A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Márquez: The Role of Understanding in People’s Views

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 614 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Sep 1, 2020

Words: 614|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Sep 1, 2020


Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Plot of the Story and Its Meanings
  3. "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings": Theme and Symbols
  4. Cultural and literary context
  5. Conclusion


Gabriel García Márquez's short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" focuses on the theme of the complex nature of human behavior when confronted with the extraordinary and the unfamiliar. Through the allegorical portrayal of an old man with wings and a young girl transformed into a spider, García Márquez explores themes of compassion, cruelty, and the inherent desire for understanding. This essay aims to delve deeper into the plot, characters, and underlying meanings of the story, while also analyzing its broader implications on human nature.

'Why Violent Video Games Shouldn't Be Banned'?

Plot of the Story and Its Meanings

At the onset of the narrative, Pelayo discovers an old man with wings lying face down in the mud, resembling a fallen angel. His wife, Elisenda, initially believes the old man to be an angel sent to heal their sick child. Despite the skepticism of their neighbors, Pelayo and Elisenda decide to shelter the old man in their chicken coop, where he becomes a spectacle for curious villagers. This decision sets the stage for a stark examination of human behavior and societal attitudes towards the unknown.

Despite the initial intrigue surrounding the old man, the villagers' fascination quickly turns to exploitation and cruelty. They poke and prod at the old man, plucking his feathers and subjecting him to various indignities in an attempt to elicit miraculous acts. This mistreatment highlights humanity's tendency to objectify and dehumanize the unfamiliar, as well as our propensity for selfishness and exploitation.

Meanwhile, the character of the spider woman offers a stark contrast to the old man. Unlike the enigmatic angel, the spider woman's transformation is grounded in human tragedy and relatable moral failings. Her story of disobedience and divine punishment resonates with the villagers, who find her plight more accessible and understandable than that of the angel. This juxtaposition underscores the human tendency to gravitate towards the familiar and the comprehensible, even when confronted with the miraculous.

"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings": Theme and Symbols

García Márquez employs rich symbolism and allegory to convey deeper layers of meaning within the story. The old man with wings serves as a symbol of the unknown and the divine, challenging societal norms and preconceived notions of reality. His presence forces the villagers to confront their own beliefs and biases, exposing the fragility of their moral compasses in the face of the extraordinary.

The mistreatment of the old man also serves as a critique of human greed and exploitation. The villagers' relentless pursuit of miracles and spectacle reflects a broader societal obsession with the sensational and the miraculous, often at the expense of basic human decency. In their quest for validation and entertainment, they lose sight of the old man's humanity, reducing him to a mere object of curiosity and amusement.

Conversely, the spider woman's story resonates with the villagers precisely because it mirrors their own experiences and struggles. Her transformation from human to spider serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of disobedience and moral ambiguity. Yet, despite her grotesque appearance, the villagers empathize with her plight, recognizing elements of their own humanity reflected in her story.

Cultural and literary context

To fully appreciate the complexities of García Márquez's narrative, it is essential to consider the story within its broader cultural and literary context. "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" draws heavily from Latin American magical realism, a genre characterized by its blending of the mundane with the fantastical. Through this lens, the story can be seen as a commentary on the socio-political realities of Latin America, where the miraculous and the mundane often coexist in uneasy harmony.

Moreover, the themes explored in the story are universal and timeless, resonating with readers across cultures and generations. The dichotomy between compassion and cruelty, the allure of the unknown, and the complexities of human nature are themes that have fascinated storytellers and philosophers for centuries. By examining these themes through the lens of García Márquez's narrative, we gain insight into the enduring mysteries of the human condition.

Get a custom paper now from our expert writers.


In "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," Gabriel García Márquez invites readers to contemplate the complexities of human nature and the moral dilemmas inherent in our interactions with the unknown. Through vivid imagery, rich symbolism, and nuanced characterization, García Márquez crafts a narrative that challenges our preconceptions and prompts us to reconsider our place in the world. Ultimately, the story serves as a poignant reminder of the power of empathy, the dangers of exploitation, and the enduring quest for understanding in a world fraught with mystery and wonder.


  1. García Márquez, G. (1984). A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. In Leaf Storm and Other Stories (pp. 3-10). Harper & Row.
  2. Bell-Villada, G. H. (1990). García Márquez: The Man and His Work (Rev. ed.). The University of North Carolina Press.
  3. Bloom, H. (Ed.). (1989). Gabriel García Márquez (Modern Critical Views). Chelsea House Publishers.
  4. Bell, M. (1994). Gabriel García Márquez: Solitude and Solidarity. St. Martin’s Press.
  5. Martin, G. (Ed.). (1999). Gabriel García Márquez: A Life. Knopf.
Image of Dr. Charlotte Jacobson
This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Márquez: the Role of Understanding in People’s Views. (2020, September 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from
“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Márquez: the Role of Understanding in People’s Views.” GradesFixer, 01 Sept. 2020,
A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Márquez: the Role of Understanding in People’s Views. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Feb. 2024].
A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Márquez: the Role of Understanding in People’s Views [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Sept 01 [cited 2024 Feb 29]. Available from:
Keep in mind: This sample was shared by another student.
  • 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help
  • Custom essay delivered in as few as 3 hours
Write my essay

Still can’t find what you need?

Browse our vast selection of original essay samples, each expertly formatted and styled


Where do you want us to send this sample?

    By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.


    Be careful. This essay is not unique

    This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

    Download this Sample

    Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts


    Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.



    Please check your inbox.

    We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!


    Get Your
    Personalized Essay in 3 Hours or Less!

    We can help you get a better grade and deliver your task on time!
    • Instructions Followed To The Letter
    • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
    • Unique And Plagiarism Free
    Order your paper now