Lunes Lunacy: The Importance of Monday in One Hundred Years of Solitude
On one Tuesday in One Hundred Years of Solitude, José Arcadio Buendía, the Buendía family’s enigmatic patriarch, comes to the sudden realization that “it’s still Monday, like yesterday” (Márquez 77). At first, this may seem like lunacy; the characters around him all discredit his idea, and he is eventually tied to a chestnut tree after his realization drives him mad (78). However, his statement is more than it seems. The realization that it is “still Monday” even as the week continues to progress speaks to the broader theme of the cyclical and ultimately stagnant nature of time in the novel (77). Throughout the novel, Macondo experiences much technological progress, globalization, and population growth, but eventually the town succumbs to collapse and returns to a pre-civilization state. Even as the plot and events move forward, characters seem to repeat themselves, as the constant stream of ‘José Arcadios’ and ‘Aurelianos’ confuse and distort what would be considered a logical or ordered progression of time. Even as time brings progress and change, it eventually erases them, bringing about yet again the beginning of a cycle. Monday represents the beginning of these cycles. It is the first day of creation in the Book of Genesis, and is used in the novel to frame the beginnings of important events. The fact that José Arcadio Buendía declares every day to be Monday shows that Macondo is an analogue for human civilization, symbolizing that despite any apparent progress, ultimately time erodes all; progress and change are merely illusions, because things will always return to their ‘Monday.’
José Arcadio Buendía comes to his realization based on the fact that his surroundings remain unchanged, despite the fact that it is supposedly a different day. On a Tuesday, he tells his son, Aureliano, to “look at the sky, look at the walls, look at the begonias. Today is Monday too” (77). The following day, he declares that nature and his surroundings are “the same as yesterday and the day before. Today is Monday too” (77). He rejects the established passage of days in a week in favor of determining the day based on unchanging features of life and the world around him. In this way, José Arcadio Buendía decides that, despite the prevailing societal concept of distinct days of the week, each day is essentially the same from a wider point of view. Beyond the scope of the small changes in day-to-day life, things like the sky, the sun, the plants, and the walls remain the same. Thus, José Arcadio Buendía decides that the differences that time brings in the lives of people are ultimately meaningless.
The specific choice of Monday is important, because Monday is seen as the beginning to the week’s routine, or cycle, as well as the first day of God’s creation of Earth in the Book of Genesis. If Sunday, the seventh day, is the day of rest, then Monday was the first day, when God “created the heavens and the earth.” From the very first page of the novel, Macondo serves as a symbol for the world and for human civilization as a whole. Márquez writes that “the world was so recent that many things lacked names” (1). The fact that, according to José Arcadio Buendía, it is always Monday in Macondo means that it is essentially always the first day of Creation, always the beginning of time and history. The use of Monday as a representation of this beginning day shows that the characters, storylines, and Macondo as a whole seem to exist in cycles that eventually revert back to their previous states, such as the technological influx and then eventual collapse of the town, or the repetition of incestuous relationships between characters, or the fact that characters who have the same name tend to share aspects of a collective personality. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, it is always Monday, because things always eventually revert to how they were previously, despite any apparent change that has taken place.
In the context of the insomnia plague, Monday serves as a representation of the nature of time in Macondo. During the time of the insomnia plague, the entire town was discovered to have been afflicted “that dawn on Monday.” The event began on Monday, but what is perhaps even more important is the fact that, due to their amnesia, the townspeople are beginning each day without certain knowledge or memories, thereby making each day seem like a metaphorical Monday in that it marks the beginning of another cycle of time. Furthermore, the fact that they must learn the names of things each day points to the idea that they are almost recreating the world in their minds each day; each day they are resetting a cycle, stagnant in time. Despite their apparent progress in learning the names of objects as each day progresses, or in attempting to learn of their past through Pilar Ternera’s card readings, they remain static, relying on labels to remind them of things they would otherwise forget. Furthermore, the fact that the village does not sleep during this plague connects each day together, blurring the lines between the days. In this regard, the statement that it is always Monday holds significant meaning for the insomnia plague, because it describes not only the way that the amnesia seems to reset the townspeople’s minds and lives, but also the fact that their lack of sleep blurs each successive day into the original Monday. In the case of the insomnia plague, Monday represents the way time works in Macondo; everything returns to its beginning, and ultimately change is merely an illusion, hiding the true cyclical, static nature of Macondo’s history and events.
When Colonel Aureliano Buendía is captured by the Conservatives, he is brought back to Macondo on a Monday and then given his sentence the following Monday, showing again the cyclical nature of time in the novel. The fact that both of these events occurred on a Monday strengthens the underlying meaning of Monday in the novel, as it points to the idea that Mondays are ultimately the beginning and end for Macondo’s cycles, the basis upon which time builds, constantly moving forwards but at the same time returning continuously to the same point. Colonel Aureliano’s return to Macondo occurs on a Monday, and his final departure was intended to take place on a Monday as well. These Mondays mark the end of the era of Colonel Aureliano Buendía. For a man so intent on enacting change through leading insurrections and rebellions, he ultimately was no able to escape the ultimate cycle of his life, returning to Macondo to live out his life crafting golden fish and exerting next to no influence on the town as a whole. Despite his best efforts, despite the war, and despite the deaths and changes in Macondo, none of the change is permanent in the long run. Furthermore, the fact that it is always Monday in Macondo highlights the fact that Aureliano’s return and his intended execution take place as true events of Macondo, thereby contributing to its pattern of cyclical time.
