Gabriel Garcia Marquez is known for his intricately knit stories and vast woven plots. His world is mainly that of Colombian provincials, where modern and medieval beliefs and practices clash comically and tragically. There are many themes to be drawn from “A Very Old Man with Large Wings”. Marquez brought out the themes of compassion and cruelty through the actions taken by Elisenda, Pelayo and an old man, as well as the theme patience through the actions performed by the old man.
Pelayo, Elisenda and their child started their day by killing crabs. It had been raining for several weeks. Their child was suffering from the nausea caused by the crabs. Pelayo is walking in his backyard when he sees the elderly man. Pelayo doesn’t know much except that the man is large, has large wings and is homeless. Pelayo makes comments to Elisenda and consults a neighbor. He tells him what they believe: the old man was an angel. The narrator describes how Pelayo and Elisenda first dealt with the angel. They did not want to be judged by the wise neighbor woman. Angels were in those days the fugitive survivors from a celestial conspiracy. They were so impressed with their magnanimity that they decided to leave the angel to his fate on high seas. They arrived in the courtyard at dawn to find the entire neighborhood horsing the angel.
This story is a perfect example of society’s treatment of people different from ourselves. Everyone treated the elderly man badly due to his large wings, which is not common for humans. Pelayo, his wife Elisenda, kept the old man in a chicken coop just like any other animal. The elderly man was visited by his neighbors. It reminded me of a scene in a zoo. But they treated him as a circus animal. They were throwing rocks, breakfast leftovers and fruit peeills towards him. They poked and disturbed him. The old man’s right side was burned with hot iron. The old man was very sick as a result. He fell to the ground so often that his family thought he was dying. This shows how our society views people who are not like us.
Pelayo is given many opportunities to show compassion to Elisenda. Instead of emphasizing compassion more, they go deeper into cruelty and greed. Elisenda was so tired from cleaning up all the trash in the marketplace, that she came up with the idea to fence the yard and charge five cents per person to see the angel. The old man was not helped by the town or the surrounding areas, but it made the cruelty of greed worse. Some of the most ill-healthy people on the planet came seeking help: A poor woman who, since childhood, had been counting her heartbeats. Another man from Portugal couldn’t fall asleep because of the sound of the stars. A sleepwalker who would get up in the night to undo his mistakes. And many others with more serious illnesses.
Marquez, despite all the difficulties, still displays the qualities of patience and compassion that are more applicable to the elderly man. The angel was his only accomplice in the act. The first days were difficult for him. He was constantly being pounded by the chickens, who searched his wings for stellar parasites. Even the most compassionate of them threw stones at the angel to make him stand. The old man sat there, letting the people do whatever they wanted. The reader will see that he felt only compassion for them, but they did not know what he was thinking. The only superhuman virtue he displayed was patience. The old man’s patience is what made him a hero. Pelayo wrapped him in a blanket and let him sleep in his shed. It was only then that they realized that he was experiencing delirium due to the Old Norwegian tongue twisters. Elisenda let go of a sigh when she saw him cross the last houses and hold himself up with the risky flapping.
This story has taught me that compassion is possible in many different ways. It’s very simple for one to be the other. It is amazing that an old man can have such patience and compassion after the hardships he has had to endure. I discovered that kindness and patience are the best qualities to have. “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” shows how compassion and cruelty can coexist in a group.