A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is a short story written by Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1968. It is written in a typical for the author genre of “magic realism”. The combination of elements of fantasy with everyday life makes the boundary between realism and magic very blurred. Although the story is titled as a tale for children, it seems to be much more complicated. The story is set in an unusual village, and the main character that visited the village is also an unusual angel. He does not correspond to the original concept of an angel, so the villager’s treatment of the guest appears to be very cruel and unjust. But does he deserve such an attitude? Is he a brood of evil or a holy creature?

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Summary

On one hand, the appearance of a very old man misleads the reader. He looks a little bit repellent and unpleasant. He bears a resemblance more of a human being than of an angel: “They both looked at the fallen body with a mute stupor. He was dressed like a ragpicker. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth, and his pitiful condition of a drenched great-grandfather took away any sense of grandeur he might have had. His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked, were forever entangled in the mud.” Only the wings suggested that he was the angel that had fallen from the sky.

The next things that bewilder the villagers and the readers are the Father Gonzaga’s words and actions: “Then he came out of the chicken coop and in a brief sermon warned the curious against the risks of being ingenuous. He reminded them that the devil had the bad habit of making use of carnival tricks in order to confuse the unwary. He argued that if wings were not an essential element in determining the difference between a hawk and an airplane, they were even less so in the recognition of angels.” (355) The fact that the old man could not speak Latin – the language of God – seemed to Father Gonzaga suspicious. It was a foolish thought of the priest as nobody knows what the language of God is, and God does not need language actually.

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Analysis

On the other hand, a very old man does not do harm to anyone. In fact, through the whole story, he remains inactive as a character. He was the only one who did not participate in the events he caused. That helps him to reveal the real nature of the villagers and the society they live in. People have lost the ability to perceive the wonder, beauty, and dreams. Focused on everyday life, trying to make a benefit of everything, they did not perceive the old man with wings like an angel, like a heavenly message.

Only a doctor was surprised with the man’s wings: “They seemed so natural on that completely human organism that he couldn’t understand why other men didn’t have them too.” These wings are a symbol of spiritual ascent. They are a sign that humanity must recover mentally, spread the wings and rise to spiritual heights.

I strongly believe that the angel in the short story is nothing more but a God’s messenger, and he comes on the earth in this exact village with a particular mission. His good intentions are proved first of all by his patience that he showed when people were trying to mock and humiliate him: “His only supernatural virtue seemed to be patience. Especially during the first days, when the hens pecked at him, searching for the stellar parasites that proliferated in his wings, and the cripples pulled out feathers to touch their defective parts with, and even the most merciful threw stones at him, trying to get him to rise so they could see him standing.”

The image of an angel is the embodiment of beauty, the pursuit of high ideals. Unfortunately, in today’s world, there is no place for angels. People are not able to accept a high, noble truth; they are indifferent, greedy. But the author hopes for the best because the angel did not die; he recovers and flies in the sky. But will he return? In case people will change and become better. And he will look much better in return, and now he is what these people deserve – a reflection of their life.

Questions and Answers

  • What does A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings symbolize?
    The old man in the story is said to be an angel as he has wings. The angel y symbolizes man’s reaction to what he can’t or doesn’t understand. Though people think of angels as beautiful, powerful creatures, Marquez uses the angel in the story to convey the age and disease of modern cruel society.
  • What is the conflict of A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings?
    The conflict arises among the man and the villagers. The treat an angel who fell from the sky as something boring and usual. The magical things do not amuse them anymore.
  • What is the point of view of a very old man with enormous wings?
    The point of view in the story is provided by the narrator, the third person. Inner thoughts of other characters could only be guessed. However, it is normal in third-person omniscient to show multiple viewpoints.
  • What genre is A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings?
    The story falls within the genre of magic realism that describes a realistic view of the modern world adding magical elements to it.

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