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.
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