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Of all the characters in the novel, Úrsula Iguarán lives
the longest and sees the most new generations born. She outlives
all three of her children. Unlike most of her relatives, Úrsula
is untroubled by great spiritual anxiety; in this sense, she is
probably the strongest person ever to live in Macondo. She takes
in Rebeca, the child of strangers, and raises her as her own daughter;
she welcomes dozens of passing strangers to her table; she tries
to keep the house from falling apart. Úrsula’s task is not easy,
since all of her descendants become embroiled in wars and scandals
that would cause any weaker family to dissolve. With Úrsula as their
mainstay, however, the Buendías are irrevocably linked, for better
or for worse. To keep the family together, Úrsula sometimes is quite
harsh; for example, she kicks José Arcadio and Rebeca out of the
house when they elope. This decision is partly a result of her unyielding
fear of incest. Even though Rebeca and José Arcadio are not technically
related, Úrsula is terrified that even a remotely incestuous action
or relation will result in someone in the family having a baby with
the tail of a pig. Her own marriage to José Arcadio Buendía is incestuous
because they are cousins, and she constantly examines her children’s
behavior for flaws, frequently saying, “[i]t’s worse than if he
had been born with the tail of a pig.” Because of her fear of incest,
Úrsula is a contradictory character: she binds the family together,
but is terrified that incest, the extreme of family bonding, will
bring disaster to the Buendía house.
Ace your assignments with our guide to One Hundred Years of Solitude!