One Hundred Years of Solitude
How we cite our quotes:
Úrsula's capacity for work was the same as that of her husband. Active, small, severe, that woman of unbreakable nerves who at no moment in her life had been heard to sing seemed to be everywhere, from dawn until quite late at night, always pursued by the soft whispering of her stiff, starched petticoats. Thanks to her the floors of tamped earth, the unwhitewashed mud walls, the rustic, wooden furniture they had built themselves were always clean, and the old chests where they kept their clothes exhaled the warm smell of basil.
José Arcadio Buendía, who was the most enterprising man ever to be seen in the village, had set up the placement of the houses in such a way that from all of them one could reach the river and draw water with the same effort, and he had lined up the streets with such good sense that no house got more sun than another during the hot time of day. Within a few years Macondo was a village that was more orderly and hard-working than any known until then by its three hundred inhabitants. It was a truly happy village where no one was over thirty years of age and where no one had died. (1.12-13)
You know what strikes us reading the book this time around? (Shmoop reads books more than once. You should, too!) There's a lot of emphasis on just how hard it was to maintain a clean, smooth-running household back in the day. Housework is grueling, repetitive, and thankless. And as soon as anyone lets up even a tiny bit, the house is immediately overrun with dirt, pests, and chaos.
But the stubborn descendants of the twenty-one intrepid people who plowed through the mountains in search of the sea to the west avoided the reefs of the melodic mixup and the dancing went on until dawn. (4.3)
In the early days of the town, determination is a quality in such abundance that you even see it at parties. Here, when the pianola breaks, everyone is determined to have a good time. They just go on dancing to the weird non-music. Contrast this useful purposefulness to José Arcadio Buendía's ongoing mania for photographing God.
Pietro Crespi exhausted all manner of pleas. He went through incredible extremes of humiliation. He wept one whole afternoon in Úrsula's lap and she would have sold her soul in order to comfort him. On rainy nights he could be seen prowling about the house. […] He begged Amaranta's fiends, the ones who sewed with her on the porch, to try to persuade her. He neglected his business. He would spend the day in the rear of the store writing wild notes, which he would send to Amaranta with flower petals and dried butterflies, and which she would return unopened. He would shut himself up for hours on end to play the zither. One night he sang. Macondo woke up in a kind of angelic stupor that was caused by a zither that deserved more than this world and a voice that led one to believe that no other person on earth could feel such love. Pietro Crespi then saw the lights go on in every window in town except that of Amaranta. On November second, All Souls' Day, his brother opened the store and found all the lamps lighted, all the music boxes opened, and all the clocks striking an interminable hour, and in the midst of that mad concert he found Pietro Crespi at the desk in the rear with his wrists cut by a razor and his hands thrust into a basin of benzene. (6.10)
So is Pietro Crespi a quitter? Or is he the opposite, way too overly persevering?