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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

Gabriel García Márquez

Important Quotation Explained

Satire

How to Cite This SparkNote

1. His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked, were forever entangled in the mud. They looked at him so long and so closely that Pelayo and Elisenda very soon overcame their surprise and in the end found him familiar.

Pelayo and Elisenda’s initial impression of the old man’s wings as the filthy limbs of a scavenger rather than the glorious wings of an angel is a good example of how García Márquez grounds even his most fantastic elements in the grunginess of daily life. The second sentence in particular clues readers in to one of the central elements of magical-realist fiction—reawakening readers’ sense of wonder at their own world. García Márquez suggests that if people can become inured to the presence of a winged man in a story, then they can just as easily overlook the wonders and little miracles of real life. A story such as “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is meant to serve as a reminder that everyday life is filled with great mysteries and wonders that people overlook too often.

2. What surprised him most, however, was the logic of his wings. They seemed so natural on that completely human organism that he couldn’t understand why other men didn’t have them too.

When both the old man and Pelayo and Elisenda’s son come down with chicken pox, the local physician takes advantage of the opportunity to examine the “angel” physically. The doctor is surprised both that the old man is still alive and that his wings seem so natural on his body. In this passage, García Márquez seems to imply that there is nothing angelic about the old man at all, although the narrator goes back to referring to him simply as “the angel” a few lines later. More important, the passage suggests that the boundary we draw between natural and supernatural is arbitrary at best. García Márquez subtly raises the question: if wings are so naturally a part of this particular man’s body, then are we the freaks for not having them?

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