Love in the Time of Cholera
Obviously, sex is going to be a big deal in a novel whose central character is a sex-driven maniac. Yeah, we know, we all feel like sex-driven maniacs sometimes. Trust us, though, Florentino Ariza is a hyperbolically sexual character. By the time he's an old man, he's written in his journal called Women about 622 long-term liaisons – and that's not even counting the one-night stands. (That's about twelve sexual partners a year for 54 years, for anyone who's counting.) Florentino's theories about women's sexuality are about as sophisticated as his macho method of keeping score.
While Florentino's neanderthalian understanding of women and sex is often proved wrong, we can't shake the feeling that García Márquez himself clings to some ideas in Love in the Time of Cholera about female sexuality that are a bit sexist – like the idea that women can only be liberated and fulfilled if they can find a man to initiate them into the sexual experience (think about the Widow Nazaret, Ausencia Santander, or Sara Noriega). Or the problematic notion that a young woman, even a child, might enjoy being raped (both Leona Cassiani and América Vicuña serve as examples of this). What do you think? Are these characters a reflection of the author's attitudes about female sexuality?
Questions About Sex
- In what order do sex, love, and marriage come for Dr. Urbino and Fermina Daza? Why do their experiences develop in this order?
- What are the "rules" for sexual conduct for men and women in the social setting of Love in the Time of Cholera? What is allowed and what is prohibited? Do those social guidelines match up to the ones we observe in our society today?
- Does Florentino's long list of sexual experiences change the way he perceives love in general, or his love for Fermina Daza?
- How do the sexual experiences of female characters reflect or react against the position of women in society?
Chew on This
In Love in the Time of Cholera, women cannot be completely free or happy until they attain sexual fulfillment, a state that is difficult if not impossible to achieve within the confines of marriage.
Florentino's concern for keeping his affairs quiet shows that, in the society of the novel, men are just as vulnerable as women to having their reputations tarnished by engaging in socially prohibited sexual activity.