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 These are men defined as those “withdrawn but with lucid minds” (Márquez 181) characteristics that starkly contrast with those of Jose Arcadio.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.
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