The story “A very old man with enormous wings” is written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The story occurs when an old man drops in the backyard of a house. The house owner Pelayo found this man who dresses like a destitute. They noticed the old man is different with others because he has a pair of angle-like-wings. The people in the town were surprised by his appearance, including Pelayo and his family. This special old man attracts everyone’s attention. People were curious about the old man’s appearance. Normally, he should receive people’s care and respect, because his weak body and wings look like a cast away from some foreign ship wrecked by the storm 1. Also, the wings symbolize freedom and power. But he receives the worst treatments ever inflicted by the people in the town. For instance, “Pelayo locked him in a chicken coop and the neighborhood made fun with him” which was only a bit part of the treatments 1. People locked this angel up, and they control him without worrying about his old body and big wings. No one extended kindness to this poor man. In contrast, people made fun of him. The more pain the old man suffers, the happier people will be. The villagers make fun of him in order to satisfy their own curiosity and general inanity. Gabriel Garcia Marquez uses this old man’s experience to examine the people’s responses, which are unsympathetic and inhuman to people who are weak and different than others.
First off, Pelayo’s family is harsh and negative treatment toward the man, expose their cruel minds. When the old man first appears in Pelayo’s backyard, he is in “pitiful condition of drenched” 1. Pelayo “armed the old man with a bailiff’s club and locked him up in the wire chicken coop” like an animal 1. The treatment toward the old man is unreasonable. Pelayo did not feel pitiful when he met this poor man. The old man received inhuman treatment even worse than an animal. However, this special man was attractive to the villagers who came to see him. Those villagers were so curious about this special species.
Pelayo’s wife, Elisenda soon realizes this is a good business opportunity. She had an idea of making the old man become a money maker for her own benefits, when she “charged five cents admission to see the angel”1. Only a few days, and their house was “crammed with money, and still, the line of pilgrims waiting their turn to enter1. Pelayo’s family have a better life and environment with no expend. Nevertheless, the old man did not get any benefit from it. The angel was still locked in the chicken coop and could not live comfortably. He was suffering from the “the heat of oil lamps and sacramental candles” that beside him every day 1. They left the angel alone, and no one was concerned about his feeling at all.
Pelayo’s family became utterly obsessed with money and nothing else. All of the profit they earned came from the old man, but they never gave any benefit back to the old angel. The angel was still used as a tool to earn money, and they did not had any back. This was how Pelayo’s family treated this old angel. They paid attention to things which were beneficial for themselves. Although the old man brought financial benefits to their family, Pelayo and his family’s attitude toward him were still impatient. The two characters Pelayo and Elisenda implicate the dark side of human dignity toward to those people who are weak, making them unsympathetic and ungrateful to others.
In addition, the villagers’ actions toward the old man were also utterly inhuman. They show their curiosity toward the angel when they heard there was a “flesh-and-blood angel was held captive in Pelayo’s house” 1. The old man’s special wings attraced many people in the town. Villagers were so interested in this special species with his big enormous wings, but he had not been treated as he should be. When he was locked in the chicken coop, he was so old and messy, the “back side of his wings was strewn with parasites and his main feathers had been mistreated” 1.
Even though, villagers were curious and interested in the angel’s feature, they did not show their sympathy to this old man, and no one took care of him. From the villagers’ perspective, the angel is only a tool for them to make fun. The main point to attract those villagers was the old man could content their pleasure and inanity. They would try their best to satisfy their negative emotion. Especially, there were some “merciful people threw stones at him, trying to let him to rise so they could see him standing”1.
This story represents an old angel’s experience living in a man’s world, and how people treat this old man. The “old man with enormous wings” is an irony and symbolizes people’s inhuman and unsympathetic action. The wing is cultural symbols which represents power and freedom, but people in this town control the wings and torment it. People in the town locked this poor angel in a chicken coop and treat him like an animal which shows their dark side of personality. They locked the power and freedom up, and do whatever they want to satisfy their desire. For instance, Pelayo’s family used this old angel as a business opportunity to make money, and villagers threw stones to him for their own satisfaction. During this period, no one was concerned for the feelings of this old angel. He could get everyone’s attention because he had some value to utilize. Pelayo’s family kept him at home, and used him to make money for their own benefits, villagers in the town are interested in him because the old angel can satisfy their inanity mind. After their curiosity was satisfied, the old man became useless. All in all, the people that live in this town never show their goodness. Those characters in the story all represent one thing--people’s unsympathetic and inhuman nature.
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1. Firstname Lastname, Title of Book (Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication), page number.
Alison Booth, Kelly J. Mays. 2010. The Norton introduction to literature. A very old man with enormous wings.