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One Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel García Márquez

Chapters 10–11

Summary Chapters 10–11

The village of Macondo, at this point in the book, is beginning its long decline from the blissful innocence of former years. The announcement of the arrival of the train at the end of this chapter shows the sudden clash between Macondo’s old-fashioned simplicity and the modern world: the woman who sees the train first describes it as “a kitchen dragging a village behind it!” The modernity that the train introduces to the isolated town brings a period of growth that only serves to mask the decline of the true spirit of the town, the Buendía family. Úrsula Iguarán, whose common-sense wisdom so often proves correct in this novel, realizes it first: “The world is slowly coming to an end and those things [flying carpets and gypsy magic] don’t happen here anymore.” It is not that marvels do not come to Macondo; indeed, the technology brought by the train is far more miraculous than the magnets and telescopes that the gypsies used to bring. It is instead that the citizens of Macondo are losing their sense of the miraculous, the sense of dreamy wonderment that infused the first pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude.

While it is clear that the novel values exuberance and energy, in these chapters it becomes apparent that it rebels against the wielding of power and meaningless hierarchies. When Aureliano Segundo marries the beautiful-but-frigid Fernanda del Carpio, the novel seems to frown upon her attempts to infuse the Buendía household with false aristocratic pretensions and hollow religious values. Throughout is a skeptical look at the institution of organized religion. The characters whom the novel celebrates—especially Aureliano Segundo and José Arcadio Buendía—are not followers of organized Catholicism. José Arcadio Buendía mocks the local priest, and Aureliano Segundo keeps both a wife and a concubine and laughs at the idea of his son becoming pope. It is certainly implied that Macondo was a better place—with more freedom, lightheartedness, and spiritual integrity—before organized religion came to the city. This is not to say that One Hundred Years of Solitude is an anti-religious book. On the contrary, it places great stock in miracles and in faith. But the religion in One Hundred Years of Solitude, like the general moral and ethic value system of the book, rests lightly on its adherents. Religion is a matter, as the earliest inhabitants of the town tell the first priest who comes to Macondo, between man and God, free of intermediaries. One Hundred Years of Solitude suggests that life is best when lived with exuberance and with few inhibitions: certainly, most of the characters in the novel seem to be uninhibited by traditional religious morals, sexual or otherwise. Thus Fernanda del Carpio is made to seem foolish for her strict adherence to Catholic principles, while Petra Cotes, Aureliano Segundo’s lascivious concubine, seems to be rewarded for her promiscuous behavior with fabulous wealth.