Analysis: Writing Style
Straightforward, Linear, Descriptive
Telling it Like it Is
The writing in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is pretty direct and simple. It tells the reader what happened and how. This isn't to say that there aren't any big words or descriptive language—there are—but the narrator never strays too far from describing exactly what is happening, objectively (from the outside).
Look at this quote for an idea of the play-by-play, straightforward writing:
Pelayo watched over him all afternoon from the kitchen, armed with his bailiff's club, and before going to bed he dragged him out of the mud and locked him up with the hens in the wire chicken coop. In the middle of the night, when the rain stopped, Pelayo and Elisenda were still killing crabs. A short time afterward the child woke up without a fever and with a desire to eat. (4)
There's no philosophizing or speculating here; just the facts. Lots of concrete words like "club," "mud," "hens," and "crabs" add to the straightforward effect.
One Foot in Front of the Other
No flashbacks or premonitions here. The story unfolds chronologically, in the same order that the events happen. This linear narration makes the magical realism seem even more magically real (see "Genre" for more about this magical realism.) Because the narration is so ordinary, the extraordinary event really pops.
Piling on the Adjectives
The style might be straightforward, but that doesn't mean the narrator doesn't give us a lot of description, letting us know how the angel's visit felt, smells, looks, and sounds. The story is so short that these descriptions are key for giving the reader immediate access to the events. Check it out:
The chicken coop was the only thing that didn't receive any attention. If they washed it down with creolin and burned tears of myrrh inside it every so often, it was not in homage to the angel but to drive away the dungheap stench that still hung everywhere like a ghost and was turning the new house into an old one. (11)
In just two sentences the narrator lets us in on the smell, the filthy conditions the angel had to live in, and also the passage of time, as the house changes odors.