Study Guide

One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude Summary

Okay, first, a few ground rules for this summary. One Hundred Years of Solitude jumps back and forth in time so much it makes our heads spin. So to make things simpler, we're going to summarize the events in linear time, not the order in which they appear in the novel. Basically, be sure you've read it cover to cover already, just so we don't spoil anything for you.

Here goes. José Arcadio Buendía and his cousin, Úrsula, fall in love and decide to get married without their families' permission. Úrsula is stressed that incest isn't best and that it will lead to a child with a pig's tail, so she doesn't want to consummate the marriage. José Arcadio Buendía wins a cockfight, and the loser, Prudencio Aguilar, teases him about his wife not putting out. He gets mad, kills Prudencio, then goes home and has sex with his wife. Prudencio Aguilar's ghost starts to haunt José Arcadio and Úrsula until they decide to pack up and go found a new city, Macondo, with some of their friends. Their idea is to set up the town near the sea, but they can't find it and eventually give up looking.

José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula have two sons, José Arcadio (II) and Aureliano. Like all the future José Arcadios, this one is strong and tough, and like all the future Aurelianos, this one is nerdy, bookish, and clairvoyant. The town mainly gets its view of the outside world from a group of nomadic gypsies, headed by Melquíades, who brings real-life and magical inventions to Macondo – things like ice, flying carpets, magnifying glasses, and magnets. José Arcadio Buendía usually wants to turn every new thing into a weapon.

Tired of being so isolated from modern developments, José Arcadio leads a band of dudes on a mission to try to find a route to the sea and thus get contact with the outside world. They get stuck in the jungle, go kind of crazy, and eventually give up. Meanwhile, back home, José Arcadio (II) has sex with Pilar Ternera, knocks her up, freaks out at impending fatherhood, falls in love with a little gypsy girl, and runs off with the caravan. Trying to find him, Úrsula leaves Macondo and comes back a few months later having found a route to another town, connecting Macondo to the world. New people start coming to the town, and the government sends over a mayor-type guy, Don Apolinar Moscote.

Pilar Ternera gives her baby to the Buendía family, and he is named Arcadio and raised without knowing who his 'rents are. Also joining the family are Rebeca, an orphan who arrives with a letter for José Arcadio and a bag of her parents' bones, and Amaranta, a new baby born to Úrsula and José Arcadio. Aureliano falls in love with Don Apolinar's beautiful nine-year-old child, Remedios.

Suddenly, the town is hit by a plague. The main symptoms are insomnia and complete memory loss. José Arcadio and Aureliano try to fight the disease first by posting signs labeling everything, and then by creating a memory machine. But it's no use. In the nick of time, they are rescued by Melquíades, who has a potion to bring all the memories back. Melquíades claims that he's back from the dead, and he holes up in a room in the house to write manuscripts in a secret code and teach Aureliano how to be a goldsmith.

Another memory that pops up after the plague is the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar, who has spent years trying to find José Arcadio and Macondo. He hangs out with José Arcadio for a long night, and the next day José Arcadio has gone completely insane. The family ties him to a tree in the backyard where he seems happy, speaking some language no one can understand.

Meanwhile, Aureliano is tortured by his feelings for little girl Remedios and goes to bed with Pilar Ternera to make himself feel better. It doesn't work, and he ends up getting her pregnant in the process. But she does agree to set up the marriage. After Remedios finally gets her period, she and Aureliano marry and he is extremely happy for the first time in his life.

Úrsula decides to liven up the house and throw a party. Part of the prep is buying a player-piano, which comes with a technician named Pietro Crespi. Both Rebeca and Amaranta fall in love with him, and a bitter hatred and rivalry starts up between them. Pietro prefers Rebeca and they become engaged, while Amaranta plots ways to disrupt the wedding. Finally, the wedding is about to happen, and Amaranta decides to murder Rebeca. But she prays hard for some other thing to happen so she doesn't have to go through with it. The other thing that happens? Remedios dies from some kind of pregnancy complication.

José Arcadio (II) suddenly comes back, giant, tattooed, and wild. He's been a sailor. When he gets home, he and Rebeca have instant chemistry and get married despite the fact that everyone is grossed out by the almost-incest. Pietro Crespi now falls in love with Amaranta, but she rejects him and he ends up killing himself.

After Remedios' death, Aureliano starts to become more and more political. At first he's on the side of his father-in-law, the Conservative town mayor Don Apolinar, but when he sees how super-corrupt the Conservative government is, he decides to join up with the Liberals. They turn out to be better, so Aureliano starts calling himself Colonel Aureliano Buendía and becomes a leader in a civil war between the Liberals and the Conservatives. The Colonel loses all of the rebellions he starts all over the country, but manages to constantly escape death in a series of close calls and assassination attempts. Also, while he travels, a lot of beautiful women come to his tent at night to sleep with him – it's apparently a thing, like back in the days of gladiators. He ends up fathering seventeen sons, all named Aureliano. Eventually he is captured and put in front of a firing squad, but his brother José Arcadio (II) rescues him.

The civil wars are endless and relentless. Back home, Arcadio, the secret son of José Arcadio (II), marries Santa Sofía de la Piedad. While she is pregnant Arcadio is put in charge of Macondo by Colonel Aureliano Buendía. He turns out to be a horrible tyrant, making up for the all the sad indignities of his childhood, and is finally executed by firing squad. He and Sofía have three kids: Remedios, and the twins Aureliano Segundo and José Arcadio Segundo.

When the civil war finally ends, Colonel Aureliano Buendía is forced to sign a demoralizing peace agreement, and his depression and loner-ism become extreme. He comes home and spends the rest of his life making tiny gold fishes, melting them down, and making them again.

But hey, life goes on – this time in the form of Americans and a banana plantation. At first, the company and its doings are hunky-dory, but eventually the workers get upset about their terrible working conditions and they strike. The company pretends to hold a meeting to come to terms, but instead it gathers the 3,000 workers together in a square and slaughters them with machine guns.

José Arcadio Segundo, who was a foreman at the plantation and is one of the key strike leaders, is one of the only survivors. When he comes to after the massacre, he is on a train of corpses on their way to be dumped into the sea. He just barely escapes, and when he gets back to Macondo, no one knows the massacre has happened. For the whole rest of the novel, all the people in the town stick to the government line that the strike ended peacefully and all the workers just went home. The banana company leaves and the plantation shuts down.

While all that was going on, Aureliano Segundo fell in love with Petra Cotes, but goes off and marries a super-strict, super-religious, kind-of-crazy woman named Fernanda. After the wedding, he goes back and forth between them. While he's with Petra Cotes, their farm animals breed crazily and he becomes extremely wealthy. With Fernanda he has a daughter, Meme, and a son, José Arcadio (III).

Meme falls in love with a mechanic named Mauricio Babilonia. Fernanda discovers them, has Mauricio shot as a thief, and ships Meme off to a convent. A year later, a nun comes to Macondo with Aureliano (II), Meme's baby, who becomes a huge persona non grata (unwelcome person) at the house, and who is raised in near-captivity playing alongside Fernanda and Aureliano Segundo's last daughter, Amaranta Úrsula, without knowing that he's related to the Buendías.

Then it starts to rain. It rains for almost five years straight without interruption. Most of the town is completely destroyed, rotted, and washed away. Úrsula, the last of the original Buendías, dies. Everyone who is still alive starts dying off. Amaranta Úrsula goes off to Belgium, and eventually Aureliano (II) is left alone in the house. José Arcadio (III) comes back, starts an orgy lifestyle with some local kids, and they eventually kill him for his money. Then Amaranta Úrsula comes back with her husband, a Flemish pilot. After a while, she and Aureliano (II) end up getting it on, and the husband leaves. As their love grows, the house and the town fall more and more into complete nothingness.

Amaranta Úrsula becomes pregnant, and neither she nor Aureliano (II) knows that they are actually aunt and nephew. She dies during childbirth, after giving birth to a baby with the tail of a pig – just as Úrsula had been worried about all this time, bringing the story full circle. Totally depressed, Aureliano (II) goes and gets drunk. By the time he remembers the baby, little Aureliano (III) has been eaten by ants.

Aureliano (II) freaks out but can't do anything except go and finally translate the scrolls that Melquíades had left behind, which turn out to be the whole history of the Buendía family, from the patriarch tied to a tree to the baby devoured by ants. As he finishes reading the story, Aureliano (II), the house, and the rest of the town are wiped away by a hurricane. Everything is gone from memory, history, and existence.

