||Every March during the earliest years after the founding of Macondo, a small, isolated village, gypsies arrive with marvelous new inventions: magnets, telescopes, and magnifying glasses. The much-respected village founder, Jose Arcadia Buendia, seizes on these inventions as ways to make money and scientific progress. Over the pleadings of his level-headed wife, Ursula Iguaran, he throws himself into countless schemes and plots involving the new inventions. When he becomes friends with Melquiades, the gypsy leader, Jose Arcadia Buendia is inspired to dedicate himself to knowledge and scientific study. He flirts with alchemy and astronomy and becomes increasingly withdrawn from his family and community. His great discovery, that the world is round, causes the whole village to become concerned about his sanity.
Jose Arcadia Buendia was the founder of Macondo and remains its most important citizen‹he oversaw the village's creation and decided how life would be lived there. It was a dreamy, magical place where no one was over the age of thirty and no one died. Therefore Jose Arcadio Buendia's obsession with progress affects the whole village. He decides that Macondo must establish contact with the outside world and leads an expedition to find a path to the sea. The men of the village chop through marshes and swamps and discover, among other things, a rusted fifteenth-century suit of armor and a ruined Spanish galleon. But they do not discover the sea, and Jose Arcadio Buendia leads them back home and announces that Macondo is surrounded by water on all sides. Then he decides to move the village to a less isolated place, but Ursula plants opposition among the women of the village and he is forced to abandon that plan.
So he takes an interest in his two sons: Jose Arcadio, the eldest, who has his father's strength but lacks imagination, and the mysterious Aureliano, whose adult name is Colonel Aureliano Buendia. Their father educates them and takes them to the gypsies' fair in March, where the three of them see ice for the first time.
The second chapter opens by telling the story of Macondo's founding. Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula were cousins in a prosperous village. When they got married, Ursula was fearful that their children would be horribly deformed, as the children of incestuous unions sometimes are. She was particularly afraid because her aunt, married to Jose Arcadio Buendia's uncle, had given birth to a miserable son with a pig's tail. So she wore a chastity belt and refused to consummate her marriage while people in the village laughed at Jose Arcadio Buendia. One of these villagers, Prudencio Aguilar, insulted Jose Arcadio Buendia after losing a cock fight. Buendia challenged him to a duel and killed him. Then he went home and told Ursula to remove her chastity belt. After several happy months, Ursula began to see the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar, and soon it became clear that his ghost was haunting them. Overcome with guilt and determined to put Prudencio's ghost to rest, Jose Arcadio Buendia decided to leave the village. A small band of hardy souls elected to go with him, and after fourteen months of wandering, they founded Macondo.
Upon seeing the gypsies' ice, Jose Arcadio Buendia is inspired to discover the meaning of mirrors, and he delves into study once more, this time with the help of his younger son Aureliano. Meanwhile his oldest son, Jose Arcadio, has turned into an exceptionally well-endowed young man. Pilar Ternera, a local woman astounded by his size, seduces him. They become lovers and, to his horror, she becomes pregnant. But before the child comes, the gypsies return. Jose Arcadio goes to the fair and seduces a young gypsy girl, then runs off with her. Distraught, Ursula tries to follow and winds up abandoning her newborn daughter, Amaranta. It is up to Jose Arcadio Buendia and Aureliano to look after Amaranta and the house until she returns‹which she does, five months later. She has not found her son or the gypsies, but she has discovered the two-day route through the swamp that leads to the outside world.
There are many different ways to read One Hundred Years of Solitude and Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote the novel with an eye to multiple interpretations. In this first section, it is important to recognize one of those interpretations‹the Biblical interpretation‹and to make careful note of the narrative strategy Marquez employs towards this end.
Critics have pointed out that Solitude mimics the first books of the Bible, with a particular emphasis on the Book of Genesis. Note that in the first breath of the first chapter, the narrator remarks that "the world was so recent that many things lacked names," an obvious reference to the "In the Beginning" opening of Genesis, wherein the Lord creates first the world, and then the objects that fill it. Similarily, Macondo is described as an Eden-like village where no one grows old and no one dies. The founders of this village, Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula Iguaran are obviously meant to stand in for Adam and Eve. The parallels between the founding couple and Adam and Eve are drawn more sharply in the second chapter when the narrator goes back in time. Like Adam and Eve, Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula Iguaran are driven from their homes, to wander in the cruel landscape because of a crime they have committed‹in their case, it was the murder of Prudencio Aguilar. Indeed, the similarities between Genesis and the first chapters of Solitude are so great that they have driven at least one critic, Harold Bloom, to bestow a second title on the novel: the Book of Macondo. Also note that Jose Arcadio Buendia has an obsession with "knowledge" and "progress," the very same desires that caused Adam and Eve to be expelled from Eden. As we will see, they bring about the destruction of Jose Arcadio Buendia as well.
Finally, to finish out the Biblical interpretation of the first chapters of the book, a note on the title. Many critics have pulled their hair out attempting to make the one hundred years of the title conform to the events in the book, but critic Regina James has accurately noted that no matter what types of dating are used, the book does not fit neatly into one hundred years. Part of the reason for this, Marquez's purposeful use of hyperbole regarding dates and times, will be discussed later. But one of the most outstanding reasons is that Marquez intends for the one hundred years of the title to stand as a cycle, a numerical symbol in the tradition of the Bible. Just as the Bible uses specific numbers to stand in for concepts and periods of time (the numbers 3 and 7 represent perfection, for example, and many of the numerical figures are not meant to suggest actual, but symbolic periods of time), the "one hundred years" of the title stands for the ever-repeating cycle of time.
To contain this vast and epic universe, Marquez employs a rather novel chronology and an interesting type of narration. There is no central "event" in this novel and no central character‹a big risk for a novelist. In order to pull it off, Marquez makes the narrator a character in this novel with very little dialogue. Moving the plot (which basically follows the rise, maturity, and decline of the Buendia family and their village of Macondo) forward with a brisk tone, the Narrator treats all events‹from the most fantastic to the most mundane‹with a droll, dispassionate tone. This allows Marquez to get away with the hyperbole and fantasy which mark this narrative. It also allows the reader to understand and accept why Jose Arcadio Buendia and his sons might be moved by ice in the gypsy fair, rather than flying carpets.
Likewise, the chronology of Solitude is a purposeful jumble. The progression of time is less straightforward in this novel than it is in others. From the first sentence, which begins the actual story years in the future but then jumps back to start it in the past, the reader is aware that time will not move with regularity in the Macondo universe. This allows Marquez to retain the feeling of folklore, of oral narration, which is a very important theme in this book.
Summary and Analysis of Section 2, Chapter 3
After Ursula Iguaran discovers the route to civilization, the village swells and expands with visitors and new settlers. Jose Arcadio Buendia regains his position as the village's most important citizen as the new inhabitants look to him for guidance and assistance in city planning. While Jose Arcadio Buendia supervises the village's growth, his family is also growing. Pilar Ternera gives birth to Arcadio, the missing Jose Arcadio's son, and the child is brought to live with the Buendias. A new member of the family comes in the form of the orphan girl Rebeca, who arrives out of the blue carrying her parents' bones in a bag. Unsure of what else to do with her, the Buendias take her in, and struggle to cure her of the habit of eating earth and whitewash.
