A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel García Márquez
In A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel García Márquez we have the theme of prosperity, connection, gratitude, appearance, tradition and selfishness. Taken from his Collected Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Márquez may be exploring the theme of prosperity. Though Pelayo and Elisenda don’t seem to appreciate it the reason that their lives have improved is due to the fact that they have charged people to see the old man. They have managed to build a new two storey house. Something that they would not have been able to do without the arrival of the old man. If anything neither Pelayo nor Elisenda show any gratitude to the old man for their new found prosperity. Something that is clearer to the reader by the fact that the old man is held captive in the chicken coop by Pelayo and Elisenda. The fact that the neighbour suggests that the old man is an angel because of the fact that he has wings might also be important. As Márquez may be placing a spotlight on the traditionally held views of many when it comes to what an angel might look like. If anything Márquez may be mocking the neighbour for her views and in turn society in general. It is also possible that Márquez is ridiculing the Catholic Church. Father Gonzaga doubts the old man is an angel because he doesn’t speak Latin.
The fact that people soon lose interest in the old man might also be important as Márquez may be suggesting that people can be fickle. Something that is noticeable by the fact that people when they realise no miracles are occurring. Shift their attention to something they consider more interesting. The spider woman being an example. If anything Márquez may be not only suggesting that people can be fickle but he may also be exploring the human condition. With an individual’s need to be entertained and reminded of the fact that life for others is more difficult than it is for the individual themselves. At no stage in the story, with the exception of the doctor and Pelayo and Elisenda’s child, does the reader feel as though anybody has really attempted to make a connection with the old man. True Father Gonzaga tries to speak Latin to him but that is more to do with the fact that Father Gonzaga wishes to see if the old man is an angel. Father Gonzaga does not show the old man any compassion though he is physically weak. Rather than telling Pelayo to free the old man from the chicken coop. Father’ Gonzaga’s is driven by his desire to tell his Bishop as to what has happened.
If anything Father Gonzaga is trying to judge the old man based solely on his appearance and the commonly held and traditional perception that angels have wings. It might also be a case that Márquez is making a biblical reference in the story (Hebrews 13:2). In whereby an individual should entertain strangers as they might be angels. However rather than entertaining or welcoming the old man Pelayo has put him in the chicken coop. Similarly when the old man is eventually allowed some freedom Elisenda tires of the old man walking around the house. If anything Pelayo and Elisenda have given very little consideration (or compassion) to the old man. He is no more than a side-show who can help them prosper and again they show no gratitude to the old man. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Pelayo and Elisenda are thinking only of themselves.
In reality Márquez has managed to blend the normal with the supernatural. Affording the reader an insight into a very ordinary couple’s life and how life changes for them through their encounter with the old man. Márquez also appears to be highlighting how difficult life can be for somebody (the old man) who is perceived by society to be different due to their appearance. Apart from the doctor and Pelayo and Elisenda’s child everybody in the story has a judgement on the old man or wants something from him. Which may be the point that Márquez is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that most people will act selfishly when they encounter something that is different to them. Whether it is Father Gonzaga trying to determine if the old man is an angel and not helping him as one would expect a priest to do or the simple fact that the people preferred to see the spider woman so that they could feel better about themselves. Márquez may be placing a spotlight on mankind in general and how selfish an individual can be. At no stage in the story did anybody think about helping the old man repair his wings in order that he could carry on with his journey.