The short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”, written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is regarded as an example of magic realism. Although it has a subtitle “A Tale for Children” and includes some elements of magic, it hides special meaning behind the form of fairytale. This fictional short story can be analyzed from different perspectives. One can interpret this story from the point of view of formal, historical, or sociological analysis. However, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” will be fathomed through philosophical analysis. The focus of this analysis will be put on the religious and ethical beliefs, which the author wanted to transfer through his short story.
People, who dedicated their works to analysis of this short story from the philosophical point of view, confirm that one can see a prototype of Roman Catholic Church in the text. Although there is no direct reference to the Church, the researchers confirm that Father Gonzaga is represented as a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church. They also say that the villagers in the story represent Colombians, and the angel represents religion. Analyzing the story from the religious perspective, one can notice that Gabriel Garcia Marquez tried to draw attention of the readers to ambiguity of people’s nature and their beliefs. On the one hand, it is obvious from the text that the characters of the story are believers. The words of the neighbor of Pelayo and Elisenda, who said, “He’s an angel” (Marquez), confirm this fact. One more evidence of the faith of these people is the presence of the priest among them. It seems that the community, which is described in the story, believes in God, and all the other things which are connected with faith. However, faith of these people contrasts with reality. It is evident from the description of priest’s attitude to the man with wings: “The parish priest had his first suspicion of an imposter when he saw that he did not understand the language of God or know how to greet His ministers” (Marquez). Evaluating these lines, a reader understands that the priest does not believe that he sees an angel. The word “imposter” used by the author emphasizes this fact. Moreover, the priest’s suspicion was intensified by the appearance of the man: “he was much too human: he had an unbearable smell of the outdoors, the back side of his wings was strewn with parasites and his main feathers had been mistreated by terrestrial winds, and nothing about him measured up to the proud dignity of angels” (Marquez).
These lines show that people consider themselves faithful – they believe in God, they believe in angels, they believe that angels are sent from heaven to take away souls of the dying people; they believe in miracle related to faith. However, when they really face a miracle, they refuse to believe in it because they imagined that everything connected with God should be beautiful and perfect. Theorists of literature, who analyzed this story, assert, “The story’s splendor is the implicit contrast between what we expect angels to be like and what this one is” (Reinholtz 141). The paradox is that people did not notice that the moment when the angel appeared on their land became the beginning of miracles – the child of Pelayo and Elisenda recovered from the illness, it stopped raining, and life of Pelayo and Elisenda became better. Thus, the analysis of the attitudes of the characters to the old man proves John Goodwin’s point of view, which is the following: “The opinion of the villagers reveals an idealized view of religion as government: their treatment of the angel, however, betrays their reaction to rule by religious authorities” (Goodwin). It is evident that Gabriel Garcia Marquez emphasizes people’s ambiguity through opposition of who they are supposed to be and who they really are.
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Analyzing other standpoints in the light of philosophical analysis, one can come to conclusion that “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” reflects the worldview of existential philosophy. As it was confirmed in one of the books on literature, “Garcia Marquez read Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’. It greatly influenced his short story ‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’” (Stobaugh 236). As Kafka was influenced by existential manner of Camus’s writings, it becomes obvious that some features of the literature of existentialism dominate in both these works. As for the short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”, the philosophy of existentialism is revealed through the main character – the angel. One should not think hard in order to understand that this extraordinary man was in difficult situation without a recourse. First of all, a reader can cognize it from his appearance. The author depicted the angel as an old person, who looked like a tramp, who was bald and almost had no teeth, and whose wings were full of parasites. Such appearance made the man look miserable at the very beginning of the story. Secondly, he occurred in chicken coop, which was evidently uncomfortable for him. Thirdly, he became an object of amusement for people: “they found the whole neighborhood in front of the chicken coop having fun with the angel, without the slightest reverence, tossing him things to eat through the openings in the wire as if he weren’t a supernatural creature but a circus animal” (Marquez).Moreover, people even jeered: “the most merciful threw stones at him, trying to get him to rise so they could see him standing” (Marquez). Such situation made the angel feel miserable, and although “His only supernatural virtue seemed to be patience” (Marquez), people managed to make him behave in another way than usual. Their attitude to the angel made him seem mad and angry: “He awoke with a start, ranting in his hermetic language and with tears in his eyes, and he flapped his wings a couple of times, which brought on a whirlwind of chicken dung and lunar dust and a gale of panic that did not seem to be of this world” (Marquez). Creating such conditions for the protagonist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez puts the angel in existential situation, making his short story allude to the example of existentialist literature.
However, these are not the only notions, which can be elucidated in the short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” through the philosophical analysis. One more thing, which becomes obvious during the analysis, is the desire of the author to turn reader’s attention to moral, ethical problems. One of the examples is that the heavenly man was locked in chicken coop. An average person, who is going to read this story, will definitely wonder whether it is appropriate to treat a man in such a way. It does not matter who he is – a beggar, a stranger, or an angel – it is just inhuman to treat anyone in such a way. Moreover, the fact that Elisenda wants to make profit on the man also provokes negative emotions. One more fact, which is aimed to turn attention of readers to ethical problems, is that people want to get rid of the angel after they became rich and happy owing to him. He was nothing but “annoyance” in their lives; they were not thankful to him despite the fact that he appeared and changed their life, which was miserable and sad before his appearance.
Analyzing the short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez through philosophical perspective, it becomes obvious that the story is not only “A Tale for Children”. The form of the fairytale and the style of magic realism are only the shadows, which hide deep meaning that the author wanted his readers to understand. Philosophical analysis of the story showed that this Colombian novelist tried to draw attention of his readers to three main themes, which are religion, existential situation, and moral and ethical problems. On the basis of the researches, which were carried out earlier by different theorists of literature, one can understand that the topic of religion, in particular people’s faith in their thoughts and reality, is represented through the images of the priest, the angel, and the villagers. The point of view of the researchers concerning key idea is that the writer tried to show people’s real attitude to faith and God. One more concept, which is covered in the short story, is existential situation.
The researchers confirmed that Gabriel Garcia Marquez was influenced by “The Metamorphosis” of Kafka, and it became a reason to identify peculiarities of literature of existentialism, which can be found in the story. The features of existential philosophy are represented by the conditions, in which the main character appeared. Angel’s awkward appearance, people’s cruel attitude, and unwillingness to understand and to help him make readers see the influence of existential literature on Marquez’s work. Finally, the problems, which were revealed through philosophical analysis, are moral and ethical issues. Gabriel Garcia Marquez showed cruelty of people in order to make readers understand that he condemns such behavior. Thus, representing a number of different problems in the form of the fairytale for children, Gabriel Garcia Marquez makes his readers think about global matters, which create the essence of their lives.