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Then he [José Arcadio (II)] gave himself over to that hand [Pilar Ternera's], and in a terrible state of exhaustion he let himself be led to a shapeless place where his clothes were taken off and he was heaved about like a sack of potatoes and thrown from one side to the other in a bottomless darkness in which his arms were useless, where it no longer smelled of woman but of ammonia, and where he tried to remember her face and found before him the face of Úrsula, confusedly aware that he was doing something that for a very long time he had wanted to do but that he had imagined could really never be done, not knowing what he was doing because he did not know where his feet were or where his head was, or whose feet or whose head, and feeling that he could no longer resist the glacial rumbling of his kidneys and the air of his intestines, and fear, and the bewildered anxiety to flee and at the same time stay forever and ever in that exasperated silence and that fearful solitude. (2.19)
Here's another one of those mixtures of highbrow and lowbrow, just like with the supernatural. On the one hand, José Arcadio (II) is experiencing this elevated state where all the feelings are heightened. He's not just tired but "in a terrible state of exhaustion." He's doing something that had seemed impossible. Although he and Pilar are together, he realizes the depths of his "solitude," and he even has an Oedipal moment when he imagines his mother's face. On the other hand, "a sack of potatoes"? Feeling like he has to pee and pass gas? We're in lowbrow comedy territory here, too.
Little Remedios had reached puberty before getting over the habits of childhood. In spite of the fact that her mother had taught her about the changes of adolescence, one February afternoon she burst shouting into the living room, where her sisters were chatting with Aureliano, and showed them her panties, smeared with a chocolate colored paste. A month for the wedding was agreed upon. There was barely enough time to teach her how to wash herself, get dressed by herself, and understand the fundamental business of a home. They made her urinate over hot bricks in order to cure her of the habit of wetting her bed. It took a good deal of work to convince her of the inviolability of the marital secret, for Remedios was so confused and at the same time so amazed at the revelation that she wanted to talk to everybody about the details of the wedding night. (5.1)
Okay, minors can't really give consent, so this is basically pedophilia. Still, we just love the extremely naturalistic description of this little kid super-psyched by every new thing she hears about. Menstruation? She's "shouting" about her underwear. Sex? She can't help sharing the crazy details with everyone. These few sentences are enough to convey her bubbling personality and suggest how devastating her death must have been for all those quiet, depressive Buendías.
On a certain occasion José Arcadio looked at [Rebeca's] body with shameless attention and said to her: "You're a woman, little sister." Rebeca lost control of herself. She went back to eating earth and the whitewash on the walls with the avidity of previous days, and she sucked her finger with so much anxiety that she developed a callus on her thumb. She vomited up a green liquid with dead leeches in it. She spent nights awake shaking with fever, fighting against delirium, waiting until the house shook with the return of José Arcadio at dawn. One afternoon, when everyone was having a siesta, she could no longer resist and went to his bedroom. She found him in his shorts, lying in the hammock that he had hung from the beams with a ship's hawser. She was so impressed by his enormous motley nakedness that she felt an impulse to retreat. "Excuse me," she said, "I didn't know you were here." But she lowered her voice so as not to wake anyone up. "Come here," he said. Rebeca obeyed. She stopped beside the hammock in an icy sweat, feeling knots forming in her intestines, while José Arcadio stroked her ankles with the tips of his fingers, then her calves, then her thighs, murmuring: "Oh, little sister, little sister." She had to make a supernatural effort not to die when a startlingly regulated cyclonic power lifted her up by the waist and despoiled her of her intimacy with three slashes of its claws and quartered her like a little bird. She managed to thank God for having been born before she lost herself in the inconceivable pleasure of that unbearable pain, splashing in the steaming marsh of the hammock which absorbed the explosion of blood like a blotter. (5.18)
Two things here. First, Rebeca is a pretty aggressive woman, right? Especially for the time, and especially compared to the much more sexually passive Buendía women. Second, we're thinking that maybe José Arcadio (II) has an incest fetish that he's trying to make work. Think about it: Rebeca isn't actually his sister at all. And more than that, he ran off with the gypsies pretty soon after she showed up at the house with the bag of bones, so they weren't really even raised together as siblings. So it's not really all that perverse, in reality.
