The Story ‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ examines the human response to the under dog- weak, dependent beings. The response is that of callousness and cruelty. For instance after their child recovers, the couple decide to put the old man to sea on a raft with provisions for three days rather than dubbing him to death. Again once they realize they can earn money by showcasing him, they cage him in a chicken coop at the mercy of strangers who gawk at him, pelt him with stones and even brand him.
On the other hand, as opposed to the callousness and exploitation, the old man is extremely patient. His refusal to leave for the sake of the poor couple is an act of compassion.
In this story there is a distinctive blend of fantasy and realism. The homely details of Pelayo and Elisenda life are combined with fantastic elements such as a flying man and a spider woman to create a tone of a fairy tale. There is a mingling of the fantastic and the ordinary in all the descriptions – The relentless rain, the swarm of crabs and it is in this dreamlike setting that the old man with wings appears.
The satiric tone mocks the church and human nature. The author criticizes the church through Father Gonzago. The church’s wait and see tactic makes it sound too literal minded and out of touch with the basic elements of reality. There is a narrowness of wisdom that afflicts everyone from the wise neighbour woman to the crowds of onlookers and pilgrims with their selfish concerns. Elisenda wants to keep her house ‘angel free’.
‘Wings’ in the story represent power, speed and limitless freedom of motion. Angels are often represented as winged creatures. Marquez subverts all these ideas, and presents them ironically. The wings of the angel convey a sense of age and disease but still are a source of attraction to pilgrims’ The doctor examines the old man and finds that the wings are natural and supernatural at the same time. The ultimate aim of the author is to suggest that the old man has the wings of an angel but the frailties of a human.
The Spiderwoman represents the fickle minded nature of human beings. The villagers find the heart wrenching story of the spider woman more credible than the ‘minor miracles’ of the old man. They find more pity for the spider woman where as the old man’s situation is obscure in their eyes.