It’s a contrasting method of decline compared to that of the Igbo people in Things Fall Apart. Disintegration occurs gradually because of a defined stimulus, the coming of the white man, in Things Fall Apart. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the reason for decline is more abstract. In the end, “The town and the family are fated to die because they do not have what is required to continue. Their solitude, their commitment to withdrawal, fantasy, and subjective desires has doomed them” (Johnston). The decline of both the Igbo people and the Buendia family are ultimately inevitable. Another major theme tackled in both Things Fall Apart and One Hundred Years of Solitude is that of the dueling ideas of an introverted society and an extroverted society. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the founding father, Jose Arcadio Buendia, and the ensuing generations of Buendias, are constantly and fervently looking to connect to the outside world. They link themselves with sources of knowledge and progress, but usually come up short in their fanatical aspirations. The very first line of the book sums up the family’s passion: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” (Garcia Marquez 1). Discovering ice – this is a metaphor for all the Buendias represent. They want to progress, connect with the world, and gain knowledge through their extroverted explorations.. Okonkwo and many others in the Igbo community are basically the opposite of the Buendias and the people of Macondo. They are highly introverted, and want nothing to do with the outside world. All Okonkwo wanted was to return to the old ways, to get back to being the leader around Umuofia. The reason for the difference is understandable. The only connection the Igbo people had with the outside world was the white man, who did not bring inventions or knowledge but only uncertainty, fear, and ultimately the destruction of a dependable way of life, especially for Okonkwo. Another issue that the two novels address in different ways is the way that society treats men and women differently. In Things Fall Apart, women are in absolute subordination to men. Okonkwo, the great warrior, has three wives, and they all fear him in some way or another. This is typical of Igbo society. Men were considered superior, and were responsible for hunting and acquiring of food. Women cared for children and took care of “less important” things. An aura surrounds the Igbo women that suggests they are more than their society labels them, but they cannot overcome that barrier and ultimately play insignificant roles in society. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, on the other hand, the roles of men are women are quite different. Macondo is a much more egalitarian society than that of the Igbo people. Men and women are treated in a fairly similar way to that of modern democratic societies. Macondo’s slight tendency towards patriarchy is almost negated by the important role that women play. The men of the Buendia family are, as stated before, very passionate about their thirst for knowledge and progress, and often end up locking themselves up for long spans of time. When this happens, the women of the household, especially the motherly Ursula, have to pick up the slack, and they always do. They also treat extraordinary and supernatural events in a casual, almost dull manner, contrasting with the men’s extreme reactions. They put men in their place, bringing down to earth their fantastic ideas and checking their megalomaniacal aspirations. The way that Ursula and many of the other women in One Hundred Years of Solitude dampen the emergence of the fantastic into the story is different than that of how the Igbo people treat the supernatural in Things Fall Apart. In the latter novel there is none of the “magical realism” that characterizes Garcia Marquez’s tendency to mix fantasy and reality. Instead, the Igbo people have incorporated the seemingly supernatural into daily life (Epstein). The egwugwu, a group of masqueraders from the village, dressed up in ornate garments, impersonate the ancestral spirits of Umuofia. The Igbo people fear the unknown, and the egwugwu are their method of dampening that unknown, much as Ursula does. Similarly, the Igbo people relieve their fear of theSupernatural by sectioning off an “evil forest” thought to be full of demons and malignant spirits. They do not confront the unknown, but instead find a distinct and practical way to deal with it. The dueling themes of fate versus free will also play major roles in Things Fall Apart and One Hundred Years of Solitude. In both novels, fate always seems to have a cruel advantage over the characters. Throughout Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo sometimes blames his chi, or “personal god,” for his newly ill-fated destiny. As a young man, he was always successful and strong. When he became older, hough, things did not generally go his way. When his gun accidentally exploded and killed a prominent son of a late tribal leader, the town was outraged and exiled him. In exile, only hard work and free will ensured Okonkwo’s success. Fate was no longer sufficient for his success. One Hundred Years of Solitude seems doomed from the beginning, despite resistance by man’s will. Although Jose Arcadio Buendia founded Macondo, nature is inevitably taking it back. He built the village in the jungle, which appears throughout the novel as almost an ethereal being watching over feeble-minded humans. It symbolizes the resistance of nature man’s free will and attempts to order the universe (Ortega). For instance, nature seems to punish the village after an evil banana company arrives. Five years of rain destroys much of the village, and the remaining two Buendias resort to ancestral, primal desires. The pressures of nature leave the Buendias disoriented and ultimately destined to perish (Gullon). No matter what unique path a society follows in the phases of life, it must perish in the end. In Things Fall Apart, the coming of the white man stimulated the decline of Igbo society. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, prophesied fate and the over-powering will of nature contributed to societal decline. From these rich, detailed novels the reader emerges all too aware of how many ways there are for a society to disintegrate.BibliographyAchebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. 1959. New York: Anchor Books, 1994. Borinsky, Alicia. “Gabriel Garcia Marquez.” 1992. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 113. Gale. 168-82. Student Resource Center Bronze. Thomson Gale. 24 Apr. 2005
The Mirrors of Macondo
