A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the author of the short story, was born on March 6, 1927, in Aracataca. Gabriel's parents were pharmacists Gabriel Eligio Garcia and Luisa Santiaga. Due to work commitments, his parents were apart from him, leaving the burden of raising him to his maternal grandparents.

The Influence of His Grandparents

The grandparents, Dona Tranquilina Iguaran and Colonel Nicolas Ricardo Marquez Mejia, raised Gabriel Garcia until his grandfather died in 1937. Gabriel Garcia moved in with his parents after his father died before he was old enough to survive on his own. While living with his grandparents, his grandmother narrated to him many stories about ghosts and premonitions while his grandfather took him to see circus performances encouraging the art of magic realism in his writing as shown in the story.

The Importance of Fiction

The movement of his parents to Barranquilla left him under the care of his maternal grandparents (Márquez and Gene 118). As such Gabriel Garcia spent the most time with his parents drawing motivation from them. The grandmother, for instance, narrated to him many fictional stories. The stories aimed at keeping him busy and keeping his mind contented. The aspect of fiction in the stories made him incorporate the art into his stories. In the short story, Gabriel Garcia speaks about an old man with wings who Paleyo and his wife Elisenda found in their compound. The description of the creature seems to be similar to that of an angel. However, the creature could not fly leading to the couple taking it and locking it in the chicken coop. The villagers are eager to see the animal due to the unique characteristics.

Incorporating Fiction into Reality

The fictional creature seems to originate from the fictional stories narrated by the grandmother. In the story, the villagers also encounter a spider-girl that bears the look of a spider but with the ability to communicate in a dialect that is familiar to the locals. The girl disrespected the parents and as punishment, she turned into a spider. The changing of a human being to spider with the ability to communicate shows an exceptional use of fiction in the story. The villagers preferred to view the spider girl instead of the old man with wings because she could communicate and respond to their questions making her more interesting. The old man could talk, but the villagers lacked the ability to decipher the meaning of his words. The works of fiction were evident in the physical appearances of the two creatures and their additional capabilities. The spider woman could talk while the old man could fly.

Teaching from the Grandparents

Apart from fiction, the grandparents tried to instill discipline in him by teaching him how to respect life. The grandfather was a former soldier in the war. He kept insisting to Gabriel Garcia that the burden of carrying a dead man was massive. The grandparents ensured that he respected the life of all human beings. The grandparents showed him that evil actions had repercussions. For example, the grandfather spoke of carrying the guilt of a dead man in the conscience which was a weighty issue. The grandmother also gave many stories on bad omens in addition to the fictional stories. The example is evident from the story where the young girl turns into a spider for disobeying her parents. Gabriel Garcia communicates the value of respecting parents which are a value passed to him by the grandparents.

The Value of Obedience

Besides, the girl can talk to explain to the people the importance of obedience. The story, using the Spider-girl, communicates the repercussion of failing to disrespect the parents which lead to punishment. The new appearance of the girl that resembled a spider was an example f a bad omen that befalls young people who fail to respect their parents. When a child is young, the teachings of the figure of authority in the house create valuable lessons in the life of the child. The absence of the parents when Gabriel Garcia was growing up led to the acknowledgment of the grandparents as the source of authority. Therefore, Gabriel Garcia took the stories offered by the grandparents seriously to the point of incorporating them into the story. Most of the ideas presented in the story seem to originate from his experiences as a child and those in particular influenced by the stories narrated by the grandparents.

The Influence of the Circus

During the times when the grandfather was not busy, he took Gabriel Garcia to the circus. At the circus, they paid the entrance fees and enjoyed the entertainment from the acrobats and trained animals. The facilitators of the circus used the events to earn an income and raise their living standards. From a tender age, Gabriel Garcia got exposure to many ways of building an income. His parents had moved to another town to work and earn a living. In the story, Pelayo and Elisenda lead impoverished lives where crabs got into the house after rainfall (Márquez and Gregory 1). The ability of the crabs to move into the house shows the poor state of the room which was easily accessible by the crabs. However, the presence of the old man with wings attracted the villagers in huge numbers.

The Power of Charging

The creature was very strange making people gather around in trying to figure the type and origin of the animal. Pelayo and Elisenda locked the creature in the chicken coop and charged for the people to see the creature. The charges did not hinder the people from coming in high numbers. The charges generated a huge income for the family. The revenue improved their lives to the point of building a new house that was better than the previous one. Gabriel Garcia borrowed the idea of charging to see the creature from his past experiences where they paid to get entertainment from the circus. Pelayo and Elisenda took advantage of the situation to raise the quality of their lives by charging to see the old man with wings.


The short story created by Gabriel Garcia draws inspiration from the experiences with his grandparents in his childhood days. His grandparents narrated many stories to him with magical realism making him incorporate the theme in his short story. The presence of two creatures with extraordinary appearances symbolizes the incorporation of fiction in the story. Also, Gabriel Garcia incorporates life teachings passed to him by the parents. The story shows it is wrong for the young people to disobey their parents and he puts it forward by showing a scenario where a girl turned into a spider for disobedience to parents. Gabriel uses his experience in paying for the circus to motivate the couple of Pelayo and Elisenda to charge the villagers and improve their lives. The life of Gabriel Garcia acts as the motivation necessary in writing the story. It is evident that the absence of the parents prompted him to use the experience with the grandparents as the source of ideas in writing the story.

Works Cited

Márquez, Gabriel, and Gene H. Villada. Conversations with Gabriel García Márquez. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006. Print.

Márquez, Gabriel, and Gregory Rabassa. A very old man with enormous wings: and the sea of lost time. London: Penguin Books, 2014. Print.

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