One of the themes of One Hundred Years of Solitude is the way history repeats itself in cycles. In this novel, each generation is condemned to repeat the mistakes—and to celebrate the triumphs—of the previous generation. To dramatize this point, García Márquez has given his protagonists, the Buendía family members, a very limited selection of names. One Hundred Years of Solitude spans six generations, and in each generation, the men of the Buendía line are named José Arcadio or Aureliano and the women are named Úrsula, Amaranta, or Remedios. Telling the difference between people who have the same name can sometimes be difficult. To a certain extent, this is to be expected: after all, García Márquez’s point is precisely that human nature does not really change, that the Buendía family is locked into a cycle of repetitions. To preserve a clear notion of the plot progression, however, it is important to pay attention to the full names of the protagonists, which often contain slight distinguishing variations. José Arcadio Buendía, for instance, is a very different character than his son, José Arcadio: although it is true that José Arcadio’s last name is also “Buendía,” he is never referred to, either by García Márquez or in this SparkNote, as anything but “José Arcadio.” And so on.
In cases where two characters are referred to by the exact same name (for instance, Aureliano Segundo’s son is also known as “José Arcadio”), we have added a roman numeral to the character’s name for the sake of clarity, even though that roman numeral does not appear in García Márquez’s book: the second José Arcadio, then, appears as José Arcadio (II). Keep in mind that José Arcadio (II) is not the son of the first José Arcadio; he is merely the second José Arcadio in the book.
The patriarch of the Buendía clan, José Arcadio Buendía is Macondo’s founder and its most charismatic citizen. He is a man of great strength and curiosity. Impulsively, he embarks on mad pursuits of esoteric and practical knowledge, and it is his solitary and obsessive quest for knowledge that drives him mad at the end of his life; he spends many years, in the end, tied to a tree in the Buendía backyard, speaking Latin that only the priest understands. José Arcadio Buendía is married to Úrsula Iguarán and the father of José Arcadio, Colonel Aureliano Buendía, and Amaranta.
The tenacious matriarch of the Buendía clan, Úrsula lives to be well over a hundred years old, continuing with her hard-headed common sense to try and preserve the family. Every now and then, when things get particularly run-down, Úrsula revitalizes the family both physically and emotionally, repairing the Buendía house and breathing new life into the family. She is the wife of José Arcadio Buendía and the mother of José Arcadio, Colonel Aureliano Buendía, and Amaranta.
The daughter of Úrsula Iguarán and José Arcadio Buendía, Amaranta dies an embittered and lonely virgin. She bears deep jealousy and hatred for Rebeca, whom, she believes, stole Pietro Crespi from her. In many ways her life is characterized by a fear of men; when Pietro Crespi finally falls in love with her, she rejects him, and he kills himself. As penance, she gives herself a bad burn on the hand and wears a black bandage over it for the rest of her life. When she is much older, she finds real love with Colonel Gerineldo Márquez, but she spurns him because of her ancient fear and bitterness. She is also the object of the unconsummated incestuous passion of Aureliano José, whom she helped to raise. Amaranta is the sister of Colonel Aureliano Buendía and José Arcadio.
The second son of José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula Iguarán. Aureliano grows up solitary and enigmatic, with a strange capacity for extrasensory perception. Outraged by the corruption of the Conservative government, he joins the Liberal rebellion and becomes Colonel Aureliano Buendía, the rebel commander. After years of fighting, he loses his capacity for memory and deep emotion, signs a peace accord, and withdraws into his workshop, a lonely and hardened man. He is the widower of Remedios Moscote and the father, with Pilar Ternera, of Aureliano José, and of seventeen sons—each named Aureliano—by seventeen different women.
The child-bride of Colonel Aureliano Buendía, Remedios Moscote brings joy to the Buendía household for a short while before she dies suddenly, possibly of a miscarriage.
The first son of Úrsula Iguarán and José Arcadio Buendía, from whom he inherits his amazing strength and his impulsive drive. After running off in pursuit of a gypsy girl, José Arcadio returns a savage brute of a man and marries Rebeca, the orphan adopted by the Buendías. He is the father, with Pilar Ternera, of Arcadio, and brother to Colonel Aureliano Buendía and Amaranta.
The earth-eating orphan girl who mysteriously arrives at the Buendía doorstep. Rebeca is adopted by the Buendí family. Rebeca infects the town with an insomnia that causes loss of memory. Rebeca seems to orphan herself from society and the Buendía family when, after her husband José Arcadio’s death, she becomes a hermit, never seen outside her dilapidated home.
The son of Colonel Aureliano Buendía and Pilar Ternera. Aureliano José becomes obsessed with his aunt, Amaranta, and joins his father’s army when she ends the affair. He deserts the army to return to her, however, but she rejects him, horrified. He is killed by Conservative soldiers.
The son of José Arcadio and Pilar Ternera. Arcadio, seemingly a gentle boy, becomes schoolmaster of the town. When Colonel Aureliano Buendía places him in charge of Macondo during the uprising, however, Arcadio proves a vicious dictator who is obsessed with order. He is killed when the conservatives retake the village. Arcadio marries Santa Sofía de la Piedad and is the father of Remedios the Beauty, Aureliano Segundo, and José Arcadio Segundo.
Read an in-depth analysis of Arcadio.
The quiet woman, almost invisible in this novel, who marries Arcadio and continues to live in the Buendía house for many years after his death, impassively tending to the family. She is the mother of Remedios the Beauty, Aureliano Segundo, and José Arcadio Segundo. She does not quite seem to exist in the real world, and when she grows old and tired, she simply walks out of the house, never to be heard from again.