Rebeca brings an insomnia plague to the village‹a plague that causes everyone to live painlessly without sleep and to lose their memory. It gets so bad that Aureliano has to label everything in the house and, eventually with Jose Arcadio Buendia's help, the town. The plague does not end until Melquiades the gypsy returns. Old, decrepit, and apparently risen from the dead‹he claimed being dead was too lonely‹he brings not only an antidote to the plague but also a miraculous new invention, the daguerreotype. The Buendias have their first and only family photograph taken and Jose Arcadio Buendia becomes obsessed with making a daguerreotype of God, in order to prove His existence.
Meanwhile, Aureliano has grown to manhood without knowing a woman. Although the rest of the village thinks something about him is odd, he is content to spend his days quietly and alone, shut up in Jose Arcadio Buendia's alchemy laboratory, where he is an expert silversmith. He shares the lab with Melquiades, who lives with the Buendias and spends his days hunched over mysterious parchments.
Ursula, deeply engaged in a lucrative pastry business, looks up one day and realizes that the house is full of maturing children. Concerned that when they married, they might have to leave for lack of space, she undertakes an enormous expansion of the Buendia house, adding several new wings and rooms. In the midst of the expansion she receives a letter from the newly-arrived magistrate, a representative of the central government who has just set up shop in the formerly independent village. The letter is a decree stating that the house must be painted blue. Furious, Jose Arcadio Buendia drives the magistrate (Don Apolinar Moscote) out of town and, when he re-appears with his family and an armed guard, Jose Arcadio Buendia forces him to submit to the old rules of the village. Thus stripped of his power, Moscote settles into the village with his wife and seven daughters. Aureliano is struck with love for the magistrate's youngest daughter, Remedios‹even though the child is only nine years old. Frustrated, he sleeps with Pilar Ternera, who coaxes the secret out of him. Amused and sympathetic, she helps him propose to the girl, who agrees. Eventually, it is arranged with the Moscotes that they will marry when Remedios reaches puberty.
Meanwhile, the two Buendia daughters‹Amaranta and Rebeca‹both fall in love with Pietro Crespi, a handsome young Italian who comes to install a pianola in the Buendia home. Their passions are intense and make them both sick. Rebeca even reverts back to her habit of eating earth. Eventually, Crespi responds to Rebeca's attentions, but not Amaranta. It is decided that Rebeca and Crespi will marry, although Amaranta declares with a peculiar fervor that this will only happen over her dead body.
In the midst of all this intrigue, Melquiades the gypsy dies. He is the first person to die in Macondo‹they do not even have a graveyard. Jose Arcadio Buendia burns mercury for two days, as per the dead man's request, and they establish a plot for him with a tombstone inscribed merely with his name. After the mourning period passes, the house seems to be content and peaceful. Aureliano and Remedios are getting closer and he spends several hours a day with the child, teaching her to read. Although Pilar announces that she is pregnant with his child, Aureliano is happy with his future bride. Rebeca and Crespi are engaged. But the good spirits are dampened by the behavior of Jose Arcadio Buendia. After failing to obtain a daguerrotype of God, he throws himself into the quest of putting everything on a pendulum. This final quest exhausts him mentally and psychologically. After seeing the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar and communing with the dead, he goes into a rage, destroying the laboratory and attempting to set fire to the house. It takes twenty men to restrain him, which they can only do by lashing him to a tree. Ursula builds a shelter to protect him from the sun and the rain and he remains there.
The final image of Chapter Four‹a humbled and defeated Jose Arcadio Buendia, lashed to a tree‹is a crucial one. Continuing with the Biblical overtones of the book, this tree is meant to suggest the Tree of Knowledge, the tree that was forbidden to Adam and Eve and caused their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Like them, Jose Arcadio Buendia has overstepped humanity's boundaries with his obsessive quest for knowledge. And like them, his family and his village will be turned out of the Garden, forced to weather plagues (like the insomnia plague) and violence (the magistrate's appearance is a comical foreshadowing of the government "interventions" to come). This novel is as much about humanity's failure to communicate with one another and care for one another as it is about the Buendias.
Accordingly, this section also introduces the crucial theme of solitude that is central to Marquez's project. Note that the word solitude appears frequently throughout the text, even in surprising places and with surprising usages. Marquez does this to underline the importance of solitude in the novel. In part, solitude can be a healthy thing‹as the village grows and more and more frightening aspects of civilization come to Macondo (absurd governmental regulations, prostitution, etc.), there can be comfort found in one's own company. Certainly Aureliano and Melquiades confirm this. But the solitude of the Buendias, as the novel will make clear, is destructive. The critic Ricardo Gullon points out that the family's incest problem is representative of their greater failure to communicate and reach out to the rest of the world. By having Jose Arcadio Buendia babble in a foreign tongue at the end of chapter four, and using the example of labeling during the insomnia plague, Marquez introduces the unsettling question of what happens to communication when even language breaks down. To what extent do we rely on language for the permenance of memory, Marquez asks, and what happens when we all stop speaking that language? These topics are particularly of relevance to Marquez because of Latin American history, which was notoriously distorted in textbooks when Marquez was a child. He will return to this theme later in the book, when the history of the banana revolt is pushed out of public memory by the actions of the government.
Summary and Analysis of Section 3, Chapters 4-5
As soon as Remedios Moscote reaches puberty and is cured of her child-like habits such as wetting the bed, she and Aureliano are married. Remedios proves to be more graceful and responsible than others had imagined she would be‹caring for Jose Arcadia Buendia under his tree, intervening in fights between Rebeca and Amaranta, and taking in Aureliano Jose, the bastard son of Aureliano and Pilar Ternera, as her own child. The Buendias are thrilled with her and Aureliano "found in her the justification that he needed to live." Therefore it is a horrible tragedy when she dies suddenly and painfully from a stomach ailment, with a pair of twins "crossed in her stomach."
Remedios' death plunges the household into a long period of mourning. Rebeca's marriage to Pietro Crespi is postponed indefinitely‹it had already been postponed once before by Amaranta's suggestion that Rebeca's marriage be the first event to inaugurate Macondo's first church. The church's building, presided over by the levitating priest Father Nicador, is certain to take at least three years. Rebeca is completely demoralized.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Rebeca's troubles come to an end with the return of Jose Arcadio, the eldest son of Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula. He strides into the house "and the braces in the foundation shook with such force that #352;.[everyone] had the impression that an earthquake was breaking up the house." Huge, covered with tattoos, and completely lacking in social graces, Jose Arcadio has sailed the world sixty-five times and come back to prostitute his huge sexual organ to the women of Macondo. Although the rest of the family is repulsed by Jose Arcadio's appearance and behavior, Rebeca lusts after him. They have ferocious sex and are married three days later, after Jose Arcadio violently announces his decision to Pietro Crespi. Disgusted, Ursula forbids them to enter the house. Despite his humiliation, Pietro Crespi manages to keep enough of his dignity to begin courting Amaranta.
