Summary of A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Introduction:

Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” in 1955, and gave it the subtitle of A Tale For Children. “Very Old Man” is perhaps the clearest and most famous example of a genre that Garcia Marquez helped to create: magical realism. This style, simply put, combines elements of ordinary life with elements of fantasy and magic. One might say that a work of magical realism treats the magical as ordinary – and thus invites us to consider the ordinary as magical. Despite containing similarities to folk legends and fairy tales, stories adhering to “magic realism” avoid the naive moral judgments found in those folk genres. Instead, magical realism creates a complex and problematic world free of moral lessons or any maxims.

Summary of A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings:

It is a story of Pelayo and his wife Elisenda, who find an old man with wings in their courtyard after killing crabs in a rainstorm. Pelayo gets his wife, and they try to communicate with him unsuccessfully. They eventually get their neighbor woman, who informs them that the old man is an angel. She tells them that it was on its way for their sick child.They put the angel in the chicken coop, and during the middle of the night their child’s fever breaks. They decide to let him go, but when they return to the courtyard at dawn the entire community has arrived to see the angel. Father Gonzaga soon arrives, declaring that the old man is a fake. He promises to get the real truth from the higher courts of the church. The news of the angel spreads like wildfire, and the courtyard soon resembles a marketplace. Elisenda then has the idea of charging a 5 cent admission fee for seeing the angel; they are soon rich. Rome takes it time deciding on whether the old man is an angel, and while waiting for their verdict, Father Gonzaga works desperately to restrain the crowd.The crowd leaves on its own, however, when a carnival boasting a Spider-Girl arrives in town. Spectators are allowed to question her, and she tells them how she was turned into a tarantula one night for disobeying her parents. This appeals to the masses more than an old winged man who ignores the people around him. Thus, the curious crowds soon leave the angel for the spider, leaving Pelayo’s courtyard deserted.Pelayo and Elisenda build a mansion with all the money they have accumulated. They neglect the angel and prevent their child from getting to close to the chicken coop. He soon becomes a part of their life, and they no longer fear him. The child visits him often. After a while the chicken coop breaks, and they allow him to move around their house, although it causes Elisenda much distress. He gets increasingly frail and sickly, and they fear that he will die. He recovers, however, and one day Elisenda watches him fly away, to her great relief.

Characters in A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings:

Angel-


The very old man with enormous wings. Pelayo finds him lying in the mud of his courtyard. Caged in a chicken coop, people from all over the world come to see him. His one supernatural quality, aside from his wings, seems to be his patience, and he speaks in a dialect that no one understands.
Pelayo-
He discovers the old man with wings. He makes a lot of money exhibiting the old man, with which he builds a mansion and sets up a rabbit warren.
Elisenda-
She is one of the first to see the old man. Elisenda develops a bent spine from cleaning up the after the crowds who come to see the old man. She comes up with the idea of charging an admission price to see him.
The Child-
The child is ill when Pelayo finds the old man. His fever breaks during the night. Once the angel is no longer a carnival attraction, the child plays with him in the chicken coop sometimes.
Neighbor Woman-

The neighbor woman is a woman close to Pelayo and Elisenda. She knows everything about life and death, and tells them that the old man is an angel who was probably coming for their sick child before the rain knocked him from the sky.

Father Gonzaga-

A woodcutter before becoming a priest. Though he suspects the angel of being an imposter, he insists that the crowds treat the angel with dignity.

The Spider Girl-

The spider is a carnival attraction. She used to be a young girl, but one night snuck out of her house to a dance. On the way home a lightening bolt of brimstone turned her into a giant tarantula. Her only source of food is the meatballs spectators throw her.

Themes in A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings:

People’s reaction to the supernatural, the fine line between the natural and supernatural, the news to interpret events, and the true definition of humanity.The two major supernatural occurrences in the story are the old man with wings and the girl who has been turned into a spider. The people in the story treat the old man as an oddity, but not as a supernatural oddity: more a freak of nature than something beyond nature.

Solved Questions of A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings:

1.What do Pelayo and Elisenda think he is?

Pelayo and Elisenda are told that the old man is an angel who has come to take their sick child away. They lock him in a chicken coup. The neighbors at first are intrigued as is father Gonzaga. After father Gonzaga concludes that the angel doesn’t follow the very literal precepts of the church (speak latin…..) the town looses interest in the old man; he becomes more a freak than anything else. Elisenda spends much of the story trying to make her hose “angel free” but as the old man flies off she does feel regret. She doesn’t know why but something profound has been lost.

2.Why does the narrator stress such detail as his “dirty and half-plucked” wings and his grossly physical,animalistictraits?

The narrator stresses the old man’s disheveled appearance in order to dissuade us from immediately believing the old man to be an angel. In my own opinion, we are meant to be skeptical as the townspeople.