The Mirrors of MacondoIn Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years Of Solitude the fictional town of Macondo provides a stage, on which the speaker uses the regression of a society to show the disastrous consequences of capitalism on an unindustrialized society. The predominant matriarch character of Ursula Buenda is as a catalyst who introduces and accelerates the spread of capitalism through her entrepreneurial enterprises.While Ursula Buendia is responsible for the founding of Macondo, she is also symbolic for it’s the well being and monetary strength. At the beginning of the novel rsula is characterized as being parsimonious, frugal and as “having a great capacity for work” (9), and during this time Macondo is introduced as “a village that [is] more orderly and hardworking” (10) than any. Due to the hard work and brilliant planning by her husband, Jose Arcadio Buenda, all people of the town “could reach the river and draw water with the same effort” (9) and the streets are lined in such a way “that no house got more sun than another during the hot time of day” (9). The tone created by this picturesque setting creates the feeling of an unique society where all people strive not for personal advancement, but for equality of condition.A new chapter opens for Macondo as the industrialization of the village begins to take place. rsula, the once ideal mother, becomes “busy with [her] promising business in candy animals” (41) and begins to slowly drift out of her children’s lives, leaving them to be raised by the native hired help. It is her “delicious little … roosters, … pink fish … and yellow ponies” (49) that spread the dangerous illness of insomnia, which is symbolic for the way that money and other capitalistic gains can make one forget what is important in life. A capitalistic society is theoretically driven by want, rather than necessity, just as Ursula came to be.The theory of Social Darwinism holds that society evolves in stages, with the lower of these stages being a capitalism that eventually evolves into the utopian communist society, but rsula’s wants and capitalistic desires for fulfillment cause Macondo to regress instead of evolve. Macondo goes from the perfect pure communist society to a capitalist one where equality no longer exists. rsula demonstrates this idea further when she “[takes] out the money she had accumulated” (59) and goes about the task of enlarging the Buenda family home. The Buenda house becomes “not only the largest house in town, … but the … [coolest]” (60). This creates a contrast with the original utopian Macondo where “no house got more [or less] sun than another” (9).The Macondo of the past was such a pure communist society in that it didn’t have a government and the inhabitants lived in a harmonious state of nature. There was no crime in Macondo, but along with the modernization and economic explosion the need for government arose. As Ursula begins to buy expensive and unnecessary “Viennese furniture [and] Bohemian crystal” (650) a new magistrate arrives in town. Even throughout Jose Arcadio Buenda’s opposition to “judges, … because … nothing needs judging” (61) Don Apolinar Moscote sets up what will become a conservative regime. The newly installed conservative magistrate begins to operate the government in a corrupt manner with false elections. The government operates in such a corrupt manner that the prospect of “war” (105) is threatened. The arising conflict of liberals and conservatives symbolizes more than altercations between political rivals. The recurring motif of liberalism v. conservatism symbolizes a struggle between the old and new. The old, liberal and communist way of life is quickly being challenged by the new, conservative and capitalist one where frivolous excesses such as “table clothes from Holland” (65) run rampant.The final phase of industrialization begins to take root and the “adobe houses of the founders [are] replaced by brick buildings with wooden blinds” (209). Macondo is then suddenly “[shaken] by a whistle” (239) . The “frightful” (239) train “was to bring so many ambiguities … and unpleasant moments … to Macondo” (239). Along with the train came the infamous Banana Company. The capitalist greed and corruption of the “shitty gringos” (257) is reminiscent of the greed and corruption of the conservative government. Yet unlike the government it takes an act of God, and not war, to do away with the problem plaguing the village.”Mr. Brown unleash[es] the storm” (338) and causes”[i]t [to rain] for four years, eleven months and two days” (338) in Macondo. The speaker’s use of a flood is symbolic in numerous ways. The use of water destroying all sources of economic and monetary prosperity is similar to a baptism, cleaning the sins of corruption and greed and purging the town of it’s sources. The damage caused by the progression of capitalism into Macondo was on a societal level and the damage caused by the flood was just as damaging on the economic level. The flood did away with all the excesses of Macondo’s society, and also did away with all the economic waist, allowing the possibility for it to return to it’s roots. The days of “paper[ing] the house…with banknotes” (208) are over, and Macondo is given the opportunity to start over again.After the rains ended Ursula declares that “[a] person can’t live in neglect like this” (360) and Macondo starts to slowly climb out of it’s despair, Petra restarts her lottery, the Buenda house is repaired, and the morale of the town is lifting. However, upon the death of Ursula the few remaining businesses were a “nearby drugstore” (401), the “Catalonian’s bookstore” (413) and the town “brothel” (417). The character of Amaranta Ursula returns to Macondo and mirrors the role of the deceased Ursula. She decides “that it [is] possible to rescue the community” (408). Amaranta Ursula set about the restoration of the Macondo that she knew, through “the restoration of the house” (406). The problem with this restoration is that Amaranta Ursula is part of the fifth generation of Buenda lineage. Instead returning Macondo to the first and second generation communist version, she went about restoring the Banana Company Macondo in which she grew up. Instead of rescuing the village, and Buenda household, the town further moves towards social and economic collapse, as illustrated when the last Aureliano Buendia was reduced to accepting a “weekly sum” (411) from Amaranta Ursula. Even as Aureliano “[wanders] aimlessly through the town, searching for an entrance back to the past” (444) none is to be found, the society progresses too far into a state of no-return and “Macondo [is] wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men” (448).The final sentence has a profound effect on the reader. One might say being “exiled” (448) into a life of solitude is bad enough, but the reader wonders what heinous act Ursula and other residents of Macondo must have committed in order to be “exiled from the memory of men” (448). The overall tone of the book, especially upon examining the specific downfall of the entire infrastructure of Macondo, causes the reader to empathize with the village and as questions about it’s demise. Was there divine interference in the regression of the society? The allusions used through out the book seem to indicate so. The rain and subsequently flooding of Macondo was reminiscent of Noah’s flood in the Bible where all sin and corruption was wiped away, and the world got to start over again, as Macondo was offered the opportunity to. The reader then is lead to draw the conclusion that Macondo did not accept this offer and was wiped of the face of the earth, just as the as the mythical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, because the flood offered the village a change to change it’s ways and it did not. Since “races condemned to … solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth” (448), it was wiped of the planet.Word Count 1,360Works CitedMarquez, Gabriel Garcia. One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1970.
