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The founder and patriarch of Macondo, José Arcadio Buendía
represents both great leadership and the innocence of the ancient world.
He is a natural explorer, setting off into the wilderness first
to found Macondo and then to find a route between Macondo and the outside
world. In this tale of creation he is the Adam figure, whose quest
for knowledge, mirrored in the intellectual pursuits of his descendants,
eventually results in his family’s loss of innocence. José Arcadio
Buendía pushes his family forward into modernity, preferring the
confines of his laboratory to the sight of a real flying carpet that
the gypsies have brought. By turning his back on this ancient magic
in favor of his more modern scientific ideas, he hastens the end
of Macondo’s Eden-like state.
For José Arcadio Buendía, however, madness comes sooner
than disillusionment. Immediately after he thinks he has discovered
a means to create perpetual motion—a physical impossibility—he goes
insane, convinced that the same day is repeating itself over and over
again. In a sense, his purported discovery of perpetual motion achieves
a kind of total knowledge that may be too deep for the human mind
to withstand. Perpetual motion could only exist in a world without
time, which, for José Arcadio Buendía, is what the world becomes
and, in a sense, is what time throughout the novel becomes: past,
present and future often overlap. This overlapping of time allows
José Arcadio Buendía to appear to his descendants in the form of
a ghost, so that his presence will always be felt in Macondo.
Ace your assignments with our guide to One Hundred Years of Solitude!