Aureliano, meanwhile, resigns himself to a life without female companionship. He continues to play dominoes with Remedios' father, Don Apolinar Moscote, and it is through him that Aureliano learns about the two reigning political parties, the Conservatives, Moscote's party, and the Liberals. After witnessing the corruption of the Conservative Party, Aureliano mentions offhand to his friends that he would rather be a Liberal. They send him to a radical homeopath who indoctrinates Aureliano with the concept of political violence. Then war breaks out, and a brutal Conservative army occupies Macondo. Aureliano, furious at the violence and the oppression, leads twenty-one young men in a desperate revolt against the army. They win and set out to join the Liberal army, with Aureliano in charge. Before he leaves, Aureliano‹now known as Colonel Aureliano Buendia--puts Arcadio in charge of keeping the peace in Macondo.
The courtship between Amaranta and Pietro Crespi flourishes. They seem very happy and everyone expects that they will be married. But when Crespi finally proposes, Amaranta cruelly rejects him. Desperate, Crespi tries all matters of wooing to receive her love, but Amaranta refuses to speak to him. Despondent, he commits suicide. Horrified at what she has done, Amaranta burns her hand and covers it with a black bandage, which she wears for the rest of her life.
Arcadio has, as Marquez's narrator puts it, "a very personal interpretation" of power. To put it bluntly, he is a tyrant. He issues constant orders, most of them senseless, and is drunk with power. He agrees to let Jose Arcadio usurp the lands of his neighbors and makes Ursula ashamed to no end. He also begins an affair with a local girl, Santa Sofia de la Piedad, who bears him a daughter. But his reign comes to a screeching halt when the Liberals are defeated in the war and the Conservative army recaptures Macondo. When they place him before the firing squad, the Conservatives ask Arcadio for his final request. He responds that his daughter's name should be Ursula, and the child that is in Santa Sofia de la Piedad's stomach must be named Jose Arcadio if he is a boy.
In this section of the book, Marquez picks up an important theme that will follow throughout the rest of the book‹Latin American political violence. The fact that, in Solitude, politics are necessarily linked with violence says a great deal about Marquez's feelings and the history of Latin America in general. This theme is vital for a number of different reasons. Without it the rest of the novel might seem comical, fanciful even. Critics would have been able to dismiss it as an uproarious romp through the lives of some colorful, and admittedly exaggerated, characters. But not only does the inclusion of Latin American political history ground the novel in the serious and the tragic, but it allows Marquez to make fascinating links between the fantastic, which is a vital part of this novel, and the realistic, which is often even more fantastic than the levitating priests and gypsy fairs that populate the book. Essentially, Marquez compares reality as it is seen in Latin American politics‹the corruption, the dishonesty, the violence, the dictatorial behavior‹to the unreality of the world he spins in this book, and dares the reader to decide which one is harder to believe.
It is also important to note the role coincidence plays in this section. Solitude takes a great deal of its spirit from folklore and old-fashioned storybook yarns, and this is reflected in a number of coincidences that are quietly dropped throughout the book. At the very end of the chapter, for example, Arcadio wishes for his son to be named "Jose Arcadio" not for his uncle, but for his grandfather. Arcadio means that he wishes for his son to take after Jose Arcadio Buendia, the scientist under the tree, rather than the hulking, repulsive land-grabber Jose Arcadio. But what Arcadio does not realize is that he, Arcadio, is the son of the land-grabber, not of Jose Arcadio Buendia. Therefore his son will take after Jose Arcadio and not Jose Arcadio Buendia. This unfortunate coincidence‹made even more confusing by the repetition of names‹underlines the cyclical nature of time and history in this book. The Buendias should be progressing, but they are simply making the same mistakes over and over again‹a circumstance pointed out by how often the characters, wishing to provide good role models for their children, name them after the worst family antecedents.
Summary and Analysis of Section 4, Chapters 6-8
The war ends,with the defeat of the Liberals, in May. Colonel Aureliano Buendia and his close comrade-in-arms, Colonel Gerinaldo Marquez, are captured and brought to Macondo. Ursula goes to visit him in prison; he seems more solitary than ever and is plagued by sores under his arms. He is sentenced to death by a (rather reluctant) firing squad. But as Colonel Aureliano Buendia is placed in front of the squad, dreaming of ice and awaiting the order to fire, Jose Arcadio arrives with his massive shotgun. The squad puts down their weapons and joins Colonel Aureliano Buendia on another war, one of the 32 uprisings he leads in his lifetime. At first the war is a string of failures and Colonel Aureliano Buendia is denounced and rejected by the Liberal Party officials. Undeterred, he finds some success with the fall of Riohacha and enters Macondo in triumph. The Buendia household, once again full of children, receives him with open arms.
Unfortunately tragedy plagues the household. Jose Arcadio, who has "continued to profit from the usurped lands," is killed in a mysterious fashion. Neither the reader nor the town can figure out if it was by his own hand or by an assassin. Rebeca, his wife, "closed the doors of her house and buried herself alive" with grief and despondency. The town forgets about her.
Colonel Aureliano Buendia also has a brush with death‹but unlike Jose Arcadio, he manages to live through an assassination attempt that involved "a dose of nux vomica strong enough to kill a horse" in his coffee. The attempt and his ensuing recovery leads Colonel Aureliano Buendia to the realization that he has not been fighting for any motive, only for his pride, and he becomes disillusioned with war. He sets off to make contact with the rebel groups in the interior in an effort to bring closure to the war; he leaves Colonel Gerinaldo Marquez in charge of the town.
A timid courtship blooms between Colonel Gerinaldo Marquez and Amaranta. Although Amaranta feels greatly for him and wishes that they could be together, she rejects his marriage proposal as she did Pietro Crespi's. Despite her unhappiness and Marquez's persistence, she sticks to her decision. Colonel Aureliano Buendia sends one of his prophetic messages to Ursula that Jose Arcadio Buendia is going to die. Concerned, Ursula arranges to have him moved from the tree to the bedroom, where he spends his days talking with the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar. Soon, he dies, and the heavens send a strong rain of yellow flowers onto the town.
Meanwhile, Aureliano Jose, Colonel Aureliano Buendia's son with Pilar Ternera, has come to maturity. Because of the intimacies he has shared with Amaranta, who has basically raised, him, he feels a deep attraction to her‹an attraction that she, to her dismay, shares and attempts to keep under control. When he gets the opportunity to leave the house which is driving him crazy, he does so with his father, Colonel Aureliano Buendia‹who, dissatisfied with the peace agreement between the Liberals and the Conservatives, has set off to make war in other countries. With Aureliano gone, Macondo enters its golden period of prosperity, guided by the skillful, humane hands of Mayor Jose Raquel Moncada, a Conservative but a friend of Colonel Aureliano Buendia. A trickle of young boys‹17 in total‹all come to the Buendia house to be baptized. They are the sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendia, fathered during his years of war up and down the coast. All the boys are named Aureliano and Ursula keeps track of all of them in a little notebook for Colonel Aureliano Buendia when he comes back.
Aureliano Jose deserts the army in Nicaragua and returns to Macondo, "with a secret determination to marry Amaranta." Amaranta sees this immediately and tries to deter him, warning him of the results of incest. He begins to take after his uncle Jose Arcadio with his lewd and lazy actions. Then, one night he is killed by a Conservative soldier during an uprising.
Colonel Aureliano Buendia returns, conquers the town, and reclaims Jose Arcadio Buendia's usurped lands. He also proves that prolonged war has affected his compassion--despite Ursula's pleading and his own long-standing relationship with the good mayor Jose Raquel Moncada, he condemns him to death. Unfortunately for both Colonel Aureliano Buendia and Macondo, Moncada's execution has serious, unforseen consequences.
