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The Master of Short Forms, Gene H, Bell-Villada,


EXPLORING Short Stories . Online ed, Detroit: Gale, 2003,

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The Master of Short Forms


Table of Contents:Essay

'The Master of Short Forms,lI in Garcia Marquez~' The Man and His Work, The
University of North Carolina Press, '1990, pp, 119-38"

[In the following excerpt, Bell-Villada asserts that lIA Very Old Man with
Enormous Wings" contains parodies of typical fairy-tale characteristics that are
commonly expected by the reader, such as the depiction of the winged stranger
as an angel, He also examines Garcia Marquez's comic but good-natured
portrayal of his characters]
ll
"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is subtitled "A Tate for Children ll but l

what fairy-tale characteristics it has are affectionately parodied throughout. On


one hand, there is unmistakable magic in the arrival of the winged humanoid, the
apparent angel who seems to have crash-landed in the courtyard of Pelayo and
Elisenda, a modest rural couple living in a coastal village, On the other hand,
everything about the visitor completely contradicts our standard, mythified,
Western image of God's angels" Rather than stereotypically young, heroic-
looking, and blond, with sumptuous garments and wings all in white, Garcia
Marquez's mysterious stranger is dressed in rags, is nearly bald and toothless,
and has soiled "buzzard wings" strewn with parasites, His being temporarily
lodged in the chicken coop further detracts from the dignity we normally expect
of otherworldly creatures.

At the same time the official emissaries of the Catholic faith show their comic
limitations, Father Gonzaga may bear the name of a legendary ,Jesuit saint and
hero, and indeed he is a robust former woodcutter, but his expectation that the
angel should know Latin as "the language of God" demonstrates his innocence
of scriptural Hebrew and Greek" Meanwhile in perfect medieval fashion, the
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learned argufiers in Rome debate endlessly as to whether the man in question


possesses a navel or speaks Aramaic (the language Jesus probably spoke), and
they even ask how many times-that old Scholastic chestnut-the stranded
angel could fit on the head of a pin! (The simplest solution, of course, would be

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for the churchmen to betake themselves to the Caribbean village and use the
evidence of their eyes and ears; but their Scholastic doctrine has yet to catch up
with the empirical method . ) Still, it cannot be denied that the visitor has the
divine capacity to perfon'll miracles, however skewed they be-such as giving a
blind man three new teeth or having sunflowers sprout on a leper's sores .
Perhaps they are practical jokes he plays on the gawking townspeople.

For the ordinary folk in this story-their notions as well as their ailments-come
across as equally comical,: the rustic who thinks the angel should be "mayor of
the world," or the invalid woman who counts her heartbeats, or the Portuguese
man disturbed by the noises of the stars, Garcia Marquez's humor with his
fictive villagers, it should be noted. is mostly gentle and good-natured, The only
dark rnoment comes toward the end, when Pelayo and Elisenda, having gotten
rich from exhibiting "their" angel, now build a mansion, and she wears satin
shoes and fine silks,. In the meantime the very source of their wealth is shooed
around and out of the house by Elisenda with her broorn, to be finally consigned
to the shed. His wings are healing, however, and one spring day he flies off just
as Elisenda is peeling onions (the same effect of Fernanda's sheets in One
Hundred Years), and the onetime moneymaker-turned-nuisance recedes as "a
dot on the horizon of the sea" before he disappears for good . Without
demonstrating the aggressive satire of Luis Bunuel in movies such as Simon of
the Desert or The Milky Way, Garcia Marquez shares in the great Spanish film
director's laughing sensibility.. ,,,

Source Citation:
Bell-Vii/ada, Gene H. "The Master of Short Forms." EXPLORING Short Stories"
Online ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003" Discovering Collection" Gale. Upper S1. Clair
High School. 11 Mar.. 2009 <http://find.galegroup"com/srcx/infomark.do?
&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&tabID=T001 &prodld=DC
&docld=EJ2112200430&sQurce=gale&srcprod=DISC
&userGroupName=uppe55745&version=1.0>.

Gale Document Number:


EJ2112200430

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