A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

By Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Response By Gretel Dougherty



Angels are often portrayed as merciful heavenly beings capable of magic and linked with God. However, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez shows that perception and reality may be very different. The story is so abstract with so many elements that it can scarcely be made sense of. However, it seems to be an attack on religion at it’s core. Throughout the story, Marquez scatters small allusions to the fact that sometimes religion is not all it’s cracked up to be. The main message that this story conveys is that result oriented religion is not true faith.


In the very beginning of the story, a bedraggled elderly man with dingy wings suddenly arrives at a house in a small town, where a sick child and his parents were living. A neighbour concluded that he must be an angel, come to take the child away after death. The townspeople were quick to relinquish their freedom to his rule, expecting that he would provide them with miracles. People came from far and wide to implore him to heal their ailments, even though he was unwilling or unable to communicate with them. However, when he did not rise to the occasion the townspeople began treating him like a circus animal. They pulled out his feathers, threw stones at him, and even burned him with an iron, all in hopes of generating a response. The winged man did not comply, and remained as stoic as ever. If Pelayo and Elisenda, the parents of the sick child, had been paying attention, they may have noticed that throughout all the madness, their child’s health was steadily improving and they were becoming increasingly richer because of the fee they were charging to see the so called angel. But, they were too caught up in managing their new situation. This all died down, however, when a new oddity came to town. It was a girl who had been turned into a giant tarantula with the face of a human for disobeying her parents. The townspeople were more interested in her because her story provided an easily understood moral. She responded to their queries with lessons about her horrific experience. She did not simply lie in the chicken pen and withstand their attention like the winged man. While he may have been more majestic than she, a spider, people flocked to her because they received her attention and could relate to her.
The sole necessity of religion is trusting in things you do not understand, but the humans in this story were constantly searching for a moral, lesson, or miracle to validate their belief in the higher power. The true meaning of faith is living life as a beneficial and kind person, no matter if there is validation associated. When humans begin to expect a reward for their kindness, the act of kindness becomes obsolete. This kind of justified reward seeking leads to extreme greed, and the ultimate downfall of all religion should stand for.


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