One Hundred Years of Solitude Theme of Memory and the Past
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a meditation on the history of an independent Colombia, merging several hundred years of events into an allegorical description of the evolution of Macondo. Pretty impressive feat, we must say. But there's more! At the same time, the novel emphasizes just how prone people are to either willfully or accidentally forgetting their past and their origins, usually with terrible and avoidable consequences. Because it's continuously being lost, time in the novel is cyclical and repetitive, as generation after generation is doomed to either repeat the mistakes of their ancestors or fall into spirals of ineffectual and pointless activity.
Questions About Memory and the Past
- Which of the main characters makes the most effort to remember the past? José Arcadio Buendía, with his memory machine? José Arcadio Segundo, with the banana company massacre? Who does the most to escape or erase memory? Why?
- Can you think of an instance where knowing about the past would have helped a character? For example, would it have helped Amaranta Úrsula and Aureliano (II) to know about the pig-tail-baby prediction? Why or why not?
- Why do you think Melquíades doesn't share his predictions with the Buendía family?
- Is this novel a good way to teach readers about Colombian history? Or does the novel assume that readers will have some knowledge of real-life events there before reading it? Is it necessary to know about the facts in order to really understand the novel?
Chew on This
Despite the novel's insistence that collective memory loss is tragic, it does serve to protect characters from horrible, life-altering truths they have no control over anyway.
Because the repetitive cycle of time only occurs in Macondo, it's clearly a very specific instance that won't be replicated. So no worries for the rest of us.