Study Guide

One Hundred Years of Solitude Chapter 3

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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.

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