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Themes

Novels can sometimes overwhelm readers with a steady and growing awareness that what we see on the page is only there because of the whims of the author, who could easily have made other choices. <em>One Hundred Years of Solitude</em> sidesteps this pitfall by creating a world in which free will almost doesn't exist, where fate controls the actions and histories of every major character. Every prophesy and fortune-telling come to pass, and no one can escape the pull of what the cards have in store for them.

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. Do any characters besides Melquíades have free will in the novel? How can you tell? Is anyone ever able to avoid a predicted fate?
  2. Think about the different ways prophesy and prediction come about in the novel, from Colonel Aureliano Buendía being clairvoyant as young boy, to Pilar Ternera's tarot cards, to the curse of Úrsula's mother, to the writings of Melquíades. How are these similar and different? Do some seem more serious or respectable than others? Why?
  3. Is the idea that fate is set is stone and free will is mostly impossible to achieve a depressing one or a paradoxically liberating one in the novel? What does it say about the characters? About Macondo?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Although some characters claim to follow a moral code that ensures ethical behavior, in practice, most are able to convince themselves that whatever they want to do falls within their principles. Thus everyone comes to fulfill whatever fate has in store for them.

One of the reasons the narrator is so detached and nonjudgmental is that in a universe without free will, there can be no guilt or responsibility for any action. After all, whatever happens was fated to happen.

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