An obsessive, impassioned sex addict, Florentino falls madly in love with Fermina Daza on sight. After a brief love affair during which he sees Fermina only in passing, he cannot accept that she has rejected him, and dedicates his life to one day winning back her love. In the fifty-one years, nine months, and four days after their troubled love affair ends, he eagerly awaits the death of Fermina's husband, Dr. Juvenal Urbino. Despite his undying love for Fermina, he sleeps with innumerable women, though he remains convinced that he is saving himself for her, for he can never love another woman the way he loves Fermina. Florentino uses sex as an addict would a narcotic; it is the one means by which he is able to forget his heartache and his desire for Fermina, the woman who is the source of all his anguish.
His lovesickness for Fermina is often equated to cholera, as he is literally plagued by his passion for her. He is insane with love, and exhibits obsessive, borderline criminal behavior. He stalks Fermina and keeps watch on her house. He is drunk with his passion for her, and can think of nothing else. At work, he is incapable of writing a business letter; he can only write poetic prose as he writes in his love letters to her. He thrives on his plague of love, and revels in his own suffering; he feels martyred when he is thrown in jail for serenading Fermina with his violin. When Lorenzo Daza threatens to shoot him, he challenges him, saying that it is most noble to die for love. Ultimately, he is determined to win Fermina's affections, and will stop at nothing to attain them. At once, he is the novel's antagonist and protagonist, for he may be madly in love or simply mad.
An independent, headstrong person who is sophisticated and capable, Fermina prides herself on her unfaltering, haughty composure. She knows what she wants and will not stop until she successfully achieves it. When her husband does not allow her to keep any creature that does not speak, she finds one, a parrot, that can. When she adamantly refuses to forgive her husband until he admits to his own guilt, in time, he surrenders to her conditions. She refuses to accept blame for any misdeed; guilt is the one emotion she cannot tolerate. However, beneath her proud, unwavering facade, she seems a caring, nurturing woman, for she pampers her aging husband as she would a defenseless baby. Her fanatical love of animals and flowers also speaks to her nurturing, caring traits.
Fermina's sudden rejection of Florentino is founded in the many changes she undergoes during her long absence. She leaves the City of the Viceroys as a young, impressionable girl swept up by the zealous desires of her first suitor, but she returns as a poised and sophisticated woman. The thrill of her forbidden romance with Florentino is lost on her with the onset of womanhood, for it is no longer scandalous or dangerous as it was when she was a young girl, bent on disobeying her domineering father. In her maturity, she realizes that her love for Florentino had been nothing more than the foolish adoration of a mere illusion, a fantasy of an idealized man and an idealized romance. In realizing her mistake, she feels compelled to move on into her adulthood without lingering on the foolish whims of her youth.
In her adulthood, she is a highly esteemed person who commands of respect. In marrying Dr. Urbino, she marries into the blue-blooded upper crust from the ranks of the peasants, and upholds with the utmost proficiency her position as a lady of society. Her husband's overtly religious behavior disturbs her, for, after attending the Academy of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, an all girls, Catholic school which she is eventually expelled from, she is disillusioned by Religion and the Church. Both, she feels, lack the virtue they preach to their followers. When the Doctor suggests,as he does on numerous occasions, to involve the Archbishop in their faltering marriage, she adamantly, proudly refuses, and a stands her ground, as she does throughout the entirety of the novel.
The city's most educated doctor and most esteemed public figure, Urbino is a relatively unemotional, uncommunicative man, though he is not unkind. He marries Fermina because he respects her haughty, serious manner. He pays more attention to his pet parrot than he does to his two children. His emotionlessness may stem from his aristocratic upbringing; unlike Florentino, who is of the peasant class, the Doctor is entirely passionless, taking pleasure in little but chess, medicine, and foreign books. He is an old-fashioned man, and still makes house calls to his patients, even after studying the newest medical technologies in Europe.
He is an honest man, driven by his immense faith in God, and feels anguish when he cannot resist the temptations of Barbara Lynch, with whom he cheats on his wife. He is grateful when Fermina discovers that he is cheating on her, for the immense guilt he feels prevents him from even enjoying the pleasure that he once took in committing "ethical violations" against Barbara. Despite his commanding public presence, in his home, he is a weak, cowardly man. When Fermina asks him to stand up to his mother in her defense, he is to frightened to do so. Again, after a fight with Fermina in which he was truly and factually correct, he relinquishes his pride and submits to his wife. He is both respectable and pitiable, particularly when he is enfeebled by his old age.
Notes on Chapter Two contain an error. Florentino Ariza is not the man with whom the girls held lotteries to hang out with, until he saw Fermina Daza; that was Dr. Juvenal Urbino. See the first paragraph in Chapter 3 to see where this sentence refers to the latter.
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Actually, women held lotteries to hang out with both men. When Florentino is introduced in chapter 2 Marquez mentions this on page 54. Then again, on page 105 (the first page of chapter 3), the lotteries for Dr. Urbino are mentioned.
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