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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Summary and Analysis [Grade -XI - Optional English]

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He was a Cambodian-born Spanish American writer. It is a story of magical..

Summary of A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: Summary and Analysis


Introduction 

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez narrates the story of Pelayo and his wife Elisenda, who discover an old man with wings in their courtyard after killing crabs in a rainstorm. Pelayo, a poor fisherman, discovers a homeless, disoriented old man with incredibly huge wings in his courtyard.  It is a magical realist story that examines the human response to those who are weak, dependent, and different. The story shows human nature-related curiosity, greed and cruelty.

About the Author

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014) was a Colombian-born Spanish American journalist, novelist, and short-story writer. He is regarded as the literary volcano of the nineteen sixties and an exponent of a new narrative style known as magical realism. His novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) is taken as a classical example of magical realism. Marquez is one of the best novelists of world literature and perhaps the best in Spanish literature. For many readers, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and magical realism as synonymous with each other. Magical Realism is a mode of narrative in which real and fantastic, natural and supernatural, are coherently represented in a state of equivalence. Marquez’s other best-known novels are No One Writes to the Colonel (1961), Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), and Memories of my Melancholy Whores (2004). The story ‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ was first published in 1955.

Main Characters

Pelayo:-Elisenda’s husband discovered the old man. Pelayo was an ordinary villager.

Elisenda:-Pelayo’s wife who convinced Pelayo to charge villagers to see the old man.

Father Gonzaga:-The priest of the village who was an authority figure in the community.

The Neighbor Woman:-She was the neighbour of Pelayo and Elisenda.

The Spider Woman:-She spider had the body of an enormous spider and the head of a sad young woman.

Summary of the Story

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He was a Cambodian-born Spanish American writer. It is a story of magical realism. It examines the human response to those who are weak, dependent and different. The story reveals nature-related greed, curiosity and cruelty. The story opens with a rainy situation. On the third day of rain, Pelayo and his wife Elisenda were throwing dead crabs into the sea because they thought that their newly born child had a fever all night due to the smell.

The world had been sad since Tuesday. The light in the afternoon was also very dim. Pelayo came back to his house. He saw something moving in the courtyard. It was a filthy and weak old man with enormous wings there. He was frightened by the nightmare. He ran towards Elisenda.

They both came there and observed the strange creature. They looked at him so long and so closely that they soon overcame their surprise. They tried to speak to him but they could not understand his unintelligible language. They called a neighbour woman who told them that he was an angel who came there for the child. She added that he was very weak therefore he was knocked down by the rain. On the following day, everybody found a flesh-and-blood angel. Pelayo and Elisenda imprisoned him in the chicken's coop. In the middle of the night, their child became free from fever and felt hungry too. There were arguments on whether the old man was an angel or not.

Father Gonzaga tried to investigate the old man but could not. He tried to obtain the truth from the church’s higher authorities. The news of the angel widespread very fast. They made a plan to take charge 5 cents from the visitors as an entry fee. The couple started making money. People started mistreating the old man as he did nothing to impress them. He was unresponsive to people's reactions. They poked him and burnt him with a branding iron. Then the old man became violent due to pain. He responded angrily, flapped his wings and yelled in a strange language.

A new carnival arrived there in the town. There appeared the Spider Woman and people were attracted to her as they could ask her any questions and she told her interesting stories to the people.  Moreover, it was less expensive to see her than the admission to see the old man. Because of the woman, people's attraction to the old man slowly faded. However, Pelayo and Elisanda were able to build a two-story house to be safe from the crabs and angels from the money they had charged as an entry fee.

Finally, the chicken coop got collapsed and the old man was dragged here and there. He appeared in the different areas of the house as duplicate forms of him. One fateful day, while Elisanda was preparing food, she looked through the window. She saw the old man trying to fly.  In the beginning, his attempts were unsuccessful. But later on with attempts, the old man got success to fly away from the house to the horizon of the sea. Elisenda got relieved as she kept watching him go.

Reading Comprehension Exercise

Understanding the Text

a. How does the narrator describe the weather and its effects in the exposition of the story?

Answer: The narrator describes that it has been raining for three days and Pelayo is throwing the crabs inside his house into the sea in the exposition of the story. Sea and sky are a single ash-grey thing and the sands of the beach which has been glittering.

b. Describe the strange old man as Pelayo and his wife first encounter within their courtyard.

Answer: He wore ragged clothes. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald head and very few teeth in his mouth. His had enormous wings, dirty half-plucked were forever entangled in the mud when they first encountered within their courtyard.

c. Why did Pelayo and Elisenda imprison the old man in the chicken coop?

Answer: To find out the truth about the old man the couple called their neighbour woman. She told them that he was an angel who came there to treat their child. So, they imprisoned the old man in the chicken coop.

d. Why was Father Gonzaga not sure about the old man being a celestial messenger?

