Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ short story tells us of a peculiar story of an old man appearing in the yard of a couple. The couple happened to have a sick child, and the old man happened to posses wings. This is where the story revolves: the couple’s fear that the old man might be an angel who’s going to take their child. Because of this, he was placed in a chicken coop, and was the center of attraction of the whole town.
The couple decides to make a living out of the old man by charging an entrance fee for those who wish to see the other-worldly attraction.
When another “unique” person shows up, the crowd loses interest with the winged man and the couple goes back to their peaceful life. With all the money they collected, they built a big house and have a good business in town. After some time, the angel was able to grow his wings back and flew away (Roberts & Jacobs, 2006).
Gabriel Garcia Marquez uses symbolism to give a deeper meaning to the short story. Here, the most evident symbolism is that of the old man with wings who is perceived to be an angel.
He symbolizes the unknown or the unfamiliar, which happens to appear in a civilized community. In this story, the angel is not treated as someone or something from the heavens, but instead, treated as an outsider or a freak that is different from anyone in the society. The angel could also be a symbol of the people’s faith in what they believe.
They were close minded in their idea of how an angel should be, so despite the enormous wings that the old man posses, it was not enough proof for the people to believe that he was indeed an angel.
Another symbolism shown in the short story was the chicken coop where the couple kept the old man, in their fear that he is going to take away their child. The chicken coop symbolized the boxed belief of the people in the society. People from different places came to the community to know if the speculation about the old man being an angel was really true. They plucked and prodded at the old man to test whether he is what they think he is. They even tried to feed him mothballs because of the belief that it’s what angels eat.
However, when the old man didn’t meet their expectations, they treated him as some freak of nature, a carnival attraction of a man who happened to posses enormous wings. This just showed how the people in the community boxed their ideas into what they believed. Instead of treating him as an angel, he was treated as some kind of wild animal or a freak of nature. Another symbolism in the short story was the introduction of another freak of nature, the woman who was turned into a spider.
This symbolizes the people’s faith, and how it was easily swayed when another “unique” creature came into the community. The people finally ignored the existence of the winged old man, and shifted their attention towards the woman-spider who eats mothballs. This characterizes the weak faith of the people, and that they are ones who choose what to believe. When the old man with wings doesn’t seem to respond to their questions or give them the miracle they wanted, they turn their attention towards other things, which in the story, is the woman-spider.
In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” we can see how the important things or important facts of life usually elude the weak believers. Instead of grasping the reality, they often turn to the supernatural and the magical. The truth is already in front of them: an old man with enormous wings; yet they chose to believe the story of a woman who was magically turned into a spider. Instead of the truth, they chose the supernatural.
Reference: Roberts, E. V. , & Jacobs, H. E. (2006). Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing (8th Edition ed. ): Prentice Hall.