Love clearly exists within Love in the Time of Cholera, a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Garcia Marquez's masterful novel of the enduring love of Florentino for the beautiful Fermina describes love in a great many forms, and a great many ways. In the novel, love is strongly influenced by family, and often family itself begins to define love.
Love within marriage is examined within the context of Fermina and Dr. Jevenal Urbino's long-lasting and tumultuous marriage. The idea of fidelity and love are also examined, both within the traditional sense of sexual fidelity and within a perhaps more meaningful context of emotional faithfulness and steadfastness. Age and love are also examined, as Fermina and Florentino's love is renewed in their old age, as time and wisdom show in their new relationship, and their fight to claim love as time and death encroach. Ultimately, Love in the Time of Cholera is a courageous look at the possibility of everlasting love in the context of a society that is highly cynical and disbelieving about the idea of an everlasting love. In today's world, the idea of an everlasting love seems laughable, especially the idea that professions of love by a young, romantic man could be ultimately honored by choice through a lifetime. Garcia Marquez's masterful prose, and lyrical and poetic style are ultimately what make his conception of idealized love within Love in the Age of Cholera believable.
Love in the Time of Cholera is a story about the love of Florentino Ariza, a young man who falls passionately for the beautiful girl Fermina Daza. The novel opens with the memorable opening line told by Dr. Juvenal Urbino "It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love." The story takes place over about 50 years, spanning the beginning of the 20th century. Florentino, a humble riverboat worker, falls in love with the graceful Fermina who saunters with a "doe's gait making her seem immune to gravity," and "almond shaped eyes." Fermina's family opposes their union, but the passionate young pair carry on their romance through secret letters and coded telegrams. One day, Fermina brushes up against Florentino in a crowded market and realizes she never loved him, while Florentino simultaneously realizes that he will love Fermina forever. She meets and marries the wellborn Dr. Juvenal Urbino. Florentino is a hopeless romantic who vows to wait for Fermina until she is free again. He indeed waits for almost 52 years until Dr. Jevenal Urbino dies. In the intervening years, Fermina has led a happy and often tumultuous marriage. Florentino wastes no further time, and he professes his undying love to Fermina after Dr. Urbino's funeral, passionately declaring "I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love." Fermina furiously throws Florentino out of her house, asking him to never show his face "for the years of life that are left to you... And I hope there are very few of them." Florentine is not deterred, and begins to court Fermina. In the final chapter, Florentine's longing for Fermina is finally satisfied as the aged loves sail off down the river in Florentine's riverboat.
The influence of family on love is clear in Love in the Time of Cholera in the actions of Fermina's father, Florentino's uncle Leo XII, and Fermina herself. The disapproval of Fermina's family plays an important role in the love of Florentino and Fermina. Fermina's well-to-do mule trader father actively discourages his daughter's involvement with the illegitimate Florentino. As a result, Fermina and Florentino must conduct their love affair covertly. Perhaps it is even a reaction against her father's control that causes Fermina to seek out Florentino. Florentino's uncle also dispenses advice on the subject of love. As the young, lovesick Florentino struggles to write a basic commercial letter for his Uncle's River Company of the Caribbean, he is frustrated by the romanticism that finds its way into his business correspondence. This is because, as Florentino notes, "love is the only thing that interests me." His uncle, Leo XII, is much more practical. Leo XII replies, "The trouble... is that without river navigation there is no love." Ultimately, his uncle is right, as Florentino and Fermina's river voyage at the end of the book is a necessary part of their mature love for each other. Love is also important in the context of Fermina's love of her family with Dr. Juvenal Urbino. As cholera ravages the township, Fermina's love for her family holds her steadfast as their maternal protector. Garcia Marquez notes a mother's love of her children, "She discovered with great delight that one does not love one's children just because they are one's children but because of the friendship formed while raising them."
Concepts of love within marriage play an important role in the novel. Fermina seems to fall in love almost impetuously with the dashing doctor, noting "Very well, I will marry you if you promise not to make me eat eggplant." However, Fermina and Dr. Urbino hold fast together throughout their often tumultuous and long marriage. Their marriage survives years of cohabitation, the birth of their children, and the doctor's affair with a patient. They struggle to make their relationship work, and are ultimately largely successful Garcia Marquez comments, "The problem with marriage is that it ends every night after making love, and it must be rebuilt every morning before breakfast." The couple share a great deal of love, and remain devoted to each other. As Dr. Jevenal Urbino lies dying he tells his wife, "Only God knows how much I loved you."
Ideas of fidelity are investigated in Marquez's work with the actions of both Dr. Urbino and Florentino. Dr. Urbino's liaison with a patient is the most obvious, and literal example of fidelity. This liaison is short-lived however, and Dr. Urbino remains true and steadfast in his love for his wife, Fermina. In his own way, Florentino remains faithful to Fermina as well. For close to 50 years he holds hope for a life with Fermina, waiting patiently until he has his chance. This does not mean that Florentino is faithful in a sexual sense. As cholera ravages the countryside, Florentino seeks out and embraces life through his affairs with women. Over time, he amasses as staggering 622 "long-term liaisons" as well as "countless fleeting adventures." Among these are the widow Nazaret, a murderous young girl escaped form a local asylum, and Olimpia Zuleta, whose husband murders her for her infidelity with Florentino. Women are attracted by his need for love. Fermina's cousin notes, "(Florentino) is ugly and sad... But he is all love." However, in his heart, Florentino remains faithful to his ideal of a life with Fermina. For all his liaisons, he never finds a woman to spend his life with, and remains true to his dream of a life with Fermina. In this sense, he is true in his assertion to Fermina that he has remained a virgin for her. He is a virgin in his heart, if not in his body.
The impact of age on love is also apparent within the novel, as Florentino and Fermina's passions change with age. Florentino's young, impassioned love for Florentino makes him compose a waltz, and makes him subject to spontaneous declarations of love and obsession with love. In the intervening years, he remains true to his love of Fermina, and gradually his love matures, although he remains capable of spontaneous outbursts of love, like the one after Dr. Urbino's funeral. At the end of the novel, age has changed and matured Florentino and Fermina's love. They travel down the river wiser and with a lifetime of experience with the effect of time and life on love. Humorously, Garcia Marquez notes of age, "A man knows when he is growing old because he begins to look like his father." Together, Fermina and Florentino fight against time in their journey into love, and fight against love. Garcia Marquez notes, "The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love."
Ultimately, Love in the Age of Cholera is a novel about the potential for an enduring, and lasting love. In today's world, the idea of love is often reduced to the notion of Harlequin romance love, love seen in soap operas, or the fairytale idea of a white knight's love for his princess, and her love for her prince. In many ways, in our cynical world it has become unfashionable, and perhaps even laughable to think or write in any authentic way about love. Our movies and novels are filled with dysfunction: spouses who lie and cheat, young lovers who leave each other, and families that argue and hit each other. Divorce is common and acceptable in today's world, and even spouses who manage to stay together are unlikely to have a…