It was not fear of the dark that drove [Aureliano José] to crawl in under [Amaranta's] mosquito netting but an urge to feel Amaranta's warm breathing at dawn. Early one morning during the time when she refused Colonel Gerineldo Márquez, Aureliano José awoke with the feeling that he could not breathe. He felt Amaranta's fingers searching across his stomach like warm and anxious little caterpillars. Pretending to sleep, he changed his position to make it easier, and then he felt the hand without the black bandage diving like a blind shellfish into the algae of his anxiety. Although they seemed to ignore what both of them knew and what each one knew that the other knew, from that night on they were yoked together in an inviolable complicity. […] [T]hey not only slept together, naked, exchanging exhausting caresses, but they would also chase each other into the corners of the house and shut themselves up in the bedrooms at any hour of the day in a permanent state of unrelieved excitement. […] She realized that she had gone too far, that she was no longer playing kissing games with a child, but was floundering about in an autumnal passion, one that was dangerous and had no future, and she cut it off with one stroke. (8.3)
Compare this passage to ones where the Buendía boys are having their first experience of sexuality. How is the description here changed by the fact that we are getting an older woman's point of view? How does it stay the same?
While [Aureliano Segundo] was shut up in Melquíades room he was drawn into himself, [but one day] a piece of chance took him out of his withdrawn self and made him face the reality of the world. A young woman who was selling numbers for the raffle of an accordion greeted him with a great deal of familiarity. Aureliano Segundo was not surprised, for he was frequently confused with his brother. But he did not clear up the mistake, not even when the girl tried to soften his heart with sobs, and she ended taking him to her room. […] Aureliano Segundo realized that the woman had been going to bed alternately with him and his brother, thinking that they were the same man, and instead of making things clear, he arranged to prolong the situation. He did not return to Melquíades' room. […]
For almost two months he shared the woman with his brother. [After giving her – and indirectly his brother – an STD] José Arcadio Segundo did not see the woman again. Aureliano Segundo obtained her pardon and stayed with her until his death. (10.17-18)
Here is yet another of the transfers of personality from one twin to the other. After this episode with Petra Cotes, it's Aureliano Segundo who becomes all about physical pleasure, and José Arcadio Segundo becomes a weird silent recluse. Is it just us or is there a strange transfer happening here?
In a few years, without effort, simply by luck, he had accumulated one of the largest fortunes in the swamp thanks to the supernatural proliferation of his animals. His mares would bear triplets, his hens laid twice a day, and his hogs fattened with such speed that no one could explain such orderly fecundity except through the use of black magic. […] The more he opened champagne to soak his friends, the more wildly his animals gave birth and the more he was convinced that his lucky star was not a matter of his conduct but an influence of Petra Cotes, his concubine, whose love had the virtue of exasperating nature. […]
They were a frivolous couple, with no other worries except going to bed every night, even on forbidden days, and frolicking there until dawn. (10.25-26)
This stuff is usually right out on the table in this book, but there's no discussion of why Petra never gets pregnant with Aureliano Segundo. Instead, all her fertility is somehow transferred to the animals.
Fernanda carried a delicate calendar with small golden keys on which her spiritual adviser had marked in purple ink the dates of venereal abstinence. Not counting Holy Week, Sundays, holy days of obligation, first Fridays, retreats, sacrifices, and cyclical impediments, her effective year was reduced to forty-two days that were spread out through a web of purple crosses. Aureliano Segundo, convinced that time would break up that hostile network, prolonged the wedding celebration beyond the expected time. […]
[W]hen the period was over, she opened her bedroom with a resignation worthy of an expiatory victim and Aureliano Segundo saw the most beautiful woman on earth, with her glorious eyes of a frightened animal and her long, copper-colored hair spread out across the pillow. He was so fascinated with that vision that it took him a moment to realize that Fernanda was wearing a white nightgown that reached down to her ankles, with long sleeves and with a large, round buttonhole, delicately trimmed, at the level of her lower stomach. Aureliano Segundo could not suppress an explosion of laughter. "That's the most obscene thing I've ever seen in my life," he shouted with a laugh that rang through the house. (11.12-13)
This novel generally opposes those who stand in the way of human nature and animalistic urges. Fernanda's elaborate attempt to avoid sex is mocked and shown to have the complete opposite effect: her extremely modest nightgown crosses over into the realm of pornography with its pelvic-area hole.
