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A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, By Gabriel Garcia Marquez

1518 words - 6 pages

In “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: A Tale for Children,” Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the story of a supernatural winged creature first discovered trapped in a mud puddle during a heavy rainstorm. Marquez initially just describes it as, “a very old man . . . impeded by his enormous wings” (Marquez 380). Throughout the story, however, characters use the term “angel” for the creature because “a neighbor woman who knew everything about life and death” in an authoritative seer-like manor proclaims, “He’s an angel . . . [that] must have been coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old that the rain knocked him down” (Marquez 381). Despite the neighbor woman’s confidence in her assertion, Marquez never definitively makes known the creature’s true nature. While Marquez vividly describes various characteristics and actions of the “angel,” the true significance and depth of the story is in Marquez’s often satirical exploration of the various other characters’ perception of and interaction with the creature. Marquez may call the story, “A Tale for Children,” but it is, in fact, far from a children’s tale, as it is a complex story that satirically deals with mature human behaviors and themes starting with its very first line—the title.
While subtitled “A Tale for Children,” Marquez’s story lacks most of the characteristics often found in of children’s stories. Frequently children’s stories focus on action; Marquez focuses on the characters and their interactions. While there is some action in the arrival, treatment, and departure of the “angel,” much more attention is focused on how the various characters act towards and react to the “angel.” Children’s stories are often about childhood or express a child’s point of view; except for a few sentences in the next-to-the-last paragraph of the story, there is very little mention of “the child,” and there is neither anything specifically about childhood nor a child’s point of view (Marquez 384). A children’s story is often optimistic; anyone would be hard-pressed to describe the story as optimistic with its mostly negative portrayal of human nature. Children’s stories often tend to have charismatic characters; none of the characters in Marquez’s story could remotely be considered charismatic. The “angel” certainly is not in any way portrayed as charismatic; he is described as filthy and compared to a vulture on more than one occasion, and with no comprehensible dialog and very little action, the “angel” would never be called charismatic. The same is true for the people that interact with the “angel.” At worst, they are quite cruel, and at best, they are self-centered, indifferent and only occasionally show the slightest compassion.
One of the most universal characteristics of children’s stories is that they are simple and straightforward; that is not at all the case with Marquez’s story. While the action is simple, the interaction, behavior, and themes in the story are not. In the very beginning...

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