Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Pelayo and Elisenda's town may be small, but it's not sleepy. Storm after storm seems to hit it.
The first storm is a real storm with flooding and thunder, but the next ones are figurative:
In the midst of that shipwreck disorder that made the earth tremble, Pelayo and Elisenda were happy with fatigue, for in less than a week they had crammed their rooms with money and the line of pilgrims waiting their turn to enter still reached beyond the horizon. (7)
The sheer number of people that come to see the old man is so great that they're as destructive as the storm that brought him. And even the old man himself is compared to a storm:
Although many thought that his reaction had been one not of rage but of pain, from then on they were careful not to annoy him, because the majority understood that his passivity was not that of a hero taking his ease but that of a cataclysm in repose. (8)
"What are you talking about, Shmoop? Where's the storm in that?"
We hear you. Check out that "cataclysm": a cataclysm is a majorly destructive event. Here, we get the sense that, although the old man seems calm, he's really just a superstorm waiting to unleash devastation on the town.
But he doesn't. So we're stuck with another contrast. The potential for this event to be life-changing (and not in a good way), and the reality that it actually turns out to be just some weird event that Elisenda forgets as soon as the man disappears into the horizon.