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  • 1. EWRT 1C Class The Short Story
  • 2. AGENDA  Short Story Discussion: “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”  Author Introduction: Gabriel García Márquez  Historical Content  Literary Style  Questions  QHQ
  • 3. Gabriel García Márquez 1928-2014 Gabriel José García Márquez was born on March 6, 1928 in a small coastal village in Colombia. The eldest of twelve children, García Márquez was reared by maternal grandparents. He grew up with an extended family of aunts and great aunts who, like his grandmother, were constant storytellers of local myth, superstition, and legend.
  • 4. Career  García Márquez’s literary development occurred concurrently with his career as a journalist. In 1954, he returned to Bogotá, where he worked for El Espectador and wrote short stories in his spare time. One of them, “Un día después del sábado” (“One Day After Saturday”), won for García Márquez a competition sponsored by the Association of Artists and Writers of Bogotá. In 1955, his first novel was published. La hojarasca (1955; Leaf Storm and Other Stories, 1972) presents life in the fictional town of Macondo from 1900 to 1930. García Márquez’s fiction did not attract significant attention outside literary circles until the publication of his masterpiece, Cien años de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1970).
  • 5. Historical Content  The time and place of this story are undetermined. The characters' names suggest a Spanish-speaking country, and a reference to airplanes indicates that we are somewhere in the twentieth century; but beyond these minor details, the setting is fantastical. The narrator tells of events in the past, using the phrase ''in those times'' in a manner common to myths and legends. These associations help prepare the reader for the story's "magical" elements by suggesting that this is not a factual history to be taken literally, but a tale of the imagination where the usual rules may be suspended.
  • 6. The Garcia Marquez ''boom'' was fueled by a number of developments, both in popular culture and in critical scholarship, which made it easier for many readers to embrace a work of ‘‘magic realism,’’ and an author from a non-Western culture. The late 1960s are characterized as a period of intense cultural change, in which traditional values of all kinds were challenged. College campuses were a particular focus for this controversy (occasionally via violent confrontations between law enforcement and student political protesters), but it also found expression through passionate debates within the scholarly disciplines, debates in which the most basic assumptions were questioned, and apparently radical changes were given serious consideration.
  • 7. In literature departments, one result was an effort to expand the ''canon''—the list of ''classic'' works whose study is traditionally considered to form the necessary basis of a liberal arts education. Critics charged that, with few if any exceptions, the canon had excluded women and people of color from the roll of ''great authors,'' as well as writers from poor or working-class backgrounds and those from non-European cultures. Efforts to expand the canon, to include a more diverse blend of cultural voices among the works considered worthy of serious scholarship, have continued for over thirty years. Garcia Marquez can be seen as an early beneficiary of this trend.
  • 8. Finally, much like the last two stories we have discussed, this story has a context within Garcia Marquez's own career. It was written in 1968, a year after his sudden fame. One reading of ‘‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings'' sees it as a satirical account of his own encounter with instant fame, as a commentary on the position of the creative artist in modern culture. Here, the ‘‘old man’’ is the artist, while his "wings" stand for transcendence, greatness, truth, beauty—that which is valuable in art. The villagers are ‘‘the public,’’ greedy for whatever ''magic'' he might bring them—but who insist on having it on their own terms. Rather than accepting him as he is, they treat him as a carnival attraction and look for ways to profit from his odd celebrity.
  • 9. Literary Style
  • 10. Style: Magical Realism  Magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements are merged with a realistic environment in order to access a deeper understanding of reality. These magical elements are often explained like they are normal occurrences; this allows the "real" and the "fantastic" to be accepted in the same stream of thought. In combining fantastic elements with realistic details, a writer like García Márquez can create a fictional “world” where the miraculous and the everyday live side-by-side—where fact and illusion, science and folklore, history and dream, seem equally “real,” and are often hard to distinguish. The form clearly allows writers to stretch the limits of possibility, and to be richly inventive.
