Love in the Time of Cholera
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
For the protagonist of a romance, Florentino is kind of a weird dude. Sure, he's got his share of teenage admirers when he's young, because he can play the violin and recite sappy poetry, but he's basically a loner. He's skinny, he always wears a black suit that used to belong to his dead father, and he uses too much hair gel. Yes, Florentino Ariza was the first emo kid.
So, our Romeo is no Brad Pitt. He's more of a Robert Pattinson, the guy who plays Edward in Twilight (oh wait…you knew that already). Only, you know, skinnier and less cute. And nearsighted. And chronically constipated. OK, so maybe he's not PHYSICALLY like Robert Pattinson at all. He's got the moody stalker thing down pat, though.
Much like Edward-the-Vampire, Florentino does a lot of lurking. First he lurks outside Fermina's house for months, just so he can watch her walk to school. Later, when Fermina rejects him, he goes to every public event where she'll be in attendance, in hopes of catching a glimpse of her. In the meantime, he lurks on docks, in the street, and on trolleys, trying to pick up women. He has a lot of success with the ladies, but he's so discrete about it that people actually start rumors that he's gay. There's also a sort of morbidity to his love affairs – his lovers tend to consist of widows, jilted women, and an escapee from the insane asylum with a dagger hidden in her bodice.
Despite his many, many affairs, Florentino is obsessively devoted to the woman he loves. It's this extreme dedication in combination with his promiscuous sexual encounters that raise a lot of the questions in the novel about the nature of love. (See our discussion of "Themes: Love" for more on this.) Sometimes Florentino's behavior seems contradictory – if he's so devoted to Fermina, why is he sleeping with hundreds of other women? – but, if there's one thing we learn from Florentino's story, it's that love is not straightforward.
Florentino the Womanizer
Florentino's romantic vision doesn't always match up with reality (like when he tells Fermina Daza that he's still a virgin at the age of 76? Yeah, right). He expresses his fantasies with so much authority, though, that people tend to believe him, or at least appreciate the lie. Fermina's Aunt Escolástica has the impression that he speaks "under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit," a thought that Fermina and the Captain share at the novel's end. When Florentino speaks, he is so inspiring that the Captain actually believes that they can conquer death – that "it is life, more than death, that has no limits" (6.236).
At some point, Florentino's delusions become dangerous. His seems to believe that anything is fair in the pursuit of his own pleasure and doesn't take into consideration that he may be putting the women he's sleeping with in danger of getting their feelings hurt, of suffering social censure, or of even more violent recriminations.
Though Florentino's womanizing may seem harmless at first, we have to question the ethicality of his behavior when he sleeps with a married woman whose husband punishes her by slitting her throat. When he later sleeps with América Vicuña, a fourteen-year-old girl that he's been put in charge of protecting, we can no longer deny that his seductive nature has a dark side. América's tragic suicide is undeniably Florentino's fault, and still he manages to delude himself into denying all responsibility.
Florentino the Writer
It's always a good idea to pay attention when a character in a novel is a writer. Florentino's role as an author makes us think about the purpose of writing and literature in general. Florentino is a particular kind of writer, though – he mostly writes poetry and letters. Everything he tries to write sounds like a love letter. In fact, he's so good at writing love letters that he takes up the task of writing free letters for the illiterate and is responsible for setting up at least one happy couple.Timeline