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Gabriel Garcia Marquez uses imagery and symbolism throughout his entire short story from beginning to end. One of the most significant uses of symbolism in this text would be the old man or the angel that the village encounters which represents light and dirt. Angels in common knowledge are described to be beautiful heavenly creatures or beings. Marquez can play off this traditional symbol because of the angel’s wings specifically. In the story, the angel/old man’s wings are described to be dirty, disheveled and unembellished. Marquez gives irony to this angel. Instead of being an angel of beauty and miracles, it is instead some sort of reaper or deathly figure. However, as unclean as the angel’s wings may be, it still seems to bring attention to thousands of villagers and travelers. Regardless of what us the reader believes or imagines the angel to be, the characters however seem to treat the angel as if he were an ordinary homeless man. Soon the village doctor surveys the old man, he notes how naturally the angel/old man’s unique wings appropriate with the rest of his body. The doctor marvels at why the rest of the village’s people do not have wings as well. This would in result, suggest that the old man is an ordinary and mystic being all at once. Giving the angel or old man the description of not being fully human or dreamlike whatsoever. Which brings light to the question; Would we shift our views on angels today, had this angel ever been discovered by us?
More so, the angel seems to have a connection with a newborn child who seems to have fallen ill as soon as the angel arrives. However, this illness appears to be short-lived as soon as the angel is thrown into a cage and is locked up inside a chicken coop. This gives the reader the hint that the angel’s sudden presence could have had something to do with the newborn’s health status. As soon as the angel arrived, the child falls ill, and after a short time is locked away which in result recuperates the child’s health. The child’s health improving is not the only blessing for the town, but they start to use the angel as a sort of circus-attraction. As way to gain as much monetary value as possible. The angel soon starts to deteriorate from this point on, which result him losing his eyesight, and his feathers falling away as well. We the reader seem to start sympathizing with the angel. This is when we start to remember the fact that the angel is too a living being like the rest of the townspeople.
In conclusion, the old man or angel represents light and dirt. I believe that Marquez wanted us the reader to find the beauty within the ugly and the ordinary. That is what Pelayo and Elisenda cannot do. To them, the old man is a filthy person often seen as nothing more than a homeless person, even if they refer to him as an angel. However, the narrator visualizes him as being beautiful as well. The angel may look unsettling and maybe even crazy, but it does not in any way throw away the fact that he too is in fact a living creature. And we the readers thank the narrator for helping us seeing this fact.
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