  • 11. Magical Realism Continued The uncertainty (or ambiguity) of magical realism applies not just to the old man, but evidently to life itself, as it is lived in this timeless, nameless village. It seems to be a place where just about anything can happen (for example, a young woman can be changed into a spider for disobeying her parents)—or at least, it is a place where everyone is quite willing to believe such things happen, and to act as though they do happen. This impression is partly a result of García Márquez's use of narrative voice.
  • 12. The Narrator  For the most part, the story seems to be told by an “omniscient observer” of third-person fiction—a narrator who knows all the necessary facts, and can be trusted to present them reliably. When this kind of narrator gives the reader information, the reader generally believes him or her.  However, in this case, the inconsistencies in the narrative voice reinforces the ambiguity within the story. The narrator is, after all, the "person" presenting all this odd imagery to the reader, and readers habitually look to the narrator for clues to help find a proper interpretation.
  • 13. The Narrator Readers rely on a narrator for clues about “how to take” elements in the story that may be unclear. But this narrator seems determined to be untrustworthy, and leaves us uncertain about important events. Without telling us how, he treats everything that happens as though it “makes sense.” Though he is habitually ironic in his view of the “wise” villagers' beliefs, at other times, he seems no more skeptical than the villagers. For example, the story of the spiderwoman seems at least as fantastic as that of an old man with wings, but the narrator gives no suggestion that her transformation is particularly unusual and seems to expect the reader to accept this ''magical'' event as if it presented no mystery at all.
  • 14. Reliable or Not?  Are we to conclude that this fantastic transformation from human to spider actually happened? Or that the narrator is now as deluded as the villagers? Or even that he is purposely lying to us? As the label “magic realism” suggests, some elements of the story seem meant to be approached with the simplistic “logic” of fantasy, while others are depicted with all the complexity and imperfection that mark “real life.”
  • 15. Group Discussion
  • 16. Speculate on the identity of the “old man.” 1. The Old Man’s identity is probably that of an ordinary human being, albeit one with wings… 2. The old man is up for speculation. It appears that he is simply an old man with wings that appeared before Pelayo, Elisenda and their family. 3. After finishing the short story, I concluded that the old man with the enormous wings may have been Daedalus flying in from Crete, or perhaps one of Milton’s fallen angels from “Paradise Lost.”
  • 17. How does the manner in which Garcia Marquez treats the traditional idea of angels in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" compare with the way angels are represented or interpreted elsewhere, in some other work or media? 1. Angels are depicted as glowing, bright, clean and pure beings as opposed to the smelly old man with wings in this story. [. . .] Another difference between how angels are represented in pop culture and some religions, is the way people treated the old man. If an actual angel was living on earth, would people throw things at it or demand something more from it further than it’s mere existence? 2. He writes ironically: We often think of sweet and innocent cherubs, or celestial conquerors like the angel Gabriel. However, Marquez creates an angel character closer to the personification of death ‒ muddled, molting, decrepit, and wings of a vulture, rather than a dove.
  • 18. Discuss trauma in the story. Who suffers it? How and why?  Multiple characters in the story experience trauma and exhibit a variety of methods to cope with it. [. . .] As Elisenda watches [the old man] depart “until it was no longer possible for her to see him,” I couldn’t help but wonder if her trauma is just starting rather than concluding as she begins to realize her missed opportunities for a deeper understanding of divinity
  • 19. QHQs 1. Q; What does the old man bring to Pelayo and Elisenda’s life? [Is the] impact [. . .]positive or negative? 2. Q: Why was Pelayo and Elisenda so irritated, borederline cruel with old man with wings when he had brought them so much good fortune and “cured” their child? 3. Q: Is the [story] “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” portraying human behavior in the way they look down on others? 4. Q: To what degree does the story criticize religion and/or the religious? What is the purpose of the angel’s arrival in a town full of amoral charlatans? 5. What makes Marquez’s short story successful?