Self-Perpetuated Solitude: The World of the Buendias
True to its title, One Hundred Years of Solitude masterfully analyzes that human superego which brings each individual to a torturous state of perpetual solitary confusion. Although taking no stance on the validity of societal morale, Gabriel Garcia Marquez uncovers the ways in which each character’s beating conscience leaves him in the solitude of abnegation and self-punishment. Ultimately, Marquez accentuates a reality where not even profound wisdom can save one from the power of carnal desires. In the world Marquez has created, neither uncanny self-awareness nor unmatched knowledge serve to enhance the personal lives of the characters when undercut by a societally-molded conscience.In this epic tale of the Buendias, Marquez articulates a brillant commentary on the path of the human race through the use of family, and in turn, a group of individuals undeniably related physically and psychologically. He initially creates characters seemingly unique, yet who result in revealing glaringly similar characteristics, convictions, triumphs, and mistakes. Marquez particularly illuminates the solitary wisdom of the Aurelianos, and consequently, the personally meaningful yet ultimately meaningless pursuits of human life. At the onset of his innate wisdom, Aureliano Buendia enters the world impressing the family with his “open eyes” and keen sense of the inevitable. While Colonel Aureliano Buendia remains to be a figure most repeatedly referred to in the novel, his actions define him only as lowlier than the next character. Marquez deliberately makes an ironic comparison: Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s being a war hero should, by humanity’s standards, place him on an even higher pedestal, yet the endless occupation serves only to further convince the reader of his weakness and his being deserving of ridicule. With the same scrutinizing eye as the reader, Colonel Gerineldo Marquez tells him, “Watch out for your heart, Aureliano. You’re rotting alive (179).” His originally recognizable profundity and strength of will fall invisible behind a war of self-punishment for loving and losing a child, and his inability to escape an anger-driven battle against the world.As long as the Aurelianos last, the reader can be sure to find them equally all-knowing and subsequently lonely. Farther down the line, Aureliano Jos’s life will take similar shape; tormented by societally condemned incestuous love, he enters war, a metaphorical “revolution” against his carnal desires. Nevertheless, the Aurelianos’ attempted denial of reality, of profound wisdom in the midst of surrounding corruption, is consistently in vain: for Aureliano Jos, “the more her image wallowed in the dung hill of the war, the more the war resembled Amaranta (163).” A soldier even admits, “We’re fighting this war so that a person can marry his own mother (163).” Through these descriptions of the Aurelianos’ roles in war, Marquez could not be more clear in defining their struggle as a futile attempt to abandon social standards.Marquez plants his characters in a world realistically distorted; some wild, opposing force will continuously interrupt the expected, everyday life of a Buendia. Thematically, Marquez uses unconventional sexual behavior to pull each character away from their accepted moralities. Meme’s obsession with Mauricio Babilonia inevitably sinks her deeper into solitude, for not only does his entrance distort her previous life, but colors it such that all else seems bleak and meaningless. With respect to her relationship with her father, the novel states, “She was so sure of herself, so anchored in her solitude that Aureliano Segundo had the impression that no link existed between them anymore, that the comradeship and the complicity were nothing but an illusion of the past (311).” However distorted sexuality unites or separates Marquez’ vital characters, each results in living a life tainted with guilt. Paradoxically, the solitude of two characters only weighs down heavier in their coming together, leaving each to their own tense realities of lonely insecurity and disconcerting self-awareness.With all the criticism embellished between the pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Marquez does not leave the reader without a taste of inspiration. While the confined, solitary world of the Buendias may set the stage for solemn scrutiny of mankind, the author includes a character purposely signified as separate from the rest: “Remedios the Beauty was not a creature of this world (213).” Here, magic realism serves to characterize Remedios the Beauty, immediately giving her traits greater worth. Although “disquieting beauty” is all that earns her respect in the town, the reader recognizes her array of valuable behaviors as they differentiate hew from the Macondo status quo. Whether refusing to “complicate her life with corsets and petticoats” or being “indifferent to malice and suspicion” or obeying the forces of spontaneity, Remedios the Beauty amusingly remains somewhat inhuman for the simple fact that she is comfortable. Ultimately, Marquez presents an individual utterly immune to humanity’s incessant anxieties. Not surprisingly, her unperturbed, ceremonious actions of self-acceptance incite mostly unsurpassed adoration from those in the town. Her mannerisms differ, and so does her thinking: Remedios the Beauty’s wisdom is supported by lack of concern for societal expectations, and therefore liberates her instead of imprisoning her in solitude. As a final reward for Remedios the Beauty, Marquez lets her bypass Macondo’s ending destruction; having not been of this world, she disappears into “the upper atmosphere where not even the highest flying birds of memory could reach her (255).”At the novel’s tumultuous ending, Macondo and its entire population are wiped out of existence simultaneously with Aureliano’s deciphering of the infamous parchments. In a manner quite telling of humanity’s persistent search for knowledge, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ climactic granting of enlightenment to the last of the Buendia line horrifyingly results in abrupt, utter destruction. In explanation of his bleak conclusion, Marquez clarifies the role of the parchments in the final line: “everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth (448).” By the unraveling of the Buendia existence, Marquez’ readers can clearly recognize his key characters as having been “condemned” to their solitude and identify their futile wisdom as the means of their irreversible downfall. Time was wasted in their searching, for the prophesy of their lives was unchangeable. The novel ends as its lucid characters finally strangle themselves with self-perpetuated solitude.
Cyclical Time Structure in One Hundred Years of Solitude
Narrative structures vary from novel to novel as a technique that aides in the advancement of the plot and enhances the clarification of the literary devices employed throughout a story. In the novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, both traditional, or linear, narrative time and cyclical narrative time structures work simultaneously to emphasize the recurrent destructive behaviors of the Buendía family. A linear narrative structure “follows a straight line — starting at the beginning, moving to the middle and proceeding to the end of the story” moving along a straight plot outline. In addition, this style of writing follows line of movement including an ongoing plot, with a somewhat typical exposition, rising action, climax, and denouement. However, One Hundred Years of Solitude is not a novel that primarily relies on a linear narrative structure. In fact, this novel’s structure is also inclusive of a cyclical narrative. The cyclical time “cycles through the story one event at a time to end back where the story originated” and reiteratively brings the reader back to key plot occurrences as a way to highlight these moments impact on the characters. In his novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Garcia Marquez implements the technique of cyclical time to heighten the intensity of recurring destructive behaviors across the generations of a small, metaphoric village.
Garcia Marquez employs the device of repetition, through names and personalities of the characters, in order to display an uncommon series of coincidental events within a cyclical structure of the novel. These events are perceived as distinctive and inflammatory in the destruction of a normal society. In the novel, there are a total of five characters that share the name Jose Arcadio and are described by one of the novel’s main characters, Ursula, as “impulsive and enterprising”(Márquez 181) characteristics associated with mischievous behavior capable of inciting trouble and often leading to a negative effect on the surrounding environment. These recurrent names with the same personalities provoke the negative outcomes that occurred within the plot cycles. Another example of repetition presented throughout the novel is the twenty-two characters named Aureliano. These are men defined as those “withdrawn but with lucid minds” (Márquez 181) characteristics that starkly contrast with those of Jose Arcadio. Marquez’s reintroduction of the Aureliano characters ironically advances the plot as he attempts to reestablish Macondo to the village’s previous state, however creates a crisis and sets a new subplot that sparks a new cycle. Both these characters reappearance and their polar actions, trigger the destructive behaviors which occur historically and repeatedly.
