Study Guide

One Hundred Years of Solitude The Supernatural

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The Supernatural

Prudencio Aguilar did not go away, nor did José Arcadio Buendía dare throw the spear. He never slept well after that. He was tormented by the immense desolation with which the dead man had looked at him through the rain, his deep nostalgia as he yearned for living people, the anxiety with which he searched through the house looking for some water with which to soak his esparto plug. "He must be suffering a great deal," he said to Úrsula. "You can see that he's so very lonely." She was so moved that the next time she saw the dead man uncovering the pots on the stove she understood what he was looking for, and from then on she placed water jugs all about the house. (2.14)

Check out how the ante keeps being upped in this passage. We get horror, with the first glimpse of the ghost and the spear. Then we get pity for the ghost. Then empathy, as José Arcadio understands what Prudencio Aguilar is feeling. And finally there's a strange slide into domestic comedy, as Úrsula fills up jars for the ghost to keep his bandage moist. And there in a nutshell you have magical realism: the transformation of the mystical into the mundane.

Aureliano gave her a look that wrapped her in an atmosphere of uncertainty.

"Somebody is coming," he told her.

Úrsula, as she did whenever he made a prediction, tried to break it down with her housewifely logic. It was normal for someone to be coming. (3.2-4)

Why does Úrsula resist Aureliano's predictions? Do the words used in this passage ("wrapped," "uncertainly," "logic," and "normal") give you a clue? What does this say about her?

"Just a moment," he said. "Now we shall witness an undeniable proof of the infinite power of God."

The boy who had helped him with the mass brought him a cup of thick and steaming chocolate, which he drank without pausing to breathe. Then he wiped his lips with a handkerchief that he drew from his sleeve, extended his arms, and closed his eyes. Thereupon Father Nicanor rose six inches above the level of the ground. It was a convincing measure. […] No one doubted the divine origin of the demonstration except José Arcadio Buendía […]

"<em>Hoc est simplicissimus</em>," Arcadio Buendía said. "<em>Homo iste statum quartum materiae invenit</em>." […]

He was so stubborn that Father Nicanor gave up his attempts at evangelization and continued visiting him out of humanitarian feelings. But then it was José Arcadio Buendía who took the lead and tried to break down the priest's faith with rationalist tricks. (5.4-6, 8)

Is the priest's levitation proof of God? Why doesn't José Arcadio Buendía think so? Does it matter whether the levitation is the same kind of magic as the other supernatural events in the novel or whether it's divine? (Oh, and by the way, the Latin translates to: "This is very simple. This man has found the fourth state of matter.")

[Colonel Aureliano Buendía's] efforts to systematize his premonitions were useless. They would come suddenly in a wave of supernatural lucidity, like an absolute and momentous conviction, but they could not be grasped. On occasion they were so natural that he identified them as premonitions only after they had been fulfilled. Frequently they were nothing but ordinary bits of superstition. But when they condemned him to death and asked him to state his last wish, he did not have the least difficulty in identifying the premonition that inspired his answer: "I ask that the sentence be carried out in Macondo," he said. (7.21)

Can we compare Colonel Buendía's efforts to make sense of his clairvoyance with his father's attempts to systematize memory with the memory machine? What's the attitude behind each of these attempts? Neither is successful, but do we feel differently about each of them?

No one had gone into the room again since they had taken Melquíades's body out and had put on the door a padlock whose parts had become fused together with rust. But when Aureliano Segundo opened the windows a familiar light entered that seemed accustomed to lighting the room every day and there was not the slightest trace of dust or cobwebs, with everything swept and clean, better swept and cleaner than on the day of the burial, and the ink had not dried up in the inkwell nor had oxidation diminished the shine of the metals nor had the embers gone out under the water pipe where José Arcadio Buendía had vaporized mercury. On the shelves were the books bound in a cardboard-like material, pale like tanned human skin, and the manuscripts were intact. (10.4)

What's the symbolism of this room being so super-clean? It's like ghost OCD in there! Also, check out the comparison between the books and human skin. It's almost like Melquíades <em>is</em> those books – creepy!

[Aureliano Segundo] became lost in misty byways, in times reserved for oblivion, in labyrinths of disappointment. He crossed a yellow plain where the echo repeated one's thoughts and where anxiety brought on premonitory mirages. After sterile weeks he came to an unknown city where all the bells were tolling a dirge. Although he had never seen them and no one had ever described them to him he immediately recognized the walls eaten away by bone salt, the broken-down wooden balconies gutted by fungus, and nailed to the outside door, almost erased by rain, the saddest cardboard sign in the world: Funeral Wreaths for Sale. (11.10)

Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda have the worst marriage ever. Why do you think he finds her through this crazy supernatural recognition? What does it say about the supernatural in the novel as a whole, if anything?

The Ash Wednesday before [the seventeen Aurelianos] went back to scatter out along the coast, Amaranta got them to put on Sunday clothes and accompany her to church. More amused than devout, they let themselves be led to the altar rail where Father Antonio Isabel made the sign of the cross in ashes on them. Back at the house, when the youngest tried to clean his forehead, he discovered that the mark was indelible and so were those of his brothers. They tried soap and water, earth and a scrubbing brush, and lastly a pumice stone and lye, but they could not remove the crosses. On the other hand, Amaranta and the others who had gone to mass took it off without any trouble. (11.28)

It's so creepy that the Ash Wednesday marks that are supposed to be a protective religious symbol in the novel become targets on the boys' heads. Also, imagine scrubbing your forehead with a pumice stone and lye – ouch!

The supposition that Remedios the Beauty possessed powers of death was then borne out. […] Amaranta noticed that Remedios the Beauty was covered all over by an intense paleness. "Don't you feel well?" she asked her. Remedios the Beauty, who was clutching the sheet by the other end, gave a pitying smile. "Quite the opposite," she said, "I never felt better." She had just finished saying it when Fernanda felt a delicate wind of light pull the sheets out of her hands and open them up wide. Amaranta felt a mysterious trembling in the lace on her petticoats and she tried to grasp the sheet so that she would not fall down at the instant in which Remedios the Beauty began to rise. Úrsula, almost blind at the time, was the only person who was sufficiently calm to identify the nature of that determined wind and she left the sheets to the mercy of the light as she watched Remedios the Beauty waving goodbye in the midst of the flapping sheets that rose up with her, abandoning with her the environment of beetles and dahlias and passing through the air with her as four o'clock in the afternoon came to an end, and they were lost forever with her in the upper atmosphere where not even the highest-flying birds of memory could reach her. (12.23)

Again we get this amazing mix of the transcendent and the mundane. On the one hand, we've got the world's most beautiful woman rising naked into the air. It's like a vision out that famous Botticelli painting of Venus rising out of the sea on a shell. On the other hand, we've got two women trying to keep the laundry from going up with her, bringing the scene back down to a mundane, daily level.

It was then that she realized that the yellow butterflies preceded the appearances of Mauricio Babilonia. […] One morning, while she was pruning the roses, Fernanda let out a cry of fight and had Meme taken away from the spot where she was, which was the same place in the garden where Remedios the Beauty had gone up to heaven. She had thought for an instant that the miracle was going to be repeated with her daughter, because she had been bothered by a sudden flapping of wings. It was the butterflies. (14.23)

In a way, Fernanda's fears come true. After all, Meme <em>is</em> going to be taken away forever – except it's Fernanda herself who's going to be doing the taking. Also, why yellow butterflies? Why that color and that insect?

It rained for four years, eleven months, and two days. (16.1)

Nothing too brilliant to say here – just, wow, that's a lot of water.

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