"A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings"

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade October 2001

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is a fairy tale in which realistic, earthy diction is used to relate a mystical event. The author's flair for describing the fantastic in a casual, understated way creates an atmosphere of credibility in which anything is possible and believable. Using a South American village for setting and an assortment of descriptive images for flavor, Marquez shows how superstitious ignorance and religious dogma can prevent the realization of true spirituality.

The use of literal yet imaginative descriptions is not only effective in supplying a realistic touch to a magical story, but also enhances the theme by establishing a reliance on concrete meanings. In a childlike, simple manner, Marquez describes the opening scene in terms one of his characters might use when he says, "The world had been sad since Tuesday " (348), and the sands of the muddy beach had "become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish" (348).

The author creates vivid images by making comparisons to things that are common, everyday sights in the rustic village: "a dog who had no illusions" (352), "a huge decrepit hen among the fascinated chickens" (134), "huge buzzard wings, dirty and half plucked (348). These graphic, literal descriptions offer more to the story than simply defining a setting--they define the mentality of the characters. By reflecting the perceptions of the villagers through this realistic imagery, Marquez exposes the simplicity and baseness, which makes them susceptible to an unyielding trust in traditional beliefs and rigid religious doctrine.

The hypocrisy of the church is expressed through the character of the village priest, Father Gonzaga, who assumes the role of authority in dealing with the angel. His pompous attitude and superficiality are exposed when after examining the old soul, he assumes that...