Death Constant Beyond Love Summary & Study Guide

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Death Constant Beyond Love

  • 21-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features an extended summary and 6 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with a Master's degree
Access Full Summary
Study Guide Navigation

Death Constant Beyond Love Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 21-page guide for the short story “Death Constant Beyond Love” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez includes detailed a summary and analysis, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 15 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Inevitability of Death and The Intertwining of Illusion and Reality.

Gabriel García Márquez’s 1970 short story “Death Constant Beyond Love” creates an overarching mood of loneliness and repetition to think through the experience of dying. Senator Onésimo Sanchez, the story’s protagonist, travels on his routine reelection campaign knowing that he has “six months and eleven days to go before his death” (Paragraph 1).

In Rosal del Virrey, “an illusory village” in the desert but with a distant ocean view, he meets Laura Farina. The narrator calls Laura “the woman of his life” (Paragraph 1). Before telling of their meeting, the narrator describes the spectacle of Sanchez’s arrival in the town. He is cool, “placid and weatherless,” inside his car. This is his “real life”—he is 42 and married with children. When he steps out of the car, he feels a “gust of fire” and enters a hot, unreal desert space (Paragraph 2).

The narrator describes Sanchez’s naked rest “in the shadow of the rose” that he carefully preserves in water to keep perky for his performances. The politician takes pills and eats mild food, even though “no one he had been sentenced to a fixed term” (Paragraph 3).

He delivers a high-minded speech that unintentionally seems to reference Marcus Aurelius. While he delivers the speech, his aides orchestrate a show: “There was a pattern to his circus”;paper birds, flying in the air, “ the miserable real-life shacks” of the local people (Paragraph 6). As they transform the town, Sanchez creates a “fictional world” of campaign promises (Paragraph 7). At the end, he points to “an ocean line of painted paper” intended to create the illusion of idyllic beauty. But Sanchez sees that the image is “almost as poor and dusty as Rosal del Virrey” (Paragraph 8).

Nelson Farina, Laura’s father, listens to the performance from a distant hammock. Something of an outlaw who had murdered his first wife, Farina was familiar with Sanchez’s campaign. He “had begged for help” in gaining an identity card, and he resents Farina for not meeting this need. (Paragraph 10) Sanchez walks through the street, greeting and answering the small requests of the locals. When he arrives at Farina, who looks “ashen and gloomy” on his hammock, he stops to speak with him. Farina reminds him that they’re familiar, saying “moi vous savez,” French for “you know me” (Paragraph 13).

His beautiful daughter, Laura, emerges from the Farina house during their conversation. The narrator notes that “it was possible to imagine that there had never been another so beautiful in the whole world”; Laura leaves the senator “breathless” (Paragraph 14).

That night, Nelson sends Laura to Sanchez. Sanchez is meeting with his advisors and the local men, who look “so much like all the ones he always met in all the towns in the desert,” and the meeting feels like a “perpetual nightly session” (Paragraph 16).

As the locals ask for more than paper birds to care for their town, Sanchez cuts a paper butterfly that he sends flying “into the air current coming from the fan” (Paragraph 18). The butterfly flies out of the door to where Laura waits in the vestibule. She watches the butterfly unfold, hit the wall, and “ stuck there” (Paragraph 20). Laura works to unstick the butterfly, but the guard tells her that the butterfly is painted on the wall.

When the meeting ends, Sanchez emerges into the vestibule and asks Laura why she is there. She tells him that she is there on behalf of her father. Witnessing her “unusual beauty,” Sanchez finds that it is “even more demanding than his pain” and resolves “then that death had made his decision for him” (Paragraph 22).

Sanchez invites Laura into his room. She is in awe of the “thousands of bank notes” that float in the air, “flapping like the butterfly” (Paragraph 23). She also notices the Sanchez’s rose resting in its vase. Sanchez tries to explain what it is, but Laura says that she already knows.

The senator talks about roses while he removes his shirt, revealing “a corsair’s tattoo of a heart pierced by an arrow” (Paragraph 25). At his request, Laura kneels down to remove Sanchez’s boots. He remarks that she is “just a child” (Paragraph 26). When Sanchez discovers that he and Laura share Aries as their astrological sign, he tells her that “it’s the sign of solitude” (Paragraph 27).

Laura is unsure how to handle his boots, and Sanchez is unsure how to handle Laura, the narrator reveals. Sanchez holds her “tightly between his knees” and embraces her, recognizing that she is “naked under her dress” (Paragraph 28). He turns off the light, leaving the pair “in the shadow of the rose.” He begins to touch her, but he finds “something iron” in his way (Paragraph 29).

Sanchez seems disturbed to discover that she wears a padlock. Laura explains that her father has the key to the padlock and will give it to Sanchez when she returns with “a written promise” that Sanchez will “straighten out his situation” (Paragraph 30). In this tension, Sanchez reminds himself to “remember that whether it’s you or someone else, it won’t be long before you’ll be dead and it won’t be long before your name won’t even be left” (Paragraph 31).

He asks Laura what she has heard of him. After some coaxing, Laura admits to him that “they say you’re worse than the rest because you are different” (Paragraph 32). The senator sits quietly. When he speaks, he seems “to have returned from his most hidden instincts” (Paragraph 33).

Sanchez tells Laura that he will help her father. But he does not send her back home for the key. Instead, he asks her to sleep with him for a while because “it’s good to be with someone when you are so alone” (Paragraph 34).

The story ends with Laura on his chest, “her eyes fixed on the rose,” and the senator with his face “into woods-animal armpit,” given in “to terror” (Paragraph 35). As expected, “six months and eleven days later,” he dies in this position, “debased and repudiated because of the public scandal with Laura Farina and weeping with rage at dying without her” (Paragraph 35).

This is just a preview. The entire section has 1079 words. Click below to download the full study guide for Death Constant Beyond Love.

Story Analysis