These cyclical generations produce negative outcomes for the people of Macondo, forcing the people to repeat disastrous events that eventually move them toward their own demise.(You need to use details from the text as this analysis is very general. I left my book with Ms Berger so I cannot add the details) The destructive recurring event of incest, also known in the novel as “the original sin,” introduces and concludes each narrative cycle. It embodies the unnatural actions that the majority of the characters in the novel must endure. This becomes the main event that generates disastrous abnormal characteristics in the Buendia family. Due to the tragedy of a past incestuous event in the Buendía family when “[a]n aunt of Úrsula’s, married to an uncle of José Arcadio Buendía, [having] a son … grown up with a cartilaginous tail in the shape of a corkscrew and with a small tuft of hair on the tip,” Úrsula and Jose Arcadio Buendía [are] exiled from their original village (Márquez 36). This action in the plot cycle was driven by the fear Úrsula’s mother retained from that notion of pigtails generating from incest. This incestuous event defines the beginnings of the “original sin” in the novel’s plot. As the event of the incest takes place within the Buendía family, it serves as the catalyst to the rebirth of each new cycle. Namely, it foreshadows the impending destruction of the characters and the village.
While the event of incest is the beginning of the cycle, the aftermath of incest, the pigtail, is a symbol for the annihilation of a cycle that only lasts one hundred years. Throughout the incestuous events that occur within six instances among the five generations of characters in the novel, not one of the characters deals with the outcome of a pig tailed child. This allows the cycle to continue and regenerate throughout the plot, until the end of the novel when Aureliano and Amaranta Úrsula’s child is born. With the birth of their child, they “turned him on his stomach did they see that he had something more than other men, and they leaned over to examine him… [i]t was the tail of a pig.” As Úrsula mentioned in the novel “that the tail could be cut off when the child got his second teeth;” however, the couple were not aware of the history of the family, so the resulting action leads to the child permanently keeping its tail. The consequence of incest, the pigtail, is a symbol of conclusion to the circular plot cycle and the torment of the Buendía family. The action of incest is one that defies social norms; thus, it is reason that the characters seem destructive and act as facilitators toward their own demise in the novel.
As the Buendía family history duplicates itself, the characters in the novel become familiarized with the absurdity of their present situations. However, those characters do not raise awareness to these irrational cyclical events that occur. In the novel, “Úrsula confirmed her impression that time was going in a circle”(Márquez 220). She feels “as if time had turned around and [they] were back at the beginning”(Márquez 335). Úrsula is one of the few characters that notices the odd events reoccuring over time in her village, yet she does not take any direct action to stop the cycle; just like the village’s ongoing commotive history. Likewise, Jose Arcadio Buendía became knowledgeable about the time as he began to realize the repetition of the days as he states “that it’s still Monday, like yesterday… look at the sky, look at the walls, look at the begonias … [t]oday is Monday too”(Márquez 77). He notices the relationship between the past days and the present ones that have not gone through much change. He, like Úrsula, does not put a stop to the recurrent events or speak about the similar occurrences; thus, Jose Arcadio Buendía allows them to cycle through the plot and recreate misfortune upon misfortune. Both these characters recognizing catastrophic events but do not face the conscious unwillingness to take action to end them; resembles the destructive naturalistic history of the metaphoric village.
One Hundred Years of Solitude’s plot advancement relies on the regeneration of cycles within the linear narrative. By the end of the novel, when the Buendía’s are blown off the face of the earth by a hurricane, the last character, Aureliano, “wandered aimlessly through the town”(Márquez 413). Since the Buendía revolves around restating their family’s history, Aureliano is stranded because he is left with no connection to the past. Due to his dependence on his family’s history, he begins “searching for an entrance that went back to the past”(Márquez 413). Aureliano desperately searches for a tie to the past in order to salvage himself and his family’s legacy. When he could not resolve a possible outcome for recurrence of the past historical events of his family, it condemned them to obliteration, because of their independence from their history. At the end of the novel, when there is no connection to their past or source of recreating tragedy, the ability to create another cycle is gone. Thus, the cyclical nature of plot regeneration is extinguished.
Garcia Marquez’s simultaneous linear and cyclical structure, in his work One Hundred Years of Solitude, follows an axle and wheel metaphor that defines the Buendía family’s nature.In the novel, Pietro Crespi describes the Buendia family nature as “a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle”(Márquez 396). The wheel is the novel’s temporal mechanism, the axle represents the linear time, and the turning of the wheel represents the cyclical time. This metaphor provides a visual aid to the technique and also demonstrates the concept Marquez has behind his intentions. The idea of this everlasting circular time exhibits the deformity the village of Macondo experiences. The events Garcia Marquez incorporates into this cyclical structure, like incest, are destructive to social time period; thus, allowing the plot device to act as an instrument for disease. The Buendía family’s reliance on the past in order to advance into the future is one that demonstrates the unnatural destructive mentality that the characters have. It also mirrors the Colombian history and governmental deformities of that time period.
Setting the Stage: Comparing the Opening Scenes of One Hundred Years of Solitude and The President
The opening scene of each the novels, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and The President by Miguel Angel Asturias, is important to the reading of the book because it sets the overall tone and form of the narrative. It does this in three particular ways. First, it presents key themes which will be expanded upon over the course of the novel, second, it introduces characters who are important catalysts for the action of the narrative, and third, it sets the general atmosphere in which the story will take place. Although both books deal with issues of violence, civil war, and dictatorship, they handle them in very different ways. Marquez keeps the focus on family and relationship. He uses humor and magical realism to humanize and soften the harder aspects of reality. Asturias on the other hand keeps the focus on the breaking of family and relationships, using horror and magical realism to make the nightmare of living under a dictatorship more absorbable.
