At the turn of the 20th century, the ideals of the Catholic Church greatly influenced values of Colombians. Gabriel Garcia Marquez sets the novel Love in the Time of Cholera in Cartagena, Colombia in the beginning of the 20th century to embody the ideologies of the Catholic Church.
These ideologies include the importance of purity and sexual morality, as the Catholic Church believes the idea that the absence of purity leads to corruption in human love. Using the main characters, Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza and other symbols, Marquez is able to explore the concept of virginity.
Although their experiences differ, both characters, Fermina and Florentino undergo pivotal changes when losing their virginity. Both of their experiences take place in the setting of a boat and hold significant value to the development of both characters.
Throughout the novel, Marquez continually presents boats in order to symbolize pivotal changes in character development through their loss of virginity. Fermina Daza’s first time on a boat results in her loss of innocence.
As Fermina and her husband, Dr. Urbino, are voyaging to Europe for their honeymoon, Fermina loses her virginity. Prior to her loss of virginity, Fermina Daza is in her most naive and pure state. Gabriel Garcia Marquez explicitly states “…all the fear of which she was capable was centered on her imminent violation.” This presents the idea that her innocence influences her young thoughts. As she compares the action of sex to violation, it is evident that the fear of sex stems from the beliefs of the Catholic Church. After the night of her marriage, Dr. Urbino is able to ease Fermina’s fear of sexual activity and eventually changes the rest of her existence. Fermina develops a sensible attitude towards love. Wh “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love,” referring to Fermina’s truth of love with Dr. Urbino. Fermina didn’t love Urbino. After losing her virginity on the boat, she comes to the realization and the practicality about her love for Urbino.
The honeymoon boat symbolized the transformation of her character. The boat somewhat represents a sanctuary for the loss of her innocence, as Fermina travels on this boat and comes home as a more mature being. Reflecting Fermina Daza’s first experience with sex, Florentino Ariza also loses his purity on a boat. However, Florentino’s development of character due to the loss of his virginity greatly differs from Fermina Daza’s development. Prior to his first sexual experience, Florentino Ariza is a romantic person who views love as beautiful and everlasting. Florentino believes in passionate love, the love that leaves one exhilarated and wild, opposed to Fermina’s pragmatic take on love. However, the impact of Fermina’s rejection damages Florentino as a character.
As a consequence of his broken heart, Florentino is faced with physical symptoms, such as the loss of sleep and sickness. To bolster her son’s spirits, his mother, Transito Ariza, arranges a journey on a boat in order to escape reality. The boat acts as a transient space, intended to cleanse and “fix” Florentino. However, the journey is the beginning of his sex addiction. During his journey, a mysterious woman takes Florentino into her cabin and rapes him. Florentino comes to the realization that he enjoys this intercourse, as it alleviates the pain of his heartbreak. In Florentino’s experience, the boat still represents a sanctuary to his loss of innocence, as it protects this impactful moment in his life, however the journey itself becomes the origin of his sex addiction. Following his journey, Florentino Ariza uses the act of sex as temporary love to eliminate Fermina from his mind. As Florentino’s perception of love changes his “heart has more rooms than a whorehouse”. Before the loss of his virginity, he is extremely devoted to one woman. However, after the journey, he uses a mass amount of women in order to cope with his heart break.
The 622 women that he sexually interacts with destroy his original image of love, as he loses the idea of passion and loyalty to a single woman. As the novel comes to a close, Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza both undergo one more encounter with a boat, yet this time, they board the boat together. Although both Fermina and Florentino have already lost their virginity before this final journey, Florentino tells Fermina “I’ve remained a virgin for you,” as the concept of being a virgin is ideal in society. There is such a high value on virginity, as it is essential in the honoring of God. In society, virginity is regarded and respected. Florentino, in hope to salvage their love, uses the notion of virginity in order to prove himself as worthy. On the boat, Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza make love. This sexual experience together represents their desired act of losing their virginity, as Florentino always wanted to lose his virginity with the one that he loved.
The final journey on this boat symbolizes how Florentino and Fermina enter the final stages of their lives together, considering they individually lose their virginities. In the novel Love in the Time of Cholera the symbol of boats represents the loss of innocence in both main characters, leading to developed interpretations of love, adding to their identity and character. Whether it was the true act of love or temporary love, boats acted as the haven for these sexual actions. Boats enabled the characters to develop and mature as human beings. Although maturity doesn’t hold a distinct definition in the Catholic Church, losing one’s virginity is essential to the gradual progression of maturity.
In the novel, Marquez rarely references the boats as physical matter, yet uses boats to symbolize the life-changing experiences of the main characters. Even in daily life, people use boats to make life-changing journeys, whether it be for education, desires, or even curiosity. Due to the calmness of water or isolation from land, boats can also allow people to cope with their own emotions. This is true for both Fermina and Florentino, as they are both reflective on their own journeys.