The short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is a tale about an appearance of an old man with wings in a mundane decaying town. The author utilizes magic realism as a technique to drive the plot. Despite seemingly being an angel, the entity did not physically represent typical symbolic representations of the heavenly creatures that are holy and majestic. Nevertheless, it can be argued that the old man is indeed an angel because of indirect actions and events that were unfolding in the context of his presence.
From the beginning, it is evident that the old man is not a typical angel, at least not as imagined by human folklore. He has the wings which are later described as a natural part of his anatomy, and he is human-like through and through. It can be argued that he is an angel because of his powers and ongoing events around him (outside the fact that he can fly). When people come to him, miraculous things occur, but because it is not a cure or not what they may have wanted, they are dismissed as miracles. However, the most important element is the mysterious connection that the child, or at least the child’s fate has to the angel. “’He’s an angel,’ she told them. ‘He must have been coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old that the rain knocked him down’” (Marquez). While initially the child getting better with the angel’s appearance may seem coincidental, it becomes more apparent that there is a much deeper relation. Potentially, the angel was not coming for the child, but to save the little boy, and by doing so also taking on his ailments and suffering, bearing them through the ordeals with patience. This reflects some of the themes of Christianity, of heavenly entities suffering for the salvation and well-being of humans, oftentimes without their understanding or appreciation.
It is important to note how Marquez presents the entity in the story. He specifically uses linguistic characteristics and stylistic attributes to portray the old man as inferior, subordinate. Most of the associated verbs are intransitive, passive, static, and negative. He is purposefully shown as apathetic and powerless character, with significant negative connotation and attributes to him. This stylistic approach is utilized to demonstrate power dynamics (Alhawamdeh et al. 454). However, it also introduces a sense of irony in a way. The humans which are self-proclaimed Christians, ranging from the family to the townsfolk to the priest are all demonstrating sins such as gluttony, hate, judgment, lack of faith, and others.
The humans have more power over him in the context of the story of the earthly domain, but the unseen effects of the angel are intentionally hidden beyond these power dynamics. Therefore, when the angel leaves, and nobody, including Pelayo and Elisenda whose life and child was so drastically impacted by the angel’s presence, even cares because they are so blindly grounded in their selfish ignorance.
Alhawamdeh1, H. A., et al. “Stylistic Narrative of “Otherness”: A Study of Power Relations in John Steinbeck’s “The Murder” and Gabriel García Márquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”.” Human and Social Sciences, vol. 46, no. 4, 2018, pp. 449-459.
Marquez, Gabriel G. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.” NDSU.