One Hundred Years of Solitude
How we cite our quotes:
For Colonel Aureliano Buendía it meant the limits of atonement. He suddenly found himself suffering from the same indignation that he had felt in his youth over the body of the woman who had been beaten to death because she had been bitten by a rabid dog. He looked at the groups of bystanders in front of the house and with his old stentorian voice, restored by a deep disgust with himself, he unloaded upon them the burden of hate that he could no longer bear in his heart.
"One of these days," he shouted, "I'm going to arm my boys so we can get rid of these shitty gringos!"
During the course of that week, at different places along the coast, his seventeen sons were hunted down like rabbits by invisible criminals who aimed at the center of their crosses of ash. (12.23-25)
The strategy that worked against the corrupt government fails against the capitalist imperialism of the banana company. Maybe because this time the enemy is too diffuse? Too many people stand to profit by what the banana company is doing to really want to fight them?
Martial law enabled the army to assume the functions of arbitrator in the controversy, but no effort at conciliation was made. As soon as they appeared in Macondo, the soldiers put aside their rifles and cut and loaded the bananas and started the trains running. The workers, who had been content to wait until then, went into the woods with no other weapons but their working machetes and they began to sabotage the sabotage. They burned plantations and commissaries, tore up tracks […]. The summons announced that the civil and military leader of the province would arrive on the following Friday ready to intercede in the conflict.
[…] [M]ore than three thousand people, workers, women, and children, had spilled out of the open space in front of the station and were pressing into the neighboring streets, which the army had closed off with rows of machine guns. […] [I]n three articles of eighty words [Major Enrique Garcia Isaza] declared the strikers to be a "bunch of hoodlums" and he authorized the army to shoot to kill.
[…] The captain gave the order to shoot. It seemed like a farce. It was as if the machine guns had been loaded with caps.
"Get down! Get down!" The people in front had already done so, swept down by the wave of bullets. The survivors, instead of getting down, tried to go back to the small square, and the panic became a dragon's tail. […]
They were penned in, swirling about in a gigantic whirlwind that little by little was being reduced to its epicenter as the edges were systematically being cut off around like an onion being peeled by the insatiable and methodical shears of the machine guns. (15.17-28)
Okay, this is beyond horrible, especially since it actually happened during a workers' strike in Colombia in 1928. Check out how the language heightens the reading experience. The guns go from being tools of the soldiers to being agents with seemingly no human controlling them. (It's as if the guns had been loaded with caps – but we don't get any sense of by whom.) Finally, the guns are completely anthropomorphized: they are "insatiable" and "methodical," both of which imply thinking and feeling. (Anthropomorphism is when objects or animals are given human qualities.)
Meanwhile, the victims start out as active participants, moving and talking to each other in the square. Then they become part of a mythical animal (a dragon's tail). Then they are described as an inanimate but powerful phenomenon (a gigantic whirlwind). And finally they are reduced to an insignificant onion being peeled. It's a subtle but really resonant way of demonstrating the shifting power dynamic here.
One hot dawn [José Arcadio (III) and Aureliano (II)] woke up in alarm at an urgent knocking on the street door. It was a dark old man with large green eyes that gave his face a ghostly phosphorescence and with a cross of ashes on his forehead. His clothing in tatters, his shoes cracked, the old knapsack on his shoulder his only luggage, he looked like a beggar, but his bearing had a dignity that was in frank contradiction to his appearance. It was only necessary to look at him once, even in the shadows of the parlor, to realize that the secret strength that allowed him to live was not the instinct of self-preservation but the habit of fear. It was Aureliano Amador, the only survivor of Colonel Aureliano Buendía's seventeen sons, searching for a respite in his long and hazardous existence as a fugitive. He identified himself, begged them to give him refuge in that house which during his nights as a pariah he had remembered as the last redoubt of safety left for him in life. But José Arcadio and Aureliano could not remember him. Thinking that he was a tramp, they pushed him into the street. Then they both saw from the doorway the end of a drama that had begun before José Arcadio had reached the age of reason. Two policemen who had been chasing Aureliano Amador for years, who had tracked him like bloodhounds across half the world, came out from among the almond trees on the opposite sidewalk and took two shots with the their Mausers which neatly penetrated the cross of ashes. (18.22)
There's a whole crazy confluence of themes in this passage. You've got the lost memory of the past, with José Arcadio (III) and Aureliano (II) having no idea who the seventeen Aurelianos were, even though that was a pretty significant part of their ancestors' lives. You've got a guy who has practically come back from the dead, having survived against nearly impossible odds. And you've got the unbelievable persistence of the random policemen who have been chasing Aureliano Amador for this many years just to complete the task of killing him, long after whatever danger he might have once posed to the regime or the banana company was gone.