A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Summary

Gabriel García Márquez

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

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A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Summary

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” (1955), an example of magic realism, appears in the collection Leaf Storm and Other Stories. A winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Garcia Marquez is considered one of the most important authors of the twentieth century and is known for his journalism as well as for his novels, which include the classics One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. He was one of the champions of magic realism as a genre with its use of magical events in what would otherwise be situations that are realistic and commonplace. If there were an overarching theme to his work, it would be solitude. At the time of Garcia Marquez’s death in 2014, the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, called the writer the greatest Colombian of all-time.

As the story opens, Pelayo, the husband of Elisenda, is catching crabs during an ongoing rainstorm. While working, Pelayo finds a disoriented, apparently homeless, old man in his yard. The man is unkempt and seemingly not of sound mind. He speaks in a language that Pelayo cannot understand. The most unusual characteristic of the old man, however, is that he has a pair of very big feathered wings. Pelayo and Elisenda speak with a neighbor and decide that the old man must be an angel sent to them from heaven to take their ailing child back with him. The neighbor advises Pelayo to beat the angel to death, but Pelayo and Elisenda, feeling sorry for him, do not harm him. Their child later recovers.

Curious onlookers begin to visit Pelayo and Elisenda’s home where they keep the old man in a chicken coop. The village priest, Father Gonzaga, tries to keep the old man’s presence quiet, but his attempts fail, and pilgrims continue to flock from near and far to see the winged old man and ask for advice and for healing. Father Gonzaga attempts to convince the crowds that based on his rundown appearance and the fact that he cannot speak in Latin, it is highly unlikely that the man is an angel. The priest then decides to turn to his bishop for advice. Meanwhile, the people keep coming. A woman who has been counting her heartbeats since she was a child seeks help. A man who says his problem is that the stars make too much noise in the sky at night so he suffers from insomnia is also among the pilgrims. The crowd begins to get more and more out of control as the number of the sick people, and the simple gawkers, continues to grow. Elisenda begins to charge admission.

The old man seems to remain mostly oblivious to all that is going on around him. He ignores the actions of the people who pelt him with stones and pull out his feathers in attempts to make him rise. He does show his anger when some in the crowd burn him with a branding iron as they try to determine whether his is still alive or not. Father Gonzaga, while awaiting guidance from his church regarding the old man, does what he can to control the crowd. People do begin to leave when they are attracted to another diversion in the village. A freak show has set up shop there and the crown has heard of one of its attractions. The spider woman is a woman who has been morphed into a gigantic tarantula who has a woman’s head because she was disobedient to her parents. So fascinating is the story of the spider woman to the crowd that they quickly lose interest in the old man with wings who did virtually nothing in response to them.

Elisenda and Pelayo have moved into a big new home and Pelayo has left his job since the couple is now quite well off from the admission charges that Elisenda has been collecting. The old man remains with them and still lives in the chicken coop for a few years. The son of Elisenda and Pelayo continues to grow up. Eventually the chicken coop grows dilapidated and falls. There is a shed near the coop and the man moves in there. From time to time he makes his way into the house where he is not at all welcomed by Elisenda. It begins to appear to Pelayo and Elisenda that the old man is nearing his death, but then he suddenly takes a turn for the better. His feathers, which had thinned, begin to grow back and he starts singing songs to himself at night. Finally, one day, the old man spreads his wings and flies off into the horizon as Elisenda watches.