Social and Thematic Context of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was one of the most well-known Columbian writers, whose literature spanned many different fields and subjects, with novels such as Love in the Time of Cholera combining different elements of fiction and history to increase the artistic accuracy of his work. Gabriel Garcia’s work is well known for its emphasis on historical accuracy, which helps to create a stronger narrative that associates real-life events with his characters’ lives. As a result, his narrative unfolds not in a vacuum but under predetermined social and historical contexts which are already familiar to the reader. There are, therefore, certain similarities between the events depicted in his novels and real-life occurrences such as the gold mining activity in Colombia which provides the availability of gold cyanide vapours. Moreover, other sociological similarities such as the gap between low and high class members of society are also used to provide a thematic context for the romantic elements of Love in the Time of Cholera. The problems which are encountered by the characters in the novel therefore reflect, to some degree, actual problems which were historically faced within the same region at a similar period. It is therefore necessary to compare the events which unfolds within the narrative of Gabriel Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera with similar social and thematic events to discover their causes within the novel.
Many of the events in Love in the Time of Cholera are caused by agents within the large historical or thematic context of the book. One of the most notable events in Gabriel Marquez’s is the death of Dr Urbino’s friend, Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, who inhaled gold cyanide vapours as an act of suicide. This event sets the morbid theme of the novel as the death of Saint-Amour introduces the main charters, Dr Urbino and his wife Fermina in a more melancholic context (Baig 67). The death of Saint-Amour by suicide is not described as an unusual death within the narrative, due to common knowledge regarding the high levels of toxicity contained in cyanide. However, as a suicide, Dr Urbino remarks that it is one of the first times he has seen someone take his own life for a reason other than love. Later, he discovers that Saint-Amour has a lover who knew about his plans of suicide, stating that he never wished to grow old and therefore always planned to kill himself by the age of sixty. Saint-Amour’s suicide is, therefore, an event within the narrative whose occurrence is caused by a thematic connection between the characters.
While the death of Saint-Amour appears to be an act of suicide geared towards avoiding the harsh realities of old age such as the decline in one’s physical health, it has a greater implication on the rest of the novel as the main characters experience life in contrast to Saint-Amour’s death. Love in the Time of Cholera, therefore, portrays life from these two perspectives, where it raises the question of whether life is better in old age or whether the decisions of Saint-Amour are justified (Corum 156). Therefore, Saint-Amour’s decisions to kill himself may be interpreted as the result of a larger narrative purpose which combines the ideologies of romance and old age, therefore necessitating the inclusion of other related thematic elements such as death (Jacob 19). Therefore, the cause of Saint-Amour’s death, when taken in this context, makes more narrative sense when its phasing is considered. Marquez described Saint-Amour’s inhalation of toxic fumes as ’escaping memory with the aromatic fumes of cyanide’, which provides a more positive undertone to his suicide, implying its preference over life in old age (Jacob 19). Therefore, the profundity of Saint-Amour’s death to the reader arises not from the fact that he is dead or in the unusual way that he has killed himself. Rather, the role this suicide plays and its contrast with the suffering of other characters such as Florentino who endures fifty years for a chance at love is more crucial to the narrative than the effect it has on Dr Ubino.
The concept of old age romance also occurs in a series of event which appears to occur both within the framework of the novel’s narrative as well as within certain sociological frameworks. For instance, Florentino and Fermina are kept apart by Dr Urbino’s entrance into the narrative, after Fermina’s return to Florentina After they meet in the marketplace and she feels disillusioned by the prospect of marriage, Dr. Urbino soon s becomes a more desirable suitor, as he falls in love with her while physically inspecting her (Jacob 19). However, the social difference between the two characters plays an even larger role in their romance and subsequent marriage than their personal feelings, which indicates the influence of sociological factors which historically played a large role in the real-life geographical setting of the narrative (Corum 133). One the one hand, the events which occur within the novel such as the ejection of Florentino appear to happen naturally, with inherent causes such as her disenchantment after their encounter (Corum 156). On the other hand, it is difficult to ignore the difference between Florentino and Dr Umrbino which makes the latter man the winning candidate for Fermina’s hand in marriage. The use of such sense within his works, which blends naturalistic causes with narrative events, makes Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s literature even more profound.
- Baig, Mirza Muhammad Zubair. Celebrating or Mourning Patriarchal Love: The Case of Curious Courtships in Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. Khazar Journal of Humanities & Social Sciences 20.2 (2017): 67.
- Corum, John. The Relevance of Gabriel García Márquez to Contemporary Ecocritical Theory. (2016): 133-254.
- Jacob, Jaison P. The Carnivalesque and the Ideology of the Libertine: An Analysis of the Select Novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. IJELLH (International Journal of English Language, Literature in Humanities) 7.5 (2019): 19-19.
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