A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Summary &Analysis

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A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Analysis

TitleA Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
AuthorGabriel García Márquez
Publication Year1968
GenreMagical realism
SettingA small coastal village
Main CharactersOld man, Pelayo, Elisenda
Spider Woman, Father Gonzaga

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Themes

  • Magical Realism – The blending of the fantastical and the mundane, where extraordinary events occur in an ordinary setting.
  • Human Nature and Superstition – The story explores the reactions of the townspeople to the old man and their desire for the miraculous, as well as their eventual apathy and shifting interests.
  • The Nature of Faith and Religion – The presence of the old man challenges the townspeople’s religious beliefs and their understanding of faith.

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Characters

The main characters in the story are:

  • Very Old Man – A winged man found by Pelayo and Elisenda in their courtyard. He is dirty, disheveled and unable to communicate with the townspeople.
  • Pelayo – The husband of Elisenda and the first person to discover the old man. He decides to keep the old man in a chicken coop.
  • Elisenda – Pelayo’s wife. She is initially intrigued by the old man but later becomes frustrated with him as he attracts crowds of onlookers.
  • Father Gonzaga – A priest who visits the town and tries to determine whether the old man is an angel or a devil.
  • The Spider Woman – A character who appears after the old man and attracts more attention than he does. She is depicted as having a human body with a spider’s head.

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Summary

Pelayo encounters a homeless, bewildered old guy with enormous wings in his courtyard one day while killing crabs after a thunderstorm that had lasted many days. The elderly guy is unclean and appears to be senile, speaking an incoherent language. After seeking advice from a woman in their neighbourhood, Pelayo and his wife, Elisenda, conclude that the older man must be an angel who tried to come and take their sick child to heaven. The neighbour woman advises Pelayo to bludgeon the angel to death, but Pelayo and Elisenda are sympathetic to their guest, particularly after their kid heals.

Pelayo and Elisenda keep the elderly guy in their chicken coop, and he quickly draws crowds of curious onlookers. The local priest, Father Gonzaga, informs the locals that the old guy is probably not an angel since he is filthy and does not speak Latin. Father Gonzaga opts to seek advice from his bishop.

Despite Father Gonzaga’s attempts, knowledge of the older man’s presence quickly spreads, and pilgrims flock to seek his wisdom and treatment. One woman arrives because she couldn’t stop counting her heartbeats since she was a youngster. An insomniac pays a visit because he believes the stars in the night sky are too loud. Elisenda finally charges admission since the crowd becomes so enormous and rowdy with the ill and inquisitive. The elderly guy mostly ignores the public, even when they pull his feathers & throw pebbles at him to get him to rise. He becomes outraged when the visitors scorch him with a branding iron to test whether he’s still alive.

Even while he awaits the Church’s decision on the older man, Father Gonzaga tries his best to keep the mob in check. When a travelling freak show enters Hamlet, the audience begins to depart. People come together to listen to the story of the spider woman, a woman who turned into a massive tarantula with a woman’s head because she didn’t obey her parents. The terrible tale of the spider woman is so well-known that people soon forget about the elderly guy, who had only performed a few meaningless semi-miracles for his travellers.

Despite this, both of them have become exceedingly affluent due to the admittance fees Elisenda has imposed. Pelayo quit his job and started building a new, bigger home. As the small boy gets older, the elderly guy stays with them for several years, staying in the chicken coop. After the chicken coop collapses, the older man takes shelter in the neighbouring shed, although he frequently roams from room to room, which significantly annoys Elisenda.

When both believe the older man is dying, he regains vigour. His feathers regrow & he starts singing sea chanteys (sailors’ songs) to himself at night. One fateful day, the older man unfurls his wings and takes flight, soaring into the sky. Elisenda watches in awe as he gradually disappears beyond the horizon.

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Questions

What is the story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings about?

It is a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez about a magical old man with wings who appears in a small coastal town and is treated as a curiosity.

What happens to the old man in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings?

The old man with wings is exhibited and exploited by the townspeople until he eventually flies away.

What is ironic about A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings?

The irony lies in the townspeople’s indifference and mistreatment of an extraordinary being amidst their longing for miracles and wonders.

What are the moral lessons in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings?

The moral lessons in the story are: the dangers of dehumanization, the importance of compassion and the limitations of religious dogma.

What is the religious message in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings?

The religious message in the tale is open to interpretation, but it often explores themes of faith, doubt, and the complex nature of human belief systems.

What is the thesis of A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings?

The thesis of the story is an exploration of human nature and the way society reacts to the unfamiliar and extraordinary.

What does the angel in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings symbolize?

The angel symbolizes humanity’s response to the extraordinary, exposing our capacity for both wonder and cruelty.

What happens to the angel at the end of A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings?

The angel in flies away, leaving the town behind and disappearing into the distance.

About the Author– Gabriel García Márquez

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Summary &Analysis
Full NameGabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez
Birth DateMarch 6, 1927
Birth PlaceAracataca, Magdalena, Colombia
Notable Works-One Hundred Years of Solitude
-Love in the Time of Cholera
-Chronicle of a Death Foretold
-The Autumn of the Patriarch
-No One Writes to the Colonel”
Literary StyleMagical realism
Major ThemesLove, solitude, time, memory, political turmoil, social injustice
Literary Awards-Nobel Prize in Literature (1982)
-Neustadt International Prize for Literature (1972)
-Rómulo Gallegos Prize (1972)
Notable Quote“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
Death DateApril 17, 2014
Death PlaceMexico City, Mexico

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