Colonel Aureliano Buendía is One Hundred Years of Solitude’s greatest soldier figure, leading the Liberal army throughout the civil war. At the same time, however, he is the novel’s greatest artist figure: a poet, an accomplished silversmith, and the creator of hundreds of finely crafted golden fishes. Aureliano’s (I) inability to experience deep emotion contributes to his great battle poise and artistic focus, yet Márquez’s depiction of the Colonel melting away his hard work and starting all over again signals that this poise and focus is not worth its price.
Aureliano (I) is never truly touched by anything or anyone. His child bride, Remedios Moscote, seems at first to have a real effect on him. When she dies, however, he discovers that his sorrow is not as profound as he had expected. During the war, he becomes even more hardened to emotion, and, eventually, his memory and all his feelings are worn away. He has all of his poems burned, and, by the end of his life, he has stopped making new golden fish. Instead, he makes twenty-five and then melts them down, using the metal for the next batch. In this way, he lives solely in the present, acknowledging that time moves in cycles and that the present is all that exists for a man like him, with no memories.
Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s attempted suicide shows us how deep his despair is when he realizes that civil war is futile and that pride is the only thing that keeps the two sides fighting. His disillusionment is a moving commentary on the despair that arises from futility but, also, on the futility that arises from despair.