Both Colonel Gerinaldo Marquez and Colonel Aureliano Buendia lose all faith and hope in the purpose of war. They realize that the Liberal Party is just as corrupt and faithless as the Conservative Party. Colonel Aureliano Buendia takes it harder, withdrawing from the world and behaving in an increasingly bizarre fashion. Unable to feel emotion, losing his memories, and distraught by the betrayals of his own army, Colonel Aureliano Buendia finds solace only in his solitude, which he treasures so much that he refuses to let anyone come within ten feet of him. It is only when he almost issues an execution for his loyal friend Colonel Gerinaldo Marquez that Colonel Aureliano Buendia realizes how far gone he is. Shaken, he decides to end the war for good, and it takes him two years to make peace between his own forces and the Conservative Party. Unfortunately, by this point, he is unable to make an emotional connection with anyone. Completely alienated from his family, distraught by the political order, he attempts suicide by shooting himself in the chest. Fortunately or unfortunately, he survives, and Ursula, happy again, throws open the house for redecorating and company.
Critic Regina James points out in her book on Solitude that it can be read as a parable of civilization, specifically Greek civilization: first comes settlement, then agricultural development, then scientific inquiry and achievement (Jose Arcadio Buendia's scientific experiments are a parody of this stage of development), then literature (Melquiades' texts and Aureliano's poetry), and finally, war and the building of an empire before a distinct decline (which will be reflected later in the book). But while this is certainly one rich way of reading Solitude, Marquez complicates this mode of reading by imbuing the book with a specific historical cycle that is a reflection of Latin America. The constant, useless war, the futility of politics, and the ultimate absurdity of the revolutionary project are themes not only in Solitude but also specific to Latin American history. By contrasting the rise of classical Greek civilization with the violence of his own civilization, Marquez is entering a dialogue between the two civilizations that questions where the first left off and the second began. He is also using this dialogue to question what Latin America would have been like had the Europeans never conquered it; e.g. if it had been free to develop and possibly turn into a colonial power the way ancient Greece did.
Mixed in with the commentary on civilization is a fierce critique of war and political violence. It is important to note that there are very few instances of fantastical things, hyperbolic language, or overwrought emotion during this section. In Marquez's opinion, the political events and the violence are fantastical enough. Our guide through this bizarre world is Colonel Aureliano Buendia. We are clearly meant to sympathize with Colonel Aureliano Buendia, as difficult as his actions are, and Marquez does a phenomenal job of making him human to us even though he loses all of his human characteristics. War is clearly the culprit for much of Colonel Aureliano Buendia's emotional collapse, and the fact is that he has had (and will have) at least as many atrocities committed against him as he committs against others. To make things even more interesting, the loss of memory and emotion that Colonel Aureliano Buendia suffers is strikingly similar to the inhabitants of Macondo during the insomnia plague. War and violence makes people forget their history just as tragically as a plague does.
Marquez develops the theme of solitude to one of its highest peaks during this section of the novel. Ursula, Amaranta, Aureliano Jose, and Colonel Aureliano Buendia all suffer from solitude and sadness. Instead of looking outside of themselves or their family to cure this condition, they circle tighter in on themselves and each other, making incest a threat once again and leaving all of them to self-destruct in their various ways. It is important to note that as Macondo reaches its climax of prosperity and happiness, the Buendias are also turning a corner. They will eventually delve into the depths of solitude and decadence, reflecting the eventual destruction of the town.
Summary and Analysis of Section 5, Chapters 9-10
Santa Sofia de la Piedad gives birth to twin boys: Jose Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo. Her daughter with Arcadio is named Remedios, and she soon comes to be known as Remedios the Beauty. The twins are alike and mischevious throughout their childhood; they take great delight in fooling not only their teachers but their family. Ursula begins to think that they got the names and the children confused: Jose Arcadio Segundo grows up to be slim, while Aureliano Segundo inherits the "monumental size" of his grandfathers. Other differences in the twins eventually emerge. Jose Arcadio seems to have a taste for blood‹he asks Colonel Gerinaldo Marquez to let him see an execution and then he becomes a cockfighter. Aureliano Segundo is fascinated by Melquiades' texts and spends hours in the old laboratory. Colonel Aureliano Buendia, meanwhile, withdraws further and further from the world into his business of making little gold fishes.
But the two boys resemble each other exactly until they are full grown, and one young woman, Petra Cotes, is so confused by this that she winds up sleeping with both of them for a period of several months. Aureliano discovers this first and manages to prolong the situation, but when all three of them contract a sexually transmitted disease, Jose Arcadio abandons her and she becomes Aureliano's mistress. They retain incredible passion for each other, and whenever they have sex Aureliano's animals proliferate unnaturally. Thanks to this, he becomes one of the richest men in town. As hospitable as he is wealthy, he gives grand parties at Petra Cotes' house and is given to dousing himself with champagne. Meanwhile, Macondo shares in his prosperity‹the town is "miraculous" when it comes to making money.
But it is not miraculous when it comes to memory. Like his great-grandfather, Jose Arcadio Segundo becomes obsessed with the idea of opening a sea channel to connect Macondo with the ocean. With funding from Aureliano Segundo, he disappears, only to reappear with the "first and last boat ever to dock" in Macondo. With Jose Arcadio Segundo are a group of French prostitutes, who take over the Street of Turks and turn the town into a grand, drunken festival.
Remedios the Beauty, who is so beautiful that men have been known to die for her, is declared the queen of the carnival. Although Ursula‹who has tried to keep her off the streets permanently‹is disturbed by this development, the strangely disengaged Remedios the Beauty, who "was not a creature of this world," remains as unconcerned and innocent as ever. Mysteriously, a rival queen, with an enormous entourage, appears at the festival. This entourage turns out to be Liberal soldiers who open fire on the crowd, killing dozens. The Buendias rescue Remedios the Beauty and the rival queen, Fernanda del Carpio. Upon seeing Fernanda, Aureliano Segundo falls madly in love with her, and he tracks her down to the decrepit city of her birth to bring her back to Macondo and make her his wife.
Fernanda del Carpio is the last of an aristocratic line. Her sickly family was reduced to poverty; nonetheless they raised her to believe that she would be a queen. Endowed with strict piety and even stricter social mores, she clashes with the lively Aureliano Segundo. Chafing at her prudish behavior and her restrictions, he continues to make merry with Petra Cotes, while Fernanda tries to reform the Buendia household in the image of her own childhood home. Undone by the argument that Petra Cotes encourages the animals to proliferate, Fernanda only makes Aureliano promise that he will not die in his concubine's bed. Despite the awkward arrangement, Fernanda and Aureliano have two children early in their marriage: Renata Remedios (called Meme) and Jose Arcadio (who will be called Jose Arcadio (II) for purposes of clarification in this guide). Ursula, who had wished that no one else in the family be called Jose Arcadio or Aureliano, agrees on the condition that she be allowed to raise the boy. She wishes for him to become a priest, and then the Pope.
