Written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the novel Love in the Time of Cholera deals with a passionate man's unfulfilled love and his quest of more than 50 years to win the heart of his true love. It's without question one of the most emotional depictions of love, but what separates it from similar novels is its suggestion that lovesickness is a literal disease, a plague comparable to cholera.
The novel's main character is Florentino Ariza, an obsessive young man who falls madly in love with a young girl named Fermina Daza. After a brief affair in which they see each other only in passing, Florentino gets rejected by Fermina. Florentino literally becomes sick and when his mother, Transito Ariza, finds his son in a pool of vomit, she reminds him that "the weak would never enter the kingdom of love, which is a harsh and ungenerous kingdom, and that women give themselves only to men of resolute spirit." After that time, Florentino dedicates his whole life to one day winning back his true love. But that day comes only after fifty-one years, nine months and four days later, and in the process, Florentino gets plagued by love, as if one gets plagued by cholera.
The novel is set, roughly, in the period from the late 1870s to the 1930s in an unnamed city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia where death is everywhere in the form of cholera, the fatal and infectious disease of the small intestine. The symptoms of cholera include rapid heartbeat, lethargy, pallor, and sleeplessness. The symptoms of being in love are very similar, and Garcia Marquez argues that in extreme cases, unreturned love can be as painful and deadly as cholera. As a matter of fact, throughout the novel, we witness numerous times when victims of one, are often mistaken for victims of the other.
Florentino's first interaction with Fermina is a great example for this. After he sees Fermina for the first time, he immediately loses his voice and his appetite, and spends the entire night tossing and turning around in his bed. The situation gets even worse when he begins to wait for an answer for his letter.
...his anguish was complicated by diarrhea and green vomit, he became disoriented and suffered from sudden fainting spells, and his mother was terrified because his condition did not resemble the turmoil of love so much as the devastation of cholera. Florentino Ariza's godfather, an old homeopathic practitioner who had been Transito Ariza's confidant ever since her days as a secret mistress, was also alarmed at first by the patient's condition, because he had the weak pulse,...