  • Chapter 1

    • Okay, kids, here's how you start a novel. Colonel Aureliano Buendía is facing a firing squad. That's right, you're already hooked.
    • While he's waiting to be shot, the colonel remembers his childhood in the town of Macondo.
    • This is where things start to get a little weird. One of the things this novel does a lot is play around with our normal sense of time. So get used to doing a lot of, wait, this is happening when? And it's set in what century? Huh? For example, in this chapter, when we learn all about the founding of Macondo and its beginnings as a little village, it's really, really hard to figure out when everything is happening -- mostly because you're not supposed to. Don't take that 100 years thing too literally. Not only does the novel span the years from around 1850 to 1950, it also envelopes all of history since the dawn of time. (What on earth? Swing by "Setting," where we try to explain.)
    • Macondo seems to have its origin in the Biblical book of Genesis. That's what it sounds like, at least, since this is taking place so long ago that they even don't have words for everything yet. Or maybe that's a joke or an exaggeration.
    • Every year, a caravan of gypsies comes to town, bringing with them the most up-to-date scientific discovery of the time. This year it's magnets.
    • But hang on, you say, isn't it the nineteenth century? When were magnets discovered? Yes, indeedy: naturally occurring magnets were already known in the time of ancient Greece. But in Macondo, the people are astonished at the magnets' power of attraction. So maybe we're not in the nineteenth century after all. Maybe instead, what we're getting is a fast-tracked metaphorical journey through the development of knowledge.
    • Everyone thinks the magnets are super-awesome, especially José Arcadio Buendía, Colonel Aureliano Buendía's dad.
    • Oh, and guys? The names are hard in this novel. The basic rule of thumb is that all Buendía dudes have one of two names. And there are seven generations of them. (Why? Check out Shmoop's "Symbols" section for some juicy thoughts.)
    • Daddy Buendía decides to use the magnets to find gold deep in the ground. Melquíades, the leader of the gypsies, tells him it won't work, but he's ignored.
    • Buendía's wife Úrsula tries to talk him out of it, too, but it's no use.
    • So they drag the magnets around and they find… a rusted suit of fifteenth-century armor with a calcified skeleton inside. Oh, the fifteenth-century – so now we're back in the 1400s? Argh!
    • The next year the gypsies come back and bring a telescope and a magnifying glass. Ooh, this is the cutting edge of science in the Middle Ages. So we're moving forward.
    • Again, the Macondoans are bowled over by the awesomeness.
    • But José Arcadio Buendía decides that the giant magnifying glass with its solar burning properties should be made into a weapon. (Don't tell us you didn't set fire to a few ants back in the day.)
    • He spends forever drawing up plans for it and sends them off to the government by courier.
    • Now we get another important tidbit about Macondo: not only is it held back in time, it's also geographically isolated. The courier goes through hell just trying to get to the mail route to send José Arcadio Buendía's message. Why? Because Macondo is surrounded by mountains on one side and swamps on the other. It's basically cut off from the outside world.
    • Anyway, the government doesn't answer, and eventually the gypsies come back again. This time they've got a compass, an astrolabe, and a sextant. Melquíades is a nice guy, so instead of taking money from José Arcadio Buendía again, he just trades him these instruments for the magnifying glass.
    • So, astrolabe. That's a device for observing and measuring the planets and starts in the night sky. We've just about arrived at the Age of Reason, science-wise.
    • José Arcadio Buendía watches the skies for a very long time and finally shocks all of Macondo with the announcement that the earth is round, not flat.
    • Okay, so we've slipped back in time again, since in the nineteenth century this would not have been a shocking statement.
    • Macondo is shocked. The earth is round? José Arcadio Buendía must be crazy. But soon Melquíades comes back and reveals that actually he's right.
    • Melquíades is starting to look a little worse for the wear, all old and diseased. He gives José Arcadio Buendía an alchemy lab. (Shmoop brain snack: alchemy is the attempt to chemically turn base metals into gold. It, um, doesn't work. Gold is an element, so unless you can actually move the electrons and protons around somehow, you ain't gettin' gold from anywhere but the ground.)
    • José Arcadio Buendía gets carried away again. He melts down some of Úrsula's ancestral gold, trying to create more gold, and ends up with gooey, useless metal soup.
    • Melquíades returns again, this time with a set of false teeth that seems to make him look decades younger. José Arcadio Buendía is dismayed at how much Macondo is missing out on by being so completely cut off from the world.
    • Back in the beginning, when he first founded the village of Macondo, José Arcadio Buendía was all energetic and an excellent city planner. Now he's kind of become the village nut with all his scientific obsessions.
    • Úrsula, meanwhile, who has always been super-industrious, is even more so.
    • José Arcadio Buendía decides to clear the land and create a road out of Macondo to the rest of the country. But which way to go? He and the other Macondo families (there are 300 people living in the town) originally came from the mountains to the east of the city, so no one wants to go back that way. But to the south and west are swamps.
    • Our main man José and a group of men decide to make their way north. They quickly find themselves in a depressing and hallucinatory jungle or rain forest. No sooner do they clear a path than the plants grow right back over it. It's maddening.
    • Finally they come out and immediately see… an ancient Spanish ship, petrified onto the rocks. They've hit the sea! There's no path out of Macondo to the north!
    • José Arcadio Buendía is infuriated and makes a map of Macondo as a peninsula. It's not really a good map, since they haven't actually explored anything, but it's an idea that sticks for a while.
    • He then decides to go ahead and move the town.
    • Úrsula organizes all the wives to resist this new insanity and the plan fails.
    • She tells José Arcadio Buendía to start paying attention to his sons. And he does, for the first time in his life.
    • His sons are: José Arcadio (we'll put a II next to his name just to distinguish), who is fourteen and just like his dad (which might be why he's got the same name), and Aureliano, who is six and more introverted and quiet. Aureliano might also have some ability to predict the future.
    • José Arcadio Buendía starts to spend time with his kids, teaching them to read and write, math, and whatever he knows about history and the world – mostly legends, myths, and fantasies.
    • The gypsies come back again, but this time without Melquíades. He's dead. Man, we were really starting to get attached!
    • They have brought an amazing thing with them: a huge block of ice. José Arcadio (II) won't touch it, but Aureliano gives it a go before pulling his hand away quickly.
    • José Arcadio Buendía pronounces ice to be the greatest invention of our time (and we're back on the right timeline, since ice was first shipped as a commodity around the world in the 1810s).
  • Chapter 2

    • Now a little flashback.
    • The Buendías are from up north, near Riohacha, a port city on the north coast of Colombia. When British pirate-turned-privateer-turned-knighted-guy Sir Francis Drake attacked Riohacha at the end of the sixteenth century, Úrsula's great-great-grandmother freaked out so much that she went nuts for the rest of her life.
    • A small aside: how did the British rule the seas back in the day? Well, some of it was their navy, but mostly they issued permission slips for pirates to attack any foreign ships with impunity and leave the British alone. These pirates were known as privateers. Really successful ones would get whitewashed into history as naval heroes. Score!
    • Anyway, where were we? Oh, yes, the frightened great-great-grandmother.
    • So her husband moved the family far away inland to try and calm his wife down.
    • And that's where Úrsula and José Arcadio Buendía eventually met and married. Which is all well and good, except they were cousins, and so their families were a little stressed about the whole inbred children situation.
    • But love is love, and the heart wants what it wants, as they say.
    • Before the wedding, Úrsula's mom terrifies her with stories of crocodile children, so Úrsula refuses to consummate the marriage for several months. Word gets around town that she's still a virgin.
    • One day, after a rousing bout of cockfighting, a dude named Prudencio Aguilar insults José Arcadio about his virgin wife. José Arcadio goes home, gets a spear, and throws it at Prudencio's throat, killing him.
    • That night, Úrsula stops being a virgin.
    • Over the next few days, they start to see Prudencio Aguilar's ghost sadly meandering through the house looking for water with which to wash his throat wound.
    • It's less scary than pathetic. José Arcadio kills all of his game cocks, packs up the house, and, with a bunch of friends, decides to move from the little village to a new place, partly to bring peace to Prudencio's ghost.
    • They cross the mountains, wander around, and finally decide to stop looking for the sea and to settle on a little river.
    • During the journey, Úrsula gives birth to José Arcadio (II).
    • On the night they finally stop traveling, José Arcadio Buendía has a dream about a city where all the buildings have walls made out of mirrors. In the dream, the city is named Macondo, and so that's what they call it.
    • Return from flashback! When he sees the gypsy ice, José Arcadio Buendía thinks he's finally figured out the mirror-city dream: clearly ice will be the building material of the future and they won't be plagued with heat anymore.
    • But he doesn't get too carried away with the ice project because he's still into his kids' education.
    • José Arcadio (II) isn't into being in the alchemy lab with his dad and brother because he's just on the other side of puberty, during which he becomes crazily well-endowed in the under-the-pants department.
    • Pilar Ternera, a woman who works in the Buendía house helping with chores, finds out about this and decides to see for herself, basically by feeling him up. José Arcadio (II) starts fantasizing about her. He eventually goes to her house in the middle of night… and they get it on.
    • José Arcadio (II) and Pilar Ternera do this every night for a while, and he is so overwhelmed with the sex that he has no idea what else is going on in the house.
    • Meanwhile, José Arcadio Buendía and Aureliano have used the alchemy lab to extract the gold back out of the gross metal sludge they had made earlier.
    • Finally José Arcadio (II) can't keep things to himself and tells his brother Aureliano about Pilar. Aureliano lives vicariously through the descriptions.
    • Meanwhile, Úrsula gives birth to another child, a girl named Amaranta.
    • A few months later, the gypsies come back again. It's a new type of gypsies, who are all about entertainment and not sharing scientific discoveries. One of the things they bring is a flying carpet, but no one thinks about it as a mode of transportation. Instead, the Macondoans just ride around on it for fun.
    • But things are about to get serious in Pilar and José Arcadio (II)'s world. She's pregnant. When she tells him about it, he freaks out and starts to get really, really interested in his dad's laboratory again – mostly as a place to hide out whenever she's around.
    • One day, while walking through the gypsy fair, José Arcadio (II) sees a very young gypsy girl. He follows her around, presses against her to demonstrate what he's got down his pants, and they go into a tent to make out. (Huh. Things go a little faster in this world than in real life, don't you think?)
    • The tent is apparently part of a brothel, since just as José Arcadio (II) and the girl are rounding the bases, another gypsy woman comes in with a local dude.
    • José Arcadio (II) is overcome by some kind of amazing sexual euphoria. Two days later he leaves town with the gypsies.
    • Úrsula takes off in search of him. His trail grows cold and she disappears.
    • Now Úrsula is gone. José Arcadio Buendía takes care of baby Amaranta, and slowly he and Aureliano try to build a new life for themselves. Secretly, though, José Arcadio Buendía is constantly praying for Úrsula to come back. Finally she does, five months later.
    • Úrsula comes back with a whole bunch of new people who live in a town on the other side of the swamp, where they get mail and aren't cut off from the rest of the world. Basically, Úrsula has finally found the road out of town.
    • But no dice on José Arcadio (II).
  • Chapter 3

    • Pilar Ternera gives birth and the baby comes to live with the Buendía family, without knowing that he is related to them. They name him José Arcadio after his father and grandpa, but call him Arcadio for short. (Maybe it's just us, but wouldn't this be a dead giveaway of whose kid he is? Whatevs.)
    • Arcadio and Amaranta are sort of abandoned by Úrsula, who is off being very busy with the newly expanding town. Instead, they are raised by an indigenous woman named Visitación.
    • José Arcadio Buendía stops being a whacko and becomes all about town planning again. He's a hotshot in town and supervises all the new construction.
    • The gypsies come back… but no José Arcadio (II). All gypsies are then banned, except Melquíades and his tribe – but these guys are said to have been wiped from the face of the earth by dabbling in dark magic.
    • In any case, the family is humming along. José Arcadio Buendía is doing civil engineering, Úrsula starts up a business selling small candy animals, and Aureliano has mastered silver- and goldsmithing and makes a bunch of money from that.
    • So everything is awesome, right?
    • Of course not.
    • Out of nowhere, the house gets a new family member: a young girl named Rebeca who comes from a village no one has ever heard of, with a letter from a person no one knows, addressed to José Arcadio Buendía and asking him to take her in.
    • So they do just that. But seriously, what else is there to do? She's eleven – they can't just leave her for dead.
    • Oh, and funny thing: she carries a bag containing her parents' bones around with her. It makes a clicking sound and keeps popping up in annoying places around the house.
    • The girl is clearly traumatized in some way, sucking her thumb and only eating dirt and pieces of plaster from the house walls. (Fun – or not-so-fun – fact: she's suffering from an actual disorder called pica.)
    • Úrsula takes matters into her own hands and eventually cures the pica situation and gets Rebeca speaking again. The girl is absorbed into the family.
    • Like Amaranta and Arcadio, Rebeca is bilingual: she speaks both Spanish and the Guajiro Indian language spoken by Visitación.
    • One night, Rebeca can't sleep and Visitación realizes that she's come down with the insomnia that destroyed Visitación's village. She freaks out – no sleep is a mind-killer – but for a while no one believes that this is a real thing.
    • No one believes it, that is, until the whole town loses the ability to sleep. They start having waking dreams, then start to see each other's dreams.
    • At first it's totally awesome: so much more time in the day! But soon enough they start losing their memories, just as Visitación had said they would.
    • Aureliano gets the idea to put labels on all the objects in the house to remember what they were. Soon the labels become complex, explaining what each thing is for.
    • It's pretty terrifying: a town full of Alzheimer's patients just waiting till they forget how to read and can no longer even decipher their labels.
    • José Arcadio Buendía starts to try to invent a memory machine that could explain all of human history to someone every morning. (This is like a high-tech version of what they do in 50 First Dates.)
    • While he's working on this, he gets a visitor who seems kind of familiar. As soon as the visitor sees what's happening, he gives José Arcadio Buendía a little flask. As he drinks from it, all the memories return.
    • The visitor? Melquíades, of course.
    • Turns out he did indeed die but decided to come back because death was lonely. Totally normal.
    • Melquíades has brought with him a daguerreotype lab; basically, an early form of photography. You've seen them – think of all those brown and white pictures of unsmiling Civil War soldiers. The reason they aren't smiling (besides the fact that they're in the middle of the Civil War) is that you had to hold still for several minutes in order for the picture to be taken.
    • José Arcadio Buendía again gets swept up into a fantasy world and decides to use the daguerreotype by taking layered pictures of their house to prove the existence of God. Yeah, we know.
    • Aureliano is still a virgin.
    • One day he goes into town to listen to a traveling bard and gets roped into going into a room with a very young prostitute.
    • Okay, this next part is really not for the faint of heart, so maybe sit down before reading it.
    • Seriously, it's horrible.
    • Aureliano is the sixty-fourth man the girl has seen this night. Two years ago she accidentally burned down her grandmother's house, and now her grandmother takes her from town to town and prostitutes her to earn back the house's value. She sleeps with seventy men every night and still has another ten years to go to make up the money.
    • Aureliano leaves without doing anything. He decides to marry the girl to save her, but she is already gone by morning.
    • Meanwhile, Melquíades is deep into Nostradamus, a famous prophet from the sixteenth century. He starts to write down prophesies about Macondo and how it will eventually turn into a city with houses made of glass (modern skyscrapers?) where there will be no Buendías.
    • One day, Úrsula realizes that the house is full of children who are about to become adults and get married. She decides the house is too small and begins a huge rebuilding and expansion project.
    • When she's done, she wants to paint the house white, but she gets a note in the mail insisting that it be painted blue, by order of the town magistrate.
    • The town what?
    • Turns out that while no one was paying attention, Don Apolinar Moscote set up shop as the magistrate (basically mayor) of Macondo. Now he's trying to get everyone to paint their houses blue to celebrate Colombia's independence.
    • Oh. This means that sometime while this was happening, we went through the year 1886, when, after a few wars and secessions, Colombia became its own country. This came just before (historical spoiler alert) the country plunged into civil war. So we're somewhere between 1886 and 1899.
    • José Arcadio Buendía is way miffed about this whole blue-paint nonsense and goes to tell off Don Apolinar. His basic point is: leave us alone.
    • Don Apolinar is too timid to respond. He goes off and comes back with his family and a bunch of government soldiers.
    • José Arcadio Buendía comes to see him again, this time more peacefully. He asks for the soldiers to be sent away in exchange for a peaceful town. Don Apolinar agrees.
    • Aureliano has come with his father to Don Apolinar's house, where he sees his daughter Remedios. He becomes kind of obsessed with her. Oh, did we mention that she's nine years old? Yeah, ew.
  • Chapter 4

