Study Guide

Elisenda in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

By Gabriel García Márquez

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You do not want to get between Elisenda and her satin pumps. She's the wife of Pelayo, the man who finds the old man with wings, and boy does she earn her keep. So to speak.

Boss Lady

Above all, Elisenda is a shrewd businesswoman—not to mention, ambitious. It's her bright idea to start charging admission to see the old man/angel, and she and her family become rich, by their community's standards, off of the earnings. And boy does she know how to spend that money:

"Elisenda bought some satin pumps with high heels and many dresses of iridescent silk, the kind worn on Sunday by the most desirable women in those times. The chicken coop was the only thing that didn't receive any attention." (11)

So, we know that Elisenda wants to appear desirable; she's conscious of her appearance and how she's perceived. And we also know that she's pretty selfish, and she's willing to use people around her to get ahead—especially if those people can be locked up in a chicken coop.

Hmm, it's not looking too good for this lady.

No Handouts Here

So why does Elisenda gets such a bum rap? Well, she gives us insight into one way of treating things that are out of the ordinary—like the extremely old, the extremely poor, or the extremely weird. To her, the old man is just a nuisance once he's outlived his monetary value. When he finally leaves, she's relieved that the fantastic figure is tucked back into her imagination instead of messing up her kitchen.

In other words: materialistic, economically rational, and unimaginative. Can you imagine being married to her?

Saving Grace

Okay, let's play devil's—or angel's—advocate here and try to look at Elisenda from the other side. Right at the end of the story, the narrator describes her as "exasperated and unhinged." What could possibly have made her come "unhinged"?

Well, when you think about it, it probably is pretty awful having this weird, creepy guy with wings dragging himself around your nice new house. All she wants is a normal life—a husband, a kid, a pretty silk dress—but instead she gets a featherless angel crash-landing in her backyard.

And would you really act any differently?

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