The Balding, Toothless, Castaway – with Wings
Marquez’s A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings revolves on the genre of magic realism, where the unnatural events and characters are interspersed with the daily activities of human life.
The story presents the two main topics of interest – the old and withering winged man and the small community around it. Magical characters are of a natural thing when it comes to this genre and the response of the people around it implies a subtle reality where the realms of magic and the real world meet halfway.
The story does not present a clear moral perspective or lesson in the end. Rather, it only presents a straightforward storytelling style designed to give the reader an opportunity to think of different subjective possibilities. There are no genuine expressions of shock or exclaim over the appearances of these characters. In this case, the angel appears as though it is a part of their reality wherein it is viewed as something ordinary.
The characters in the story view the angel as divine, even in his pathetic physical state. However, after the town priest carefully examined the angel, they have deduced that he was an impostor, for he did not know the language of God. Although angels are closely associated with Christian teachings, the divinity of the angel in the story is concentrated more on the magical rather than the religious aspect.
The angel—a decrepit old man with half-plucked wings infected with parasites—may be related to the struggles that the human soul experiences in the eventuality of submission from the burden of mortal problems. The angel symbolizes decay and the slow death of the soul as he tries to relieve all his burdens.
There are several notions on the symbolisms of the angel and its wings. First, as a general figure without cultural or religious basis, the angel may be regarded as simply a man with wings coming from some shipwreck across the sea.
However, the story made no mention of the origins of the man, nor the reasons why he has wings attached naturally to his body. As Pelayo and Elisinda observed, it was a toothless, balding old man that could have been easily mistaken as someone from a foreign country. But the wings make the character all the more mysterious. Thus, upon their consultation from their neighbor who knew the “workings of life,” the latter immediately responded that it was an angel sent to claim their sick child’s life (Marquez 388).
The experience of the townspeople with the angel also implies the contextual definition and nature of the community. They immediately impose in their consciousness that it is in fact an angel and quickly resort to several propositions in order to use this divine entity for the benefit of the human race.
The simplest of the proposals is to make the angel as mayor of the world. The more radical ones suggest that he be made either as a five-star general in order to win all wars or as a genetically perfect parental source in order to make all human beings wise and conquer the universe. These reactions are the natural impulse of man to associate divinity on earth as a universal solution to mortal problems.
This divinity is a structured action that delimits the capacity of human act as incompetent and incapable compared to the powers of the divine. Human beings, upon the proper circumstances, will willingly submit themselves to a higher order or a divine power in order to take over and create a perfect society.
These propositions also deal with human freedom, where the townspeople entrusts their problems to divine solution. Although the divine effects were in a sense magical and comical (blind man who, instead of regaining vision, grows extra teeth), the townspeople did not view the angel’s abilities as a proper divine capability because of the lack to completely heal people.