The opening scene of One Hundred Years of Solitude, places Colonel Aureliano Buendia facing a firing squad and reliving a distant memory of his father taking him to discover ice. As the Colonel faces certain death his thoughts take the reader back in time, perhaps to the beginning of time, to the founding of the village “of twenty adobe houses… [in a world so] recent that many things lacked names” (p.1). This scene not only encapsulates many of the themes which the novel will expand upon, family, history, and warfare, as well as touching on the concepts of discovery, exploration, and science, but it also sets all these themes within the context of nostalgia and the way in which events are remembered. By making the village’s history start before things had names Marquez casts a Biblical tone over the whole story and the village of Macondo takes on mythic proportions. The village can now be interpreted not only as an allegory for the history of Colombia and South America but also as representing Mankind’s flaws and foibles in general.
The second character to be named, after Colonel Aureliano Buendia who represents the Buendia family history, isMelquiades, a “learned alchemist from Macedonia” (p.1).He not only plays the most significant role in the novel embodying the force of fate, the concept of prophecy, and the convoluted, overlapping, worlds of alchemy, magic, science, and religion but he also introduces the form of magical realism. The first outsiders, ” a family of ragged gypsies”, enter Macondo immediately after the opening scene, to “display new inventions” (p.1). The gypsies’ inventions are one way in which Marques marks the passage of time.Starting with the introduction of “Melquiades’ magical irons”, magnets whose powers and properties had been discovered in ancient times, he moves on to the discovery of the ” suit of fifteenth century armor”, taking the time line well into the Renaissance and the age of colonialism.The magnets do not act like normal magnets but exert a super natural force by acting on and exposing “objects that had been lost for a long time appeared from where they had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent confusion behind Melquiades’ magical irons” (p.1).This first paragraph of the first two pages of the novel demonstrates the fluidity and compression of time, the power of memory, the impact of science and discovery, as well as sets the tone of magical realism by combining the unexpected and magical, or highly exaggerated, with the normal and mundane reality of life.
Set against this background of shifting time and magical realism, the Adam and Eve of the story, Jose and Ursula, as well as their incestuous original sin of being cousins, are introduced. Even though their son, the Colonel, is facing a firing squad in this moment of remembering his parents and the founding of the village, the overall tone is light hearted and humourous, bordering on the ridiculous.The patriarch Jose Arcadio Buendia is described as having “unbridled imagination” (p.2).He is a man driven by discovery.After buying the magnets from Melquiades, he imagines that he will find enough gold to “pave the floors of the house” (p.2).It is his nature to not only take everything to the extreme but also it shows the way in which he lives in a futuristic, fantasy world, disconnected from the reality of everyday life.This is contrasted with his wife, the matriarch of the family Ursula Iguaran, who is very practical in nature.She is the voice of reason and the one who tries to hold the family together throughout all the ups and downs.She represents innate feminine wisdom in contrast to her husband’s masculine desire for knowledge and exploration.As the story unfolds, the many descendants of these two characters will create a downward spiral of history repeating itself. One of the ways in which this spiral is manifested is in the children receiving the same names as their forefathers; the boys being named either Aureliano or Arcadio and the girls being named Remedios, Ursula or Amaranta.This main theme of time being cyclical, and those who do not remember the past being doomed to repeat it, echoes throughout the entire novel.Even though the novel addresses the issues of colonialism, civil war, and the violent oppression of the people by dictatorship, the use of Marques’ style of magical realism keeps the tone hopeful.
Whereas One Hundred Years of Solitude takes the lighthearted tone that was introduced in the first few pages and maintains it throughout the novel, so The President starts and finishes with an overwhelming sense of despair in the face an oppressive regime and violence. The opening page begins with what is called the “sound of the church bells summoning people to prayer” but is in reality a nonsensical chant of “boom, bloom, alum-bright, Lucifer of alunite” (p.7). This nonsense rhyme quickly degenerates into a chaos of repeating words and phrases and is described as an “uneasy transition” between day and night, “brightness to gloom”. This surreal introduction sets the overall tone of the novel. It creates a spell of chaos and confusion, of darkness and despair. The church bells are not church bells but the call of the Devil, the ‘Lucifer of All Unite’. By starting the novel with a nonsensical passage and disturbed feeling Asturias takes the reader immediately, and deeply, into the dream world where reality and rationality no longer exist. His use of magical realism not only evokes the emotional by tapping into the irrational or the unknowable, but it also creates a sensation of the mythic making it easier to connect with, and digest, the horrific messages and nightmarish images that Asturias is showing us. One of the major themes of this novel is the way in which living under a dictatorship, where falsehoods and violence are used to terrorize and control the population, erodes peoples’ abilities to trust one another, maintain normal relationships, and express mercy and empathy for the downtrodden and the innocent.
After the opening demonic and dreamlike chanting of the church bells the next image is “the frozen shadow of the cathedral [and] the beggars …shuffling past” (p.7).What had traditionally been a safe haven for the most powerless people in a society, the Church, has now become a “frozen shadow” of itself.The image is one of icy darkness and a tone of hopelessness.These poor people, the lowest of the low, have “nothing in common but their destitution” (p.7).They have not gathered together out of a sense of camaraderie or solidarity.There is no sense of warmth or communion between these people even though they are all in the same situation.These humans are “cursing, insulting and jostling each other…spitting and biting with rage… [they have] never known pillows or mutual trust… [and] like all beggars they were miserly with their scraps, and would rather give them to the dogs than to their companions in misfortune” (p.7). The stage is decorated with the nightmares of the other beggars as they dream about “famished pigs, thin women, maimed dogs and carriage wheels passing before their eyes, or a funeral procession of phantom monks going into the cathedral preceded by a sliver of moon carried on a cross made of frozen shin-bones”.Here Asturias clearly combines reality with fantasy and calls them both a dream further confusing fact and fiction, adding to the nightmarish quality of the scene.