[Remedios the Beauty] did not understand why women complicated their lives with corsets and petticoats, so she sewed herself a coarse cassock that she simply put over her and without further difficulties resolved the problem of dress, without taking away the feeling of being naked, which according to her lights was the only decent way to be when at home. They bothered her so much to cut the rain of hair that already reached to her thighs and to make rolls with combs and braids with red ribbons that she simply shaved her head and used the hair to make wigs for the saints. The startling thing about her simplifying instinct was that the more she did away with fashion in a search for comfort and the more she passed over conventions as she obeyed spontaneity, the more disturbing her incredible beauty became and the more provocative she became to men. […] Until her last moment on earth she was unaware that her irreparable fate as a disturbing woman was a daily disaster. Every time she appeared in the dining room, against Úrsula's orders, she caused a panic of exasperation among the outsiders. It was all too evident that she was completely naked underneath her crude nightshirt and no one could understand that her shaved and perfect skull was not some kind of challenge, and that the boldness with which she uncovered her thighs to cool off was not a criminal provocation, nor was her pleasure when she sucked her fingers after eating. What no member of the family ever knew was that the strangers did not take long to realize that Remedios the Beauty gave off a breath of perturbation, a tormenting breeze that was still perceptible several hours after she had passed by. Men expert in the disturbances of love, experienced all over the world, stated that they had never suffered an anxiety similar to the one produced by the natural smell of Remedios the Beauty. (12.7)
What is it with this girl? She's another example of the novel's natural-is-best theme. Here she has removed all of the socially imposed markers of proper femininity: complicated and restrictive undergarments, long hair, modest behavior and manners. But the absence of these things ends up making her even more alluring.
Although [Gaston] was at least fifteen years older than his wife [Amaranta Úrsula], his alert determination to make her happy and his qualities as a good lover compensated for the difference. Actually, those who saw that man in his forties with careful habits, with the leash around his neck and his circus bicycle, would not have thought that he had made a pact of unbridled love with his wife and that they both gave in to the reciprocal drive in the least adequate of places and wherever the spirit moved them, as they had done since they had begun to keep company, and with a passion that the passage of time and the more and more unusual circumstances deepened and enriched. Gaston was not only a fierce lover, with endless wisdom and imagination, but he was also, perhaps, the first man in the history of the species who had made an emergency landing and had come close to killing himself and his sweetheart simply to make love in a field of violets. (19.5)
Wow, that's some commitment to getting it on, no?
Aureliano smiled, picked [Amaranta Úrsula] up by the waist with both hands like a pot of begonias, and dropped her on her back on the bed. With a brutal tug he pulled off her bathrobe before she had time to resist and he loomed over an abyss of newly washed nudity whose skin color, lines of fizz, and hidden moles had all been imagined in the shadows of the other rooms. Amaranta Úrsula defended herself sincerely with the astuteness of a wise woman, writhing her slippery, flexible, and fragrant weasel's body as she tried to knee him in the kidneys and scorpion his face with her nails but without either of them giving a gasp that might not have been taken for the breathing of a person watching the meager April sunset through the open window. It was a fierce fight, a battle to the death, but it seemed to be without violence because it consisted of distorted attacks and ghostly evasions, slow, cautious, solemn, […] as if they were two enemy lovers seeking reconciliation at the bottom of an aquarium. In the heat of that savage and ceremonious struggle, Amaranta Úrsula understood that her meticulous silence was so irrational that it could awaken the suspicions of her nearby husband much more than the sound of warfare that they were trying to avoid. Then she began to laugh with her lips tight together, without giving up the fight, but defending herself with false bites and deweaseling her body little by little until they both were conscious of being adversaries and accomplices at the same time and the affray degenerated into a conventional gambol and the attacks became caresses. (19.30)
Why does Amaranta Úrsula fight Aureliano (II) off, then stop fighting? Why doesn't she call Gaston?
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