The daughter of Santa Sofía de la Piedad and Arcadio, Remedios the Beauty becomes the most beautiful woman in the world: desire for her drives men to their deaths. Not comprehending her power over men, she remains innocent and childlike. One day, she floats to heaven, leaving Macondo and the novel abruptly.
The son of Arcadio and Santa Sofía de la Piedad, José Arcadio Segundo may have been switched at birth with his twin brother, Aureliano Segundo. Appalled by witnessing an execution at an early age, José Arcadio Segundo becomes thin, bony, solitary, and increasingly scholarly, like his great-uncle Colonel Aureliano Buendía. A cockfighter and a drifter, he finds purpose in leading the strikers against the banana company. He is the lone survivor of the massacre of the strikers, and when he finds that nobody believes the massacre occurred, he secludes himself in Melquíades’ old study, trying to decipher the old prophecies and preserving the memory of the massacre.
The son of Arcadio and Santa Sofía de la Piedad, Aureliano Segundo may have been switched at birth with his twin brother, José Arcadio Segundo. Despite an early interest in solitary study—characteristic of his great-uncle, Colonel Aureliano Buendía—Aureliano Segundo begins to show all the characteristics of the family’s José Arcadios: he is immense, boisterous, impulsive, and hedonistic. Although he loves the concubine Petra Cotes, he is married to the cold beauty Fernanda del Carpio, with whom he has three children: Meme, José Arcadio (II) and Amaranta Úrsula.
The wife of Aureliano Segundo and the mother of Meme, José Arcadio (II), and Amaranta Úrsula. Fernanda del Carpio was raised by a family of impoverished aristocrats; she is very haughty and very religious. Her hedonistic husband does not love her and maintains his relationship with his concubine, Petra Cotes. Fernanda del Carpio, meanwhile, tries unsuccessfully to impress her sterile religion and aristocratic manners on the Buendía house.
The eldest child of Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda del Carpio, Úrsula decides that José Arcadio (II) is supposed to become the Pope, but he in fact slides into dissolution and solitude. On his return from his unsuccessful trip to seminary in Italy, José Arcadio (II) leads a life of debauchery with local adolescents who eventually murder him and steal his money.
The daughter of Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda del Carpio, Amaranta Úrsula returns from her trip to Europe with a Belgian husband, Gaston. She wants to revitalize Macondo and the Buendía household, but it is too late: both are headed for inevitable ruin. She falls in love with her nephew, Aureliano (II), and gives birth to his child, whom they also name Aureliano (III) and who proves the last in the Buendía line. Born of incest, he has the tail of a pig. Amaranta dies in childbirth.
The Belgian husband of Amaranta Úrsula, Gaston is loving and cultured but feels isolated in the now-desolate Macondo. He travels to Belgium to start an airmail company, and, when he hears of the relationship between his wife and Aureliano (II), he never returns.
The daughter of Fernanda del Carpio and Aureliano Segundo, Meme’s real name is Renata Remedios. She feigns studiousness and docility to please her mother, but she is actually a hedonist like her father. When her mother discovers her illicit affair with Mauricio Babilonia, she posts a guard in front of the house; the guard ends up shooting Mauricio. He ends up paralyzed, and Meme is imprisoned in a convent where she spends the rest of her life. The product of her affair with Babilonia is Aureliano (II).
The illegitimate son of Meme and Mauricio Babilonia, Aureliano (II) is concealed by his scandalized grandmother, Fernanda del Carpio. He grows up a hermit in the Buendía household, only gradually acclimating himself to society. Aureliano (II) becomes a scholar, and it is he who eventually deciphers the prophecies of Melquíades. With his aunt, Amaranta Úrsula, he fathers the last in the Buendía line, the baby Aureliano (III), who dies soon after birth.
The gypsy who brings technological marvels to Macondo and befriends the Buendía clan. Melquíades is the first person to die in Macondo. Melquíades serves as José Arcadio Buendía’s guide in his quest for knowledge and, even after dying, returns to guide other generations of Buendías. Melquíades’ mysterious and undecipherable prophecies, which torment generations of Buendías, are finally translated by Aureliano (II) at the end of the novel—they contain the entire history of Macondo, foretold.
A local whore and madam. With José Arcadio, Pilar is the mother of Arcadio; with Colonel Aureliano Buendía, she is the mother of Aureliano José. She is also a fortune-teller whose quiet wisdom helps guide the Buendía family. She survives until the very last days of Macondo.
Aureliano Segundo’s concubine. Petra Cotes and Aureliano Segundo become extremely rich—their own love seems to inspire their animals to procreate unnaturally quickly. Even after the poverty caused by the flood, she stays with Aureliano Segundo; their deepened love is one of the purest emotions in the novel.
The sallow, solemn lover of Meme. Fernanda del Carpio disapproves of their affair, and she sets up a guard who shoots Mauricio Babilonia when he attempts to climb into the house for a tryst with Meme. As a result, Mauricio lives the rest of his life completely paralyzed. He fathers Meme’s child, Aureliano (II).
The gentle, delicate Italian musician who is loved by both Amaranta and Rebeca. Rebeca, however, chooses to marry the more manly José Arcadio. After Amaranta leads on Pietro and rejects him, Pietro commits suicide.
The comrade-in-arms of Colonel Aureliano Buendía. Colonel Gerineldo is the first to become tired of the civil war. He falls in love with Amaranta, who spurns him.
Father of Remedios Moscote and government-appointed magistrate of Macondo. Don Apolinar Moscote is a Conservative and helps rig the election so that his party will win. His dishonesty is partly why Colonel Aureliano Buendía first joins the Liberals.