Ultimately, however, the most important mention of ‘Monday’ in the novel may not be the word ‘Monday’ at all. In Spanish, the word for Monday is lunes, which draws from the Latin dies Lunae, essentially translating to ‘day of the moon.’ The word ‘moon’ only appears once in the entire novel; the night when José Arcadio Buendía and his wife Ursula finally engage in sexual intercourse is described as “a fine June night, cool and with a moon” (22). Extrapolating from this passage, it could be said that the origin of the entirety of the Buendía line in Macondo—every José Arcadio, every Aureliano, every Amaranta—was essentially a metaphorical ‘Monday’ upon which the eventual settlement and population of Macondo was predicated. The family upon which the novel is centered all began under a moon, under the influence of the symbol of Monday; if every day in Macondo is Monday, then every day is truly the beginning of its history, showing the stagnant nature of the town when viewed as a whole. Progress and change may have occurred, but the cyclical nature of events in Macondo means that eventually, events repeat themselves, characters begin anew as the next generation grows up with the same names, and finally, the town itself eventually collapses, all remnants of civilization wiped out at the final stage of the novel.
Towards the end of the novel, José Arcadio Segundo and his son Aureliano are visited by an apparition of an old man in Melquiadés’ lab. The old man, presumably Melquiadés himself, explains that, in the world many years before they were born, “it was always March there and always Monday” (348). Like Monday, March also symbolizes beginnings: the beginning of spring, the blooming of the flowers, and other beginnings associated with the springtime. But the fact that Macondo of old was always in a stage of beginning shows that Macondo was trapped in a series of historical cycles, in which meaningful progress is never achieved. Even at this point in the novel, where it is implied that it is no longer always Monday or always March, Macondo’s progress and globalization is eventually halted as growth slows, and finally reversed by the apocalyptic winds at the end of the novel. No time period is safe from the eventual return to Monday, to the beginning, as all time in Macondo follows this highly cyclical structure. After hearing Melquiadés say this, the two characters “understood that José Arcadio Buendía was not as crazy as the family said, but that he was the only one who had enough lucidity to sense the truth of the fact that time also stumbled and had accidents” (348). This line is hugely important, as it reinforces and legitimizes the claims made my José Arcadio Buendía much earlier in the novel. If José Arcadio Buendía was “the only one who had enough lucidity” to realize that it is, in fact, always Monday, then his realization carries far more weight than any of his family members believed. Time in the novel is imperfect, as everything else is, but ultimately follows a pattern; things repeat and return to previous states. José Arcadio Buendía’s realization of this pattern through his metaphorical understanding of the concept of ‘Monday’ frames the entire novel in the context of being ‘Monday;’ that is, the story of Macondo exists as a series of cycles and a series of beginnings, and even when things come to an end, that end is ultimately only a return to the beginning.
The concept and meaning of Monday is used on multiple occasions to frame important events and stories within the novel. Due to the cyclical narrative structure, José Arcadio Buendía’s assertion that it is always Monday comes not from a place of insanity but from a place of intense clarity; he understands that the petty constructs of civilization, such as days of the week, are ultimately meaningless in the face of the unchanging world around him. While people enact change throughout their lives, the story of Macondo in conjunction with the use of ‘Monday’ show that ultimately, these changes lead to nothing; Macondo is constantly in a state of beginning, and all change eventually erodes and returns back to its original state. From every character sharing the name ‘Aureliano’ sharing similar personality traits, to the fact that Macondo itself eventually collapsed, erasing all of its apparent progress, the cyclical nature of time is extremely present in One Hundred Years of Solitude. By understanding this through the concept of ‘Monday’ in the novel as a symbol of beginnings, of Creation, and of repetitiveness, the reader can truly understand what it is that Macondo represents. Macondo’s founding is analogous to the beginning of the world, the Christian creation story, and the beginnings of human civilizations. Macondo’s fall parallels the fall of great civilizations such as Rome or Babylon—even the final character’s name, Aureliano Babilonia, contributes to this idea. Macondo, then, represents a fairly pessimistic view on humanity and civilization as a whole, because it shows that change and progress are ultimately meaningless concepts, for they eventually fade away into the constant cycles of time.
García Márquez, Gabriel, and Gregory Rabassa. One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.
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On one Tuesday in One Hundred Years of Solitude, José Arcadio Buendía, the Buendía family’s enigmatic patriarch, comes to the sudden realization that “it’s still Monday, like yesterday” (Márquez 77). […]