Good Essay On Overlooking A World Of Magic
In "A Very Old Man With Wings", Gabriel Garcia Marquez paints a surreal short story where a real-life angel who happens to be an old man descends to earth, but eventually becomes a nuisance, grows new wings, and flies away from his adopted home. After an initial reading, Marquez's short prose work reads like a children's story, but subsequent readings reveal that it is an allegory that is written for both children and adults. In this allegory, Marquez shows that adults have little appreciation for the extraordinary happenings in their lives -- as symbolized by the angel -- and overlook the magic of the everyday world.
When the angel is found, Pelayo and his wife, Elisenda, overlook the obvious -- the angel's wings. Marquez shows that adults are conditioned to see things in a preconceived manner. The neighbor woman explains to them that the old man is, in fact, an angel who must have been coming for their sick child. However, people are doomed to act according to their beliefs -- no matter how foolish or unrealistic they are. Even the so-called "wise neighbor woman" -- bound by superstition -- advises that the angel be killed, but Pelayo and Elisenda cannot bring themselves to kill the old man with wings. Instead, they imprison the angel in their house.
After the angel is held overnight in the chicken coop, the neighbors arrive in the morning and make a spectacle of the angel. "But when they went out into the courtyard with the first light of dawn, they found the whole neighborhood in front of the chicken coop having fun with the angel, without the slightest reverence, tossing him things to eat through the openings in the wire as if it weren't a supernatural creature but a circus animal" (Marquez, 1). Here, Marquez shows the reader that the angel is treated with no respect. Instead, the mob of people take its presence for granted. They can only relate to the angel on their own base terms -- that the angel is a circus attraction. Whereas Marquez depicts a world of magic (after all, angels do not drop out of the sky everyday), the masses transform the extraordinary into the ordinary. Marquez shows the reader that even a world of magic -- and spirituality -- is treated more as a circus sideshow than as the genuine article.
When the highly-respected Priest -- Father Gonzaga -- enters the chicken coop, he renders a decision based on the limits of his beliefs and experiences. In front of him squats a man with wings, yet he -- the non-secular expert -- denounces him as an imposter, or even the Devil himself. Clearly, the angel is a miracle among men, yet no one appreciates the essence of this inexplicable magic. It must be a type of carnival trick or sorcery, but it cannot be anything transcendental or anything that challenges the beliefs of the authoritative adults. "He argued that if wings were not the essential element in determining the difference between a hawk and an airplane, they were even less so in the recognition of angels" (Marquez, 2) The Priest's opinion is passed off as fact because he is subject to the limitations of his beliefs and experiences. Also, he is an authority in matters that involve spiritual beings, such as angels.
Eventually, Elisenda decides to turn the observation of the angel by throngs of people into a money-making operation -- by charging admission to see the angel. Elisenda and Pelayo make a profit off their business, but other fascinating -- and magical -- people with unique talents (or ailments, as Marquez calls them) visit the angel. For example, a flying acrobat with the wings of a "sidereal bat" (a miraculous being in itself) visits the angel for his assistance in healing. Even the doctor who examines the angel finds him to be a miraculous creature, but is filled with little wonder -- with the exception that he wonders why other men do not have wings as well because they obey a certain kind of logic. Thus, the one person who would be expected to discount the angel as an illogical, even-nonexistent being ponders the wings of the angel, and wonders why other men have lost their ability to live in a world of magic, rather than a world of the mundane.
Marquez shows his readers that even something as remarkable and extraordinary as a woman who has been transformed into a spider who "crushes" the immortal angel is considered as little more than commonplace. This failure of the townsfolk to realize the miraculous all around them is a sign of human arrogance and human ignorance. For example, the angel is able to perform only "consolation miracles" such as curing the Priest of his insomnia. Just as in the everyday, commonplace world there are cases of miraculous healings, so too are the healings in Marquez's story. The miracle and magic of life is taken for granted by the people in Marquez's short story.
Finally, the angel is able to leave the house of Pelayo, Elisenda, and their child. The miracle that entered their lives, created a scene, cured some people of strange afflictions, and helped Elisenda and Pelayo make a small fortune, flies off one day after his cannulae grow back into full wings. "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, 4).
Finally, the mundane returns as the angel flies away, and life goes on as usual. The unusual upsets people's perceptions and beliefs, forcing them to appreciate the magical in the everyday, but it nevertheless goes unrecognized and unappreciated. In "A Very Old Man With Wings", Marquez shows how the miraculous is questioned, probed, and taken for granted. After all, it is not every day that one finds an angel, although people, like Elisenda, are more comfortable living within the confines of their mundane world -- a world without such creatures as angels.
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. (n.d.). "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings." Retrieved on 27 Jan 2014 from http://www.jonescollegeprep.org/ourpages/auto/2014/1/29/42934518/A_Very_Old_Man_ with_Enormous_Wings_pdf.pdf