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One Hundred Years of Solitude

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Summary

Chapters 14–15

Summary Chapters 14–15

The contrast between the harrowing nature of the workers’ massacre and the frank manner in which it is told can be explained by García Márquez’s use of personal recollections in the construction of his fictional plots. There is very little sensationalist talk about blood and gore. The machine gun fire is compared to a “whirlwind,” and the crowd of workers to an “onion.” The episode is over in a few pages, and it is almost immediately forgotten by everyone in town except José Arcadio Segundo. But García Márquez’s matter-of-fact tone does nothing to lessen the horror of the incident. On the contrary, the massacre seems all the more brutal for the machine-like quality of its perpetrators and for the concise prose in which it is told, as if the author himself was too horrified to spend much time writing about the incident. This is not surprising, since the massacre was inspired by a horrific episode in García Márquez’s own experience. As a child, García Márquez lived near a banana plantation, and, when the workers at the plantation went on strike, they were killed with machine guns and thrown into the ocean.

It is not only García Márquez’s experiences and memories that are folded into the narrative but his political beliefs as well. In the story of Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s fight for the Liberal party, it is impossible not to notice García Márquez’s sympathy for the Liberals and their cause and his disdain for the corrupt Conservative government. These political parties, and the war between them, are not entirely fictional. Instead, the parties and the uprisings are fictionalized incarnations of the political struggles in García Márquez’s native Colombia. Similarly, it is difficult to read García Márquez’s chapters about the banana company in Macondo without recognizing that the underlying subtext is the history of Western imperialism in Latin America. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, García Márquez depicts the capitalist imperialism of the banana companies as voracious and harmful to the inhabitants of Macondo. Capitalism and imperialism, supported by the country’s Conservative government, bring corruption and brutality to Macondo and oppression to the inhabitants. García Márquez is not simply writing fiction but is telling a story about politics and life in Latin America, speaking as the representative of an entire culture. One Hundred Years of Solitude is fiction that shoulders the burdens of social and cultural responsibility.