The Hungarian composer Bela Bartok fascinates Garcia Marquez and so the author constructed his novel along this composer’s line. For example, he configured his climax so it would land five-sevenths of the way through the book-when the strikers are massacred-just as Bartok would have done in a musical composition. From this point on it is denouement and decay until the waters come to wash the earth clean. Also, in similar ways to a musical composition, many characters have a motif or theme which accompanies their presence, such as Mauricio Babilonia’s butterflies.
The novel opens with the suggestion that Colonel Aureliano will, at some point, face the firing squad. This is a technique called foreshadowing and it is used throughout the book to emphasize the simultaneity and inevitability of events. The example of Colonel Aureliano’s firing squad is also used as a memory motif. Another example of foreshadowing occurs when Fernanda says of Mauricio Babilonia, “You can see in his face that he’s going to die,” even though she has not yet discovered he is the one romancing her daughter Meme. The guard Fernanda posts to catch a suspected “chicken thief” shoots and paralyzes him.
The detached, matter-of-fact narrative voice in the novel was drawn from his grandmother, according to Garcia Marquez: She did not change her expression at all when telling her stories and everyone was surprised. In previous attempts to write, I tried to tell the story without believing in it. I discovered that what I had to do was believe in them myself and write them with the same expression with which my grandmother told them: with a brick face.
Knowing this, the function of the narrator becomes even more difficult to interpret, as one might want to argue that the novel is Ursula’s story. The narrator seems to be the omniscient and omnipresent Melquiades, whose manuscript foretells the Buendia family history and cannot be read for 100 years. The last Aureliano is finally able to decipher the story after he sees his son eaten by ants. Thus the reader is deciphering a work translated into English from a decoded Spanish translated from the Sanskrit with “even lines in the private cipher of the Emperor Augustus and the odd ones in a Lacedemonian military code.”
D Burlarse de la Gente
Critic Gordon Brotherston, in his The Emergence of the Latin American Novel, wondered whether the novel’s conclusion “could be just a sophisticated example of the ability to use literature to make fun of people (burlarse de la gente) which [the last] Aureliano had discovered on meeting [Gabriel] Marquez and other friends in The Golden Boy.” The novel does make fun of people, especially politicians and writers. It satirizes the chaos of Latin American history, as well as the gullibility of people so easily taken in by circus freaks and politicians. Mostly, it makes fun of the reader, who in the act of reading realizes that he or she is a Buendia who is reading the parchments of Melquiades and ignoring the child being eaten on the floor.
Hyperbole is a technique of exaggeration that is not intended for literal interpretation. The best example of hyperbole comes in the description of Jose Arcadio, Ursula’s eldest son. Rather than say he becomes a grown man, Jose Arcadio is given all the conceivable gargantuan attributes. “His square shoulders barely fitted through the doorways.” He has a “bison neck,” the “mane of a mule,” and he has jaws of iron. He eats whole animals in one sitting. His presence “gave the quaking impression of a seismic tremor.”
F Magic Realism
A term first used by Alejo Carpentier, magic or magical realism is a uniquely Latin American style of writing which does not differentiate fact from illusion or myth from truth. With its ghosts, magical gypsies, raining flowers, voracious ants, and impossible feats, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a seminal example of magic realism. Garcia Marquez has explained that this type of writing is a natural result of being from a people with a vibrant ancestry. In an interview for Playboy, he said: Clearly, the Latin American environment is marvelous. Particularly the Caribbean…. To grow up in such an environment is to have fantastic resources for poetry. Also, in the Caribbean, we are capable of believing anything, because we have the influences of [Indian, pirate, African, and European] cultures, mixed in with Catholicism and our own local beliefs. I think that gives us an open-mindedness to look beyond apparent reality.
Motifs are recurring images or themes and are used throughout the novel to close the gaps of the narrative. Seemingly unrelated episodes become connected through the use of these recurring motifs. In addition, motif reinforces the circularity of the novel. As the story is spun, each motif is seen again and again, but in different combinations. One example might be the unusual plagues of insects that appear throughout the novel, from the scorpions in Meme’s bathtub to the butterflies that follow Mauricio Babilonia to the ants which continually infest the house.
Men in black robes pass through like a march of death whenever they are needed to justify the actions of the government. Numbers recur-there are 21 original founders and 21 original revolutionary soldiers. The motif that accentuates the futility of human activity reaches a crescendo in the solitude of Colonel Aureliano, who makes fishes, sells them, and with the money he earns he makes more fishes. Locked in this circle, Colonel Aureliano seals himself in the workroom, coming out only to urinate. Bodily functions (e.g., drunkenness usually ends up in vomit and tears) are also a motif. Amaranta enters this cycle with sewing, for her theme song is that of the weaver, the spider. She sews and unsews buttons. She, like the mythic Penelope, buys time by weaving and unweaving her shroud. Memories are an essential motif, recurring at their barest every time we hear about Colonel Aureliano facing the firing squad. Ursula embodies memories and as they fade, so does she. Jose Arcadio Buendia reads and rereads the parchments. All the while time is passing or not passing, it is always a Monday in March inside the room of Melquiades’ manuscript. All of the motifs are games of solitude used by the characters to pass the 100 years.