A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
by Gabriel García Márquez
In "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," the narrator isn't much of a mind reader (see "Narrative Style" for more on that), so actions help us figure out what makes the characters tick. In particular, we can tell a lot about each character by the way they react to the angel. Check out this sentence:
Against the judgement of the wise neighbor woman, for whom angels in those times were the fugitive survivors of a celestial conspiracy, they did not have the heart to club him to death. (4)
From the characters' actions, we learn that the neighbor woman is an off-her-rocker would-be murderer, while Pelayo and Elisenda have something—although maybe not much—of a heart.
We know that Pelayo is a bailiff, who later quits his job when he becomes rich off the angel admission tickets. (What's a bailiff? See "Symbols: Captive Animals" for our thoughts on Pelayo's law-enforcement occupation.)
The only other real occupation mentioned in the story is those of Father Gonzaga, the priest, and Gárcia Márquez uses a quick run-down of Father Gonzaga's resume to explain his character. After hearing a lot of cockamamie ideas for what to do with the angel, the priest steps in:
But Father Gonzaga, before becoming a priest, had been a robust woodcutter. Standing by the wire, he reviewed his catechism in an instant and asked them to open the door so that he could take a close look at that pitiful man who looked more like a huge decrepit hen among the fascinated chickens. (5).
From this, we know that Father Gonzaga maybe isn't much of a priest. He's a salt-of-the-earth type of fellow, a laborer who isn't going to go nuts with raving about the coming apocalypse because an angel has arrived. He sees the old man for what he is (or might be): a pitiful, decrepit being closer to the hens than to heaven.
Elisenda is the mastermind behind the get-rich-quick scheme that she and Pelayo put into action when they see how popular the old man is with the crowds. And the narrator uses her clothing to show the reader just how rich she gets with her plan:
Elisenda bought some satin pumps with high heels and many dresses of iridescent silk, the kind worn on Sunday by the most desirable women in those times. (11).
Unfortunately for Elisenda, these clothes do more than just show that she's desirable. They also show that she's just a tad (okay, maybe more than a tad) superficial and not-too-nice. Point taken!