One Hundred Years of Solitude
How we cite our quotes:
The only thing that [Amaranta] did not keep in mind in her fearsome plan was that in spite of her pleas to God she might die before Rebeca. That was, in fact, what happened. At the final moment, however, Amaranta did not feel frustrated, but, on the contrary, free of all bitterness because death had awarded her the privilege of announcing itself several years ahead of time. She saw it on one burning afternoon sewing with her on the porch a short time after Meme had left for school. She saw it because it was a woman dressed in blue with long hair, with a sort of antiquated look, and with a certain resemblance to Pilar Ternera during the time when she had helped with the chores in the kitchen. Fernanda was present several times and did not see her, in spite of the fact that she was so real – so human and on one occasion asked of Amaranta the favor of threading a needle. Death did not tell her when she was going to die or whether her hour was assigned before that of Rebeca, but ordered her to begin sewing her own shroud on the next sixth of April. She was authorized to make it as complicated and as fine as she wanted, but just as honestly executed as Rebeca's, and she was told that she would die without pain, fear, or bitterness at dusk on the day that she finished it. Trying to waste the most time possible, Amaranta ordered some rough flax and spun the thread herself. She did it so carefully that the work alone took four years. Then she started the sewing. As she got closer to the unavoidable end she began to understand that only a miracle would allow her to prolong the work past Rebeca's death, but the very concentration gave her the calmness that she needed to accept the idea of frustration. (14.7)
We see two connections or allusions here. First, there is the intratextual (within the book) link to Colonel Aureliano Buendía and the gold fish he makes and melts down over and over again during the war. Less directly, what he's doing is also a way of temporarily keeping death at bay. Second, the image of a woman weaving a shroud of destiny is one that might be familiar from Homer's Odyssey. There, Penelope weaves and unweaves a wedding shroud for herself as a way of postponing her seemingly inevitable remarriage to one of her many suitors. Just like in that text, however long the delay, the shroud must eventually be finished, and the story must eventually go on to the next stage.
When José Arcadio Segundo came to he was lying face up in the darkness. He realized that he was riding on an endless and silent train and that his head was caked with dry blood and that all his bones ached. He felt an intolerable desire to sleep. Prepared to sleep for many hours, safe from the terror and the horror, he made himself comfortable on the side that pained him less, and only then did he discover that he was lying against dead people. There was no free space in the car except for an aisle in the middle. Several hours must have passed since the massacre because the corpses had the same temperature as plaster in autumn and the same consistency of petrified foam that it had. And those who had put them in the car had had time to pile them […]. [H]e saw the man corpses, woman corpses, child corpses who would be thrown into the sea like rejected bananas. (15.29)
This is just pure horror. Hang on, guys, Shmoop needs to go sit down for a sec, there's just a little dust in our eyes.
The condition of the streets alarmed Aureliano Segundo. He finally became worried about the state of his animals and he threw an oilcloth over his head and went to Petra Cotes' house. He found her in the courtyard, in the water up to her waist, trying to float the corpse of a horse. Aureliano Segundo helped her with a lever, and the enormous swollen body gave a turn like a bell and was dragged away by the torrent of liquid mud. Since the rain began, all that Petra Cotes had done was to clear her courtyard of dead animals. During the first weeks she sent messages to Aureliano Segundo for him to take urgent measures and he had answered that there was no rush, that the situation was not alarming, that there would be plenty of time to think about something when it cleared. She sent him word that the horse pastures were being flooded, that the cattle were fleeing to high ground, where there was nothing, to where they were at the mercy of jaguars and sickness. "There's nothing to be done," Aureliano Segundo answered her. "Others will be born when it clears." Petra Cotes […] saw with quiet impotence how the deluge was pitilessly exterminating a fortune that at one time was considered the largest and most solid in Macondo, and of which nothing remained but pestilence. (16.7)
We tend to think of wealth as made up of inanimate things (like money or real estate). This passage reads as a throwback to another time, when wealth could be constituted of living beings. For Aureliano Segundo, these animals are easy come, easy go. Just as he had very little to do with their supernatural abundance, so he has no desire to save them from this supernatural catastrophe.