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One Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel García Márquez

Chapters 5–6

Chapters 3–4

Chapters 7–9

Summary: Chapter 5

Soon after Remedios reaches puberty, she and Aureliano are married. (Rebeca’s wedding, which is to take place at the same time, is postponed because Pietro Crespi is called away by an urgent letter that says his mother is gravely ill. The letter proves false, and Amaranta is suspected of forging it to delay the marriage.) Remedios provides a breath of fresh air in the Buendía household, endearing herself to everybody and even deciding to raise Aureliano’s bastard son—born to Pilar Ternera—as her own child. He is named Aureliano José. Soon after the marriage, however, Remedios dies of a sudden internal ailment, possibly a miscarriage, and the house plunges into mourning. This period of grief proves yet another in the interminable set of obstacles for Rebeca and Pietro Crespi, who cannot be married while the Buendía household is in mourning. Another setback is the tremendously long time it takes to build the first church in Macondo, which has been visited for the first time by organized religion. The priest who is building the church makes the startling discovery that José Arcadio Buendía’s apparent madness is not as severe as everyone thinks. The gibberish he spouts is not nonsense, but pure Latin in which he can converse.

The period of mourning and delay are simultaneously brought to an end by the return of José Arcadio, the oldest son of José Arcadio Buendía. He is a beast of a man—enormously strong, tattooed all over his body, impulsive, and crude. Despite her engagement to Pietro Crespi, Rebeca is enthralled by José Arcadio’s masculinity, and they begin a torrid affair, governed by lust. The affair ends in marriage, and they are exiled from the house by the outraged Ursula. There develops, however, a growing tenderness between Crespi and Amaranta, whom he had previously spurned in favor of Rebeca.

Aureliano, who had resigned himself to solitude after the death of Remedios, soon finds a larger concern: the impending war between the Conservative government—represented in Macondo by the magistrate who is Aureliano’s father-in-law, Don Apolinar Moscote—and the insurgent Liberals. Upset by the dishonesty and corruption of the Conservatives, Aureliano allies himself with the Liberals. When war breaks out and the town is brutally occupied by the Conservative army, Aureliano leads young men of the town in a rebellion, conquering the town for the Liberals. He leaves at the head of a small Liberal army and is henceforth known in the novel as Colonel Aureliano Buendía. Eventually, he becomes the leader of the Liberal armies.

Summary: Chapter 6

Colonel Aureliano Buendía leaves Macondo with his hastily assembled troops and joins the national civil war effort, fathering seventeen children around the country as he goes. He leaves Arcadio—the illegitimate son of José Arcadio and Pilar Ternera—in charge of the town in his absence, and Arcadio becomes a dictator, obsessed with order and given to cruelty. When he tries to sleep with Pilar Ternera, his own mother, she sends him a young virgin named Santa Sofía de la Piedad instead. He marries her, and she gives birth to three children: Remedios the Beauty, Aureliano Segundo, and José Arcadio Segundo. When the Liberals lose the war and the Conservatives retake the town, Arcadio is executed by a firing squad. While the war rages, and Arcadio’s dictatorship continues, Pietro Crespi proposes marriage to Amaranta, who cruelly rejects him despite her love for him, and he commits suicide. Penitent, she burns her hand horribly, covering it with the black bandage that she will wear until her death.

Analysis: Chapters 5–6

One Hundred Years of Solitude is remarkable for its scope: it is concerned both with events on a grand scale—such as the rebel uprising that begins in this section—and with the minute aspects of its protagonists’ lives. It also runs the gamut from the sublime to the disgusting. In one breath, it seems, García Márquez will celebrate the supernatural, and in the next, he will investigate, in great detail, the filthiest of whorehouses. When, in this section, Remedios Moscote reaches puberty, it does not suffice for García Márquez to simply retell the fact: he also produces bloody proof. One Hundred Years of Solitude is a novel that, like the prophecies of Melquíades the gypsy, contains everything—the grand and the insignificant, the absurd and the transcendent. In that sense, One Hundred Years of Solitude is mimetic: that is, it imitates real life. Real life, of course, includes a seemingly infinite number of voices and a wide array of emotions and qualities. One Hundred Years of Solitude gets its epic scope from its attempt to imitate reality, to include everything that life includes. In One Hundred Years of Solitude’s attempt at mimesis, too, lies one reason for its confused timeline and tendency to jump from story to story without obvious transition. García Márquez believes that modern life is entropic—chaotic, tending toward eventual dissolution. Thus, he refuses to impose a rigid structure on his novel, choosing instead to allow the novel to meander digressively, at times unraveling, toward the eventual apocalypse at its close.

Despite García Márquez’s determination to capture the variety and scope of real life, however, the reader will notice that his language sometimes tends toward the metaphoric and euphemistic rather than the literal and precise. For instance: although García Márquez does not shy away from a narration of the moment when Remedios Moscote first finds menstrual blood in her underwear, he avoids an actual mention of the blood. Instead, he calls it “chocolate-colored paste.” And in describing Rebeca’s first sex act with José Arcadio, García Márquez refers to her loss of virginity as a loss of “intimacy,” a curious circumlocution. These moments leave us asking why García Márquez avoids graphic and realistic use of language throughout the novel in his descriptions of sex and violence and why a novel that explores all aspects of life, both beautiful and disgusting, substitutes euphemisms for a realistic depiction of events. One answer is that García Márquez brings the ordinary world into the realm of the fantastic by using poetic language for mundane things and mundane language for magical events. Another answer might be that García Márquez is attempting, through these circumlocutions, to use language that his characters themselves might use. The novel speaks in Remedios Moscote’s voice, describing her blood as she might have. This narrative technique, in which the novel assumes the voice of a character without openly indicating that it is switching perspectives, is known as free indirect discourse. One Hundred Years of Solitude’s epic feel can be accounted for by its multiplicity of voices, its desire to see things from different perspectives, and its descriptions of them in the subjective terms used by different characters.

It is not just the technological forces of modernization that cause the unraveling of Macondo’s utopian, Eden-like community, but the arrival of organized religion in the form of priests and magistrates. Before the priest’s arrival, shame is unknown in Macondo—like Adam and Eve before the fall, the citizens are “subject to the natural law” sexually and worship God without a church. Father Nicanor’s arrival disturbs that untouched innocence, just as Don Apolinar Moscote’s increased power (as he finally succeeds in bringing armed soldiers to help govern Macondo) disturbs the self-governing peace that the town has always enjoyed. Once Macondo’s innocence has been lost, efforts to regain it by overthrowing the new leaders only make things worse. For example, Arcadio’s revolution against Don Apolinar Moscote’s regime only results in worse dictatorship. And, in addition to showing how impossible it is for the town to regain its innocence, Arcadio’s dictatorship also shows what can go wrong when well-intentioned governments have cruel leaders and become power-obsessed. This commentary applies outside of the fictional world of One Hundred Years of Solitude, criticizing dictatorial regimes in twentieth-century Latin American countries like Cuba and Panama.

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