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Just Because It Has Wings Does Not Mean It’s an Angel, Research Paper Example

Pages: 11

Words: 3140

Research Paper

Experienced writers who use allegoric literary devices often leave the readers wanting to know the real meanings behind the metaphoric examples. Set during an undefined past period, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings revolves around an aged winged character that washes up during a storm. The magical realism provides the characters with a test of their beliefs and faith. As a result, the villagers all try to sort out what the old man with wings is and how he fits in their world. The community all took a different position on the origin of the winged visitor; however, their doubt allowed the majority to lose their faith that he could be an angel. The novel is narrated from the viewpoint of believers and those who are looking to capitalize on the opportunity that this mystic character provides. Marquez uses the very descriptive character of the of the old man through the novel’s linear structure through the events that transpire, the characters personal struggles, and the shift in communities point of view.

Wendy B. Faris established five main characteristics that magical realism use as a comparison framework. These characteristics include, “an irreducible element of magic; a realistic world in a phenomenal world providing grounding; the creation of unsettling doubt for the reader based on a mixture of fantasy and real; the near merging of two worlds or realms; and a disruption of the traditional ideas regarding space, time, and identity” (Faris, np). The first consideration is the presence of a magical element that cannot be explained by reverting to natural laws. Marquez showed this when he stated:

He was dressed like a rag picker. 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 and sense of grandeur he might have had. His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half plucked were forever entangled in the mud (Marquez, p.219).

The human, winged creature could be an angel, a human imposter, or it could be a beast, the readers are unsure based on the description provided. The wings make the reader assume an association with a supernatural explanation. The only characteristic that could be agreed upon was that he was a ‘very old man.’ Marquez painted the picture of his age with his bald head and very few remaining gray hairs still attached.

The view is strengthened by the end of the story when the winged old man flies away. “She kept watching him even when she was through cutting the onions and she kept on 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” (Marquez, p.223). Almond’s novel provides a similarity in that Skellig has the fragments of a wing hidden on his jacket. The reaction of Mina implies a supernatural explanation when she says to Michael, “‘Extraordinary, extraordinary being'” (Almond, p. 84). Towards the end of the novel, Skellig confirms the supernatural nature when he states, “something like a beast, something like a bird, something like an angel” (Almond, p.167). Much like Marquez, the reader is left to believe the creature is, in fact, an angel despite the speculations that he could be something else. In many instances, even though the priest and neighbor denied it was an angel, it is often referred to as an angel in the literature.

The secondary element according to Faris is that a magical realist must equate to realism. There are many different realistic elements that the Very Old Man and Skellig both display. Almond was attracted to Marquez’s story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings was based on the magical and strangeness the story provided to the readers. It provides a look at simple events that have so many different meanings or purposes. Was the angel sent there to save the boy? Was it a coincident that the boy got better when the angel was captured? There is a depiction of everyday life realities from the mundane activities that the characters usually were occupied with. “On the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and throw them into the sea because the newborn child had a temperature all night and they thought it was due to the stench” (Marquez, p.219). The young couple was worried about getting the crabs from their house and caring for their very ill child who had a high fever. Marquez also shows how confused the couple was when they discovered the old man and their confusion with his appearance. “He was dressed like a rag picker. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth . . . His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked, were forever tangled in the mud” (Marquez, p. 219).

The appearance of the old winged character provided confusion to not only the characters but also the reader. Angels are believed to be majestic beings, not dirty old characters who were slovenly in appearance. Almond uses a similar approach when Michal is also stunned when he encounters a ragged figure in his garage. “I thought he was dead. He was sitting with his legs stretched out, and his head tipped back against the wall. He was covered in dust and webs like everything else, and his face was thin and pale. Dead bluebottles were scattered on his hair and shoulders” (Almond, p.8). The importance of comparing the two works is because the vast description of the characters takes away all credibility of being an angel. Angelic characters are expected to present in a certain capacity, even though in all reality no one has ever seen one or even been able to prove their existence. We all have our assumptions about what characteristics we would believe them to possess, and both writers drastically challenge our perceptions by changing these features.

