The story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” was published for the first time in a collection of stories called Leaf Storm and Other Stories in 1955. The plot of the story is relatively simple and at the same time unusual: the peasant family finds a strange creature in the backyard. As the creature has wings, they believe this creature is an angel. They try to make money off the angel: put him in a chicken coop where crowds of visitors come to see him. The angel is very old and shabby, and the crowd soon loses interest in him.
When a traveling female spider arrives, the crowd prefers to see this new thing. The angel in the meantime gathers strength, stretches wings and flies away from the house. Although the angel is the central character of the story, Marquez’s piece is not focused on religious matters. The author never states clearly who the creature was. It is just that the peasants believe that the «old man with enormous wings» looks very similar to the Christian idea of the angel. The local priest tries to find out who the man was, but he really cannot cope with the puzzle on his own.
He is forced to consult the higher authorities to clarify the nature of the strange phenomenon. I believe that the priest is portrayed in a way that shows that the church nowadays may be no more ready to meet with the godly wonders than the crowd itself. And the crowd demonstrates all the worst human qualities: greed, ignorance, cruelty, senselessness, aggressive curiosity and love of everything that is mysterious and new. The people look at the angel without sympathy for his age and his poor health condition. For them he is only the new attraction, a plaything to enjoy for some time.
For the priest he is the object of study, used to make sure of religious theories. But the church representative does not either pay any attention to the angel’s fate, and does not object to the fact that the special guest is kept in a dirty coop together with the chicken. The story leaves the impression that the village inhabitants were little affected by the Christianity in their lifestyles. Church for them is only a social place to attend on weekends and holidays, and the priest is just another member of the local elite, like the mayor or police boss.
They fail to understand the true spirit of Christianity, and when they get this chance as the angel arrives in their village, they lose the opportunity to get closer to God by helping one of his servants. The angel’s arrival in the village is used by the peasant family where he stayed, namely, Elisenda and Palayo, to make a fortune off the angel’s demonstration to the public. In the end, they are able to buy “two-story mansion with balconies and gardens and high netting so that crabs wouldn’t get in during the winter”.
But they are done with angels in their life and want to keep them out for the future, so their house is «with iron bars on the windows so that angels wouldn’t get in» . That means they have used the angel to the full, and do not want anybody to disturb them in the future. Marquez presents in his story a very unusual angel, contrary to what the average person holds of these creatures. This process is called defamiliarization, a device often to be found in works written in the style of magical realism and sublime literature.
As my friend Howard pointed out in his paper, “an angel is something with which most are somewhat familiar; however, Marquez’s angel is a completely different type of angel. ” (Howard). Marquez presents in his story a very unusual angel, contrary to what the average person holds of these creatures. This process is called defamiliarization, a device often to be found in works written in the style of magical realism and sublime literature. As my friend Howard pointed out in his paper, “an angel is something with which most are somewhat familiar; however, Marquez’s angel is a completely different type of angel. (Howard).
The village is just a sample of mankind, and the author pushes all people towards the conclusion that most people would behave in the same way when seeing a wonder like this one. People on the whole show little sympathy and are more concerned about their curiosity. On a large scale, the people showed much the same reaction to the appearance of Jesus Christ on Earth. He was not the type of saint they were used to see, and they could not accept him as a saint, which led to the sad ending of his stay on Earth.
After reading Marquez’s story, one arrives at the conclusion that people have not changed much since that time and still are heartless to the unusual creatures they see. This is true also when an unusual person appears who stands out from the crowd. This person is often hounded by the crowd and only after death are the person’s ideas appreciated. The story can be attributed to magical realism as it has some grotesque and magical elements, for instance, the angel himself. The author creates a world of his own, different from what we are used to see and experience.
But Marquez describes this world in a very realistic way so that the reader does not even notice that something is not right in this world. When the doctor comes to examine the angel’s wings, they look “so natural on that completely human organism that he couldn’t understand why other men didn’t have them too”. Marquez’ story has a fantastic component that is the focus of the plot. I believe this is a piece of fiction that aims at describing ideas related to the real world by introducing a fantastic element. The story pushes one to make some deep thinking and to compare one’s reactions to events to the reaction of the village crowd.
Very often most people act like on-lookers seeing someone in deep need if this person is strange and unusual to us. Very often we are like the village crowd, eager to get interesting and exciting entertainment and do not want to take any active action to become participants of some events. Maruez’s story makes one more sensitive to what is going on around and helps one to be more responsible and not follow the crowd without thinking. The problem with many people is that they cannot accept the unusual, whether this is a person or thing.
I remember studying with a girl at school who was deeply religious. She attended a church, I forgot the name of it, some Protestant denomination, I believe, where they required them to have a rest on Saturday. So she never came to the school activities or friends’ parties if they fell on this day. Instead, she was deeply interested in teaching at a Sunday school and was often seen reading the Bible. Many of my classmates were making jokes at her, and behind her back and often to her eyes they called her a «churchie». She was a nice girl though, and she helped me once when older guys tried to hurt me.
She did not do anything, just stood by, but I think this made the rowdies go away as they were afraid to hurt me in somebody’s presence. But in the class nobody wanted to be her friend, because she was so different from all of us, for example, her favorite pastime was astronomy and learning about the stars, and she was indifferent to modern music or actors. In some sense, she reminded me of that angel who is a stranger among people choosing to mock at him instead of taking a chance to step into a new world by meeting someone unusual.