This opening scene of the beggars in front of the church not only introduces the form of magical realism as well as the theme of how life under a dictatorship robs people of their humanity, but it also sets the stage for the first murder which will be the catalyst to the narrative.The first beggar to be identified by name, and thus humanized, is the one they call the Zany, ” a drunk man who called for his mother and wept like a child in his sleep” (p.8).Zany is used to represent humanity on many levels.He is the innocent individual who lives without any power and is the victim of an oppressive regime.He also foreshadows the tragic loss of the bond which holds family, and society, together.The President uses torture, threats, and lies, to maintain his power and doing so destroys any sense of hope or resistance that comes from community and family.The police, who represent the hand of the oppressive regime, torment the Zany by shouting “Mother” into his ear and waking him.This is symbolic of the way in which the regime tortures and torments its powerless citizens.The opening scene describes the way in which it is not only the authorities who lack empathy but how all the people, his own people and community, torment the idiot Zany. They shout ” ‘Mother!’ at him from every side … [they drive] him out of churches, shops and everywhere else, indifferent to his utter exhaustion and the plea for pity in his uncomprehending eyes…[They] beat him and [tear] his clothes…they [throw] stones, dead rats and empty tins at him as he [runs] away in terror” (p.10).It is at the Cathedral Porch where the Zany tries to take his exhausted refuge from the abuses of the people who have not only no empathy but hold active aggression towards him. It is here that the police man shouts “jeeringly at him:’Mother!’…[and] the Zany [flings] himself upon his tormentor, and …thrust his fingers into his eyes, tore at his nose with his teeth and jabbed his private parts with his knees, till he fell to the ground motionless” (p.11). Thus setting into motion the murder of Colonel Jose Sonriente which the President will usefor his own political purposes.The President uses his power to control the truth, and by blaming General Eusebio Canales and Abel Carvajal for the murder he adds layer upon layer of unreality and illusion coupled with lies and manipulation.
Although the feeling of hope is allowed to glimmer momentarily throughout the narrative with the relationship of Camila and Angel Face, it is primarily the devastation of any hope that runs through this novel in wave after relentless wave.Even when people like the beggar Mosquito tell the truth they are tortured and murdered regardless.While being interrogated by the police, the captured beggars are dehumanized and described in animalistic terms as “whimpering like sick animals and sniveling with horror of the darkness…they had a growing conviction that they would be boiled down and made into soap like dogs, or have their throats cut and be given to the police to eat” (p.13).It quickly becomes obvious that the President does not want the truth but has to in fact beat the truth out of people so his lies can be the only story.The Judge Advocate, after hearing the truth from the beggars who were eye witnesses to the murder, he declares “Lies!… You’re a liar.I’ll tell you who murdered Colonel Jose Parrales Sonriente, and we’ll see if you dare deny it…It was General Eusebio Canales and Abel Carvajah, the lawyer!” (p15).Again, and again, there is a breakdown of perceived reality by the dictator’s use of shock and horror to quash any sense of optimism or escape; the President’s false accusations and imprisonments of the citizens, his false newspaper reports and rumors, as well as his false favorites and missions, serve to keep all the people in a surreal nightmare that is enforced by terror and torture.
Even though these novels approach their subjects in very different ways, they clearly demonstrate the importance of the first few pages of a book because of the way in which these opening scenes not only set the tone and form of the book but also introduce themes and character’s actions which will continue to run throughout the narrative.Although the introduction of the themes, as well as the laying of the foundation for the action of the narratives are both very important, it is the combination of creating the emotional atmosphere and the use of magical realism which is the most striking element in these opening pages.Interestingly, without the form of magical realism, which intensifies the reader’s feelings towards the characters and the plotlines, the themes would perhaps come across as one dimensional and the narrative as mere melodrama.
Asturias, Miguel Angel. The President Copyright 1963 by Victor Gollancz, Ltd. Reissued 1997 by Waveland Press, Inc. Long Grove, IL U. S. A.
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. One Hundred Years of Solitude originally published in Argentina in 1967 by Editorial Sudamericanos S. A., Buenos Aires under the title Cien Anos de Soledad. English translation copyright 1970 by Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. New York, NY U. S. A., FIRST HARPER PERENNIAL MODERN CLASSICS EDITION PUBLISHED 2006
Fate, Purpose, and Magical Realism: Message and Genre in Garcia Marquez’s Novel
Fate is shown to be a common concept throughout ancient and modern works. From Oedipus Rex to Walt Disney’s Brave, the power of fate is highly recognized within our culture; whether it is accepted or not is another story though. Through the use of remembrance, repetition, and the concept of fate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is able to tell the story of the creation and destruction of the town of Macondo as it struggles through trials of historical, biblical and fantastical nature. One Hundred Years of Solitude is a novel of magical realism in which the inhabitants of Macondo follow paths that have been taken before and reach the same conclusions, implying that their fates have been set since the beginning of the town’s creation. Aureliano even reads a prophecy of the town’s destruction and as time progresses, the people and locations play out their assigned roles and fade away, drifting on up to heaven or being led away by a ghost.
The purpose of One Hundred Years of Solitude is to show that the future can be already pre determined, but will still be a mystery to those experiencing it. The world can“exist in a state of flux; they assign purpose and meaning to some lives while, simultaneously, draining the same from other lives” (Isip 133). This allows for history and memory to be manipulated to serve the purposes of each of the characters. Repetitiveness is shown throughout the novel and madness is served up as a result of this. “I was thinking the same thing, but suddenly I realized that it’s still Monday, like yesterday. Look at the sky, look at the walls, look at the begonias. Today is Monday too” (Garcia Marquez 77). This scene is slightly realistic for if one thought that everyday was the same, it would be likely they would believe that they were losing their mind. This shows that time isn’t always quite as it seems and that it can easily slip away from you. The idea that the future may be predetermined is continued to be shown because“ One Hundred Years of Solitude has a circular structure – an enclosed totality – tying the end to the beginning and vice verse” (Stavans 274). Even the characters realize time has repeated itself and the novel continues to tie one character to one from previous generations. This creates the illusion that everything is connected by more than blood and that each fate has been determined by a previous experience. Another purpose of One Hundred Years of Solitude is to show that Macondo has been built out of hard work. Garcia Marquez writes, “The primitive building of the founders became filled with tools and materials, or workmen exhausted by sweat… exasperated by the sack of bones that followed them everywhere with its dull rattle” (Garcia Marquez 55).The beginning of the town was one much more positive and pure than the way it ends, which is within a massive storm, completing the cycle from man-made back to nature.
