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One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude

by Gabriel García Márquez

Fate and Free Will Quotes Page 1

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Quote #1

When the pirate Sir Francis Drake attacked Riohacha in the sixteenth century, Úrsula Iguarán's great-great-grandmother became so frightened with the ringing of alarm bells and the firing of cannons that she lost control of her nerves and sat down on a lighted stove. The burns changed her into a useless wife for the rest of her days. [Her husband] spent half the value of his store on medicines and pastimes in an attempt to alleviate her terror. Finally he sold the business and took the family to live far from the sea in a settlement of peaceful Indians. [ . . . ] Several centuries later the great-great-grandson of the native-born planter married the great-great-granddaughter of the Aragonese. Therefore, every time that Úrsula became exercised over her husband's mad ideas, she would leap back over three hundred years of fate and curse the day that Sir Francis Drake had attacked Riohacha. (2.1)

There's a philosophy called determinism that, in a nutshell, is based on the idea that everything that happens is destined to happen (all events have been predetermined already). Most famously it was used as one of the underlying tenets of a branch of Protestantism called Calvinism, after its founder John Calvin, who preached that, long before people are even born, their souls are already predestined to go either to heaven or hell – regardless of what they do in life. (This caused a lot of complications, not least of which was: why would you behave in a moral fashion if it doesn't affect where you end up in the afterlife?) This is the strain of thought being made fun of in this paragraph.

Quote #2

The presence of Amparo Moscote in the house was like a premonition. "She has to come with her," Aureliano would say to himself in a low voice. "She has to come." He repeated it so many times and with such conviction that one afternoon when he was putting together a little gold fish in the workshop, he had the certainty that she had answered his call. Indeed, a short time later he heard the childish voice, and when he looked up his heart froze with terror as he saw the girl [Remedios] at the door, dressed in pink organdy and wearing white boots. (4.5)

Bear with us while we pontificate a moment on one of our pet theories about fiction. You know how sometimes when you're reading or watching a movie, you're suddenly struck by the fact that it's just a work of fiction? This happens a lot when a novel or a movie has one too many coincidences. It kind of takes you out of the story. You can't help thinking that the plot could have gone some other way, or a character could have had a totally different personality. It's an issue, is what we're saying.

Quote #3

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, García Márquez creates a very clever workaround for this problem by centralizing the importance of fate in his characters' lives. Instead of feeling the heavy hand of the author here, we feel the heavy hand of destiny. Rather than blaming the author for this meet-creepy and her eventual terrible death, readers are strongly impressed by the doom fated to everyone who gets within fifty feet of the Buendías.

[T]hey did not dare carry out the sentence. The rebelliousness of the town made the military men think that the execution of Colonel Aureliano Buendía might have serious political consequences not only in Macondo but throughout the area of the swamp, so they consulted the authorities in the capital of the province. On Saturday night, while they were waiting for an answer. Captain Roque Carnicero went with some other officers to Catarino's place. Only one woman, practically threatened, dared take him to her room. "They don't want to go to bed with a man they know is going to die," she confessed to him. "No one knows how it will come, but everybody is going around saying that the officer who shoots Colonel Aureliano Buendía and all the soldiers in the squad, one by one, will be murdered, with no escape, sooner or later, even if they hide at the ends of the earth." Captain Roque Carnicero mentioned it to the other officers and they told their superiors. On Sunday, although no one had revealed it openly, although no action on the part of the military had disturbed the tense calm of those days, the whole town knew that the officers were ready to use any manner of pretext to avoid responsibility for the execution. […]

When [Colonel Aureliano Buendía] heard the shout he thought that it was the final command to the squad. He opened his eyes with a shudder of curiosity, expecting to meet the incandescent trajectory of the bullets. But he only saw Captain Roque Carnicero with his arms in the air and José Arcadio crossing the street with his fearsome shotgun ready to go off. "Don't shoot," the captain said to José Arcadio. "You were sent by Divine Providence." (7.27, 33)

When we're so heavily immersed in the idea that fate has a hand in everything that happens, it's hard to see what other factors might be motivating events. Here, for example, we've already seen that the usually clairvoyant Colonel Buendía doesn't see his death by the firing squad, and now we also find out that the soldiers are superstitious enough not to want to go through with the execution. But what about the fact that José Arcadio (II) stops the execution of his brother? Isn't this kind of action usually used to reveal something about character? Does that happen here, or is José Arcadio (II) just incidental to the plot?

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