The Harm of Playing a Passive Role in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: A Tale for Children,” critiques the relationship between the working and upper classes and its connection with exploitation. Marquez conjures an image of a fallen angel establishing his social class; as a poverty and homeless stricken man, “ a very old man, lying face down in the mud” (Marquez 1). The duality of his holy presence of “his enormous wings” (Marquez 1) with his helplessness and unclean image of his “face [lying] down in the mud” (Marquez 1) foreshadows the labour and turmoil he will endure at the hand of the couple. Marquez connects the man’s position to a job of a “ragpicker” due to his clothing; alienating him from the established society and setting. Showing an initial lack of compassion for the angel, Elisenda and Pelayo begin to assert their dominance towards him by identifying aspects they find familiar. The couple assigns job titles to comprehend who and what the angel’s status is towards them: “a strong sailor’s voice” (Marquez 1) or “a lonely castaway from some foreign ship wrecked by the storm” (Marquez 1). Ultimately, they conclude titles that benefit their own interests and desires for the angel.
Proprietors often assert their dominance and authority to their employees to communicate their place within a company. Predominantly with background characters, Marquez identifies the similar entities that are dim minded as the couple and showcases their inferior status. They resort to their fellow ignorant neighbour because she “[knows] everything about life and death,” (Marquez 1) though the topics have no correlation to the angel. Further, this proves their oblivious behaviour of abandoning the angel, reverting to a inaccurate and incredible depiction of who he is; referencing representatives in privatized companies who know surface-level information.
With Pelayo and Elisenda displaying behaviours of private owners, they promote the inhumane conditions employees and lower classmen are subjected to, “he dragged him out of the mud and locked him up with the hens in the wire chicken coop” (Marquez 1). The angel’s treatment in the short duration of the time has lowered his status not only to a lower classmen but someone who is in equal prestige of an animal. Comparable to following business protocols with employees, Father Gonzaga mirrors this and follows “his catechism in an instant” (Marquez 1) when assessing the angel. Father Gonzaga critiques aspects that are out of the angel’s control, “an unbearable smell of the outdoors, the back side of his wings was strewn with parasites and his main feathers had been mistreated by terrestrial winds” (Marquez 1) to promote that he does not belong in their class structure. Rejecting the reality of problems set forth in front of him, he displays the same demeanor of a private owner as he comes up with excuses to cover the reality, “the devil had the bad habit of making use of carnival tricks” (Marquez 2). Reflecting her toxic behaviour to her exterior, Elisenda “spine twisted” (Marques 2) implying her corrupt state of power. Continuing this tangent the couple exploits the angel, “fencing in the yard and charging five cents admission to see the angel” (Marquez 2). Supporting characters are no different to the couple as Marquez discusses the “unfortunate invalids on earth” (Marquez 2), categorizing them as disposable and dismissible entities, to represent a collective whole of the upper class.
Much like employees disapproving of occurrences during a job and the exploitation of their work, “The angel was the only one who took no part in his own act” (Marquez 2). After receiving the letter from Rome and it “show[ing] no urgency” (Marquez 2) it ultimately did not accomplish the initial intent; resembling the lack of guidance with higher figures when asked about employees. Competing with other supernatural entities forced to a similar job, Marquez proposes a juxtaposition between the angel and the spider; a silent employee and a compliant employee. However, both face the corruption and greed of the ‘bosses’ as they do not receive any reciprocation for their work. The angel’s work fails due to the lack of connection he provides with his customers, making the spider successful and beneficial for her ‘boss,’ as she provides a cheap moral story that people could grasp. The angel continues in his decrepit state, while his bosses indulge in typical luxury purchases such as: “a two-story mansion with balconies and gardens and high netting so that crabs wouldn’t get in during the winter, and with iron bars on the windows so that angels wouldn’t get in” (Marquez 3). With the barrier and its height, it epitomizes the class struggle between the couple and the angel, and their lack of desire to be in the same presence with their employee.
The repeated stereotypical cycle of indulgence by the owners continues with “satin pumps with high heels and many dresses of iridescent silk,” (Marquez 3) changing their appearances whilst ignoring their moral responsibilities and mundane tasks, “the chicken coop was the only thing that didn’t receive any attention” (Marquez 3). The couple becomes rich in possessions and poor in morals. Finding qualities to differentiate the angel more, the doctor identified “[his wings] seemed so natural on that completely human organism that he couldn’t understand why other men didn’t have them too” (Marquez 3). The wings carry the weight of work and expectations set by the higher class and owners, though other characters in the story do not possess the same quality due to their status. A shift occurs straying away from their personal lives, and focuses on the angel’s personal effect on their new lifestyle,“living in that hell full of angels” (Marquez 3). The constant presence of the angel demonstrates the existence of mistreated employees and poverty stricken classmen being employed by a private company. Rather the angel being seen as a blessing to aide and guide, they confine him and switch his title to slave. Elisenda, by letting him go in the end, makes her free of the burdens of her business venture and experiences a feeling of relief. The angel himself experiences the courage to finally thrive and leave his abusive work environment and in turn seeks something better. Marquez critiques that people should not play passive roles when encountering the unknown: they should be active and question decisions and motives that will ultimately affect them and their company.
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Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: A Tale for Children,” critiques the relationship between the working and upper classes and its connection with exploitation. […]