    • Hey, happy times! The Buendía house is all finished and ready to go, and Úrsula decides to celebrate with a party. She decorates and orders a pianola, which is basically a player piano. (You put in metal tubes with songs encoded onto them and it plays the songs by itself.)
    • The pianola comes with Pietro Crespi, the dude who's supposed to put it together, show everyone how it works, and teach them how to dance. Now that's service.
    • Pietro Crespi is hot stuff, but he's super proper and well-behaved. He puts the thing together and then teaches Rebeca and Amaranta how to dance without touching them. Then he leaves. (Okay, all of you who've ever read a book or seen a movie, raise your hand if you smell trouble.)
    • The invitations are sent out to Macondo's founding families, but while the party prep is going on, José Arcadio Buendía decides to see if he can find the hidden piano player inside the pianola… by taking it apart. Ugh, come on, Dad.
    • Melquíades does his best to fix it, and it at least makes sounds. The young people party all night, and soon Pietro Crespi comes back to fix it for real. Uh oh.
    • Rebeca loses it. She cries, rocks in her rocking chair, sucks her thumb, and even secretly goes back to eating dirt and limestone. Wow, it's really on, huh?
    • One day, Amparo Moscote shows up. She's one of the magistrate's daughters, so there's a bunch of ill will, but she's super nice and polite, and Úrsula really likes her.
    • Amparo slips a letter from Pietro Crespi to Rebeca when no one is looking, and just like that, Rebeca is all better.
    • Aureliano, meanwhile, is totally psyched to see Amparo because he thinks it means that Remedios is going to come over, too, one day. And she does!
    • Aureliano is floored and speechless and gives her one of the little golden fish that he makes.
    • He is more madly in love with her than ever and his thoughts are only about her. Aw, sweet. But again, he's twenty-ish, and she's nine. It's creepy, in a Jacob and Reneesmee kind of way.
    • Pietro Crespi sends letters regularly, but one day the mailman doesn't come and Rebeca gorges on dirt to the point of getting crazy sick.
    • To figure out what's wrong, Úrsula pries open her trunk and finds all the letters.
    • Aureliano goes out drinking with his buddies and gets so wasted that he passes out. When he comes to, he's at Pilar Ternera's house. Just like that, they have sex. Then he cries and cries and cries, and tells Pilar all about Remedios. She promises to see what she can do.
    • As soon as Amaranta figures out the whole Rebeca-Pietro Crespi situation, she also gets super-sick. When Úrsula pries open her trunk, she finds a bunch of letters meant for Pietro but never sent. She's in love with him, too! See, told you there'd be trouble.
    • Pilar Ternera tells Aureliano that Remedios has decided to marry him. You know how good nine-year-old girls are at making lifelong decisions. But whatever, in this universe, this is apparently all good.
    • He tells his parents, and José Arcadio Buendía goes over to the Moscote house for a formal visit. There is some confusion about which sister Aureliano is actually talking about.
    • Remedios hasn't even hit puberty yet, but Aureliano is happy to wait until she starts her period. Yeah, we know… ugh. Just go with it.
    • Everything seems to be OK, when suddenly Melquíades dies. Again.
    • This time he drowns after losing his eyesight, hearing, and most of his grasp on reality. But not before filling up his little room with a bazillion manuscripts that no one can figure out how to read.
    • Melquíades is the first person to be buried in Macondo.
    • During the nine days of wake, Amaranta tells Pietro Crespi that she loves him. He brushes her off like a silly kid. (Remember, she is a lot younger than Rebeca.) She doesn't take this well and threatens to stop Pietro and Rebeca from getting married.
    • Úrsula quickly makes plans to get Amaranta out of the way during the wedding by taking her on a trip.
    • Pilar tells Rebeca that she won't be happy until her parents are buried – and only then does everyone remember the bag of bones. The bag is found, and the bones are buried next to Melquíades.
    • Pilar starts coming to the house again and informs Aureliano one day that she is pregnant. He takes it in stride.
    • José Arcadio Buendía starts becoming obsessed again, this time with the mechanical toys Pietro Crespi keeps bringing to the house.
    • One night, he again sees the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar, and they talk and reminisce all night long.
    • The next day, José Arcadio Buendía starts to go bonkers. It's moving and disturbing. He is stuck in a kind of Groundhog Day scenario, where he doesn't believe that each day is a new one. He can't seem to find any proof that time is elapsing.
    • Three days later, he destroys the workshops in the house.
    • Four guys restrain him and tie him to a tree in the yard. He now speaks in some kind of crazy language and has no idea who he or anyone else is.
    • This is the way he is when Úrsula and Amaranta return.
    • Úrsula leaves him tied at the waist, and they build him a little hut for protection from the sun and rain.
    • Shmoop is crying a little bit.
  • Chapter 5

    • A couple months later, Remedios gets her period and runs in to show her sisters her underwear while they're chatting with Aureliano.
    • Remedios is still a child, but a deal is a deal. She and Aureliano are married by Father Nicanor Reyna, a priest brought in just for the wedding.
    • Actually, it was supposed to be a double wedding, but just the day before, Pietro Crespi got a letter that his mom was about to die and rushed off home. It turns out that his mom is fine, but he ends up missing the wedding.
    • The assumption is that Amaranta sent the letter (so he wouldn't marry Rebeca), but it's never proven.
    • Anyway, Father Nicanor is very disturbed by the absence of religion in Macondo. He decides to stay and fix things himself by begging for money to build a giant cathedral.
    • When begging doesn't work, he starts to levitate. No, seriously, he drinks hot chocolate, which makes him rise up off the ground. People start to chip in a lot more dough.
    • When Father Nicanor does the levitation trick near the tree to which José Arcadio Buendía is tied, the crazy old man shrugs, unimpressed, and says something. It turns out that he hasn't been speaking gibberish this whole time – he's been speaking Latin.
    • The only person who can communicate with him is Father Nicanor. Hurray for church Latin, everybody! At first Father Nicanor tries to convert him, but that doesn't work. So he just hangs out with him as a humanitarian thing.
    • After a while José Arcadio Buendía's denial of God's existence starts to shake Father Nicanor's faith, so he stops coming by.
    • Úrsula thinks the cathedral is a great idea, and Amaranta piggybacks onto this by passive-aggressively suggesting that Rebeca and Pietro Crespi's wedding should be the first big event held there. The thing is, it won't be built for another ten years or so. (Very clever, Amaranta!)
    • Rebeca, not surprisingly, is less than pleased. She and Pietro Crespi try a few tricks to hurry things along. First they start making out all over the place. Then Pietro Crespi gives the priest all the money he'll need to build the church.
    • But it's kind of an arms race, and Amaranta has some tricks up her own sleeve. She lets loose moths onto Rebeca's wedding dress. She eventually decides to poison her, but prays for some horrible thing to happen so she won't have to go through with it.
    • And the horrible thing does happen. Remedios dies in the middle of the night from a uterine hemorrhage from the early stages of a pregnancy.
    • Whoa. No one signed up for this bit of plot development.
    • This is a disaster not just because a young girl is dead, but because Remedios was really bringing some peace to that crazy household.
    • Meanwhile, a whole other insane drama is starting to mount.
    • The magistrate, Don Apolinar Moscote, has a lot more authority now that his daughter is married into the Buendía family, and he's starting to wield power in the town.
    • What does that mean exactly?
    • Well, for one thing, he brings back those six armed soldiers that José Arcadio Buendía made him get rid of earlier. Nobody remembers that agreement anyway, now that José Arcadio Buendía is crazy and tied to a tree.
    • With the Buendía house deep in mourning for Remedios, along comes a giant, muscled, tattooed, unexpected visitor.
    • José Arcadio (II)! He's back! He's been a sailor! He's turned into a hulking super-testosterone bear of a man!
    • At first he goes to the local brothel and gives himself to the prostitutes there. (Remember, he is beyond well-endowed.)
    • At home, though, Rebeca takes one look at him and is a goner. Compared to José Arcadio (II), Pietro Crespi is a wimpy nothing.
    • One day Rebeca and José Arcadio (II) get it on. Then three days later, they get married.
    • It's, um, kind of incestuous, right? Since they grew up together? They aren't biological siblings, but… a bit of a gray area, we guess.
    • In any case, the sex is awesome, and even though they end up as total outcasts in the town, they don't seem to care.
    • Pietro Crespi is too proper and uptight to be devastated. Instead, he warms up to Amaranta and asks her to marry him. She agrees but postpones the wedding.
    • Okay, back to Don Apolinar and politics.
    • Aureliano gets close to his father-in-law and they play a lot of checkers together. Don Apolinar is a Conservative, which in those days basically means that he is a government man.
    • Time for a quick history lesson, so pull up a chair and get comfy. We're going to tell you about the Thousand Days' War, which took place between 1899 and 1902 in Colombia between the Conservatives and the Liberals. The Conservatives were the party in power; the Liberals were the challengers. What was the war about? Well, there were philosophical disagreements about personal freedom and the role of the church in public life: basically, Conservatives wanted more church and less freedom, and the Liberals wanted the opposite. But the way García Márquez describes it, they were mostly fighting over power, and there were good and bad men on both sides. You know, real-life style.
    • When it's time for elections, Don Apolinar sends his soldiers to confiscate all the weapons from every Macondo house. They're pretty thorough and collect everything down to kitchen knives. Then they hand out ballots, elections take place, and Aureliano watches the soldiers remove most of the Liberal ballots from the boxes and replace them with Conservative ones. This is called election fraud, folks.
    • The people demand their weapons back, but Don Apolinar tells Aureliano that the soldiers are using the weapons to show how the Liberals are gearing up for war. Um, okay, fraud number two.
    • Aureliano is worried and goes off to a secret meeting with the town's main Liberal: a fake doctor.
    • We were sympathizing with the Liberals up to this point, but Dr. Alirio Noguera is basically a cold-blooded terrorist and would-be murderer. His plan is to kill all the Conservatives, along with their families and children. Wow, nice. (Oh, and García Márquez has a lot of fun with the name – no guerra is Spanish for "no war.")
    • Aureliano is disgusted by Noguera's plan. He guards his father-in-law's house on the night when Dr. Noguera's assassination attempt is supposed to take place.
    • War between Conservatives and Liberals has already been going on for three months by now, but Don Apolinar didn't want to tell anyone because a secret platoon of soldiers was making its way to Macondo.
    • The platoon gets there by night, and confiscates more stuff from the residents – this time, farm tools – and then kill Dr. Noguera by firing squad without a trial. Then they start a campaign of terror in the town. It's clear that Don Apolinar is no longer in charge; he's just a figurehead for the real power: martial law. (Again, check out his name: in Spanish, mascota means mascot, or pet; while mosca means housefly. So you know, an insignificant lackey.)
    • So: what to do, what to do?
    • Aureliano plans a revolt with his buddies. They attack the barracks, take back the weapons, and execute some of the soldiers who had killed a woman in town.
    • Aureliano then names himself Colonel Aureliano Buendía. Sound familiar? That's because we're almost back to the flashback that starts off the novel: this is the colonel who is facing the firing squad in the first sentence of the book.
  • Chapter 6

