The short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez exposes the tendencies of human nature and society in general. The reactions of all the members of the community to the events in the story reflect their inclinations as human beings, both good and bad.
Pelayo lives in rural area with his wife and child. One afternoon he was shocked to find that a very old man with wings was lying face down in the mud in his courtyard. At first he was frightened and ran to retrieve his wife to see what she would make of it. Upon her arrival they had both stared at the man together in a mute stupor for quite some time. This is a typical reaction from most people in such a situation. At first they were in a state of fear, fear of the unfamiliar. When people are exposed to a scenario that is out of the ordinary for them and conflicts with their everyday lives they grow afraid and even hostile. Then a stage of curiosity follows, Pelayo and his wife quietly observe the man from a distance as to gather any information they can about him. After observing the man who seemed frail and uncivilized they decide to call upon a neighbour who might be knowledgeable in such situations. She wasted no time in proclaiming that he must be an “angel”. Her reaction to the man with wings was influenced purely by her faith. Her blind assumption was made because of what she has been taught and what she wanted to believe. This is typical of people who are very religious as they tend to interpret various events as having a deeper more meaningful significance.
“The angel was held captive in Pelayo’s house.” (Marquez 487) Marquez’s choice of words reflects her intention to show Pelayo’s hostility towards the angel. He also watched over him all afternoon with a bailiff’s club. He is obviously uncertain of the angel and decides to imprison him and take no chances. He does not think very much of the angel because he “drags” him into in a chicken coop and locks him up among the hens. This act demonstrates basic human nature, the angel was old, unattractive, and decrepit, so he tosses him in a filthy coop. Pelayo judges him solely on his appearance, had the “angel” looked like an angel is supposed to like and had been all white, attractive, and sophisticated, Pelayo would most likely honour and respect him rather than treat him like an animal. Pelayo even considered putting him on a raft and leaving him to die on the high seas.
The members of the community quickly learned of this “angel” that has been found and they became very interested.
“The simplest among them thought that he should be named mayor of the world. Others of sterner mind felt that he should be prompted to the rank of five-star general in order to win all wars. Some visionaries hoped that he could be put to stud in order to implant on earth a race of winged wise who could take charge of the universe.” (Marquez 488)
This shows the hopes and expectations of the members of the community. Many had dreams of grandeur and had relied on this angel to put an end to all worldly problems as if he was sent down from god. These expectations however were not rational, they were merely based on their own beliefs and the hype that this angel had generated. Human beings in general are always looking for the easy way out and the simplest way to get a means to their end. This angel served as the answer they had all hoped for.
As the story moves forward the people of the town come to realise that this angel was not at all what they had expected nor hoped for. They have grown hostile towards him, they had begun pulling out his feathers, throwing stones at him, or even burning him with an iron. This type of reaction is not unusual in such a situation, they have grown bored of this angel as he does nothing but lie still and try to make himself comfortable. This type of behaviour is exemplified in everyday life in the case of celebrities. As entertainers they keep us amused and fulfill our needs, but when their product turns stale or their songs get played out we lose interest and turn against them. We see this everyday on late night television where hosts poke fun at such celebrities, recently we have seen what the media hype has done to Michael Jackson’s reputation. Meanwhile the carnival has come into town and suddenly everyone has forgotten about the angel and stopped caring. Why see the angel when you can see the tarantula woman? Something bigger and better has arisen and the people of the community have moved on to the next big thing.
Why do people act the way they do? Is it selfishness? It is a fact that man’s greatest goal is his own happiness, therefore he can sometimes be insensitive to the people that he walks all over in order to achieve it. Altruism is possible, but even then man gains some satisfaction from his unselfish act, which contributes to his happiness. The society in this short story perfectly reflects human nature and how it sometimes can be ugly. However, for the most part individuals are able to differentiate what is and is not moral and act decently.
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