Jennifer M. Hall
31 May 2011
“A not so civilized, civilization”
In Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" an angel symbolizes the unfamiliar. The angel is not just a celestial body, but a foreign body-someone who stands out as being different from the rest of society. Consequently, the angel draws attention to civilized society's reaction, ergo the community's reaction within the story when it confronts him. Using the angel as a symbol, Marquez shows how ignorance reveals the vulnerability of human nature often leading to uncivilized behavior.
At the very outset, civilized society is shown to be unenlightened and uncharitable towards the unfamiliar. Instead of offering a helping hand, Pelayo, a representative of the civilized society, runs away in terror from the angel who "is an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud" (399) and totally helpless. The angel is falsely accused of being a "fugitive survivor of a celestial conspiracy" (400). Later, when the chicken coop collapses, the angel is not welcome in the house. The people fear what they do not understand and belittle the angel instead of attempting to understand him to gain insight and enlightenment, and when he has a temperature, or can barely see and eat, they show him no charity. Instead, Elisenda shouts out that "it is awful living in that hell full of angels"(403) when in reality it is awful for the angel living in the hell of uncivilized society.
Furthermore, civilized society demonstrates suspicion, rudeness and prejudice when confronting the unknown. For instance, Pelayo and his wife immediately prejudge the angel because of his decrepit outward appearance. Indeed, they finally accept the angel only after staring at length as he lay helpless until he is "familiar" (400). They do this without any thought of the angel's discomfort or his feelings of alienation. Moreover, the angel is prejudged as a probable imposter by Father...