    • And just like that, it's on. The war, that is.
    • We get a brief summary of Colonel Aureliano's military career: 32 uprisings, 17 kids by different women, 14 assassination attempts, one firing squad (all of which he survived). This guy's a born winner and eventually goes on to die of old age.
    • But before that happens, let's see what our other Macondo friends get up to when Colonel Buendía goes off to organize his campaigns. (Our prediction? Nothing good.)
    • When Aureliano leaves, he puts Arcadio in charge. Up until now, Arcadio's been a good, upstanding young man, in charge of Macondo's school. So he should be okay with a little increase in power, right?
    • Wrong.
    • Arcadio immediately dials it all the way up to dictator-running-a-kleptocracy. He busts out some uniforms for himself and the students, whom he forms into a little enforcer squad that he sets loose in the city. Then he passes decree after decree.
    • At first, no one really cares about these kids playing soldier. But Arcadio kicks it up a notch and starts imprisoning people for no reason. Finally he strings up Don Apolinar Moscote in front of a firing squad in the name of Liberalism. Yikes.
    • Úrsula finds out about the execution just in time and chases off Arcadio with a whip, yelling at him like he's a little kid.
    • Just like that, she becomes the ruler of the town and Arcadio's reign of terror is over. That was quick.
    • Meanwhile, Úrsula takes care of José Arcadio Buendía, who's still tied to his tree. At first, she tells him the truth about what's happening. That seems to make him sad, though, so she begins to invent lies about the family.
    • Amaranta and Pietro Crespi seem like they're just about ready to set a date for the wedding. He loves her more and more each day, she seems ready for a life of happiness, and finally he proposes.
    • Amaranta's answer? "I wouldn't marry you even if I were dead" (6.9). Yowza.
    • After trying everything to get her to change her mind, Pietro Crespi kills himself. This isn't good.
    • Amaranta burns her hands on a stove as penance. But the man is still dead.
    • When Arcadio decrees official mourning for Crespi, Úrsula is relieved and thinks he's come back to sanity. But no – he was basically abandoned as a kid and grew up sad, powerless, and ignored by the whole family, so sanity isn't his strong suit.
    • Arcadio has no idea who his parents really are (we do: Pilar Ternera and José Arcadio [II], who is now married to Rebeca).
    • One day, he corners Pilar Ternera and demands to have sex with her. Uh oh, Freud would have a field day with that one.
    • Pilar kind of plays it off and sets a date for the next night. The following night Arcadio has sex with… not his mom, thankfully, but with a virgin named Santa Sofía de la Piedad. Pilar has paid her a bunch of money to make this happen.
    • From that day on, Arcadio and Santa Sofía are a thing. Eventually they have a daughter and another kid on the way.
    • Meanwhile, Arcadio gets tight with José Arcadio (II) and Rebeca, who are still pariahs living on the outskirts of the town. Why pariahs? Um, because of all the incest – or close enough to incest.
    • It turns out that José Arcadio (II) has been basically shoving his neighbors off their land and taking over their acreage.
    • Arcadio proposes that he do this through an official land-registry office, which would transfer land titles to José Arcadio (II) and also collect protection money from whomever wanted to hang on to their land.
    • When Úrsula finds all this out, she's horrified. But before she can do anything, a messenger from Colonel Aureliano Buendía comes to warn Arcadio that the Liberals are being defeated.
    • And just like that, a bunch of government soldiers come and sack Macondo. Arcadio manages to briefly escape, but he's captured at his house and forced to face a firing squad.
    • As he is about to die, Arcadio is as happy and fearless as he's ever been, mulling over his life and family and calmly thinking the whole thing is ridiculous.
  • Chapter 7

    • A couple of months later, Colonel Aureliano Buendía is captured by the Conservative government and sentenced to the firing squad. He asks only that his execution take place in Macondo.
    • Soldiers haul him into town and put him in jail with his BFF, Colonel Gerineldo Márquez. When Úrsula busts her way in to see her son, she brings him a little gun. He gives her some poetry that he's been writing and asks her to burn it.
    • Buendía had one of his premonitions that the firing squad should take place in Macondo, and that was his final wish. But for some reason he hasn't had a premonition about his actual death, so he's not sure what that's all about.
    • As it turns out, since Macondo is about one degree from boiling over into rebellion, the soldiers are way too scared to carry out the firing squad.
    • But finally the order comes: kill him in the next twenty-four hours or else.
    • So they put Colonel Aureliano Buendía against the wall. He closes his eyes and remembers the ice.
    • This is how the novel starts, remember? With him facing the firing squad, thinking about seeing ice for the first time with his dad. So we're back to the beginning now.
    • And just like that, the execution is interrupted by Colonel Aureliano Buendía's older brother, José Arcadio (II), who comes out of his house and threatens the soldiers with a shotgun.
    • The soldiers are totally psyched. They abandon the government, join up with Colonel Aureliano Buendía, and begin a series of armed rebellions all over the country.
    • Meanwhile, back in Macondo, the government threatens to kill Colonel Gerineldo Márquez if Buendía doesn't give himself up. Buendía ups the ante and threatens to kill every army prisoner from now on if they kill Márquez. Well played, sir. Márquez is released unharmed.
    • Meanwhile, back at Úrsula's house, there are now tons of children. The daughter of Santa Sofía de la Piedad and Arcadio (II) is there; her name is Remedios. We'll call her Remedios (II) until she gets her eventual nickname. Santa Sofía also had twins, José Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo. And of course, there is Aureliano José, who is Colonel Aureliano Buendía's illegitimate son by Pilar Ternera.
    • Yeah, we know. Listen, there's a reason that every edition of this novel comes with a picture of the Buendía family tree. Shmoop's suggestion is to bookmark that puppy and keep looking back at it pretty often.
    • So anyway, a few months later, José Arcadio (II) comes home after work, like he always does, goes into his bedroom, closes the door, and a gun goes off.
    • Rebeca swears she never heard anything, which is a weird story, but why would she kill him?
    • Anyway, blood flows out of his ear, down the street, around some corners, up the stairs of Úrsula's house, and through the rooms there, until it finds her.
    • Yep. And you thought those crazy premonitions were wild. This really takes the magical realism cake. (What's magical realism? Check out "Genre" for the deets.)
    • The body smells like gunpowder, and the smell won't come off regardless of what they do.
    • After the funeral, Rebeca shuts herself up in her house and almost never comes out again.
    • Colonel Aureliano Buendía sees that the Liberals are winning battles but losing the war. One day he drinks a poisoned cup of coffee and almost dies. When he recovers, he realizes that he needs to swallow his pride and cozy up to the other rebellion leaders inland.
    • He sets off and leaves Colonel Gerineldo Márquez in charge of the city.
    • Gerineldo Márquez is totally into Amaranta. Apparently this is a long-time thing, but now he's finally trying to woo her.
    • She's really into him, too. But when he finally proposes, she declines. Why? Who knows. She might be the least understandable character in this novel. Is she still feeling guilty about Remedios Moscote? Pietro Crespi? Is she is too invested in raising Aureliano José as her own son? What do you think?
    • Colonel Aureliano Buendía sends Úrsula a letter predicting that his father will die soon.
    • Úrsula and a bunch of strong dudes untie José Arcadio Buendía from his tree and bring him inside, but the only person he can really communicate with is Prudencio Aguilar. (He's that guy whose ghost comes to him and Úrsula when they first marry, remember?) They talk about starting a rooster farm together to pass the time after death.
    • And then José Arcadio Buendía dies.
    • More tears. We liked him.
  • Chapter 8

    • One day, Amaranta, Aureliano José's aunt and the woman who's been raising him, realizes that he's now almost a man. In this novel, that of course means incest.
    • They've been sleeping in the same bed since Aureliano José was a little boy, but now it's clear that he has the hots for his aunt and she's into it, too. For a while they do… well, it's unclear, but basically everything but actual sex. One day Úrsula almost catches them. Amaranta realizes that she needs to put the kibosh on this disgustingness, and she does.
    • Meanwhile, the Liberals and the Conservatives are about to negotiate a peace settlement. It'll mean some congressional seats for the Libs, amnesty for the fighters… the usual.
    • Colonel Aureliano Buendía is not on board with this at all. He takes some of his best men and starts new rebellions all over the country. Aureliano José goes off to war with him.
    • After a while, Aureliano José leaves Colombia and starts uprisings all over Central America. He's part of a movement that wants to unify all the countries in the region.
    • Macondo is having a nice little moment in the sun, though. The new mayor, General José Raquel Moncada, is a Conservative, of course, but he's a decent guy who is trying to make the war more humane. He's become BFFs with Colonel Aureliano Buendía through truces and prisoner exchanges. He's a great mayor, and everything is going swell in the city.
    • One of the good things is the school. Aureliano Segundo and José Arcadio Segundo go there, as does their sister, who is now known as Remedios the Beauty, because she is extremely beautiful. (These people weren't exactly creative with the nicknames.)
    • Right about this time, Aureliano José comes back, fully determined to marry his aunt Amaranta and get it on with her. At first she's kind of feeling it, but she says no so many times that it becomes easy to say no one final time.
    • The next visitors to the house are the various women who have visited Colonel Aureliano Buendía in his army tent and become pregnant. He's the best soldier out there, and apparently this is a thing. There are seventeen little Aurelianos, all with his eyes. Úrsula baptizes them all and sends them and their moms on their way.
    • General Moncada knows that Colonel Aureliano Buendía is about to come storming back into town for the bloodiest, most horrible rebellion yet.
    • Úrsula and Pilar Ternera both feel that something horrible is about to happen and warn Aureliano José to stay off the street at night. He, of course, ignores them, gets into an argument with a soldier in town, and is shot and killed.
    • That's one more Buendía down for the count. This is starting to get really sad.
    • The soldier who killed him is shot in turn, and then things calm down for a little while.
    • A few months later, though, a thousand of Colonel Aureliano Buendía's troops attack the town. General Moncada is captured.
    • Úrsula sees her son and knows that Colonel Aureliano Buendía has become a harder, less emotionally connected guy than he was before the war.
    • First things first, Colonel Buendía cancels all that land-transfer stuff that his brother José Arcadio (II) and his brother's unacknowledged illegitimate son Arcadio were doing.
    • Second things second, Colonel Buendía holds courts-martial and condemns all the captured officers to death, including General Moncada.
    • When he goes to visit his friend Moncada before the execution, Moncada curses him out for becoming just as bad as the people against whom he's fighting. Then he passes along a letter and some other stuff for Colonel Buendía to give to Moncada's wife, as they've done many times before.
    • And finally, the firing squad.
  • Chapter 9

