The story begins with Pelayo returning crabs back in the sea in hopes to help soothe his and Elisenda’s sick baby until he comes across a struggling elderly man with wings (Marquez). Their neighbor concluded the creature was a fallen angel that was coming for their child and recommended they kill him the man (complication/conflict). Instead, the married couple chose to put him in a chicken coop and cared for him until they decided to let the man go. However, when about to free the angel, the pair saw the entire town gathered around his cage- catching their attention, and the town priest Father Gonzaga’s. He entered the man’s cage anxious to figure out what he was but exited with no final verdict.
Nevertheless, people remained intrigued by the creature, even looking to him as a god, hoping he could cure their poor health. This helped inspire Elisenda to charge admission to see him (inciting action), ultimately making the family rich beyond belief, and ignorant to the deteriorating and abused man they were making money off of. Then one day, a carnival came into town, starring a spider woman whose fate was accredited to disobeying her parents. She soon became more popular than the angel, (climax) as he did not perform the miracles they wanted, and as a result Pelayo and Elisenda’s side business retired.
With their profits, they built a mansion and Elisenda lived an expensive lifestyle while the angel lived the opposite (falling action). Once their child began school, the old man was losing his sight and starved himself, and Pelayo tended to him as his wife saw him as a pest. He continued to survive until the winter when his feathers regrew, and not before long, Eliseda saw the old man with wings struggle, but succeed in flying away until he was gone (resolution). Being a short story, there’s character development, although not very elaborative, and somewhat flat characters with their descriptions coming mostly from indirect presentation.
Pelayo, the father of the child and husband to Elisanda, is the most compassionate of the bunch to the strange old man. From watching over him and providing a blanket and warm shelter in the end, Pelayo’s actions displayed basic components of care, whether it was out of true kindness or not. Nevertheless, he still treated the winged man poorly making him one of the more complex of the flat characters. He forced and locked him in a small area to eat and sleep and only showed panic for his health when it seemed his days were numbered, despite his obvious constant suffering.
Elisenda too treated the old man unkindly, but with less dignity and in a more dehumanizing matter, growing more materialistic throughout the story making her a developed character. In the start, she was hard-working with, “her spine all twisted up from sweeping up… trash” (Marquez) and mostly concerned with her sick child whom the angel was supposedly sent to obtain. But with a crowd and attraction, she couldn’t help but think it a good idea to charge for others to see the winged man as it meant minuscule work for her and easy money. In fact, with the profits instead of using it to help their captive, Elisenda used it to buy fancy shoes and clothes, “the kind worn…by the most desirable women” (Marquez)- which really shouldn’t be of concern to her as she’s married.
Furthermore, once the spider woman became the main attraction and the angel was less significant to the townsmen, he became more of a nuisance in the eyes of Elisenda as he was no longer a source of profit. She saw him and his deteriorating eyesight as annoying and rather than feeling empathy and wonder of the magical creature, she felt relief once he left assuring the belief she only saw him as a way to a quick buck rather than a living thing. With the married couple, the reader has no concrete details of their physical appearance, meaning one has to imagine it themselves and solely rely on their actions to dissect their personalities.
The old man with wings, on the other hand, was characterized more directly and only had a physical change making him a flat character. When he first was discovered by Pelayo, he was helpless and audibly in pain. Despite the cliche that angels were pure and jubilant, the winged man’s descriptions were quite on the contrary. He was old, balding, and lacking teeth, and his wings were “dirty and half-plucked… forever entangled in the mud” (Marquez) and since he was nothing like what the villagers thought an angel was to look like, he was treated less than.
However by the end when the townsmen were done with him and had moved on to the spider-woman, his feathers began to grow back allowing him to fly away. In addition, throughout the story the angel managed to maintain the virtue of patience, which was both impressive and necessary as he lived, trapped, in a small confined area and was physically abused by a crowd of people hoping he’d perform miracles. The story mainly takes place in Pelayo and Elisenda’s courtyard in a town near the sea where crabs seem to be in an oversupply. There’s both gloom and rain in the air, and that may be to emphasize their sadness over their sick child. Regardless, the rest of the setting isn’t explained fully in detail- it is a “timeless, nameless village” (Faulkner).
Yet, if following the structure of most Marquez stories, one can conclude that the village may be in a Latin American country. Marquez’s purpose in this uncertainty of the area is so the reader can view it themselves without specific confinements on their imagination and believe that in this town, “just about anything can happen” (Faulkner)- including the possibility that a fallen angel could land right in their backyard and that spider-women exist, continuing his style of magic realism. The theme of solitude was very apparent in the story. The winged man came down alone and was discovered alone. In addition, the old man was forced to live in a chicken coop by himself, he “(was unable to) speak the same language, ignore(d) the town’s social and cultural codes, and [was] the only one of his kind in the town” (Pelayo), making him truly isolated. But more significantly, there seems to be an overarching theme of inconsistant faith. In the start, the town looked to the angel to be a leader, a mayor, and even a possible general.
They came to him with their brokenness, reaching out to him as a healer, which he was to an extent, but he performed miracles that were not what the people specifically wanted so they began to lose trust in him and eventually became disinterested, shifting their attention to another attraction. This tendency to become suspicious or even stop believing entirely when something doesn’t meet our expectations and just move on to the next thing that can provide what we wanted is a natural fault. Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a Columbian author and 1982 Nobel Prize winner for Literature born in 1927 (Martin).
“A Very Old Man With Enermous Wings” was written in 1968, and like most of his work, Marquez used magic realism, combining both fantasy and fiction with a strange creature living amongst average people. His other work as well was highly influenced by his life and Latin American heritage, including “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, set in a fictional town in Columbia and was named “third on the all-time list of (must read) world-historical books” (Bell-Villada), according to a Spanish newspaper poll. From the numerous novels to short stories, and novellas, Marquez maintained and created a unique style of writing that not only allowed for his legacy in literature to live on today but also inspire fellow storytellers, allowing him and his works to remain “the most glittering landmark(s) in the history of Latin American narrative” (Martin).