The narrator in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings allows for the worker to support the elements of realism in a passive narrative style. The author uses an example of the traveling carnival. “A traveling carnival arrived with a flying acrobat who buzzed over the crowd several times, but no one paid any attention to him because his wings were not those of an angel but, rather, those of a sidereal bat” (Marquez, 220).  The elements that support the idea that the very old man was an angel are shown in the characters who are coming to visit him. “The most unfortunate invalids on earth came in search of health: a poor woman who since childhood has been counting her heartbeats and had run out of numbers; a Portuguese man who couldn’t sleep because the noise of the stars disturbed him; a sleepwalker who got up at night to undo the things he had done while awake; and many others with less serious ailments” (Marquez, 220). The author allows the readers to believe that the old man does have the magical powers to aid these ailments faced by the visitors.

Magical realism is distinguishable based on the differences in the narrative stance. When an author employs a magical realism, the narrator accepts the occurrences of supernatural events as if they are normal. The narrator is clearly acceptant of the supernatural events that are taking place, even though they are inexplicable. The characters are not as willing to allow the events to go unanswered, and that is shown through their outreach to other community members to gain some insight on the winged creature. The narrative voice is detached and calm when they explain the events that the couple faces in the courtyard. Marquez has a natural means of storytelling; it allows the reader almost to see the events that are being explained. The old, winged angel, the spider women, and other narrators.

The humanist value also showed by the fascination of the angel and everyone’s desire to see it in real life. “The news of the captive angel spread with such rapidity that after a few hours the courtyard had the bustle of a marketplace, and they had to call in troops with fixed bayonets to disperse the mob that was about to knock the house down. Elisenda, her spine all twisted from sweeping up so much marketplace trash, then got the idea of fencing in the yard and charging five cents admission to see the angel” (Marquez, p.220). Even though the angel may have a form of magical realism, the idea of charging admission for seeing the angel shows a form of reality. The narrator shows how profitable it was to make that decision when the family was able to remodel everything and afford luxuries they never had previously. It also shows how many people were drawn to the potential that the couple did have an angel on their property. Marquez may have stuck to magical realism; however, there was some truth implemented throughout the literary work.

It is important to consider that the work can also cause the readers with unsettled doubts. There are those who doubt the unexplainable characteristics and existence of the angelic creature.  When Elisenda and Pelayo found the old man lying in their yard, they immediately sought for an explanation from knowledgeable people in the community. “And yet, they called in a neighbor woman who knew everything about life and death to see him, and all she needed was one look to show them their mistake” (Marquez, p.219). The neighbor explained that the old man was an angel who had come to take their baby. She believed that the angel was an outcast of heaven, and she told them to club him to death. When they were not satisfied with her explanation, they sought additional guidance. “Father Gonzaga arrived before seven o’clock, alarmed at the strange news” (Marquez, p.219). The priest denied that the man was an angel and advises the couple that he is nothing more than the trick of the devil.

The magical realism provides the reader an opportunity to see that whether it was a demon or an angel, the people were drawn to the supernatural being. There is a unique attraction to what we cannot explain. The narrative provides no real explanation for the mysterious origin of the creature or the why the old man had an enormous wing attached to his being. It created an environment that left the readers with no hard evidence and doubt for the events that were being dictated by the narrator. The author only allows for no real closure or ending to the story. The creature flies away, but it does not clarify if it is going to heaven, hell, or the great abyss. It does create a need for the readers to revisit the work to determine if they gain any new knowledge from the author by rereading it. Magical realism cannot necessarily provide answers because they don’t exist. That is why Marquez had to leave so many questions unanswered in this literature.

Marquez’s work provides a basis for the fourth characteristic of magical realism with the merging of two different realms. Merging consist of a conflation of ordinary with the extraordinary, creating literature that is seen as a generic hybrid. Marquez uses a mixture of part realistic fiction and part fairy tale. Marquez however, employs mere fairytale characteristics than it does realism. The fairytale is apparent with the use of women who is turned into a spider for disobeying her parents, the winged old man who is caged in a chicken coop, and the realism of a community who would pay admission to see the angel or creature. Marquez starts his work with a dreamlike description that can be toeing the line of a nightmare. He states:

On the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and throw them into the sea, because the newborn child had a temperature all night and they thought it was due to the stench. The world had been sad since Tuesday. Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish (Marquez, p.219).

The story continues by telling how poor the lighting is, and they can barely see the heap of the creature that is laying the courtyard.

Pelayo talks about his first experience with the creature. “The light was so weak at noon that when Pelayo was coming back to the house after throwing away the crabs, it was hard for him to see what it was that was moving and groaning in the rear of the courtyard. He had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn’t get up, impeded by his enormous wings” (Marquez, p.219). The author explains this experience as a nightmare that frightened Pelayo. It also caused Elisenda to stare in what he describes as a mute stupor. The very start of the Marquez’s work allows the reader to see there is some horror associated with his work. It also supports that magical realism of characters involved in the story.