    • Colonel Gerineldo Márquez has had it up to here with the war. It used to be awesome, what with the blood and guts and idealism, but now he's totally over it.
    • Instead, he starts up with Amaranta again. Or at least, he tries to start it up, but she is totally grossed out by how old he now is, and ends it forever.
    • Actually, it's not just that Gerineldo has become tiresome; it's also that Amaranta realizes that little Remedios is now growing into the most beautiful woman that Macondo has ever seen. She starts getting crazy jealous all over again. Shmoop's armchair diagnosis: better to shut down the Gerineldo thing right away than risk another Rebeca-Pietro Crespi situation.
    • Colonel Aureliano Buendía comes back to town.
    • The war has taken all the human being out of him. It's so bad that he now has a ten-foot circle drawn around him at all times: no one can come inside. His absolute power has corrupted him absolutely.
    • It's been a gradual decline. First the widow of General Moncada closed the door in his face when he tried to return the General's things. In response, he burned down the whole house (presumably with her inside it).
    • Then he has a young up-and-coming dude from his own side assassinated for being too awesome.
    • Next, people start trying to make him happy by killing off whoever is presumably making him unhappy.
    • Finally, in the last piece of the crazy-dictator puzzle, he becomes totally paranoid of everyone around him.
    • While he hangs out in Macondo, a delegation of Liberals comes to see him (remember, that's his side of the war) to get him to sign some concession agreements for the Conservatives.
    • Basically the Liberals are now appeasing the Conservatives to try to hang on to their political power.
    • Signing this means totally renouncing everything he's ever stood for, but sure, what the heck, he just doesn't care anymore.
    • Colonel Gerineldo Márquez is again sentenced to death.
    • Colonel Aureliano Buendía kind of just shrugs it off, even when Úrsula comes to ream him out.
    • But that night, he gets back a little bit of his old self, rescues Gerineldo, and starts his last military campaign of the war: trying to get the government to sign a peace agreement that includes decent treatment for the rebels.
    • It's the bloodiest, most horrible campaign of all, partly because he has to kill a lot of his own men to get the peace agreement through.
    • When the treaty is finally about to be signed, he comes back to the house.
    • Everyone is psyched to have crazy old uncle Aureliano back, but it's as they'd hoped. He has totally lost all ability to love, feel, have memories, and in general, be a person.
    • He burns every single thing that marks him as having existed: all photos, all his writings, everything. Then he asks his doctor to draw an outline of where his heart it on his chest. Uh oh, we have a bad feeling about that.
    • Colonel Aureliano Buendía goes and signs the treaty. It's depressing and horrible, since it's a total renunciation of most of his life's work. The he shoots himself in the heart…
    • But he survives!
    • Turns out the doctor had a bad feeling, too, and drew the heart in a place where the bullet wouldn't graze any internal organs. Anatomically improbable, but whatever, it's clearly awesome.
    • He goes home to convalesce and starts to feel better.
    • Úrsula, meanwhile, sets the house in order again.
    • While she is bustling about like she always does, she asks the government soldiers guarding Colonel Aureliano Buendía to help her out.
    • As they start to do domestic tasks instead of just their soldiering, we get a nice little window into how fighters slowly transition back into domestic life after war.
    • Oh, and then we are told that one of them will eventually kill himself after Remedios the Beauty turns him down.
    • Man, García Márquez, you never let up, do you?
  • Chapter 10

    • Buckle in, everyone, and watch out for the whiplash: we're getting another quick flash forward in time.
    • Eventually, on his deathbed, Aureliano Segundo would look back on when he had his first son and decided to name him José Arcadio. Which is a crazy jump forward, then back. (Although the back is still in the future for us, since in the novel's current present, Aureliano Segundo is still a kid himself. Yikes!)
    • But yeah, it's going to be another José Arcadio, even though Úrsula is kind of having the heebie-jeebies about all the recurring names and the way the men in the family seem to just cycle through the same personality traits and characteristics.
    • Okay, back to the present, when the Segundo twins are still in school.
    • They like to play twin tricks on everyone, switching identities for fun. Úrsula thinks that they've switched so much that they forgot who is actually who and ended up the wrong way around. Their mom, Santa Sofía de la Piedad, eventually realizes that they can each feel what the other is feeling.
    • Aureliano Segundo lobbies to open up Melquíades' old room, which magically is in pristine condition with no dust or cobwebs or anything.
    • He hangs out there, reading, until one day Melquíades himself appears and starts to teach him about the world and history.
    • Aureliano Segundo doesn't much care about that. (This is important! Lots of characters in the book want to forget about history at one time or another. Hint, hint.) Instead, he wants Melquíades to translate all those crazy scrolls he wrote earlier. Melquíades says that no one can read those until a hundred years have passed. Hmm. (That might be where the title of the book comes from.)
    • Meanwhile, Aureliano's twin, José Arcadio Segundo, starts getting involved in the church, to the point that the priest prepares him for communion.
    • This is a pretty crazy rebellion in the Buendía house, considering that Colonel Aureliano Buendía went to war for twenty years fighting against Conservatism and Catholicism.
    • One day, Aureliano Segundo meets a girl who seems to know him, and they end up in bed together. (Duh – what else do young men and women do in this novel?)
    • It turns out that the girl, Petra Cotes, is sleeping with both twins, not realizing that they are two different people.
    • José Arcadio Segundo soon leaves her, but Aureliano Segundo will be with her until he dies.
    • When Aureliano Segundo starts his relationship with Petra Cotes, they have a grand, wild time, bathing in champagne and generally going nuts. Their crazy sex life has some kind of transfer effect on Aureliano's animals, which breed out of control. This soon makes Aureliano the richest man in Macondo.
    • Úrsula, who is still running the show even though she is now about one hundred years old, is outraged by the wasteful party behavior. One day, Aureliano Segundo wallpapers her entire house in peso bills.
    • While this is happening, José Arcadio Segundo decides yet again to try to open up a channel to the sea from Macondo, just like his grandpa José Arcadio Buendía once tried to do.
    • It's mostly a failure, but he does manage to bring in a boat filled with French women who may or may not be prostitutes. (It's sort of unclear.)
    • The French women propose the idea of a carnival, with Remedios the Beauty as the queen.
    • Remedios is so beautiful now that Úrsula has to keep her in the house or covered up in the street. One man comes to Macondo just to get a glimpse of her face, and when he finally does, he goes crazy from love.
    • Remedios herself is either mentally handicapped or preternaturally intelligent, depending on who is describing her. She goes around the house naked, sometimes plays with her poop, and can't read or write at age twenty.
    • The carnival comes and Aureliano Segundo gets to dress up as a tiger.
    • News that Remedios Buendía is going to be queen stresses out the government, even though Colonel Aureliano Buendía has now totally renounced all military and political life and gone back to making his little gold fish full time.
    • At the carnival, another float appears with a rival queen. When the two queens are placed together on the dais, the second queen's attendants whip out rifles and fire crazily into the crowd.
    • No one really knows what has happened, but most likely the attendants were government soldiers in disguise.
    • The second queen, Fernanda del Carpio, has no idea what's happening either. She's there because she won a huge beauty contest.
    • Six months after the massacre, Aureliano Segundo takes her home and marries her.
  • Chapter 11

    • Two quick months after getting married, Aureliano Segundo runs back to Petra Cotes. (He thinks he's a twenty-first century celebrity, apparently.)
    • Turns out things aren't so hot in the bedroom department with Fernanda.
    • Why, you ask?
    • Well, Fernanda had a rather unusual childhood. Her parents locked her away, didn't let her play with any friends, and told her that she was going to be a queen when she grew up. For real: she grew up believing she was destined to become a queen.
    • Her mom died, then her dad lost more and more money, but he still didn't tell Fernanda the truth. Only when government soldiers took her to Macondo for the carnival did she figure out that maybe she wasn't really royalty.
    • It's all so insane that it makes the rest of the book so far look pretty normal by comparison, which is saying a lot.
    • So yeah, when Aureliano Segundo finds her six months after the carnival, she is a little nuts.
    • Also, she is super-religious and has a calendar of the days when she's allowed to have sex: forty-two days a year. On top of all this, on the sex days, she wears a long-sleeved, ankle-length nightgown to bed, which she refuses to take off. It's really not that hot.
    • The family hates her, especially Amaranta.
    • Fernanda starts to impose her own brand of martial law on them, and the house becomes more and more rigid and rule-oriented, especially as Úrsula becomes ancient and loses her authority.
    • When Fernanda and Aureliano Segundo have kids, he names the first one José Arcadio, after his grandpa. (We'll call him José Arcadio (III) to unconfuse the confusion a little bit.) When Úrsula wants to name their daughter Remedios, Fernanda says no way, and instead calls her Renata, after her mother. She's the only one who does, though. The family and the rest of the town calls her Meme, short for Remedios.
    • Fernanda starts to idealize her crazy old dad, and the kids grow up thinking their maternal grandfather was some kind of saint or martyr instead of the loony that he was.
    • After Meme is born, the government decides to celebrate the peace treaty signed by Colonel Aureliano Buendía. Part of the celebration will be specifically for him.
    • But Aureliano sees the peace treaty as the greatest failure of his life. He is so angry and upset that he refuses to have anything to do with the celebration.
    • During the celebration, he suddenly has a visitor. Actually, a whole bunch of visitors: the seventeen Aurelianos he fathered during the war, when all those hot babes would come to his tent at night.
    • They hang out in the house, partying and wreaking havoc, but they are fun and cheer him up a bit.
    • Just before they're supposed to leave, Amaranta takes them to church on Ash Wednesday to get ashes marked on their foreheads. When they get home, the seventeen Aurelianos realize that the marks are permanent.
    • One of them, Aureliano Triste, decides to stay behind and work for Aureliano Segundo.
    • In a few months, when Aureliano Triste goes looking for a house to rent, he comes across an abandoned-looking old building.
    • But the building isn't really abandoned. In it lives – wait for it – Rebeca! Remember her? Yeah, no one else does either, apparently, except Amaranta, who still hates her with every fiber of her being.
    • Rebeca is old and decrepit and doesn't ever leave the house. Ever after the seventeen Aurelianos restore the exterior, she won't let them in to work on the inside.
    • After finishing up the house repairs, another of the Aurelianos, Aureliano Centeno, stays to work with Aureliano Triste.
    • With the Aurelianos' help, the ice-making business that Aureliano Segundo owns is humming along so well that their production is outpacing demand. Obviously they need to expand: but to where?
    • Aureliano Triste gets an idea: Macondo needs a railroad.
    • As always, everyone immediately thinks he is crazy, but he goes ahead with the plan anyway.
    • Eight months later, a train rolls into town.
  • Chapter 12

