Maria Danniella Gutierrez-Salem
26 March 2018
Purgatory on Earth in the Form of a Chicken Coop
The author of the story shows us from the beginning about the skepticism of the Divine when he describes his central character as an old man with wings and not directly as an angel. Being raised in the Catholic faith, followers are informed about angels. As a child you then prayed nightly to a guardian angel to take care of your soul during your sleep. You can observe in many churches that the Virgin is surrounded by small angels in their altars to protect her. In addition, there are passages from the Holy Bible that tell about a legion of angels. However, the Bible also says that the Devil was God’s favorite angel, until he turned against him and was expelled from the Kingdom of Heaven. This shows that humanity can present an ugly face full of skepticism, pride, greed, cruelty and ungratefulness.
The skepticism was obvious from the beginning. We are accustomed to believe that angels are beautiful like those that are painted in churches. According to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: A Tale for Children:”
“The light was so weak at noon that when Pelayo was coming back to the house after throwing away the crabs, it was hard for him to see what it was that was moving and groaning in the rear of the courtyard. He had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn’t get up, impeded by his enormous wings…) ”
When Pelayo saw the man in this poor condition, he did not find holiness in him. Therefore, Pelayo puts him in a chicken coop as if he were an animal. There are different types of angels. In Venezuela, there lives a very special lady named Gela. She is a doctor who heals sick people with rose oil that came from her hands. When people met her, they expected to discover the trick. They are skeptical but found her to be a woman with a beautiful energy. They said that just being close to her provides you with a sensation of happiness. She takes people’s hands and gives them the oil. Some people get cured and other get peace. There are angels living around us even though we may be skeptical. Their wings are not revealed perhaps to protect them from being caged like animals for the pleasure of others.
Furthermore, pride is also present in the story. “all she needed was one look to show them their mistake.” ( ) The author describes a neighbor who is supposed to know everything and tells Pelayo and his wife that perhaps the old man came to take the dying child. The logical thing would have been that they thought he would bring health to the sick child. People very often see the glass half-empty and not the glass half-full. For a moment, imagine that you are supposed to chaperone a trip to assist to an International Congress of students. You get sick and couldn’t go. Your friends called you many times from the Congress to tell you what you were missing, and you regret your bad luck. Your mother tries to comfort you by saying everything that happens to us at the end is good, and that you will discover at some point why you did not go. When your friends are returning from the Congress, their bus is involved in an accident. Three of the people die in this accident, and many others are hospitalized. Sometimes we have to be patient and wait to understand why things sometimes happen to us for good. In the same way, the author show that people will know others who have a big ego, they believe that they everything. Sometimes these people influence their decisions, but in the end opinions cannot change destiny. Your purpose in life not always is dominated by your will.
Greed makes the characters enclose their house with a wall and collect money from the village people to view the old man inside the chicken coop. “The angel was the only one who took no part in his own act.” (…) They are not thinking about him or care if other people hurt him. They don’t bother to see his humanity as an old man or his divinity because of his wings. They simply do what greed often leads people to do. They are using him in order to get money to build a large house and buy silk suits for Elisenda. Nevertheless, this week an article was featured on the internet about an extortionist. They describe his family as middle class, but he wants more. He does not have a profession and makes very little money. He sees an opportunity extorting others, so he can live in a big house, have expensive cars and to dress well. Like the characters in the story, he is not interested in his victims either. The author expresses how money may be quite pertinent for some people. Especially those who are poor may take the chance to make money without respecting anything or anyone.
Cruelty is one of elements that the author uses in his narrative to keep the attention of the reader. Almost everybody is cruel to the old man. He was not the only one in agony. The author has another character termed the Spider-Woman, who may not be the central one, but is very interesting. “She was a frightful tarantula the size of a ram and with the head of a sad maiden”. Take a moment to think about the Spider Woman. In the story this is a consequence of her actions. She disobeys her parent and she changes into this abomination. On the other hand, none of the characters defend them or care for them. Not even the priest would do anything to protect them. He just writes a letter to the Pope expecting him to determine if the old man is an angel or not. The truth is that it should not matter if you are an old man with wings in a henhouse or a spider woman exhibiting in a circus. The locals are without a doubt ignorant and heartless people. Some adults do not like circuses for many reasons, but usually cruelty is the most common. The author introduces improbable characters to make the story more interesting. It is important to note that perhaps the message is that there will always be another person that also suffers. This compares the situation between the old angel and the Spider-Woman. She was definitely the most morbid character in the story.
Although the characters make money, they never express their gratitude to the old man. For them he becomes a problem with the arrival of the Spider-Woman. The old man is no longer useful. The locals stop paying attention to him. The old man is secretly recovering and fly away from that place. In the end he paid for his wrongdoings and this is why his wing recovered to allow him to fly back to heaven. He finally got his redemption. The Colombian Consulate in Venezuela, rescued an old man who was left to die inside a warehouse. His employer didn’t want to pay him, and he was very sick. He locked him in that place to let him die. A worker sent a notice to the consulate. They went to the place and opened the doors of the warehouse. The old man asked “Virgin Mary if I’ve prayed so much why took you so long.” The scene is deplorable, he is surrounded by his own feces, half naked and almost dead like the old man from the tale. He is taken out of that misery. He never complained or asked what would happen to his employer. He died a few days after. People believe that he redeemed himself before God. They also think that he did not die in vain, but like the old man with wings he flew to heaven. The author tries to show the scene of an angel who falls in disgrace and is sent to Earth to suffer at the hands of man. On the other hand, The Angel finds the redemption when at the end it can fly away.
The author makes you reflect how humankind finds ways to use and torture their fellow men. They do it not because they are evil, just because they can do it which is even more sad. The message in this short story is also that nothing is forever. Some people asked their selves if they deserve to suffer or to be punished. It is not that simple and the author with his narrative demonstrates that. Furthermore, to understand the short story, one must consider that the author’s narrative is a combination of realism, fantasy, mystery and many other elements present in the magic realism. His intention is to send an implied message to every reader. You will see the message according to your personality or the moment in which you are living. On the other hand, the author is definitely very creative and authentic, but it is hard to digest the story. He constantly delivers new information and unrealistic characters. From the beginning to the conclusion all the events show an atmosphere of non-existing values. In some ways is what happening to the world, but he also provides hope when the old angel flees. In life people are consistently facing problems such as freedom. It is faith in humanity that keeps the world spinning.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: A Tale for Children.”
Collected stories, New York Harper Perennial, 1984 pp. 217-225