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings vividly illustrates a magical environment what cannot be attributed to hallucinations or dreams. Elisenda knew her son was sick, and she believed that was the creature was there. “He’s an angel,” she told them. “He must have been coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old that the rain knocked him down.” (Marquez, p.219). It compelled the reader to believe that the capture of the creature allowed the child to get well. “A short time afterward the child woke up without a fever and with a desire to eat” (Marquez, p.219). Almond uses the same type of illustration when Mina confirms that Skellig does exist, much like the old man with enormous wings was confirmed by everyone involved in the story. “As Almond points out, magical realism does not rely solely on dreams or psychological experience to present the magic, but instead ties it to the material world so as to give it validity within the narrative context” (Almond, p. 24).  The dream-like quality provided by narrative shows that there is no real substitute for reality.

The final characteristics of magical realis are the notion of space, time, and identity. Paradoxically, the angelic being seems to exist without any real concept of time, yet has been subjected to its cruelty. There is no real knowledge associated with their origins or their real purpose. Coming from another world, they are still subject to the illness and the detriments of aging. The disruption of identity is shown through Marquez’s narrative descriptions part man, part beast. “A traveling carnival arrived with a flying acrobat who buzzed over the crowd several times, but no one paid any attention to him because his wings were not those of an angel but, rather, those of a sidereal bat” (Marquez, p.220). The bizarre reference to the women who disobeyed her parents and being turned into a spider, and even more bizarre is the community’s acceptance of such an ideal. The spider women have a compelling attraction than the winged man, but her admission was far less than that of the angel. The literature provides a bit of disturbance to the reader because it creates the world where one’s identity is unstable.

There is an underlying naturalism associated in the description; however, the article in discussion is clearly a form of magical realism. Marta Morello-Frosch has argued that García Marquez’s earlier works privilege the real (the naturalized) above the fantastic (the transcendent) while the author’s later works reverse these roles (Frosch, p.496).  It provides the reader a better understanding of Garcia Marquez’s literary collaborative. “The issue of not understanding the exact nature of the angel is another important aspect of the passage. This use of intentional narrative ambiguity leaves the reader with more questions than answers” (Reinholtz, p.135). The population believes it is real life flesh and blood angel. The wise neighbor women believe it is purely diabolical. Pelayo and Elisenda view the creature as a benign nature that improved their very ill son. Gabriel fails to provide an omniscient narrator who supports the idea that the falling creature is, in fact, an angel. A man with enormous wings is a hard concept to visualize. It leaves the reader wondering if it is an angel, a freak, an alien it is hard to imagine what it is.

The ambiguity or uncertainty is not limited to the old man but is transferred into the life itself in the nameless, timeless village. Regina Janes (np) points out that a story is a place where anything can happen. A young woman is turned into a spider for disobeying her parents; the literary world allows for anything to happen if they believe it can. Marquez’s use of a narrative voice aids in the magical realism. The reader of such work tends to believe the interpretation provided by the narration. “This narrator may seem to fit the type at first, but later appears to change his point of view, and even his opinions of events” (Faulkner, np). The unique factor that aids in Marquez’s works is that the narrator also endorses how the villagers are thinking at the same time. There are times that the narrator almost seen scornful of the thinking’s that are transpiring. The literary work provides the imperfections of the real life along with logical fantasy all rolled into the magic realism that Marquez employs.

Work Cited

Almond, David. Skellig, Hodder Children’s Books. Delacorte Press, New York, NY., 1999. Print.

Faris, Wendy B. Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification Of Narrative. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt UP, 2004. Print.

Faulkner, Tom.  “An Overview of ‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.’” Exploring Short Stories.  Detroit: Gale Research, 1998. Print.

Frosch, Marta Morello. “The Common Wonders of García Marquez’s Recent Fiction.” Books Abroad 47.3 (Summer 1973): 496-501. JSTOR. Web. April 26, 2012.

Janes, Regina.  “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: Overview.” Reference Guide to Short Fiction. Ed. Noelle Watson, St. James Press, 1994. Print.

Márquez, Gabriel García. A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. Penguin Books Ltd, 2014. Print.

Reinholtz, Eric L. How to Write About Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Infobase Publishing, 2010. Print.

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