Repentance continues to play a major role as Garcia Marquez pulls from major historical events when he builds One Hundred Years of Solitude . Seaman states that the “perspective on the glories and follies of humankind and the perpetual ‘veracity of nature’ are newly arresting and freshly relevant” (Seaman 39). The perspective gives a view on the struggles and high points of the town’s existence and shows its realism. Throughout time there have been many destructions of towns and cities through the works of nature and many cities and towns have also been built just as Macondo was. Garcia Marquez even makes direct references such as “on the eve of the elections, Don Apolinar Moscote himself read a decree that prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages and the gathering together of more than three people who were not of the same family” (Garcia Marquez 95). Here he is referencing how in the 1920’s and 30’s there was the Prohibition, which also banned the sale of alcohol. This scene also shows the strict control over the town, which exists as an unhealthy and rigid control that bans a common way people use to relinquish bad memories. Memory is shown to be quite powerful because “history and memory are only useful to those who understand the unreliability of the terms ‘history’ and ‘memory’ (which… are interchangeable as both are mere constructions)” (Isip 139). The only choices for a character are to be the victim of a past cycle or to be the one who creates the cycle. This means one can never be a bystander to the past. For example, the Banana Plantation revolt that ends with a massacre that no one in the town seems to know about. Here, the massacre begins as what is described as surreal. It is as if the rioters have experienced this before, which is ironic because the event really did happen.
Alongside referencing historical events, Garcia Marquez also references The Bible . “Western familiarity with the Bible would explain why it has been the focal point of research into the novel’s mythological sources, even though One Hundred Years is bereft of a Noah-like figure and the construction of a boat, and no figure of Mount Ararat in the background where such a boat might land ” (Corwin 65). This implies that the reason that Macondo may not have been saved is that there was not a Noah-like figure that could save some inhabitants like Noah did. The conclusion of the novel may have allowed the town to survive, or at least be rebuilt just as Noah rebuilt what had been wiped out. There is also a time when the town has reverted back to a time similar to beginning of the creation of the world when Adam and Eve were said to have had to name all objects. This was when the town was struck with amnesia and everything was given a new name within the town of Macondo. A sense of purity is shown as everything must be renamed and the world seems to have reverted back to when it was first created with Adam and Eve. Luckily though, everyone manages to regain their memory of the objects that surround them. This is especially fortunate for it is unknown how much the town could have regressed. Even the main labeling of God could one day have no longer been understood if the town had, for instance, lost their ability to read as they regressed. As Stavans says, “The Buendias are defined by the biblical curse of incest from the beginning of the narrative” (Stavans 273). This shows that the curse is known as a generational curse. The names of each of the characters even repeat, making father literally just like son. Just as it is in the bible, there is always a punishment for sin, which is shown to play out as Macondo is destroyed.
Memory is shown to be one of the most powerful themes within this novel, for “neither history nor memory provide an absolute reliable truth about the past and future, but are, instead, constructions of the individual” (Isip 133). Even if the previous experiences had been recorded, there is no promise that the advice would be clear or even be taken. There is no guarantee that the past won’t repeat itself, but it is likely that it will with no attempt to look back. In the modern era, when history repeats itself it is much more easily seem. The current use of technology allows for the past to be easily recorded and then distributed all of the world. In an isolated town like Macondo, where the inhabitants are mostly related and have not come from especially far, new is less likely to come from far away and reach in a timely manner. On the other hand, one would think that the communication of the past within the town would be quite good since it is quite the tight knit community. This seems not to be the case though, for the whole novel is centered around the start and end of Macondo, showing how the repentance of history can truly destroy generations on generations. If each fate had been recorded, the fates would probably not have been repeated. Because no fates were recorded, the town was doomed to repeat the same fates until the end. Isip states that “though Garcia Marquez reveal(s) history and memory to be fallible, [he does not] deny the usefulness of constructions of history and memory that build self-worth and strength for individual characters” (Isip 136-137). The past is taken slightly into account as it does help build the characters. The characters do advance throughout the novel, but this is not enough to save them from their fate.
Although this novel contains many outlandish and slightly disturbing scenes, it could almost be believed if it wasn’t for the fantastical elements that it contains. Garcia Marquez creates a “magic realism by blending the everyday with the supernatural and embodying emotions in the physical manifestations” (Seaman 39). This allows the the fantasy to become more realistic and to seem almost normal in day-to-day life. The book seems almost realistic, but this fantasy element stops one from wondering if it could actually exist. This is why the novel would be classified as magical realism, instead of just fantasy of realistic. The elements instead exist as if they could just be metaphors from the perspective of the author or another character in the novel. For example, Remedios the beauty floats off into the sky, for she is a symbol of purity too good for this earth. This shows that someone of such purity cannot live within the normal world without flat out stating this. This also raises the question of whether or not she really did float off into the heavens. The author could simply have been using rhetorical language in order to show the true ethereal beauty and purity that Remedios beholds. There could have also been an event in which another character in the book believes that he or she is seeing her rise from the sky when really something quite different could be occurring. The “Fantastical occurrences with matter-of-fact authority, exemplifying the literary style”(Seaman 39) which allows for them to blend in with the rest of the novel. The magical events occur as if they were common occurrences, making the reader question whether or not the event actually happened. In fact, magic is shown from the very first chapters when the“beams creak from the desperation of nails and screws trying to emerge, and even object that had been lost for a long time appeared from where they had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent confusion behind Melquiades’ magical irons” (Marquez 1). Here the town is introduced as almost illogical, especially since this town with a lot of magic had absurdly been wiped away without any trace.
Garcia Marquez shows the destruction of Macondo as something that could have been avoided with more of a glance back into the past. His realism is tipped just by the fantastical elements hidden within the lines and the glimpses into possible insanity. The realism can be doubted though, for if it wasn’t for the quantity, it could be master rhetoric by Garcia Marquez. Either way, One Hundred Years of Solitude is truly a incestuous masterpiece with a cyclical nature that creates a hidden beauty that shows the value of the past.
Character Analysis of Úrsula Iguarán Buendía
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez, documents both the triumphs and tribulations of a village called Macondo and its founders, the Buendía family. José Arcadio Buendía and his wife, Úrsula Iguarán, establish Macondo in early nineteenth century Colombia. The novel closely follows the couple and their descendants, spanning six generations, each as complex as the next. Although the story presents a linear organization on the surface, the structure of the novel is more circular. Names, personalities, events, and relationships repeat themselves within the Buendía family. Úrsula, who lives to be well over 100 years old, is the woman who most fully recognizes that her family’s time in Macondo is simply a repetitive loop driven by solitude. She describes this loop, saying, “It’s as if time had turned around and we were back at the beginning” (193). Although some may consider her old age to be a blessing, it is also a terrible curse. A centenarian, Úrsula endures immense suffering as her descendants repeat their ancestors’ mistakes.
