Short Story

Analysis of “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Márquez

Summary of “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is an absorbing short story penned by Gabriel García Márquez, a Colombian author and Nobel Prize winner. The story is set in a small coastal village in Latin America and is centered around the arrival of a striking and mysterious old man with wings. The old man is discovered by a peasant couple, Pelayo and Elisenda, and they are initially filled with fear and awe at seeing a strange man. They are soon joined by their neighbors, who come to see the old man for themselves. Despite his appearance, the old man does not seem to be an angel, as he is covered in muck and does not display any supernatural abilities.

As the old man begins to attract more attention from the villagers, Pelayo and Elisenda start to see an opportunity to make money from him. They construct a chicken coop for him to live in and charge visitors to see him. Over time, the old man becomes a local attraction, and people from far and wide come to see him. However, the old man is mistreated by the villagers and is often subjected to physical abuse. He becomes sick and frail, and he seems close to death.

The priest of the village comes to visit the old man and reveals that he is not an angel but is instead a fallen angel. The priest explains that the old man is suffering because he has given up his immortality and has come to Earth to do penance for his sins. Also, the priest tells the villagers that they should show compassion to the old man, but his words do not move them. The old man eventually dies, and the villagers forget about him.

The story ends with Pelayo and Elisenda being visited by a family who asks them about the old man. They are surprised to learn that the old man has been dead for years, and they realize their memories of him have faded. The story reflects the human tendency to be cruel and indifferent to those who are different or in need. The old man symbolizes the marginalized and oppressed, who are often mistreated and forgotten by society. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is a haunting and powerful story that explores the themes of compassion, cruelty, and the human condition. It is a masterpiece of magical realism, with a surreal and fantastical tone that is both enchanting and thought-provoking. The story is a timeless classic that remains relevant and poignant.

Analysis of “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Márquez is a surrealist short story that explores mortality, faith, and humanity themes. The story is set in a small village where an old man with enormous wings falls from the sky. The villagers are initially skeptical of the old man, who they see as an angel. However, they soon realize that the old man is not a divine being but a frail and powerless creature who cannot fulfill their expectations of what an angel should be.

The old man is a representation of the inadequacies and limitations of humanity. He represents the idea that there are limits to what we can achieve and that death is inevitable. The old man is described as having a “worn face as if carved from a piece of wood” and as “neither angel nor human.” This description highlights the old man’s physical frailty and mortality. The old man’s wings are a symbol of his flight from death, but they also serve as a reminder of the old man’s limitations and mortality.

The villagers in the story are depicted as being both fascinated and repelled by the old man. They are fascinated by the idea of an angel and want to believe that the old man is a divine being, but they are repelled by his physical appearance and lack of power. The villagers are also depicted as being selfish and cruel. They try to make money by charging people to see the old man, and they also try to exploit him for their own gain. This highlights the idea that humans can be cruel and manipulative, even towards those they perceive as divine.

The story is a commentary on the relationship between faith and reality. The villagers’ belief in the old man as an angel is a manifestation of their faith, but their belief is shattered when they realize that the old man is not a divine being but a frail and powerless creature. This highlights the idea that faith can be fragile and that reality can often shatter our beliefs.

Thematic Analysis

The story explores several important themes, including religion, humanity, and mortality. The story’s central theme is religion, as the arrival of the old man with wings raises questions about the existence of miracles and the role of faith in people’s lives. The story presents the idea that faith is a powerful force that can be easily manipulated and distorted by those in power.

Another critical theme in the story is humanity, as the old man is treated as a spectacle and a source of entertainment for the townspeople. This highlights humans’ cruelty and inhumanity and the tendency to exploit those who are different or seen as weaker. The old man is used as a tool for the villagers to earn money and improve their lives, showing that people are often willing to sacrifice their moral values in pursuit of wealth and prosperity.

Mortality is another theme explored in the story, as the old man represents the inevitable aging and death that all people must face. His wings symbolize the idea of flight and escape from the constraints of mortality and the realization that death is inevitable. The old man’s wings also represent his divine origins, adding another layer to the theme of mortality and the idea of what happens after death.

Therefore, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is a thought-provoking story that explores themes of religion, humanity, and mortality. Through the characters and events in the story, the writer presents a commentary on the human condition and the importance of examining our beliefs and values. The magical realist elements of the story heighten the themes and provide a surreal and allegorical backdrop for the narrative.


To conclude, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is a powerful and thought-provoking short story that explores themes of mortality, faith, and humanity. The old man represents humanity’s limitations, and the villagers’ reaction to him highlights the fragility of faith and the cruelty of humanity. The story reminds us that death is inevitable and that there are limits to what we can achieve.

Suggested Readings

Analysis of “Dead Man’s Path” by Chinua Achebe

Analysis of “A Quoi Bon Dire” by Charlotte Mew

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