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One Hundred Years of Solitude

  • Study Guide

Chapters 3–4

Summary Chapters 3–4

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.