Love in the Time of Cholera

Gabriel García Márquez
Summary

Chapter 2

Summary Chapter 2

Analysis

Various details in this chapter indicate that Florentino and Fermina's love affair is doomed from the start. First, their destiny is altered when Transito Ariza convinces her son not to give Fermina the letter he has written her. Had Florentino never told his mother of his secret love for Fermina, he would have given her the letter as she prays he will, and as Aunt Escolástica has promised. Instead, his approach is delayed, and causes both him and Fermina unnecessary anguish. Further proof of the romance' s ill fate is presented when, suddenly, out of the sky, bird droppings fall and splatter onto Fermina's embroidery work. The accident occurs just after Florentino presents her with his letter, which she refuses because she must first obtain permission fro m her father.

The final clue that their romance will end in disaster is Fermina's refusal of Florentino's camellia, which she justifies by declaring that a camellia is a "flower of promises." In her refusal to accept the flower, Fermina rejects any commitment to Flore ntino and his offer of love. She does not want to be bound to him, and acts distant and overtly casual, almost uncaring, about their dangerous meeting. Like Florentino, Lorenzo Daza, Fermina's father, is a man of great mystery; we do not know exactly why Lorenzo is not held in high public regard, or how he, as a man with no known profession, obtains enough cash with which to pay for his home in full.

Florentino is overwhelmingly direct in his approach of Fermina. His harassing, serious demand that she obtain her father's permission to accept his letter feels strained and outrageous. Florentino insists that his need for her father's permission — in effect, his need for her — is 'a matter of life and death,' for he truly believes that without Fermina, his life will be meaningless. He is desperate and determined to obtain not only permission to court Fermina, but, ultimately, her undying love and adoration.

Florentino idolizes Fermina, and calls her his "crowned goddess," for he sees her as an ethereal creature, a heavenly angel not of this earth, a woman well beyond his humble realm. Yet he persists, despite her expressed disinterest in him; Fermina will no t even look Florentino in the eye. Florentino pays little attention, for he is bent on somehow winning her love. His fierce determination to win Fermina over may stem from the challenge that she presents to him. Florentino can have any girl he desires wit hin his social circle, yet he lusts for the one woman he cannot have. His inflated ego cannot bear the blow of her rejection, thus he persists, resolved that one day, she will reciprocate his affections.

It is unclear whether Florentino is truly in love or if he suffers from a tormented, twisted obsession. The evidence in this chapter seems to support the latter interpretation. He quite literally stalks Fermina, pretending to read on the park bench so th at he may watch her pass by, and staring up through the windows of her home to see her moving about inside. Also alarming is the epic, sixty-to-seventy page "dictionary of compliments" he writes to her; Fermina is all Florentino thinks about, all he cares for in the world. But how does one define the difference between a man who is unsound and obsessed and a man who is truly, passionately consumed with love? Love, like cholera, is a literal sickness for the characters in the novel.