    • So the railroad brings with it a whole bunch of new technology, kind of like the gypsies did back in the day.
    • Macondo gets electricity, a movie theater, a phonograph, and a telephone. All of which means we're now probably in the 1910s or so.
    • Along with all that stuff comes a white guy named Mr. Herbert.
    • Mr. Herbert comes to the house, eats a bunch of bananas, then goes off to study the rainforest where José Arcadio Buendía and his men got lost when they were trying to find the sea.
    • Next comes Mr. Brown driving a car, then a whole bunch of people who very quickly build a walled-off town next to Macondo and start to plant banana trees.
    • With these new people comes disorder, crime, lots more prostitutes, and just general chaos and insanity in the streets.
    • Aureliano Segundo and Úrsula are pretty psyched about the newcomers. Many of them come to eat at the house as soon as they get off the train, even though they don't know whose house it is.
    • After a year of this, two more ash-foreheaded Aurelianos come to town, too.
    • The only one who doesn't care about any of this is Remedios the Beauty.
    • She lives totally in her own world. She has shaved her head because it's annoying to have to deal with hair. Her only clothing is a sheet that she wears over nothing at all. (Try to picture this: not only is she naked under basically just a linen sheet, but this is a time when women were wearing some pretty complicated corsets and dresses and hiding their bodies much more than we do now.)
    • Her effect on all the men around her is almost scary, but she doesn't notice, understand, or care about it.
    • One guy sees her taking a bath and is so overcome that he ends up falling to his death. That's some hard-core beauty right there.
    • Everyone traces her magical sexiness to the smell of her body, which is so arousing that it's disturbing to all the new people in town.
    • It's clear that Remedios will never live a normal life, even though Úrsula tries to teach her a little bit about being domestic.
    • But Úrsula has other things to worry about. For instance, she's taken charge of educating José Arcadio (III), with the idea that he will become Pope someday.
    • One day, Remedios looks unusually pale. As Amaranta watches, she floats up to the sky, never to be seen again. Huh.
    • But just as gossip about this is getting out, an even more earthshaking event takes place: sixteen out of the seventeen Aurelianos are murdered.
    • Wait, what? Okay, let's backtrack a bit.
    • When Colonel Aureliano Buendía sees the banana plantation start up, he realizes that the white people have taken over. They've replaced Macondo's police with their own hired thugs, who are committing all sorts of horrible violence without any repercussions. Clearly they are in cahoots with the Conservative government.
    • Colonel Aureliano Buendía starts to feel the call to arms again. He threatens to arm all of his sons and go to war. So by the following week, all of them are found and shot through the ash-marks on their foreheads. Only one escapes.
    • So what's an old colonel to do? He sends off an angry letter to the president of the country. He bans the family from ever going to Ash Wednesday mass again. He begs everyone he knows for money and then even goes over to Colonel Gerineldo Márquez's house to talk him into starting another military campaign.
    • Colonel Gerineldo's response? Man, you've gotten seriously old.
  • Chapter 13

    • Úrsula just keeps getting older and older, too.
    • She's actually been blind for a while but has managed to hide it. She has an amazing array of tricks. She uses all of her other senses: smell and sound are obvious, but her sense of touch becomes so developed that she can tell what color a fabric is just by touching it. Now this is cool.
    • She realizes that each family member follows a set path throughout the day, so she always knows where everybody is.
    • She even adjusts these paths in her mind based on the time of year, since the position of the sun causes slight shifts.
    • Wow.
    • Úrsula also develops sudden deep insights into everyone. She realizes that Colonel Aureliano Buendía is a cold, proud man who is incapable of love. Ouch.
    • She also realizes that Amaranta is not actually a vengeful monster, but just so scared that she lets fear chase away love. She even feels bad about how they treated Rebeca.
    • Úrsula does her best to get José Arcadio (III) ready for the seminary. When he finally goes away, it's pretty depressing for everyone.
    • Meanwhile, Fernanda starts taking over the house. She puts the kibosh on the open-door policy and now only invites people who have nothing to do with the banana plantations. That means José Arcadio Segundo is out – he's been working there as a foreman.
    • Aureliano Segundo is tired of Fernanda's nonsense and starts to live at Petra Cotes' house full-time, especially since Meme (their daughter, remember) is now at a boarding school.
    • The parties at Petra Cotes' house are ragers.
    • One time, there is a huge eating contest in which Aureliano Segundo is bested by a woman called The Elephant. The Elephant wins because she's figured out that the way to eat a marathon amount of food is by being completely calm and peaceful. Aureliano Segundo almost dies, then starts to spend days with Fernanda and nights with Petra.
    • Around this time, Meme invites a bunch of classmates to come stay at her house (68 to be exact... plus 4 nuns). She just shows up with all of them in tow without asking anyone first.
    • Úrsula and Fernanda scramble to house and feed everyone. It's generally a miserable week of long lines for the bathroom. They have to use chamber pots because there aren't enough toilets for them all. (Ew, chamber pots.)
    • For reasons that aren't clear, Amaranta starts weaving her funeral shroud.
    • José Arcadio Segundo starts coming to the house to hang out with Colonel Aureliano Buendía. No one really knows what they're talking about, but Úrsula can tell from the way he walks that José Arcadio Segundo isn't really part of the family. He's been damaged by the childhood memory of seeing a man killed by a firing squad.
    • Now we take a little trip into the mind of Colonel Aureliano Buendía.
    • He doesn't care about anything anymore. All he does is make little gold fishes, then melt them down and remake them – over and over again.
    • This day, October 11, he gets some coffee, thinks about one of the women who came into his tent during his war days, works a little bit on his gold fish, then falls asleep and dreams about an empty house.
    • He hears a circus coming to town and realizes that he has to pee. He goes out to the tree in the backyard and pees on the ghost of his father, José Arcadio Buendía. Oops. The ghost tries to talk to him, but the colonel doesn't hear.
    • He leans against the tree… and that's it for him. When they find him the next day, buzzards are eating his corpse. Ugh.
  • Chapter 14

    • Meme finishes school just when Colonel Aureliano Buendía dies, so there's not too much partying in the house when she comes home.
    • But hey, she does have a new little sister, named Amaranta Úrsula.
    • She also has a diploma in clavichord-playing, basically as a way to get her crazy mom off her back. (A clavichord is pretty much just an old-timey piano, so probably not the most practical degree.)
    • Meme can't stand Fernanda and doesn't blame her dad for being with Petra Cotes so much.
    • For a while, Meme performs her clavichord for anyone Fernanda invites over, but gradually the thing is forgotten. But all the playing without complaining gets Fernanda to loosen up a bit, so Meme is able to hang out with friends and go to the movies with her dad.
    • One night, Meme and her girls get drunk. When she gets home, she is about to tell her mom and Amaranta off, but instead she tells them that she loves them. Only Amaranta can see the anger and hatred underneath.
    • Then, of course, Meme vomits all over the place and gets a pretty nasty hangover. Lesson learned?
    • The whole episode makes her bond with her dad, who starts spending a lot of time with her, making Petra Cotes jealous like never before.
    • But no worries for Petra, because Meme soon ditches Aureliano Segundo for a group of American girls from the banana plantation. She's one of the few natives invited to mix with the gringos.
    • Meme tells her dad about the night of drunkenness and also fesses up to a crush on an American boy. He thinks it's cute, treats her as a grown-up, and she promises to tell him about her first true love.
    • Meanwhile, Fernanda starts her correspondence with the invisible doctors. Yeah, she seems to have totally lost it. But it's a pretty contained sort of crazy – just these invisible doctors performing telepathic operations, and that's it.
    • While all of this is happening, Amaranta is old and lost in her memories, which are just as strong as they were when she first formed them. Her main goal is to outlive Rebeca. She starts making Rebeca a beautiful funeral shroud as some kind of hate present.
    • Soon, though, she is visited by death. Dressed as a woman in blue, death tells Amaranta to make her own death shroud instead. She can make it as complicated as she wants, but when she finishes, she will die.
    • This actually makes Amaranta relax a bit. She starts creating a really intricate shroud, until she realizes that there is no way she will outlive Rebeca.
    • So she hurries up and finishes the thing.
    • That day, she announces that she will die in the evening and asks for any letters or messages people might want to send to their dead loved ones.
    • You'd think everyone would write her off, but no, tons of people bring mail for the dead.
    • That night, Amaranta dies.
    • The same night, Úrsula lies down and can't seem to get up again. Aureliano Segundo sets her up with everything she needs near her bed.
    • Even though she's totally blind, she manages to teach little Amaranta Úrsula to read.
    • Úrsula is also the first to realize that there is something wrong with Meme. Meme won't talk about it. In fact, no one knows what's up until Fernanda catches her making out with some dude at the movies.
    • Turns out, Meme is madly in love with a banana plantation mechanic named Mauricio Babylonia.
    • Every time he shows up, Meme is surrounded by a swarm of yellow butterflies.
    • At first she tries to resist, but she can't, so she goes to seek him out. He's kind of a jerk to her, but he asks her to meet him at the movies.
    • Meme goes to see Pilar Ternera to get some answers about love. Pilar fills her in on the details of sex and gives her some advice on contraception. Also, according to Pilar, sex is the only way that love can be resolved into a manageable feeling.
    • Hey, if Pilar says so, right? So Meme and Mauricio start getting it on at Pilar's house.
    • By the time Fernanda catches them at the movies, this has been going on for a few months.
    • Obviously Fernanda freaks out and locks up Meme in the house. Surprisingly, Meme stays totally cool and goes about her daily life without too much turmoil.
    • One day, Fernanda goes into her room at night and is swarmed by a huge army of yellow butterflies. On top of that, she finds some of the contraceptive devices Meme's been using.
    • Instead of confronting her, Fernanda has lunch with the mayor and asks for some guards, because she is worried about someone sneaking in the back to get to Meme.
    • The next night, just as Mauricio is about to sneak into the bathroom where Meme is waiting for him, he is shot in the spine.
    • He is paralyzed for the rest of his life and eventually dies of old age, with everyone still thinking that he is a chicken thief.
    • So you think your parents are mean to your boyfriend? At least they aren't hiring hit men.
  • Chapter 15