Soon after Meme is born, the president of the republic announces a jubilee in honor of Colonel Aureliano Buendia. The president even tries to honor Colonel Aureliano Buendia with the Order of Merit, but he scorns the medal and declares that if the president shows up, "he was eagerly awaiting that tardy but deserved occasion in order to take a shot at him." Although the Buendias do not take place in the jubilee, all of Colonel Aureliano Buendia's seventeen sons mysteriously appear in Macondo for the celebration. They turn the Buendia house upside down for three days. Before they leave, Colonel Aureliano Buendia gives each of them a little gold fish and Amaranta takes them to mass‹the result of which is that each of the seventeen Aurelianos are permanently marked on their foreheads with a cross of ashes.
One of the Aurelianos, Aureliano Triste, decides to stay in Macondo and set up an ice factory. In his seach for a house, he discovers that Rebeca, Jose Arcadio's widow, is still alive and rotting in her house. The sons return and do a madcap restoration of Rebeca's house, and another one, Aureliano Centeno, decides to stay and work with Aureliano Triste. The latter receives funding from Aureliano Segundo and then disappears. When he reappears, with a little yellow traina nd a lot of noise, he has created a railroad link between Macondo and the rest of the world.
If the Buendia family's Aurelianos are supposed to be bony, solitary, and introspective, while the Jose Arcadios should be massive, impulsive, and enterprising, then the names and the children got switched with Aureliano Segundo and Jose Arcadio Segundo. And yet they take after their antecedents, to a degree that is comical, until even Ursula cannot help shouting, "I know all of this by heart! It's as if time had turned around and we were back at the beginning." Ursula will proclaim that time is moving in circles many times throughout the novel. It is, but every generation brings a successive decline in the Buendias and in the town of Macondo. In both instances, the degeneration at first seems comical, but soon it will turn tragic and at last repulsive.
In the case of the town, it does not seem as though decline is nearby at all. Technological progress should bring physical progress and material prosperity, right? But as the novel points out, technology is not necessarily a sign of progress. For example, the town's inhabitants have forgotten their historical memory (no one remembers Jose Arcadio Buendia's attempts to locate the ocean). Soon, they will lose their spirit of exuberance and rebellion as well. The Buendias, the narrator makes clear, will also lose their fighting spirit‹but for now they remain stubbornly wild, fighting off the rigidity of Fernanda del Carpio, whose old-fashioned rituals and otherworldly expectations mark her as the ghost of a decrepit, long-dead world. Fernanda represents the static forces of organized religion, capitalism, and consumption, the forces that eventually envelop and destroy Macondo. (It is important to point out that Solitude is not against faith and belief. Miracles happen, and the hand of God is a generally benevolent force in the book. But Solitude certainly has its doubts about the Catholic Church, and the hypocrisy and false piety of some of its members.) Fernanda is the very picture of sterility and barrenness, and she falls down on the Buendias like a wet blanket. Free love is far more rewarding‹as the critic D.P. Gallagher points out, it is no accident that every time Aureliano Segundo copulates with his life-loving mistress, Petra Cotes, he is blessed with proliferation and plenty. Sexual liberation, not technology, leads to progress and prosperity.
Gallagher also notes that Marquez is indebted to the great Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges for his notion of time in this novel. Borges' visionary fiction set out a radical vision of time and literature that implied that time is an endless repetition, fact and fiction were easily confused, and that the text one was reading was no more or less real than the life the reader was living. Marquez is certainly using Borges' foundation to advance his own project, but where Marquez makes things interesting is that he forces Borges to confront the evils of colonialism and the destructive cycles of Latin American history. By using Borges' project to develop Solitude, which for all its historical scope and its universality is radically based in Colombia's present, Marquez forces Borges, who rarely commented on colonialism, to face the present as well.
Summary and Analysis of Section 6, Chapters 11-12
The train brings the outside world's technology to Macondo: movies, phonographs, and more and more prostitutes skilled in all sorts of arcane arts. The town responds to the new technology in their own unique way. For instance, the movie-going public tears up the seats in anger when an actor whose death they had wept over in one movie reappeared in the next movie. An event that provokes even more amazement, doubt, and consternation is the establishment of a banana plantation in town by an infusion of white, foreign businessmen. They set up their own side of town with luxurious terraces and an electrified fence. Miraculously, they are endowed with "means that had been reserved for Divine Providence in former times"‹they change the weather, the harvest cycle, and even the path of the river. The new arrivals bring a constant string of visitors into the Buendia home, much to the consternation of Fernanda, and produce much excitement and chaos in the town.
Only Remedios the Beauty is undisturbed. Permanently ensconced in "a magnificent adolescence," she behaves much the same way as a child would: wandering the house naked, shaving her head when her hair becomes too bothersome, and dressing, when she bothers to put clothes on, in a "coarse cassocks" because she cannot be bothered with feminine garb like petticoats and corsets. All of her unconventional behavior only makes her more and more desirable to men, who at last claim that they are being driven mad by her scent. At least three men die in wild pursuit of her, while she remains blissfully unaware of her power. The only Buendia who understands her at all is Colonel Aureliano Buendia, who claims over and over that she is the most lucid member of the household. At last, in a mysterious interlude, she ascends to heaven and is never seen again.
As the foreigners quickly cement an imperialist regime, using the locals for labor and keeping all the profits for themselves, Colonel Aureliano Buendia feels, for the first time, "tormented by the definite certainty that it had been a mistake not to have continued the war to its final conclusion." The Conservative politicians, after all, are making it easier for imperialism to penetrate the country. One day, out of outrage at a particularly brutal atrocity, he threatens to arm his seventeen sons so that they might get rid of the foreigners. Immediately, unnamed assassins hunt down sixteen of his sons and shoot them on the spot, all the while searching for the seventeenth Aureliano. The tragedy sends Colonel Aureliano Buendia into a "blind and directionless rage" similar to the feelings that have accompanied him during tragedies throughout his life. He even makes a half-hearted attempt to stir the fires of war in his old friend Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, but the latter rejects the idea.
Meanwhile, Jose Arcadio (II) and Meme are approaching adolescence and are getting ready to go off to school. Ursula has doubts that she has managed to properly mold Jose Arcadio II, who will be going to the seminary. The truth is that Ursula has gotten old. She has lost track of her age and is completely blind, although no one can tell because she compensates for her loss of sight with an exceptional memory and highly evolved sensory impressions. A nuisance to everyone else, she is solitary with her thoughts, and she comes to a series of deeply disturbing realizations about the family. She is sad about the way time has passed. Amaranta, too, is solitary; she begins sewing her own funeral shroud. At this time, with the children gone, Fernanda takes over the running of the increasingly quiet and gloomy house. Her severity drives away both Jose Arcadio Segundo, who becomes a foreman at the banana plantation, and Aureliano Segundo, who returns to the home of Petra Cotes with a redoubled energy. The wild parties and revelry begin again, and Aureliano Segundo regains his reputation as a generous host and a remarkable carouser; one day he nearly kills himself in an eating contest.
When his daughter, Meme, comes home for school vacation during the summer, Aureliano Segundo abandons Petra Cotes to play the role of a doting husband and father. Meme is a bright, well-adjusted child, possessed of her father's generosity and abandon: she invites 68 schoolgirls and 4 nuns to come home with her for a week's vacation, creating a humorous uproar in the house (Fernanda orders 72 chamberpots).
