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Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel titled "One Hundred Years of Solitude" is recognized as a modern classic with an insightful and relevant message. Yet, the message is not simple to understand and not easy to define. This is largely because it questions the nature of society and the people in society. It challenges people to look at themselves, human nature, and society in a new way. This is a difficult task, but one that Garcia Marquez succeeds at. This will now be investigated further by focusing on the events of the novel, the meaning of the novel, and the final message.
One Hundred Years of Solitude cannot be understood by analyzing the plot. Its style and structure is not driven by plot like many novels. Instead, it takes a wider approach and focuses on the life of a family and a town. It can be considered as the story of the town Macondo. It can also be considered as the story of the people who founded the town, the Buendias. The novel begins with the formation of town, as Jose Arcadio and Ursula found the town. The town continues to grow and remains largely isolated from the outside world. Later, the town comes into contact with others in the region. This leads to civil war and the once peaceful town is forced to change. Colonel Buendia becomes leader and war continues. The civil war eventually ends and a peace treaty is signed. Different problems reach the town as a banana plantation is established. This represents a new kind of link with the outside world. While the links with neighboring towns was chosen to be done by the people of Macondo, the banana plantation is forced upon them. The Americans that own the plantation enter the town and live in their own fenced-off section. At the same time, the people of Macondo and the land are explotied for the benefit of the Americans. This eventually leads to an uprising of sorts from the workers, who decide to go on strike. Thousands of people are massacred and their bodies are disposed of by putting them in the sea. This leads to five years of rain and the resulting flood destroys the city of Macondo and most of its people. Only a few members of the Buendia family remain. Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula, who are related, parent a child. This child is born with a pig's tail, something that the founders of the town always feared would happen to them. Amaranta Ursula dies during the birth, while Aureliano wanders the town trying to come to terms with what has happened. By the time he realizes he has left the child alone, it is too late. He finds the child beginning to be eaten by ants. Ths reminds him of Melquiades' parchment and he ignores the child and rushes to the study to read the parchment. Aureliano reads the history of the family, as a cyclone begins to destroy the house. In the final line, of the parchment he reads about himself reading the parchment while Macondo is destroyed by a cyclone and forgotten. This final ending reveals that the life of the village and the Buendias has always been known. The Buendias were fated to their tragic lives. The story of the town and of the Buendias family is one of tragedy. To understand the meaning of the novel, it is necessary to look more deeply into what the story of the Buendias means.
As noted, the novel is not one that can be understood in terms of plot. It is not focused on a central character. Instead, it is focused on the story of an entire town and its people. This places the novel as having meaning politically and socially. Essentially, it can be considered as the story of a society. As one author notes, it is not just the story of any society, but the story of Latin America:
... The story of the Buendia family is obviously a metaphor for the history of the continent since Independence, that is, for the neocolonial period. More than that, though, it is also, I believe, a narrative about the myths of Latin American history (Martin 97).
It is about how a society changes from a self-contained society, to linking with its neighbors, to being inhabited by outsiders. There are also internal changes in the structure of the society, where it alters from a democracy to being heavily ruled by Colonel Aureliano Buendia. Most important though, might be the fact that no single political state is suggested as being the preferred one. Instead, all of the political features of society are contained in the novel. One author notes that the novel appeals to all ideologies,
... leftists like its dealing with social struggles and its portraits of imperialism; conservatives are heartened by the corruption and/or failure of those struggles and with the sustaining role of the family; nihilists and quietists find their pessimism reconfirmed; and the apolitical hedonists find solace in all the sex and swashbuckling (Bell-Villada 93).
If the novel is understood as the story of a town and in a larger sense, a story of society, it makes sense that the novel would contain all of the elements of society. It certainly does this as it has periods of growth and prosperity, periods of war and civil strife, periods of progress, and periods of decline. The politics also deals with liberals, conservartives, democary, imperialism, and capitalism. Yet in the end, there does not seem to be any specific point made about any of these political ideas. With the ending of the novel where the town is destroyed and it is revealed that this was fated, it seems that Garcia Marquez is showing that none of the politics matter. Regardless of the politics or the stages of society, or how people try to control their society, it comes down to the people. Essentially, there is nothing the people of Macondo could have done to save their fate. They have flaws and it is these flaws that destroy them, regardless of the systems that become part of their world.
This leads to a consideration of the flaws of the people, with their major flaw being that they are not capable of learning from the past. The people of Macondo largely seem to want to forget their pasts and often do. Memory for them is often a burden and one that they want to be free of. Colonel Aureliano Buendia is a good example because he becomes a man with almost no memory. This causes him to live in a repeating pattern where he makes twenty-five golden fish and then melts down the metal to make 25 more. This pattern is repetitive, endless, and useless. The message seems to be that you have to remember to move forward. Otherwise, you will just move in a repeating circle, never move forward, and never overcome anything. Importantly, this contributes to the overall story of Macondo because their path is also cyclic. Just like Colonel Aureliano Buendia makes the fish, the town builds itself up, and just like he destroys the fish to make more, the town also destroys itself. It can be imagined that the town would later be rebuilt and that the cycle would repeat all over again. The main message is that if you don't recognize and learn from your mistakes, you can never escape from the cycle and progress forward. It is also important that the people of Macondo have no memory of Colonel Aureliano Buendia. This suggests that people are ignorant of the past and that this is part of their downfall. At the same time, other characters become so caught up in memory that they cannot see the present. Rebeca is a good example, where she becomes consumed by memory after her husband's death. She locks herself in her house and does nothing but remember him. She effectively becomes separated from the present world. In doing so, she is no more capable of learning from the past than Colonel Aureliano Buendia, who is trapped in the present. This illustrates how a balance needs to be found where one recalls the past, but lives enough in the present that one can move forward. Another example of forgetting occurs after the massacre of the workers from the banana factory. Just one night after this event, the people of the town cannot remember it. This suggests that part of their forgetting is a process of denial. They have chosen to live in denial about this event and they willfully forget it. This releases a burden for them, since it would be a difficult memory to accept and live with. However, this achieves nothing for the people of Macondo because as long as they cannot remember the event, they cannot learn from it. Denial is used as way for them to reduce their pain, but in effect this only causes them to create more…[continue]
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