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Elisenda and the Angel, Essay Example

Pages: 1

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Essay

One of the most important measures of human beings can be found in their values. People behave according to what is important to them and what they believe to be true or important. In the story “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings,” the way the characters behave reveals something about their values. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, an author known for his “magical realism” writing style, presents readers with a tale of a mysterious winged man who suddenly appears on the beach near a village. Some people think he is an angel, while others think he may really be a devil. The main characters of Elisenda and Pelayo, however, simply see him as an opportunity to reap profits from putting him in display. Instead of recognizing the old man as an angel, Elisenda and Pelayo caged him like an animal, ultimately robbing themselves of something far greater than anything money could buy.

As the central character in the story Elisenda demonstrates that she is willing to take advantage of any opportunity to improve her life, even if it comes at the expense of others. As the story opens, Elisenda and Pelayo come across an old man on the beach, who is “dressed in rag picker’s clothes,” and see that he has a pair of wings growing from his back. While such a sight would be shocking to most people, Elisenda immediately sees the appearance of the old man as an opportunity to make a profit. When the neighbor woman advises them that the old man is in fact an angel, Elisenda ignores her and takes the man as a captive. Pelayo stands guard over the man, armed with a club, and seems willing to go along with whatever Elisenda has in mind. Considering the attention that the old man receives from the townspeople, including the local priest, it seems unlikely that Elisenda would have been able to carry out her plan to display the old man like a zoo animal were it not for the assistance of her willing accomplice Pelayo.

Elisenda may have been the one who held the most influence in their relationship, but it was Pelayo who provides the brute force needed to take and keep the man captive. After watching over the man, Pelayo finally drags him to the chicken coop and locks him up like an animal. Pelayo clearly holds no greater value for the life of the old man than does Elisenda, and when the two awaken to find the townspeople gathered to view the old man, they quickly decide against releasing him. Elisenda’s sole concern is for her own physical misery, and she is the one who hatches the plan to fence in the old man and charge admission to people who wish to gawk at him. Though Marquez does not say so specifically, it is clear that the idea for the fence may be Elisenda’s, but it will be Pelayo who actually does the work of building it.

What seems odd is that Elisenda so quickly ignores the implication that the arrival of the old man somehow spurred her sick child back to health. Although Elisenda spine is “all twisted from sweeping up so much marketplace trash,” her first and only thought is that she can make money from the old man so she will no longer have to engage in physical labor. Elisenda never makes any effort to learn about the old man, to uncover the mystery of why he has wings, or to simply ask him directly if he had, in fact, healed her child. All she sees the old man as is a source of easy income, and by overlooking the possibilities inherent in the appearance of a miraculous figure, she trades what might have been an opportunity for true healing –both physically and spiritually- for the money to build a mansion and buy expensive clothes.  As the old man slowly regains his strength and his health, Elisenda sees him only as an annoyance, and even after all the profit she has made from him she never sees any real value in the old man. When he finally gains enough strength to fly away, she is merely relieved.

When the old man first appeared in the village, there were many people who believed he was an angel. Even after his sudden presence seems to have saved the life of her sick child, Elisenda and her accomplice Pelayo never see the old man as anything more than a source of profit, and fail to appreciate the miracle of his presence and his existence. Once he is gone, Elisenda feels no sense of loss, only relief. The very nature of his presence appears to be magical and even miraculous, and Elisenda could have gained so much more than just money if she had been less selfish. Instead, she simply let the miracle slip away to become an imaginary dot on the horizon.

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