After the schoolgirls leave, Jose Arcadio Segundo begins to frequent the house more often to speak with Colonel Aureliano Buendia. Like the colonel, Jose Arcadio Buendia is fiercely solitary and withdrawn from the family. Ursula has given up her hopes of communicating with either of them; Colonel Aureliano Buendia remains alone within himself. He passes away under the same tree that housed Jose Arcadio Buendia for so many years.
The passing of Colonel Aureliano Buendia is a sad event for many reasons: not only is he a living link with the past, a reminder of times wherein the people of Macondo felt that political activity could still produce solutions to their problems, but he is one of the book's most sympathetic and reliable guides. Without his stabilizing influence, the reader will feel more and more adrift on the increasingly strange and unsure waves of the book. The loss of Ursula as a credible narrator serves to underline the reader's alienation. Critic Ricardo Gullon notes that Ursula's function in the book is to plant the novel with "everyday realities" so that the fantastic may enter smoothly. Without her calming, common-sense guidance, the book is increasingly adrift in the chaos that envelops the town and the Buendia family.
It is not surprising that Marquez decides to strand the reader at this moment of the book: he is preparing for the emotional and moral climax of the book, the banana strike. With the influx of foreigners and the advent of capitalism, the reminders of a better, purer past‹Colonel Aureliano Buendia, Ursula, and the otherworldly Remedios the Beauty‹are either killed off or silenced to prepare for a confused, morally ambiguous future of technological progress wherein both the reader and the inhabitants of Macondo will be left to figure things out on their own.
Of particular interest in this section is the tone of the narration. The narrator of Solitude is admirably detatched and keeps a straight face whether the topic is death, sex, or a miracle, but there are subtle differences in the way events are rendered. Note, for example, that the narrator treats the ascension of Remedios the Beauty as a natural event, while the audience's reaction to the cinema is treated almost as a legitimate rebellion. The fact that the narrator treats Remedios the Beauty's ascension, clearly a mystical and otherworldly event, as more normal than the cinema should give you an idea of how Marquez feels about technology, progress, and foreign imperialism. In this vein, there is nothing more confusing and unbelievable than the proliferation of foreign influence and foreigners themselves, especially if they are there to abuse the natives. And the beauty of Solitude is that it is possible to see Marquez's point, even if you do not necessarily agree with the politics of the belief. To a village that has grown used to the fantastic but has remained isolated from technology and foreigners, little would be more troubling and disturbing than the advent of movies, record players, and technology that can move rivers and change the weather. Marquez brilliantly makes these quotidian realities seem even more magical than the divine miracle that removes Remedios the Beauty from the earth.
Summary and Analysis of Section 7, Chapters 12-13
The Buendia household enters a rigorous period of mourning for Colonel Aureliano Buendia. The period of mourning coincides with Meme's last school vacations; in doing with custom Aureliano Segundo returns to his house. The product of this return is that Fernanda gives birth to a third child, a girl named Amaranta Ursula.
The first Amaranta, meanwhile, dies peacefully the night of February 5. She had been visited by a vision of death several years before in the guise of a long-haired woman who instructed her to begin weaving her own funeral shroud. When the shroud was finished, the vision predicted, Amaranta would die. Amaranta's last several years were spent in the creation of a lovely shroud; she even figured out the exact date of her own death. Calm and composed on that date, looking healthy in spite of her proclamation, she causes a stir in the town by announcing that she will bring letters to the dead. A great box of letters is collected in the hall, and true to her word, Amaranta dies that night.
Meme, who has been away at school for so long, blooms into a pretty, fun-loving adolescent. She enjoys parties, movies, and entertaining, and she practices the clavichord with great discipline only because she realizes that it will appease her mother. She develops a close relationship with her father, based on their common personalities and shared distaste for Fernanda del Carpio. Meme even wishes that she were the daughter of Petra Cotes rather than Fernanda. Then she falls in love with what Fernanda considers an "unacceptable" choice‹Mauricio Babilonia, a mechanic for the banana plantation.
Despite his class status and rough hands, Mauricio is dignified, solemn, and handsome, always attended by a flock of yellow butterflies. Fernanda discovers Meme kissing him in the movies one night and proceeds to lock her in the house. When she discovers that Mauricio is slipping into the house every night to make love to Meme, she posts a guard in the backyard to shoot "a chicken thief." The guard shoots Mauricio in the back, confining him to bed for the rest of his life. Meme is struck mute by the trauma and Fernanda takes her to a convent to spend the rest of her life. Months later, a cheerful nun comes to the house with baby Aureliano, Meme's illegitimate son with Mauricio Babilonia. Disgusted, but unable to bring herself to kill the child, Fernanda keeps his origins hidden. She confines the child to the house and treats him like a second-class citizen.
While the Buendias are haunted by personal tragedy, Macondo is also gearing up for the most important moment in the town's history. Jose Arcadio Segundo, Aureliano's solitary twin, has given up his job as the banana plantation's foreman in order to organize the workers. He draws public attention to the brutal working conditions of the plantation and is pointed out as the "agent of an international conspiracy against public order." The workers strike, and Macondo is placed under martial law. While the army, which blatantly favors the plantation owners, sets about terrorizing the town, the workers battle them using guerrilla tactics. At last, pretending to seek a resolution, the government invites some 3000 workers and their families to gather at the train station for a meeting to resolve the matter. The meeting, which starts out festively, ends up being a massacre. No sooner have the workers gathered than the army surrounds them and kills them with machine-gun fire. Jose Arcadio Segundo is taken for dead and wakes up on a train filled with corpses, headed for the ocean. Horrified, he manages to jump off the train and return to Macondo. But he walks back into another world, because the town has absolutely no memory of the massacre and has accepted the government-sponsored lie that no massacre took place. The only thing that leads Jose Arcadio Segundo to believe that he has not lost his mind is the rain: the day after the massacre, a torrential rain falls on Macondo and does not stop for almost five years.
The government continues to root out suspected unionists and shoot them in secret, all the while denying that any killing has ever taken place. The courts proclaim that the workers cannot unionize; indeed, they even claim that the banana plantation has no workers. Jose Arcadio Buendia locks himself up in Melquiades' old room, where Santa Sofia de la Piedad looks after him. One night, the soldiers invade the room, but they do not see him sitting there peacefully, waiting to be killed. Instead, they see only cobwebs and decay. Confused and terrified by the tragedies he has suffered, Jose Arcadio Segundo remains in Melquiades' room for good, where he discovers the gypsy's old texts. He loses contact with the outside world for years, isolating himself to study the texts and to keep his memory of the massacre intact.
This section is the climax of the book. The declines of the Buendias and Macondo continue to mirror each other in this section, as tragedies on the micro and macro level combine to rush both family and town towards Marquez's apocalyptic ending. On a comparative note, both tragedies are unnecessarily cruel, and both are enacted by a brutal, meddlesome authority. By linking the tragedies and having them run side by side, Marquez implies that brutalities inside the home are just as devastating to the health of the country as ones that occur on a mass level.
The fates of Meme and Jose Arcadio Segundo are also linked to their ancestors, albeit with a horrific twist. Fernanda abandons Meme at a convent in her decrepit hometown. This certainly would have been her own fate if Aureliano Segundo had not swept down to rescue her and bring her back to Macondo, making her "queen" of the Buendia clan if not, as she had expected, the world. In effect, Fernanda sacrifices Meme to ensure that she will not meet the same fate. This circle, this repetition of fate‹one of many that the Buendias have already gone through‹is the most tragic of all, for it is the first time that a family member is so morally depraved as to sacrifice the future for the present.
