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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
by Gabriel García Márquez
  • Summary
  • Brief Summary
  • Chapter Summaries
  • Story

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Summary

How It All Goes Down

After a lot of rain, a couple named Pelayo and Elisenda's newborn baby gets sick and their patio gets… full of dead crabs. In the middle of the chaos, Pelayo discovers that a very old man with enormous wings is also stuck in the mud in their patio.

That is some superstorm.

The old man looks like a beggar, even though a neighbor lady is sure that he's an angel. However, she's suspicious of angels and recommends that they club him to death. Pelayo and Elisenda decide to opt out, because they're decent human beings. But, just in case, they keep him locked in their chicken coop.

A few days later, the child is better. Did the angel help? Maybe. Just in case, Pelayo and Elisenda decide to reward their captive by setting him loose at sea with some water and food. Too late, though—word is out, and the whole neighborhood moseys by to check out the angel, just like a zoo animal.

The town priest comes out too, and tests the man to see whether he's an angel. He decides he's not, since he doesn't understand Latin (obviously the Lord's language). Plus, there's the issue of the smell.

No matter, though. The people still want to believe, and they all line up to see the "angel." Elisenda gets the bright idea to sell tickets, and it's as good as winning the lottery. People keep coming and Elisenda and Pelayo make a killing.

But, of course, it's not so great for the angel. People throw things, hens peck him, and once the crowd even puts a red-hot branding iron on him to see whether or not he's alive. Surprise: he is indeed alive and not too happy about being branded.

Luckily for the winged old man, another carnival comes to town with a woman who had been turned into a spider. She's much more exciting than the boring old angel who doesn't even fly, so the crowds start to leave Elisenda and Pelayo's courtyard for freakier freak shows.

Elisenda and Pelayo use the loads of dough they've made to build a mansion and quit their jobs. Meanwhile, the winged man gets older and older, while the family treats him like an irritating but beloved pet.

Finally he grows some feathers on his wings and starts belting out old sea songs. One day Elisenda sees him fly away through the kitchen window. Whew! Now he's not an annoyance; he's just an imaginary little dot in the sky.

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