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Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas
explored in a literary work.
Although the realism and the magic that One Hundred
Years of Solitude includes seem at first to be opposites,
they are, in fact, perfectly reconcilable. Both are necessary in
order to convey Márquez’s particular conception of the world. Márquez’s
novel reflects reality not as it is experienced by one observer,
but as it is individually experienced by those with different backgrounds.
These multiple perspectives are especially appropriate to the unique
reality of Latin America—caught between modernity and pre-industrialization; torn
by civil war, and ravaged by imperialism—where the experiences of
people vary much more than they might in a more homogenous society.
Magical realism conveys a reality that incorporates the magic that
superstition and religion infuse into the world.
This novel treats biblical narratives and native Latin
American mythology as historically credible. This approach may stem
from the sense, shared by some Latin American authors, that important and
powerful strains of magic running through ordinary lives fall victim
to the Western emphasis on logic and reason. If García Márquez seems
to confuse reality and fiction, it is only because, from some perspectives,
fiction may be truer than reality, and vice versa. For instance,
in places like Márquez’s hometown, which witnessed a massacre much
like that of the workers in Macondo, unthinkable horrors may be
a common sight. Real life, then, begins to seem like a fantasy that
is both terrifying and fascinating, and Márquez’s novel is an attempt
to recreate and to capture that sense of real life.
From the names that return generation after generation
to the repetition of personalities and events, time in One
Hundred Years of Solitude refuses to divide neatly into
past, present, and future. Úrsula Iguarán is always the first to
notice that time in Macondo is not finite, but, rather, moves forward
over and over again. Sometimes, this simultaneity of time leads
to amnesia, when people cannot see the past any more than they can
see the future. Other times the future becomes as easy to recall
as the past. The prophecies of Melquíades prove that events in time
are continuous: from the beginning of the novel, the old gypsy was
able to see its end, as if the various events were all occurring
at once. Similarly, the presence of the ghosts of Melquíades and
José Arcadio Buendía shows that the past in which those men lived
has become one with the present.
Although language is in an unripe, Garden-of-Eden state
at the beginning of One Hundred Years of Solitude, when
most things in the newborn world are still unnamed, its function
quickly becomes more complex. Various languages fill the novel,
including the Guajiro language that the children learn, the multilingual
tattoos that cover José Arcadio’s body, the Latin spoken by José
Arcadio Buendía, and the final Sanskrit translation of Melquíades’s
prophecies. In fact, this final act of translation can be seen as
the most significant act in the book, since it seems to be the one
that makes the book’s existence possible and gives life to the characters
and story within.
As García Márquez makes reading the final apocalyptic
force that destroys Macondo and calls attention to his own task
as a writer, he also reminds us that our reading provides the fundamental first
breath to every action that takes place in One Hundred Years
of Solitude. While the novel can be thought of as something
with one clear, predetermined meaning, García Márquez asks his reader
to acknowledge the fact that every act of reading is also an interpretation,
and that such interpretations can have weighty consequences. Aureliano
(II), then, does not just take the manuscripts’ meanings for granted,
but, in addition, he must also translate and interpret them and
ultimately precipitate the destruction of the town.
Ace your assignments with our guide to One Hundred Years of Solitude!