One Hundred Years of Solitude
How we cite our quotes:
As soon as José Arcadio closed the bedroom door the sound of a pistol shot echoed through the house. A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta's chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread. (7.38)
That's one determined stream of blood, no? This is another great example of how magical realism works. The initially creepy and horrifying image of the endlessly spreading blood gives way to an almost slapstick comedy effect. The blood becomes like an animated GPS system to find Úrsula. The supernatural and otherworldly is turned mundane and humorous.
Colonel Aureliano Buendía left his room in December and it was sufficient for him to look at the porch in order not to think about war again. With a vitality that seemed impossible at her age, Úrsula had rejuvenated the house again. "Now they're going to see who I am," she said when she saw that her son was going to live. "There won't be a better, more open house in all the world than this madhouse." She had it washed and painted, changed the furniture, restored the garden and planted new flowers, and opened doors and windows so that the dazzling light of summer would penetrate even into the bedrooms. She decreed an end to the numerous superimposed periods of mourning and she herself exchanged her rigorous old gowns for youthful clothing. […] One afternoon when she was trying to put the parlor in order, Úrsula asked for the help of the soldiers who were guarding the house. The young commander of the guard gave them permission. Little by little, Úrsula began assigning them new chores. She invited them to eat. Gave them clothing and shoes, and taught them how to read and write. (9.80)
There's a great moment in Tolstoy's War and Peace when soldiers in the middle of a two-day battle set up camp. They immediately make it homey and domestic, splitting up chores and trying to bring a little family atmosphere into their war lives. Tolstoy's point is that humans are humans wherever they happen to be, and humans thrive in domestic spaces. Here we have a related idea: that soldiers who've been fighting a long war will be able to put aside their warrior persona and readjust to regular life through chores and domestic obligations. For Úrsula, restoring the house is a way to combat old age and depression; for the soldiers, it's a way of hanging on to life and humanity.
When Úrsula realized that José Arcadio Segundo was a cockfight man and that Aureliano Segundo played the accordion at his concubine's noisy parties, she thought she would go mad with the combination. It was as if the defects of the family and none of the virtues had been concentrated in both. Then she decided that no one again would be called Aureliano or José Arcadio. Yet when Aureliano Segundo had his first son she did not dare go against his will.
"All right," Úrsula said, "but on one condition: I will bring him up."
Although she was already a hundred years old and on the point of going blind from cataracts, she still had her physical dynamism, her integrity of character, and her mental balance intact. No one would be better able than she to shape the virtuous man who would restore the prestige of the family, a man who would never have heard talk of war, fighting cocks, bad women, or wild undertakings, four calamities that, according to what Úrsula thought, had determined the downfall of the line. "This one will be a priest," she promised solemnly. "And if God gives me life he'll be Pope someday." (10.19-21)
Now that's dedication. A hundred years old and raising a small child – to be Pope? That's mad commitment to an ideal, right there. So why doesn't it work?