Jose Arcadio Segundo, meanwhile, compares to Colonel Aureliano Buendia. Even Ursula notes that he is "just like Aureliano#352;it's as if the world were repeating itself." Unlike Colonel Aureliano Buendia, Jose Arcadio Segundo has a concrete cause to fight for and a harrowing memory to keep his compassion alive after his war is finished. These changes signal a maturation in the role of the Latin American progressive hero, but they also signal a new level of corruption, cruelty, and inhumanity on behalf of the governments these heroes are fighting against. It is important that Colonel Aureliano Buendia died in the previous section, before the new‹and just as helpless‹hero of the order could rise. The two men have similarities, but the times they live in are very different.
The massacre of the workers is the novel's emotional and spiritual center. It is the book's strongest statement against political violence and its strongest plea for peace. It is also Marquez's narrative triumph‹despite the heavy political leanings of the massacre, the narrator remains dispassionate and the description is not polemical. This must have been all the more difficult for Marquez because the event is based on his own life. As a child living near a banana plantation‹named Macondo--he witnessed the massacre of striking banana workers. The dead bodies were then systematically removed from the town and thrown into the ocean. When he was in high school, Marquez realized with shock that the incident had been erased from his history textbooks. In effect, then, Marquez is playing the role of Jose Arcadio Segundo‹he is the living repository of an event that many have forgotten or would like to forget.
Summary and Analysis of Section 8, Chapters 13-14
The rains last for four years, eleven months, and two days. Aureliano Segundo was at home when the rains started and stays there, temporarily abandoning Petra Cotes to putter around the house and look after the remaining children, Amaranta Ursula and Meme's son Aureliano. He is calm and introspective now, weathered by personal tragedies and the troubles that the town has suffered. Fernanda is thankful that he does not attempt to sleep with her, as she has been suffering from a mysterious uterine ailment. She spends her time corresponding with "invisible doctors" who do not have a cure. Colonel Gerineldo Marquez dies, and as Ursula watches the procession she comments that she is only waiting for the rain to be over before she will die. In the meantime she has become a shriveled doll for the children to dress up and play with.
When Aureliano Segundo finally returns to Petra Cotes, he realizes that he is no longer a rich man‹all of his livestock has been killed by the rain. He returns to the Buendia household "convinced that not only Ursula but all the inhabitants of Macondo were waiting for it to clear in order to die." Fernanda does not react well to their contracted fortunes and takes to preaching at Aureliano Segundo, who breaks every valuable thing in the house in an attempt to shut her up. Aureliano Segundo is more interested in the fortune Ursula has hidden somewhere in the house and spends a great deal of time and energy excavating the house in a fruitless attempt to find it. In this manner he loses all the weight he has gained during his years of revelry and is occupied until the rains end.
Macondo is in ruins. The banana plantation has been washed away, and much of the town is deserted. The only settlers left are those who were there before the foreign businessmen arrived. Petra Cotes survives, and with her one remaining mule she attempts to rejuvenate her raffle business. Aureliano Segundo rejoins her. Though they are poor, they fall deeply in love with each other again, and are happier than ever. Meanwhile, Ursula is disturbed by the mold and decay that have befallen the house. "If we go on like this we'll be devoured by animals," she says. She decides with renewed vigor that it is time to renovate the house yet again. She sweeps out all the debris of past tragedies and banishes the mildew from the rains. During her renovations she discovers the forgotten Jose Arcadio Segundo, still cloistered in Melquiades' workshop. She tries to get him to help her with the house, but he is too afraid to face the world and she realizes that he is locked in a world of shadows even more dense than her own.
Aureliano Segundo works hard with Petra Cotes, trying to ease his financial burdens. He sees less of his daughter and grandson, who are quickly growing up. Aureliano, left at the questionable mercy of Fernanda, grows into a thin, curious young man who lacks Colonel Aureliano Buendia's clairvoyance. After the first wave of sunshine, Ursula loses her lucidity and quickly shrivels into a "fetus." Less and less in touch with the present, she finally passes away on Good Friday. Jose Arcadio's widow Rebeca dies not long at the end of the year, "curled up like a shrimp."
The town suffers from a terrible heat wave; many residents begin to think that they are plagued. All the birds in town die and there are sightings of "an infernal beast" named the Wandering Jew, something of a cross between a woman and a goat. The town itself settles into a long period of decay. The people are indolent, with wandering minds, and they have lost their collective memory: when the president of the republic arrives for yet another jubilee, none of them remember Colonel Aureliano Buendia or any of his descendents.
After Ursula's death, the Buendia house too suffers a great decline. Fernanda closes up the house and it remains closed. Aureliano Segundo visits only occasionally for his daughter, Amaranta Ursula, who is turning into a pretty young woman with good judgment and a fine discipline for study. Aureliano Segundo devotes himself to raising money so that she may study in Europe. Little Aureliano, meanwhile, becomes increasingly withdrawn as he approaches puberty. Eventually he makes friends with Jose Arcadio Segundo. The latter feels compassion for another solitary soul and takes him under his wing. He teaches Aureliano how to read and write, introduces him to Melquiades' texts and indoctrinates him with the history of Macondo and his memory of the banana massacre.
Aureliano Segundo's health is fading, so he works harder than ever to raise the money for Amaranta Ursula's studies. The ensuing raffles make him a laughingstock in town, but he manages to raise the money, and Amaranta Ursula goes off to Brussels. Relieved, he dies at the same instant as his twin brother Jose Arcadio Segundo. The latter dies with his eyes open, after giving Aureliano a reminder never to forget the dead workers. At the burial, the attendents are both sad and drunk, and they mix up the bodies, so that Jose Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo, as identical in death as they were at birth, wind up in each other's graves.
The rains that follow the massacre are symbolic in three different ways. The first reference, and the most obvious one, is the reference to the flood in the book of Genesis. As in Noah's time, the land had become full of wickedness, and the flood gave rise to a new world. The reason why this symbolism does not completely explain the flood of Macondo is that, in the book of Genesis, the flood was an opportunity for rebirth and regeneration, whereas in Macondo it merely leads to a swift decline. This leads to the second reference for the flood: the book of Exodus, and the story of Moses, who with God's help invokes a series of plagues on the Egyptians. It is certainly the case that Macondo is suffering from a series of plagues: first water, then heat, and then the appearance of strange, inhuman visitors and prophets. With this reference, Marquez opens up the possibility that the residents of Macondo‹and, by extension, the natives of Latin America‹are slaves to the colonial, imperialist order, waiting for a Moses to set them free.
The final reference is hinted at in the novel: the possibility that the gringos and the plantation owners, who have powers that were formerly reserved for God, brought down the flood as punishment. This is certainly a possibility, since the flood has the long-term effect of wiping out the town. It has the added bonus of erasing the town's memory and even the plantation itself, so that no one will ever know what really happened there.
If this is true, the foreigners had not counted on Jose Arcadio Segundo, who despite his isolation manages to keep memory alive in another outsider, his grand-nephew Aureliano. It is fortunate that Aureliano is as sequestered and as introspective as his great-uncle, because the town's insidious memory has forgotten all history and would consequently lead Aureliano to forget the lessons of Jose Arcadio Segundo. But he takes up where his great-uncle has left off, both with Melquiades' texts and his role as the living repository of memory. As the town continues its swift decline, he becomes the last hope for a savior in Macondo‹a situation that will prove tragic.