    • Nothing great comes out of killing Mauricio Babylonia, as Fernanda learns a year later when Meme's son is brought to her.
    • Whoa, hang on, Meme's son?
    • Okay, time to backtrack.
    • Fernanda flips out when she finds out about Meme and Mauricio.
    • After he is shot, Meme stops speaking and becomes a catatonic automaton, which is fine for Fernanda, who packs up her daughter and takes her by train to a convent.
    • Aureliano Segundo kind of wants to rescue his daughter, but Fernanda shows him a form that Meme signed saying the convent was her choice, so he just washes his hands of the whole thing and goes back to Petra Cotes' house.
    • Fernanda then writes a letter to Meme's brother José Arcadio (III), telling him that his sister is dead. Man, this woman is out of control.
    • When Fernanda comes back from dropping off her daughter, she can tell that something tense is going on in town. Something of the soldiers-with-guns-all-over-the-place variety.
    • Turns out José Arcadio Segundo (who is, remember, working as a foreman over at the banana plantation) is getting everyone psyched to go on strike.
    • Their main demand is not to have to work on Sundays. This seems reasonable to everyone, but still, there is an attempt on José Arcadio Segundo's life.
    • Úrsula is worried because this kind of thing is exactly what happened to Colonel Aureliano Buendía.
    • Fernanda wants the invisible doctors to do their telepathic operation, but they tell her that she has to wait because of all this restlessness in Macondo. (And just so we're all on the same page, obviously she is crazy and there are no invisible doctors. You got that, right?)
    • One fine day, a nun shows up with a basket. Inside is Meme's son. Apparently she was pregnant when she was confined to the convent. They named the boy Aureliano for her (surprise, surprise).
    • Fernanda's first instinct is to drown the baby, but she can't bring herself to do it. Instead, she hides him in the house and tells everyone that she found him floating in a basket, Moses-style.
    • Amazingly enough, Santa Sofía de la Piedad and little Amaranta Úrsula totally buy this.
    • The workers are increasingly agitated by the conditions at the plantation.
    • One big issue is that there is no medical care. Another is that they aren't being paid in cash, but in scrip. Scrip is kind of like monopoly money: a fake currency that can only be used in a specific place and isn't legal tender anywhere else. The workers can use the scrip only in the banana plantation's own store. This is all well and good if they want to buy Virginia ham, for example, but they can't use the money for rent or anything else. (Imagine being really hungry, but all you have is a gift card for Old Navy. Kind of useless.)
    • So the workers decide to corner Mr. Brown with their demands and get the courts involved. Every time they find him, though, his lawyers talk their way out of the situation. Almost magically, actually.
    • So after all that fails, it's strike time.
    • Strikes are terrible for agriculture, since production is so time-sensitive.
    • The government sends out soldiers to establish order. But when they come, instead of mediating between the bosses and the workers, the soldiers just start doing the work at the plantation themselves. Basically, the soldiers turn into scabs.
    • The workers then start to sabotage the soldiers.
    • Finally, authorities announce a huge gathering for all the workers: a military leader will come and fix the situation.
    • Everyone is psyched, and three thousand people gather in the square in front of the railway station to hear the guy talk.
    • The streets around the square are blocked off by soldiers with machine guns.
    • A train comes, but the leader isn't on it. Instead, someone reads an official decree that all these workers are hoodlums.
    • They are given five minutes to disperse.
    • No one moves.
    • Five minutes go by. The captain gives the order to fire.
    • The soldiers start to systematically gun down every single unarmed person in the square. Men, women, little kids, old people. It's really horrific.
    • José Arcadio Segundo is wounded and falls unconscious.
    • When he wakes up, he is on a train… in the middle of many, many dead bodies.
    • Apparently they loaded all the dead onto the train to carry them away.
    • He manages to jump off the train and starts to slowly make his way back along the tracks.
    • Okay, time for a little historical brain snack. This all sounds like yet another crazy thing from the wacky imagination of our friend Gabriel García Márquez, doesn't it? Well, what would you say if we told you that this massacre actually happened for real?
    • In 1928, about 2000 United Fruit Company workers in Colombia were massacred by the Colombian army during a peaceful strike. It's hard to know how much the United Fruit Company knew and when they knew it, but it doesn't seem like anyone's hands are all that clean in the story. Oh, and you may know the United Fruit Company as Chiquita. Ever wonder where the term "banana republic" comes from? The United Fruit Company would interfere in the politics of every country where it grew its products and basically function as a colonial power there.
    • So back to the story.
    • José Arcadio Segundo makes it back to town and realizes that no one knows about the slaughter. Not only that, but every person in Macondo accepts the official announcement that the workers got what they wanted and then happily went home. And that also, because of the rainy weather, the banana company would stop operations for a while.
    • Even as the government is pushing this message, it is slowly assassinating all the leaders of the protest.
    • José Arcadio Segundo only manages to survive because, when the soldiers come for him, he hides in Melquíades' room and is magically protected from being seen.
    • The rainy weather lasts for months. José Arcadio Segundo spends six months in Melquíades' room. When Aureliano Segundo finally finds him there, all he can do is repeat that there really were three thousand people killed.
    • Ugh.
  • Chapter 16

    • The rain lasts forever. Seriously. It goes on for almost five years without a break.
    • Aureliano Segundo ends up trapped at Fernanda's house and stays for several years without going back over to Petra Cotes' place.
    • Instead, he fixes stuff around the house, loses weight, and generally realizes that he's getting older because he doesn't have the same giant appetite for food and sex that he used to.
    • He also busts out an English encyclopedia and starts making up stories about the pictures for the kids, Aureliano (II) and Amaranta Úrsula.
    • Fernanda, meanwhile, is kind of excited to have her husband back, but kind of not. Why? Well, it's intentionally unclear, but basically, ever since giving birth to Amaranta Úrsula, she's had some kind of gynecological issue that prevents her from having sex.
    • She's so embarrassed about it that she's never seen a doctor. She can't even describe what's wrong to Úrsula without using a lot of euphemisms, so Úrsula ends up thinking it's something gastrointestinal.
    • This is why Fernanda has taken up with the invisible doctors.
    • One day, the funeral procession for Colonel Gerineldo Márquez goes by. It's a really sad affair.
    • Úrsula declares that when the rain stops, she will finally die.
    • All this time, Petra Cotes has been sending urgent messages to Aureliano Segundo about the fact that all the animals are drowning and getting washed away.
    • He kind of brushes all of this off, and his giant fortune goes down the tubes.
    • When he finally ends up going back to Petra Cotes, she is older, too, and their sex life seems pretty much over. He helps a little bit with the animals and then returns to Fernanda.
    • They start running out of food.
    • When Aureliano Segundo does nothing about this, Fernanda unleashes a torrent of complaints that basically summarizes her whole miserable life.
    • This is an amazing bit of writing: one sentence that goes on for three pages. We're not kidding. Go check it out right now.
    • After two days of this, Aureliano Segundo can't deal with her anymore, so in a rage, he breaks every single breakable thing in the house, one after the other.
    • The kids, meanwhile, have a ball during the rainstorm.
    • They play in puddles, dissect lizards, and hang out with Aureliano Segundo listening to his encyclopedia stories.
    • They also like to play with great-great-great-grandmother Úrsula, who tells them all about long dead relatives.
    • In all that time, though, no one can figure out where she buried the gold that someone left behind during the war. She is just lucid enough to keep that info hidden, despite all of the family's tricks.
    • Aureliano Segundo becomes obsessed with the gold.
    • He digs up all the land around the house to the point that half the house collapses.
    • And then, just like that, the rain stops.
    • Macondo has been totally decimated. Most of it has washed away, and most of the people are gone. It's a miserable, horrible place with almost nothing left.
    • When Aureliano Segundo goes to see Petra Cotes, she still has one animal left. It's a mule that she's kept alive by feeding it sheets and clothes from her bedroom.
    • She decides to raffle it off.
  • Chapter 17

    • Remember how Úrsula promised to die when the rain stopped? Well, that didn't happen.
    • Instead, she gets her lucidity back for a while and starts to yet again set the house in order and clean up after the destruction of the rains and floods. She's over 120 years old at this point and totally blind.
    • She even reopens Melquíades' old room, where José Arcadio Segundo has been sitting this whole time. He's totally off his rocker at this point and still very much obsessed with the midnight train of death he lived through. It was pretty horrific and traumatic, so no one can blame him.
    • Fernanda is psyched to hear that José Arcadio (III) might be coming home before taking his final priest vows, so she jumps on the clean-up wagon.
    • She also tries to hurry the invisible doctors to fix her already.
    • Aureliano Segundo has gone back to Petra Cotes again. They start up a sad little lottery, raffling off animals. Most people buy tickets out of pity, but each raffle day ends up being a little party. It's kind of a sad shadow of their former awesomeness.
    • The hard work of doing this, plus the fact that they are both way too old for this kind of debauchery, means that they spend a lot of time together and actually fall very deeply in love.
    • But the magic with the animals breeding crazily is over.
    • The lottery takes up so much time (and is so important, since it's the only way to get any money to feed the family) that Aureliano Segundo has no more time for the kids.
    • Fernanda sends Amaranta Úrsula off to private school, but she locks up Aureliano (II) in the house. He just gets scraps of education from Úrsula and Santa Sofía de la Piedad.
    • One day, Úrsula mistakes Aureliano (II) for her son Colonel Aureliano Buendía.
    • Her mind is wandering more and more, and she's confusing things from the past and the present. She shrinks down to the size of a baby, and Amaranta Úrsula and Aureliano (II) play with her like with a doll.
    • Finally, Úrsula dies.
    • Her funeral is followed by a horrible heat wave that feels like a plague. The people of the town have all sorts of crazy, superstitious ideas about what brought on the heat.
    • They've all regressed to a premodern state. So when the gypsies come back, they again show the people magnets, magnifying glasses, and false teeth, and they pass for amazing marvels.
    • Rebeca dies. Her house is so destroyed that it's impossible to restore and sell it.
    • The old also priest dies and a new one is sent in his place. At first, he is all gung-ho on converting people, but the heat and the laziness of the town gets to him and he stops doing anything at all, just like all the other Macondoans.
    • After Úrsula's death, the house is in tatters again.
    • This town has not had it easy.
    • Fernanda is finally ready to have her telepathic operation, but when she does, the invisible doctors tell her they can't figure out what's wrong with her other than a simple uterine problem that can be solved with some suppositories.
    • Her son starts sending them to her from Rome.
    • Aureliano (II) grows into a loner, which is probably not surprising given how horrible and isolated his childhood has been. He does become very close to his uncle, José Arcadio Segundo, who teaches him to read and write and tells him all about the banana company massacre.
    • José Arcadio Segundo classifies the letters of Melquíades' manuscripts, and Aureliano (II) finds the alphabet in the old English encyclopedia. (A quick Google search turns up the fact that the Sanskrit alphabet has 53 letters and it's written with characters dangling off an upper line, so that's probably Melquíades' secret language.)
    • Aureliano Segundo starts feeling a horrible pain in his throat.
    • Pilar Ternera tells him that it's probably Fernanda doing voodoo. He ransacks the house but finds nothing suspicious other than Fernanda's suppositories. Neither he nor Petra Cotes know what they are, but they destroy them just in case. Ha! That's almost like something out of a sitcom.
    • He also sacrifices a chicken, but that doesn't work either.
    • Wow, this is how far they've sunk? Instead of looking to medicine, they're looking to animal sacrifices and voodoo curses? Sigh.
    • Aureliano Segundo realizes that this throat thing is probably going to kill him. (Shmoop's diagnosis: either throat or thyroid cancer.)
    • He works extra hard on the lottery, sells off everything he owns, and eventually puts together enough money to send Amaranta Úrsula off to Belgium to study.
    • Just after she leaves, Aureliano Segundo and his twin José Arcadio Segundo die at the exact same moment.
    • In death, they again look identical and indistinguishable from one another.
    • At the funeral, the mourners get wasted, mix up the caskets, and end up burying the twins in the wrong graves.
  • Chapter 18