Answer: Father Gonzaga was not sure about the old man being a celestial messenger because he did not understand the language when he greeted the old man in Latin.

e. Many people gathered at Pelayo's house to see the strange old man. Why do you think the crowd assembled to see him?

Answer: Many people gathered at Pelayo’s house to see the strange man because the old man looked strange with very big wings at his back. They thought that he was the messenger of God or an angel.

f. Some miracles happened while the crowd gathers to see the strange man. What are these miracles?

Answer:  Some miracles happened while the crowd gathers to see the strange man. The miracles are the blind man who didn't recover his sight but grew three new teeth, the paralytic who didn't get to walk but almost won the lottery, and the leper whose sores sprouted sunflowers.

g. State the irritating things that the people did with the strange old man.

Answer: People started doing irritating things with the old man as they poked him with iron. They thought that he was unresponsive to their reaction. Because of their mistreat, the old man became violent due to pain.

h. How and why was the woman changed into a spider?

Answer: In her childhood, she had sneaked out of her parent's house to go to a dance, and while she was coming back through the woods after having danced all night without permission, a fearful thunderclap rent the sky in tow and through the crack came the lightning bolt of brimstone that changed her into a spider.

i. Describe how Elisenda saw the strange man flying over the houses.

Answer: While she was busy in the kitchen, she felt something outside. She went to the window to see what was happing. She saw that the old man was trying to fly. Soon, he flew off the horizon of the sea and disappeared.

Reference to the Context 

a. The arrival of a strange old man at Palayo's courtyard arouses many suspicions and explanations. Explain how the neighbour woman, Father Gonzaga and the doctor speak of the strange man. Why do you think these three people give three different kinds of interpretations?

Answer: There are many suspicions and explanations which are aroused about the arrival of a strange old man at Pelayo's courtyard. According to the woman of neighbour, he was an angel who must have come for the child, but he was knocked down by the rain due to his old age who could understand all about life and death. According to Father Gonzaga, he looked much too human because he couldn’t understand God’s language and he had the unbearable smell of the outdoors. According to him, he wasn’t an angel. Similarly, the doctor discovered a whistling sound in his heart and kidneys, indicating the impossibility of his being alive, and he was shocked to see his natural wings and wondered why others didn't have them.

The strange old man was described differently by those three persons. They give three different kinds of interpretations because of his appearance and activities which were supernatural and different from the real world. He had wings, and his language was also strange for them.

b. This story belongs to the genre of 'magical realism, a genre perfected by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novels and short stories. Magical realism is a narrative technique in which the storyteller narrates the commonplace things with magical colour and the events look both magical and real at the same time. Collect five magic realist happenings from the story and argue why they seem magical to you.

Answer: This story belongs to the genre of 'magical realism,' a genre perfected by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novels and short stories. Magical realism is a narrative technique in which the storyteller narrates commonplace things with magical colour. These five magic realist happenings from the story are listed below:

1. Pelayo saw the old man first with very big wings. It is magical because in the real-world humans do not have wings.

2. During the talk with Pelayo and his wife, the old man used his own dialect which they couldn’t understand so he was from another planet.

3. According to the woman of the neighbourhood, he is an angel who has come there to treat the sick child. The word "angel" itself refers to a magical link in the story.

4. According to Father Gonzaga he couldn’t understand the language of god so the old man was equated with the devil and warned others about him. The language and the description used by Father Gonzaga is also amazing and magical.

5. The spider woman in the story is also magical. In the real world, there isn’t a human being like a spider. Because of these points, the story falls under the genre of Magical Realism.

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Exercise

Understanding the Text

a. How does the narrator describe the weather and its effects in the exposition of the story?

Answer: The narrator describes that it has been raining for three days and Pelayo is throwing the crabs inside his house into the sea in the exposition of the story. Sea and sky are a single ash-grey thing and the sands of the beach which has been glittering.

b. Describe the strange old man as Palayo and his wife first encounter within their courtyard.

Answer: The strange old man whom Palayo and his wife Elisenda encountered in their country yard was an unusual elderly man who wore ragged clothes. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald head and very few teeth in his mouth. His had enormous wings, dirty half-plucked were forever entangled in the mud when they first encountered within their courtyard.

c. Why did Pelayo and Elisenda imprison the old man in the chicken coop?

Answer: To find out the reality about the old man the couple called their neighbour woman. She told them that he was an angel who came there to treat their child. So, they imprisoned the old man in the chicken coop.

d. Why was Father Gonzaga not sure about the old man being a celestial messenger?

Answer: Father Gonzaga was not sure about the old man being a celestial messenger because he did not understand the language when he greeted the old man in Latin.

e. Many people gathered at Pelayo's house to see the strange old man. Why do you think the crowd assembled to see him?