Despite her family’s troubled nature, Úrsula is responsible for the survival and the longevity of the family name. She is a strong character who excels in her roles as the Buendía family matriarch and as the independent, well-respected founder of her community. Empowered by her wisdom, strength, and unwavering dedication to her family, Úrsula develops an understanding of her family’s solitude. Úrsula’s life as a founder of Macondo is relatively comparable to Eve’s beginning in Genesis. The novel begins as Úrsula and José Arcadio Buendía create a utopian village, which is similar to the Garden of Eden. Márquez alludes to the creation story when describing Macondo, stating, “The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point (1)”. The Buendías create this new settlement from scratch just as Adam and Eve did thousands of years ago in the Garden of Eden. Úrsula, like Eve, becomes the matriarch of her society. A seemingly perfect civilization, Macondo was surprisingly not immune to wrongdoing. What could be considered the original sin of Macondo is also one of the most prevalent themes throughout the novel: incest. Because she is married to her cousin, Úrsula has always feared the possible deformities her children may develop, such as a pig’s tail. The Bible condemns incest in Leviticus 18:6-18, declaring, “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness…for their nakedness is your own nakedness”. Márquez treats incest as more of an understood truth rather than an ethical issue. His nonchalant attitude about the topic is most outwardly refuted by Úrsula. She recognizes the possible consequences, and she tries to spare her family from disaster at all costs. She is completely dedicated to the wellbeing of her family. Another biblical reference comes when describing the Buendía’s newly built home. Since Úrsula lived in the first and the best house in Macondo, all others were “built in its image and likeness” (8). Recalling the way in which Eve pioneered her family’s life in Eden, Úrsula established her family in Macondo.
In addition to her Eve-like tendencies, Úrsula possesses a name of significance. Úrsula translates to “ little female bear”. Perhaps Márquez gives her this name because of her unwavering strength in the face of adversity. Úrsula is undoubtedly the strongest and most influential person in Macondo, greatly overshadowing even her male relatives. José Arcadio Buendía’s preoccupancy with scientific discovery thrusts Úrsula into a role that many women may not have been able to handle. Úrsula becomes an extremely significant woman in a primarily patriarchal society. She accomplishes tasks that her husband could not, such as discovering a passageway out of Macondo. The extent of Úrsula’s power becomes extremely apparent when she convinces the men of Macondo to leave the town where it is rather than move. She wholeheartedly opposes the idea, saying, “If I have to die for the rest of you to stay here, I will die.” (13). Even her own husband is surprised by her stubbornness. It is obvious that Úrsula acts as the primary decision maker in her family because the men leave the town exactly where it is. She is unmoving when it comes to what she wants. In addition, she is able to gather the women of the village to oppose her politically corrupt son, Colonel Aureliano Buendía, in his decision to kill the mayor of Macondo, General José Raquel Moncada. Despite the women’s protest, Colonel Aureliano Buendía carries out the execution, but Úrsula’s ability to rally the women of Macondo shows public prominence. In addition to the Colonel’s cruel reign, Úrsula’s grandson, Arcadio, brings even more shame to the family. Placed in charge of Macondo by Colonel Aureliano Buendía, Arcadio reigns as an obsessive dictator. Úrsula becomes so angered by her grandson’s actions that she publically opposes him and lashes him. Her superiority in this situation is almost overwhelming. Declaring her own orders, she proves herself to be a politically powerful, unbiased, honest woman, unafraid of confrontation and consequence. Úrsula undoubtedly lives up to the name she has been given as displayed through her insurmountable strength and dominance when overcoming a challenge.
Even as young woman, Úrsula gains the respect of her neighbors and family, which allows her to excel in many of her responsibilities. She assumes the roles of entrepreneur and, more importantly, mother. Úrsula’s husband, José Arcadio Buendía, is a dreamer. Enchanted by the discoveries of the gypsies, he becomes so consumed by science that he unintentionally abandons all responsibilities to his family. He sells his animals for magnets and uses Úrsula’s inheritance to purchase a telescope, thinking that his research will bring prosperity to his beloved family. Once the intelligent patriarch of his family, José Arcadio Buendía focuses his energy entirely on discovery. His curiosity eventually drives him insane, and he ceases to have meaningful communication with his family. Despite her husband’s newly encountered solitude, Úrsula continues to love and support José. However, she must now provide for her family. The establishment of her business, which sells candy animals, becomes successful, allowing her to expand the company into a pastry shop. She promises that as long as she lives, her household will have the money it needs. Úrsula’s hard work proves that she will not let her family suffer any more than they have if she can avoid it. Although life as an entrepreneur is not simple, her job as the head of her family is her most difficult task.
The adversities that the Buendía family overcomes, such as incest, politics, and death, are destructive enough to break any family. However, Úrsula’s quiet determination manages to hold her family together for many generations. She rightfully gains the respect and honor that she deserves in Macondo. Conversely, as Úrsula ages, the prominence she once had begins to fade. She slips into blindness, but because of her vivid memories and developed senses, her family does not realize her handicap. It is important to realize that Úrsula is forced into her solitude. Nature chooses Úrsula’s blindness, not she herself. Her newly found isolation enables her to reflect on her family’s troubled past, and she is saddened by it. Strangely enough, it is her blindness that allows her see. Ursula understands her family’s solitude, connecting with her loved ones on a deeper level than ever before. Her disability does not hinder her interactions with her family. The years spent watching her relatives repeat the mistakes of their predecessors allow Úrsula to understand her descendants better than they understand themselves. She begins to fade away, and both the family and the town she once built follow closely in her footsteps.
The combination of Úrsula’s practicality and understanding is the driving force behind the Buendía family. Her death at the end of the novel symbolizes not only the downfall of Macondo, but the demise of her family as well. The family she so lovingly nurtured and the village she once established now follow her to the grave. Úrsula is a timeless character, both literally and figuratively. She lives for over a century, giving rise to a spectacularly complex family and a village that became her home. Úrsula Iguarán Buendía truly possesses the characteristics of a terrific heroine.
Works Cited García Marquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York: Harper & Row, 1970. Print. “4 Bible Verses about Incest.” What Does the Bible Say About Incest? Crossway Bibles, 2001. Web. 14 Sept. 2013.