March 16, 2009
In "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings", Gabriel Garca Mrquez tells an intricate, complex, story about a very common and familiar subject: human nature. In his story, little is left untouched as threads of greed, jealousy, indifference, and even the fickle tendencies of humanity are woven together in a seamless work of literature. In order to effectively create both his setting and his plot, Mrquez utilizes a few somewhat uncommon literary techniques: for one, there is no true "main" character. While the man with wings or angel, depending on perspective is the focal point of the story, his character is never fleshed out to the point of truly being called a protagonist, despite the rather antagonistic behavior of the throngs of people. Essentially, Mrquez tries to tell the reader something, or perhaps many somethings, about not only our own nature, but also about the way that we react to some of life's little miracles.
It would be impossible to read "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" without noticing the oddity that is the strange half-spider. By invoking strange imagery and a willing participant, Mrquez explains one of the most basic needs of the human race: attention. Quite simply, the spider provides attention to each and every person that wants it; she talks and eats, she gives lessons to those who need it. Mrquez writes, " A spectacle like that, full of so much human truth and with such a fearful lesson, was bound to defeat without even trying that of a haughty angel who scarcely deigned to look at mortals." It seems that indifference is worse than even scorn to many people, and Mrquez uses the examples of the two very different "miracles" to display the tendency in human nature to spurn that which does not fit our nice definition of what "should" be.
As the angel leaves, Mrquez writes perhaps one of the most interesting lines :"She kept watching him even when she was through cutting the onions and she kept watching until it was no longer possible for her to see him, because then he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea." Despite all that the angel had indirectly brought her: money, property, a better life, and security, Elisenda was relieved to see him leave. It may be mere human nature to be ungrateful, but in this example, Mrquez explains the theme of the story: the unwillingness of the human mind to see that which we have in front of us. Even though we will never have an angel in our backyard or a visible miracle to appreciate, we often never appreciate the "normal" things that we have until it is too late. We may search our entire lives for something, only to have it walk by us on the street, greet us at our door, or, just maybe, to fall into our backyard.