Starts Out As An Old Man Ends As A Baby Literary Analysis – A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

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Literary Analysis – A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

In “A very old man with huge wings” author Gabriel Garcia Marquez weaves the natural with the supernatural in an unexpected yet stimulating way. It leaves the reader with the question, “What would I do if I was confronted with something supernatural right outside my door?” Mixing the most mundane and ugly parts of life – from rainy days to selfish crowds – with the miraculous, Marquez effectively uses a creative tone and unique style to create a story that carries elements of everyday life yet supersedes it. His story invites the reader to look more closely at everyday events and determine one’s response to the normal and not-quite-normal events that have the power to change a life.

The tone of the story is set in the beginning, with the most natural and unwelcome of occurrences: a sick child in the middle of bad weather. In the first few sentences, Marquez’s writing style immediately captures the imagination as he writes, “The world has been sad since Tuesday,” describing the morning and bad weather in detail. In the first paragraph, he brings magical elements by introducing the surreal character of an old man with enormous wings. Marquez immediately shatters any notions the reader has of powerful and holy angels by placing him face down in the mud and unable to extricate himself, “impeded by his enormous wings.”

With some irony, the very objects that should have empowered this man to fly above the earthly elements – his wings – hindered him and brought him unwanted attention. Irony is part of the tone woven throughout the story. It is seen in the “wise old woman” who determined that the old man with wings was an angel … and then suggested clubbing him to death. It is noted in the wording that Marquez chose when he stated that the husband and wife “felt magnanimous” when they chose to float the angel on a raft with enough food to last him a few days “and leave him to his fate on the high seas.”

In parts of the story, the author’s tone seems to convey a sense of regret that humanity, as a whole, often fails to appreciate the “magic” that is part of life. Instead of appreciating experience and living fully in the moment, so many ask, “What’s in it for me?” When the couple, Pelayo and Elisenda, decide to exploit the angel by having the onlookers pay to see him, that feeling of selfishness and greed is apparent. Here, again, the reader has the opportunity to imagine what their choice would be if faced with a similar situation. Of course, no angel will fall from heaven on a sad and stormy day, but in the day-to-day running of things, how do you use the opportunities presented? Gabriel Garcia Marquez invites the reader to ask such questions not through a sermon but in the form of a story.

Using magical realism, Marquez also takes those natural tendencies of humanity and weaves it with supernatural elements, creating scenes that leave the reader wondering if perhaps magic can spread into the world beyond the pages. For example, the angel is so real that the local priest, Father Gonzaga, remarks that he is “much too human.” He smells Everything about him is the opposite of anything one might think of as angelic and holy. But looking closer, parts of the angel’s character can be seen in the pages. His endless patience is evident when he endures abuse – being locked up with chickens, pushed around, poked and prodded. He doesn’t fight back. He waits…almost as if he knows it’s only for a time. This, if nothing else, is a sign of the supernatural origin of the angel – his behavior in the midst of trauma. Perhaps despite human and unsavory circumstances, the reader can also manifest those same attributes of patience and endurance. The tone of the story invites you to think that yes, it is possible.

Finally, towards the end of the story, the angel’s patience is rewarded. With the dawn of spring, he begins to sprout new feathers in his wings. The setting of the story matches the action. The long and dreary winter is over and new life begins around and within. Like the rest of the angel, those new feathers are unimpressive, “the feathers of a scarecrow, which look more like another misfortune of decay” But they are enough. He looks up at the sky, feels the breeze, and begins to fly, slowly at first but rising and then disappearing over the ocean, beyond the blue.

Elisenda watches from the kitchen and “she continued to watch until she could no longer see him, because then he was no longer a nuisance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea.” The strange juxtaposition of her emotions against the clearly supernatural circumstances creates a unique effect. Elisenda watches an angel take off – the same angel who provided her and her husband with enough money to build a two-story mansion – and she feels nothing but relief that he’s gone. At the end, just as in the beginning, a normal person is faced with a supernatural event and does not see it for the wonderful happening that it is. Elisenda probably returns to her work, never appreciating the miracle that entered her life unexpectedly and left just as suddenly.

With the tone that the author sets at the end, the reader is invited to ask: “How often do I look up for a moment, see something beyond the ordinary and look away? How often do I face something truly amazing and fail to see it as it’s because I pause at the question, ‘What’s in it for me?'”

Through his use of magical realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez opens the door to an interesting dialogue and invites the reader not only to enter a place of imagination and mystery, but also to look into one’s own thoughts and actions and see how they measure up against the elements. – normal and supernatural – of everyday life.

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