Answer: Many people gathered at Pelayo’s house to see the strange man because the old man looked strange with very big wings at his back. They thought that he was the messenger of God or an angel.

f. Some miracles happened while the crowd gathers to see the strange man. What are these miracles?

Answer:  Some miracles happened while the crowd gathers to see the strange man. Some of the miracles are: the blind man who didn't recover his sight but grew three new teeth, the paralytic who didn't get to walk but almost won the lottery, and the leper whose sores sprouted sunflowers.

g. State the irritating things that the people did with the strange old man.

Answer: People started doing irritating things with the old man such as they poked him with iron and burnt his side with iron. They pulled his feathers. Because of their mistreat, the old man became violent due to pain.

h. How and why was the woman changed into a spider?

Answer: In her childhood, she had sneaked out of her parent’s house to go to a dance, and while she was coming back through the woods after having danced all night without permission, a fearful thunderclap rent the sky in tow and through the crack came the lightning bolt of brimstone that changed her into a spider.

i. Describe how Elisenda saw the strange man flying over the houses.

Answer: While she was busy in the kitchen, she felt something outside. She went to the window to see what was happing. She saw that the old man was trying to fly. Soon, he flew off the horizon of the sea and disappeared. 

Reference to the Context

a. The arrival of a strange old man at Palayo's courtyard arouses many suspicions and explanations. Explain how the neighbour woman, Father Gonzaga and the doctor speak of the strange man. Why do you think these three people give three different kinds of interpretations?

Answer: There are many suspicions and explanations which are aroused because of the arrival of a strange old man at Pelayo's courtyard. They are given below:

According to the woman of neighbour, he was an angel who must have come for the child, but he was very old so he was knocked down by the rain who could understand all about life and death.

According to Father Gonzaga, he looked much too human because he couldn’t understand God’s language and he had the unbearable smell of the outdoors. According to him, he wasn’t a celestial messenger.

Similarly, the doctor discovered that because he had a whistling sound in his heart and kidneys, indicating the impossibility of his being alive. The doctor was shocked to see his natural wings and wondered why others didn't have them.

The strange old man was described differently by those three persons. They give three different kinds of interpretations because of his looks and activities which were supernatural and different from the real people.

b. This story belongs to the genre of 'magical realism, a genre perfected by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novels and short stories. Magical realism is a narrative technique in which the storyteller narrates the commonplace things with magical colour and the events look both magical and real at the same time. Collect five magic realist happenings from the story and argue why they seem magical to you.

Answer: This story belongs to the genre of 'magical realism,' a genre perfected by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novels and short stories. These five magic realist happenings from the story are listed below:

1. Pelayo saw the very old man first with enormous wings. It is magical because in the real-world humans do not have wings.

2. During the talk with Pelayo and his wife, the old man used his own dialect which they couldn’t understand. Because of his strange language, they guessed that he might be from another planet. That was also magical.

3. According to the woman of the neighbourhood, he was introduced as an angel who came there to treat the sick child. The word "angel" itself gives a magical link to the story.

4. According to the doctor he had so many whistling sounds coming from his heart and kidneys so he couldn’t be alive for a long time. He saw that his feathers fell down and they quickly grew up which made the doctor surprise. It is also magical.

5. The spider woman in the story is also magical. In the real world, there isn’t a human being like a spider.

Because of the above-mentioned points, the story falls under the genre of Magical Realism.

c. The author introduces the episode of a woman who became a spider for having disobeyed her parents. This episode at once shifts people's concentration from the strange old man to the spider woman. What do you think is the purpose of the author to bring this shift in the story?

Answer: The author introduces the episode of a woman who became a spider for having disobeyed her parents. This episode at once shifts people's concentration from the strange old man to the spider woman. I think the author's intention in introducing this change in the story is to show examples of magical realism.

It is also found that from the magical realism, humans want to earn which is their greed. In the beginning, Pelayo and Elisenda got benefit from the old man by charging some money to the visitors. Later on, their earning was stopped because of the arrival of the spider woman. He brings this shift to show that greed also.

d. The story deals with the common people's gullibility (भ्रामकता). How do Palayo and his wife take advantage of common people's whim?

Answer: A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is a short story about the common people's gullibility. Pelayo and his wife Elisenda saw an old man with wings in their courtyard and attempted to talk with him. But they weren’t successful to talk to him. He used a different dialect. Then they called their neighbour woman, who told them that the old man is an angel who came there to take their sick child but he was knocked down by the rain. They kept the angel in the chicken coop. They informed some villagers about the event. The news spread so fast and so many people came to see him. They made a plan to take entry charge to see the old man. In this way, they earned a lot of money from the common people’s whim.

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