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Love in the Time of Cholera

Gabriel García Márquez

Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics

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Quiz

Study Questions

Explain how the novel equates lovesickness with cholera. How is love comparable to illness?

The novel's most essential and most prominent theme of love as a literal plague, culminates in the book's final chapter in which Florentino Ariza orders the Captain to announce, falsely, that there is at least one passenger aboard the ship who has been infected with cholera. In part, this falsity is true; Florentino has been infected by a relentless passion for Fermina Daza since the day she rejected him in the Arcade of the Scribes. His passion has persisted much like a deadly plague of ch olera, for Florentino is literally plagued by love.

He suffers from lovesickness as one would suffer from cholera, enduring both physical and emotional pains, such as when, in Chapter 2, he vomits after eating flowers and drinking cologne so that he may know Fermina's scent . When the Captain declares, per Florentino's orders, that there is cholera aboard, and raises the yellow flag to announce the outbreak, his action is symbolic of Florentino's complete surrender to his disease — his plague — for, at long last, Florentino has finally been con sumed by Fermina's love, and has surrendered himself to it, as a sufferer of cholera would surrender to death.

Why does Florentino Ariza have sexual affairs with innumerable women? What is the allure of sex for Florentino when he is only in love with Fermina Daza? How does Rosalba influence his attitude towards sex?

Chapter 3 describes Florentino's one, isolated encounter with Rosalba aboard the ship to Villa de Leyva, which forever changes his thoughts on love and sex. Before the encounter, Florentino insists that he will lose his virginity for love; essentially, he will lose his virginity only to Fermina. However, when he is suddenly seized by Rosalba, in the heat of passion, he is overwhelmed by a sudden and intense physical pleasure, a pleasure so fulfilling that it is enough to abet, or at least temporarily alle viate, the emotional pain he suffers from his tormented love of Fermina. As he thinks more of Rosalba, Florentino gradually begins to forget his memories of Fermina, and with the release of his memories comes freedom from his incessant longing, and the pa in he feels for having been rejected by Fermina. For Florentino, Rosalba acts as an antidote to his pain, a transitory, however effective drug with which to salve his aching, incurable wound. Following his brief affair with Rosalba, Florentino continually uses sex as an addict would a narcotic, for it is the one means by which he is able to forget his heartache and his desire for the woman who is the source of his anguish.

Florentino is particularly attracted to the Widow Nazaret because, like him, she is lonely, and although she still dearly loves her dead husband, she finds happiness in sex; if she cannot be loved by the one man she desires, then she will find what pl easure she can with other men. Florentino's situation is nearly identical: He too is terribly lonely without Fermina, who, despite his rendezvous with other women, he still idolizes as his perfect love. Though he does not, nor will he ever, love the women he sleeps with as much as he does Fermina, sex provides Florentino with a bandage for his painful memories of rejection, and as a means to escape what ails him.

Why does Fermina Daza reject Florentino Ariza on sight, after having been away on the long journey with her father, during which she longed for Florentino? What accounts for her sudden change of heart?

Very suddenly, at the end of Chapter 2, Fermina rejects Florentino when he approaches her in the Arcade of the Scribes. Her rejection of him may seem unfounded and abrupt, especially because she has communicated with and longed for him throughout her long journey. However, the reason for Fermina' change of heart is accounted for by her developed maturity, which has ripened during her long absence. Fermina may have left the city as Florentino's "crowned goddess," a young, impressionable girl swept up by th e zealous desires of her first suitor, but she returns as a poised and sophisticated woman. For Fermina,the thrill of her forbidden romance with Florentino has ended, for it is no longer scandalous or dangerous as it was when she was a young girl, bent on disobeying her domineering father. Upon her return, Fermina acts and thinks like a grown woman, and in her maturity, realizes that her love for Florentino had been nothing more than her foolish adoration of an idealized man and an idealized romance. Ferm ina has indeed grown up, and, now that she is a woman of her own rite, wants to disconnect herself from her childhood, to which Florentino bears a strong association.

Despite her maturity, Fermina buys the ink and percale for Florentino because she still idealizes him; he is an illusion of perfection and love, two desires of which she has been starved. Now, she is hungry — not for Florentino himself, but for the idealized image of him she has contrived. This illusion remains in her mind until she sees him, their first face-to-face encounter since her departure years before, upon which her psychological fantasy is shattered by the reality of his imperfect physical presence. For Fermina had not loved Florentino, but her romanticized idea of him.

Suggested Essay Topics

Is Florentino Ariza madly in love or simply mad? Do his actions speak to the dangerous, compulsive obsession of a stalker or a madman? Or is he simply a dedicated lover?

Why does Florentino tell Fermina that he is still a virgin when he has had sexual affairs with countless other women?

Why does Fermina dislike Religion and the Church with such vehemence? Why is she enraged when Dr. Juvenal Urbino tells her that he has confessed his sins to the Archbishop?

What accounts for the common gossip that Florentino is a homosexual? Why does Florentino do nothing to prove that he is not?

What is the significance of "birds" in the novel? Likewise, what do (A) flowers and (B) water (rain, tears, the river), both reoccurring images throughout the text, represent?

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Error

by Trevor4274, August 17, 2012

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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Lotteries for men

by gogogidge, May 07, 2013

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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