    • Aureliano (II) never leaves Melquíades' room. He learns everything he knows from the books there, so he ends up full of medieval wisdom but knows nothing about the modern world.
    • The only person who deals with him at all is Santa Sofía de la Piedad, who feeds, clothes, and cleans him.
    • Eventually Aureliano (II) sees Melquíades, who confirms that the secret language of the scrolls is Sanskrit and starts to teach it to Aureliano (II).
    • Melquíades apparently doesn't have all the time in the world, since he's going to have to die soon – for real this time. So he has to cram all the learning he can into Aureliano (II) as fast as possible.
    • The family eats through the secret charity of Petra Cotes, who gets a kick out of humiliating Fernanda this way.
    • Santa Sofía de la Piedad is slowly losing her crazy work ethic and getting old and tired.
    • One day, she just decides the house is too big to keep slaving away in, so she packs up her things and leaves. No one knows where she goes, and no one ever sees her again.
    • (This might be a good time to point out how, in theory, this is about the time in a book when all the plot and character threads are starting to be tied off. Check out how García Márquez does that here; let's just say there are definitely no loose ends.)
    • So it's down to just Fernanda and Aureliano (II), who is still not allowed to leave the house. And really, he doesn't even want to any more, since his whole life is all about imprisonment.
    • The two of them avoid each other as much as possible.
    • Aureliano works on deciphering Melquíades' texts, and Fernanda starts to slowly go senile, becoming paranoid that someone is moving around the objects of the house to annoy her.
    • Finally, Aureliano (II) has translated Melquíades' Sanskrit to Spanish, but he still can't read any of it because the text is in code. He needs some books to decode it and asks Fernanda permission to go get them at the bookstore in town.
    • She says no.
    • Then, a couple days later, she dies.
    • Four months after her death, her son José Arcadio comes home. He is obviously not a priest and hasn't been studying at a seminary at all.
    • He and Aureliano (II) avoid each other at first as well. During those four months, Aureliano (II) managed to leave the house once to get the books he needed, and now he just spends his days decoding.
    • José Arcadio (III) is obsessed with his great-aunt Amaranta, who it turns out semi-molested him when he was little. He thinks about her, takes long baths, and lives a strange and fearful life.
    • A year after this kind of lazy, do-nothing life, José Arcadio (III) invites a bunch of kids to hang out in the house.
    • There are no rules, and they are destructive and loud. It's kind of a mockery of the wild partying and fun times the house used to be filled with when Úrsula was still alive and well.
    • Once, the kids get into Melquíades' room and try to destroy the parchments. They can't, though, because they are magically lifted into the air until Arcadio (II) gets them down.
    • José Arcadio (III) gets close with four of the older kids. It's unclear what's really going on between them, but they are constantly naked, and one of them lives at the house, so it seems like there's something sexual involved. It's also not clear what gender these kids are.
    • One day, they see a strange golden glow from the floor under Úrsula's old bed. Can you guess what it is?
    • Yep, they've found the gold that Aureliano Segundo had been looking for.
    • José Arcadio (III) spends wildly and then becomes overcome with rage and chases the four kids out of the house with a whip. (Oh my.)
    • José Arcadio (III) and Aureliano (II) slowly bond and grow closer. It turns out that somehow Aureliano (II) knows everything about Rome – not just stuff from an encyclopedia but things that you could only know from having lived there.
    • He mysteriously explains that actually everything is already known. Hmm.
    • One day a hobo-looking guy knocks on the door and begs for sanctuary. It's Aureliano Amador, the last of the seventeen Aurelianos.
    • Neither José Arcadio (III) nor Aureliano (II) remember him, so they don't let him in. Immediately, two policemen who have been chasing him all these years pop out of the bushes and shoot him through the ash mark on his forehead.
    • Okay, another loose thread tied up.
    • José Arcadio (III) has big plans to sail to Naples on an ocean liner. But that's a dream that won't come true, as it turns out.
    • A few months after the Aureliano Amador thing, the four kids break into the house, drown José Arcadio (III) in the bath, and steal the gold.
    • Aureliano (II) realizes just then that he had grown to love José Arcadio (III).
    • This is just getting more and more grim, no?
  • Chapter 19

    • And just like that, Amaranta Úrsula comes back. Which makes sense, right? Seriously, there aren't that many characters left alive at this point.
    • She comes back with her husband, Gaston, who is a Fleming from Belgium. (Hey, did you know that the singular of Flemish is Fleming? You do now.) Gaston follows her around on a leash. Seriously.
    • Amaranta Úrsula is bursting with fresh energy, and immediately she starts working to clean and fix up the house. She is modern, very fashionable, and has no patience with all the old traditions and superstitions.
    • Gaston assumes this is a temporary stopover before they move to Europe for good, so he doesn't stress.
    • A year goes by, and most of Amaranta Úrsula's attempts to bring some life back to the place fail. Still, she's not giving up, and so Gaston takes up entomology (the study of insects), which was his college major.
    • It turns out they have a hot and heavy sex life and get it on all the time in all sorts of crazy places. That's kind of the whole basis of their relationship, apparently.
    • When they first met, she told him all these amazing nostalgic stories about Macondo and how wonderful and magical a town it was, obviously without realizing the horrible ruin it had become. (It's kind of strange that this is how she remembers it, since her childhood was that horrible five-year rainstorm and then playing with crazy old Úrsula.)
    • So two years pass, and still Amaranta Úrsula shows no signs of wanting to leave.
    • Gaston starts to hang out with Aureliano (II), who is interesting because he knows everything about everything.
    • But Aureliano (II) is fundamentally a loner, and Gaston needs a new project. So he comes up with the idea of creating an airmail route into Macondo. Gaston is a pilot, so this is right up his alley.
    • Meanwhile, Aureliano (II) has been turned upside down by being near Amaranta Úrsula. We know what you're thinking, and you're totally right: incest! Except in this case, Amaranta Úrsula and Aureliano (II) both think he is a foundling from the river, so they're not actually related to each other. The feelings are driving him crazy.
    • He starts venturing out into the town for the first time and starts to sleep with a West Indian woman named Nigromanta. He translates Melquíades' writings by day and has sex with Nigromanta by night.
    • She starts to fall in love with him, but he confesses his feelings for Amaranta Úrsula and ends up treating Nigromanta strictly as a prostitute.
    • When he's home, he hears Amaranta Úrsula and Gaston having sex in the house. They seem to be rather loud about it. (Come on guys, have a little respect for your roomie.)
    • The other thing Aureliano (II) does in town is befriend the owner of the bookstore, the Catalonian (meaning he's from Catalan, a region in Spain), and a group of four fun guys: Álvaro, Germán, Alfonso, and Gabriel.
    • These guys take him to a very depressing new brothel where the girls are prostituting themselves to avoid starvation. Good times are had by all, especially when it comes to light that Aureliano (II) is pretty well-endowed.
    • For the first time in his sad life, Aureliano (II) finally has friends. One of them, Gabriel, even remembers the war of Colonel Aureliano Buendía and doesn't argue about the banana plantation massacre. Why? Because he's the great-great-grandson of Colonel Gerineldo Márquez, making him Gabriel Márquez… wait a minute! (This is kind of a funny in-joke: Álvaro, Germán, and Alfonso were García Márquez's BFFs when he was writing the book.)
    • The Catalonian teaches them all stuff about the classics, and because they are having so much fun, Aureliano (II) stops trying to puzzle out the parchments.
    • In the meantime, he is still crazily in lust with Amaranta Úrsula. He also figures out that Gaston isn't the nice guy that he seems to be but is trying to wear out Amaranta Úrsula until she will submit to going back to Europe with him.
    • Finally Aureliano (II) confesses his feelings to Amaranta Úrsula. She gets mad and tells him that she will be leaving the country soon.
    • That night the fun-time gang goes to yet another new brothel, which is run by – wait for it – Pilar Ternera! She is over 150 years old at this point.
    • Neither of them will ever know that she is actually Aureliano (II)'s great-great-grandmother. He fesses up about Amaranta Úrsula, and Pilar Ternera tells him that his crush is waiting for him at that very moment.
    • Aureliano (II) rushes home, corners Amaranta Úrsula as she is coming out of the bath, and they end up having silent, amazing sex while Gaston is in the room next door.
  • Chapter 20

    • Fair warning: this chapter is incredibly brutal and horrible.
    • Pilar Ternera dies, along with the weird brothel she was running.
    • The Catalonian closes up shop and goes back to Spain. Aureliano (II) and his friends pack him up and load him onto the train. He sends them letters, which grow progressively sadder.
    • One by one, the friends also leave town.
    • Amaranta Úrsula and Aureliano (II) have been sneaking around behind Gaston's back, but now they don't need to because Gaston goes back to Brussels to work out all the problems with the airmail situation.
    • Much sex is had. In the process, the house is totally wrecked and invaded by vicious red ants. (Keep an eye on the ants, they'll be important soon.)
    • The sex is awesome, and Amaranta Úrsula and Aureliano (II) are deeply in love.
    • When Gaston writes that he's about to come back, Amaranta Úrsula responds with a very nice letter saying that she still loves him, but she to really wants be with Aureliano (II). Gaston writes a nice letter back asking for his bicycle to be returned.
    • Amaranta Úrsula is pregnant.
    • There is a minor freak-out when they suddenly think that they are brother and sister. They can't figure out where he came from, but, to the best of their knowledge, Fernanda isn't his mother. Amaranta Úrsula thinks maybe Petra Cotes is.
    • Aureliano (II) does some searching in the church records, but learns pretty much nothing. They decide to believe that they aren't related – mostly because it would be too disgusting.
    • A letter comes from Spain, but not in the Catalonian's handwriting. They don't open it because it's clearly bad news about him.
    • Eventually Amaranta Úrsula goes into labor. With some help from a midwife/brothel madam, she gives birth to a son who has… a pig's tail. Just like Úrsula's mother's original prediction, remember?
    • Well, you remember, but they don't, so they don't stress about it; they assume it will eventually be cut off. They name the baby Aureliano (III), not Rodrigo, as Amaranta Úrsula originally wanted.
    • Suddenly, Amaranta Úrsula starts to bleed out. Twenty-four hours later, she is dead.
    • Aureliano freaks out, overcome by love for his friends and for Amaranta Úrsula. He leaves the house and wanders around town. He gets drunk and sick in a bar, and finally Nigromanta finds him and takes care of him.
    • The next day, he wakes up and remembers the baby.
    • He runs back to the house, where he finds that the baby is dead, swarming with red ants, which are dragging him into their holes.
    • Ugh.
    • At that moment, Aureliano (II) realizes what Melquíades' parchments really are: a prediction about and a history of the whole Buendía family, from José Arcadio Buendía being tied to a tree to the last Buendía being eaten by ants.
    • He grabs the parchments and starts reading, not noticing that the wind outside is picking up.
    • He reads about Sir Francis Drake, then skips ahead to see who his parents are. He learns that Amaranta Úrsula was actually not his sister but his aunt.
    • The wind blows the doors and windows away.
    • He skips ahead again to read about how he is going to die, and realizes that, as the wind wipes Macondo off the face of the earth, no one will ever remember that he or any of the town or the family had ever existed.
    • Wow.