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As a result of Úrsula Iguarán’s discovery of a route connecting Macondo with civilization, the village begins to change. The village grows along with the Buendía family, with José Arcadio Buendía playing a key role in the expansion of both. Pilar Ternera gives birth to the son of the missing José Arcadio. The boy is named Arcadio. Joining the family, too, is an orphan girl, Rebeca, who arrives mysteriously one day and whose origin is unclear. Nevertheless, the Buendías raise her as one of their own children, first conquering her self-destructive habits of eating dirt and whitewash. Rebeca, it soon becomes evident, is afflicted with an insomnia that also causes memory loss. Eventually, the entire town becomes infected with insomnia and the associated amnesia. To facilitate memory, the inhabitants of the town begin to label everything; First they put up a giant sign to remind themselves that god exists, and then dread the day when the labels will have no meaning because the residents will have forgotten how to read. Pilar Ternera, who tells fortunes on a deck of cards, now uses the cards to tell the past as well. The insomnia is only cured when, unexpectedly, Melquíades the gypsy returns to town bearing an antidote. Melquíades, who, it seems, has returned from the dead, brings with him a technology never before seen in Macondo, the daguerreotype; José Arcadio Buendía sets to work trying to make a daguerreotype of God, to prove His existence. Aureliano, José Arcadio Buendía’s second son, has become a master silversmith. He spends his days shut up in the laboratory that he shares with Melquíades, each of them obsessively absorbed with their strange pursuits. Now mature, Aureliano remains solitary and aloof, apparently uninterested in women.
As the family and village expand, Ursula vastly expands the Buendía house. The town magistrate, a representative of the central government newly arrived in the formerly autonomous Macondo, attempts to dictate the color their house will be painted. José Arcadio Buendía drives the magistrate, Don Apolinar Moscote, out of town, and when Moscote returns—accompanied by his family and several soldiers—Buendía forces him to forfeit much of his authority over the village. Despite his father’s enmity toward the magistrate, however, Aureliano falls in love with the magistrate’s youngest daughter, Remedios Moscote.
Lonely and despairing, Aureliano sleeps with Pilar Ternera, the same woman whom his older brother had impregnated, and she helps Aureliano in his campaign to marry Remedios. While Aureliano is pining over the impossibly young Remedios, the Buendía family’s two girls—Amaranta and the adoptee Rebeca—both fall in love with a stranger, Pietro Crespi, who has come to Macondo to install a pianola in the Buendía house. They make themselves sick with love: Rebeca goes back to eating earth and whitewash, and Crespi decides he wants to marry her. The marriages—of Rebeca to Crespi and Aureliano to Remedios—are arranged, even though Amaranta, wildly jealous of Rebeca, vows to stop her marriage.
When the gypsy Melquíades slowly passes away, he is the first person to die in Macondo. After his mourning period is over, a semblance of happiness descends on the house: Pietro Crespi and Rebeca are in love, courting, and Aureliano is becoming closer to his future bride, Remedios. Even the news that Pilar Ternera is pregnant with his child does not bother Aureliano. But the happiness does not last. Amaranta’s threat to destroy Rebeca’s wedding deeply troubles Rebeca. José Arcadio Buendía, exhausted by his endless research into the unknown, slips into insanity. He has visions of the man he killed early in his life and is wracked with sorrow over the solitude of death. He becomes convinced that the same day is repeating itself over and over again. He begins to rage, tearing up the house, and it takes twenty men to drag him out and tie him to a tree in the backyard, where he remains until the end of his life, many years later.
It might be said that Macondo’s evolution is a parable, evocative of the typical arc of human societal progress, and that the village is a microcosm for all of human civilization. In this section, the technological and social changes that accompany modernization cause the society to become more cosmopolitan, containing both greater wealth and greater social problems than Macondo did in its earlier state. Increased traffic through the town brings prosperity, but it also brings some of the horrors associated with capitalism. For example, Aureliano stumbles into a tent where a girl is being forced to sleep with many men consecutively—it will take seventy a night, for ten more years, to pay off her family’s debts. The town is also changed by governmental interference that contact with the outside world allows. José Aureliano Buendía has his first encounter in this section with the civil authorities that will increasingly seize control of the town. Gradually, it is suggested, so-called progress brings loss of innocence and potential sources of conflict.
But the changes happening to the city go beyond a simple allegory of political change in world history. The conflict between José Arcadio Buendía’s style of government and the regulations brought in by the magistrate reflects a political agenda that is very specific to García Márquez and Latin America. García Márquez is well known as a friend of Fidel Castro, a Communist, and revolutionary sympathizer. José Arcadio Buendía’s Macondo is a utopian portrait of what an ideally communist society might be like. He has mapped out the city so that every house has equal access to water and shade, and he tells the magistrate that “in this town we do not give orders with pieces of paper.” Later on, we will see that this early utopia cannot last, and Macondo will become embroiled in a revolution against a harshly regulatory government. If García Márquez appears to support an idealistically communist vision of what society should be like, his strong reaction against dictatorship and oppression indicates his disapproval of the oppressive tendencies that have come to be associated with the reality of communism.
One way the residents of Macondo respond to these changes is by embracing solitude more and more. In this section, the Buendías—José Arcadio Buendía and his second son, Aureliano—first begin to turn away from society, to devote themselves single-mindedly to their crafts and intellectual pursuits. José Arcadio Buendía goes insane, his mind crumbling under the pressure of his solitary musings, and he has to be tied to a tree. Symbolically, this tree is reminiscent of Eden’s Tree of Knowledge, the same tree whose fruit José Arcadio Buendía has dared to eat. Aureliano’s solitude seems inborn: like the village itself, he is simply happier when left alone. He seems to feel love for Remedios Moscote, but when she dies, later in the book, he feels no great sorrow. Emotions seem beyond him, as do relationships, and he is fundamentally detached from people and feelings. It will be revealed throughout the novel that this is the curse of much of the Buendía family, whose intensity of emotion and inwardness cannot accommodate social interaction. Those family members who are not solitary and hermetic, of course—like Aureliano Segundo—are radical extroverts. One of the complexities of One Hundred Years of Solitude is that even as the narrator treats the story very seriously and realistically, he also points out morals in the narrative, sometimes treating it like a fable. What is suggested in the fable of the solitary Buendías is perhaps that human society is fundamentally polarizing and perhaps ultimately unfulfilling. Man is uncomfortable in society, and—as Aureliano and then José Arcadio Segundo discover—when he is alone, he may find comfort, but no great joy.
The reference in Chapter 4 to Big Mama’s funeral, which will happen more than a hundred years after Melquíades is buried, reflects another aspect of Márquez’s body of work: its intertextuality and web of connections among many of his short stories and novels. Though only touched on in One Hundred Years of Solitude, this funeral is the subject of a short story by García Márquez entitled “Big Mama’s Funeral.” Although it was published in 1962, five years before One Hundred Years of Solitude, “Big Mama’s Funeral” mentions Colonel Aureliano Buendía and his war. Macondo is also mentioned in a number of other García Márquez stories, including his early work, Leaf Storm. These crossovers give García Márquez’s body of work an almost mythical status; he has created not just a fiction, but a mythology of place and history.
Ace your assignments with our guide to One Hundred Years of Solitude!