‘Cruelty is the offspring of an evil mind and a coward heart,’ Ludovico Ariosto. These words accurately convey the meaning of ‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.’ In his stories, Gabriel Garcia Marquez easily combines the elements of reality and fantasy, modern achievements of philosophy and folk motifs of Indians, Africans, Spanish mythology and symbolism. He presents it in a parable manner of writing the text, concisely and capaciously. A vivid example of such a synthesis can be found all over the pages of his novella ‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.’ According to Khan, ‘using sublimity, Marquez elevates the story above the ordinary through the portrayal of various characters and symbols.’ While reading this story, readers feel the commonness and cruelty of the world and its’ people. Therefore, the cruelty of humankind is the main theme of the work. The author highlights the inability of people to stop and look at their lives, and an irrepressible desire of human nature to look at different things, but not to see their essence. The work is focused upon the issues of individual’s lack of values, the inconsistency of faith in Latin American society and judgments towards neighbours.
Defining the moral of the story seems to be a difficult task. ‘One of this story’s difficult aspects is the sense of uncertainty it creates by leaving important facts unresolved and seeming to offer several possible interpretations for its events’ (Bookrags, 2017). The most important lesson that can be learned from the story is the significance of respect in treating those who are disabled or different because their value to the surrounding world can be unknown. ‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ reviews the loss of values in Latin American society. The ‘blindness’ of society is shown to the readers at the beginning of the story. ‘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’ (Marquez, 2). Even though it was noon, the light was ‘weak’, this represents that Pelayo cannot see the reality. Moreover, their neighbours are blinded by their own actions, as they treat an ‘angel’ disrespectfully. After the baby seems to get better, Pelayo and Elisenda decide to ‘leave him (an angel) to his fate on the high seas’ (Marquez, 2). It is difficult to imagine what kinds of people the main characters were, that they abandoned an old injured man so effortlessly.
The inconsistency of faith in individuals is another important topic illustrated in the story. The fact is, the true belief is to have faith in the unseen. However, many people, like the villagers, are sceptical, even when they have the evidence in from of them. Such people are usually driven by stereotypes and general concepts. They do not want to see deeper in something they do not understand. ‘The more the angel has in common with the townspeople, therefore, the less they are able to treat him with compassion or reverence’ (LitCharts, 2018). It should be mentioned that the current story reflects the weakness of Latin-American faith. ‘The opinions of the villagers reveal an idealized view of religion as government; their treatment of the angel, however, betrays their reaction to rule by religious authorities’ (Goodwin, 2006). Despite the evidence of an angel presence, they notice the old man’s visual characteristics and treat him like a beast. ‘Then he noticed that seen close up he was too much human’ (Marquez, 3). After a mythical ‘spider woman’ appears, villagers choose to believe her story more. They lose interest in the ‘old man’ because a woman explains her transformation. This fact admits that the society in which the old man accidently got was unfaithful.
Not less significant topic of the story is the society judgments. Although, we can see that the villagers are religious, they do not act that way. ‘Nothing about him measured up to the proud and dignity of angels’ (Marquez, 3). Additionally, for many village residents, and the whole district, meeting an ‘angel’ was like going to the zoo. Some threw the remains of food in the cage of the old man, others plucked feathers from his wings, believing that they would help from illnesses. No one stood up for an old man, not even Father Gonzaga, a representative of the church, when he could not understand what language the angel was speaking.
Written as a fairy tale, ‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ does not review childish problems. Pragmatism along with cynicism adjoins the miracle and mystery in this work. The lack of moral values contributes to mistreatment and disrespect in Latin American society. Individuals, such as the old man, are judged by their physical appearance. Both of these issues result in inconsistency of faith in society. The story teaches us that faith is a privilege that not everybody possess. The story of Gabriel Garcia Marquez ‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ is a very deep philosophical work that makes us think about who we are, our souls, humanism, and about our desire to be better.