Summary and Analysis of Section 9, Chapters 15-18
Aureliano, Meme's son, stays in Melquiades' old laboratory for a long time. He reads old history and ancient sciences, learning not a thing "about his own time but with the basic knowledge of a medieval man." He talks to the old gypsy, whose ghost occasionally appears to offer guidance and advice about the mysterious texts. With Melquiades' assistance, Aureliano begins studying Sanskrit in order to read the texts. Although the Buendias are poor, Petra Cotes sends them weekly baskets of food out of pride, so that the hated Fernanda does not starve.
After more than fifty years, Santa Sofia de la Piedad gives up. She has taken care of the house and the family with tireless strength for all that time, but one day she decides that it is too much for her any longer and she simply walks out of town. It is no surprise, really‹despite her superhuman efforts the house "had plunged into a crisis of senility." Meanwhile, Fernanda is rapidly losing her mind, though not her cruelty towards Aureliano. She continues her hopeless correspondences with the invisible doctors and her children, who never come home, and begins having delusions that she is a queen. Eventually, she dies.
Four months after her death, Jose Arcadio (II) returns. An effeminate, dissolute man, he refuses to speak to Aureliano and spends his days bathing himself and wandering around the house. Jose Arcadio II had also been lying in his correspondence to his mother: he left the seminary as soon as he arrived in Rome and had merely been waiting to receive a large inheritance. He has bizarre memories of the house and wraps himself up in those memories and his own delusions of grandeur. Meanwhile, in an attempt to locate the old books he needs for the deciphering of the parchments, Aureliano makes friends with the wise Catalonian, the bookstore owner, and four young academics.
One day, Jose Arcadio II discovers Ursula's fortune in gold coins. Instead of returning to Rome as he planned, he turns the house into "a decadent paradise" and invites the town's adolescent boys to share in his debauchery. Exhausted after nights of revelry, he asks Aureliano for help, and eventually the two solitary men begin to talk to one another. Their budding friendship is disrupted by two deaths: the death of Aureliano Amador, Colonel Aureliano Buendia's sole surviving son, who is killed at last by unnamed assassins at their door, and the death of Jose Arcadio II. One morning, as he is in the bath, he is attacked by four of the boys he had reveled with. They drown him in the bathtub and steal the rest of Ursula's gold.
One day in December, Amaranta Ursula returns "on a sailor's breeze." She brings Gaston, her Flemish husband, along, tied to a silk rope. She is so striking and free-spirited that Gaston has followed her back to her ruined hometown, even though he sees immediately that her dream of Macondo is far from its current reality and wishes to engage in business abroad. Unaware of his plans, Amaranta Ursula tries to renovate the house and bring some life to the town, but the house's ruin is inevitable and the town's spirit is dead. Even her attempt to repopulate the skies of Macondo with birds is a failure. Gaston, frustrated, makes plans for an airmail service to South America and eventually goes to Belgium to make arrangements.
Aureliano eventually begins to wander the streets of Macondo and make friends. One of these friends is the first woman he comes to know in love, a cartoonish woman named Nigromanta. He is madly in love with Amaranta Ursula, although too frightened to even speak to her. In her ignorance, she teases and laughs at him, provoking him uncontrollably. One day, when she injures herself, he frightens her terribly by sucking the blood from her wound. Only then does she realize his feelings. Terrified, she threatens to leave immediately and follow her husband to Belgium.
His four academic friends attempt to console him by taking him to brothels. In one of the brothels he meets Pilar Ternera, who despite her vast age and enormous sighs is still living merrily as the matron of a fantastic whorehouse. Upon meeting Pilar Ternera, Aureliano feels a great urge to weep, and he does. She comforts him, then encourages him to open his heart to her. When he reveals that he is in love with Amaranta Ursula, she laughs and tells him that Amaranta Ursula is "waiting" for him.That same night, Aureliano attacks Amaranta Ursula. Although she fights him at first, she eventually yields, and the two fall madly in love. They have a wild sex life and Amaranta Ursula writes to her husband, explaining that she cannot live without Aureliano. Gaston gives them his blessing and does not return from Belgium.
While Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula ignore the outside world, locked in their fierce passion, Macondo slowly dies. The Catalonian bookstore owner leaves, and then all of Aureliano's scholar friends desert the town. Pilar Ternera dies and all the town's prostitutes depart. There are few inhabitants left and the Buendia house is slowly being consumed by nature. Ants and cockroaches have invaded and it is impossible to kill them. Plants have infested the house and grown all over the walls. Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula, too wrapped up in each other to notice, do little to stop the destruction. At the time of Pilar Ternera's death, they are expecting a child.
Although neither of them know the secret of Aureliano's origins, they both have fears that they are related. Those fears are fulfilled when their son is born with the tail of a pig. Amaranta Ursula begins hemorraging after the birth and dies. Aureliano loses all perspective and wanders through the town hopelessly. Nigromanta rescues him from his drunken stupor in a bar, but it is some time before he comes to his senses and remembers the child, abandoned at home. He rushes back and discovers the corpse of his son, swollen and bloated and being eaten by ants. But the terror of that vision does not move him‹instead it provides him with the key to Melquiades' texts. He rushes into the laboratory, boards himself up, and reads Melquiades' ancient prophecies. It is a history of the Buendia family, "down to the most trivial details." Aureliano reads about Remedios the Beauty and the twins Aureliano Segundo and Jose Arcadio Segundo, then skips ahead to realize the text is describing his own life at that moment of reading the text. He is so caught up in the text that he does not feel a cyclone of wind blowing, ripping the house apart and erasing Macondo from the face of the earth.
The ending of Solitude has provoked much controversy. One the one hand, Marquez's creation of a self-referential text, a meta-text that is aware of itself as a text, is a stroke of brilliance. All the hyperbolic language and fantastic circumstances that give the book such rich, bizarre depth can be perfectly explained: it's as if the narrator is yelling, "It's just a book!" On the other hand, many readers feel cheated by the ending. It's as if the author purposely encouraged the reader to feel invested in his characters, and then threw it in their face at the end by reminding them that everything is just a fiction.
In truth, the last three pages of Solitude are a densely textured maze of allusion and erudition, purposely crafted for scholars to have fun with. The allusions‹to the tower of Babel, with Aureliano's last name and vocation, to Borges' stories including "The Aleph" and "The Circular Ruins," to the book of Revelations‹are there, and they are great, but they are mostly confusing for the average reader. For the average reader, it is sufficient to understand that Melquiades, the elusive gypsy, has been acting as a stand-in for the author, and that the world of Macondo, the line of the Buendia family, and the book One Hundred Years of Solitude have all come to an end.
Both Macondo and the Buendias have been in a slow decline for many chapters, so neither of their demises should come as much of a surprise. Even if Melquiades' text had not made their destinies inevitable, the signs were all there for a vigilant reader to pick up on. What is important is the manner in which the Buendia family ends.
The twin themes of incest and solitude come together with Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula. Throughout the text, each family member has been getting more and more solitary, more and more shut out from the world. Aureliano was the most extreme case, locked in by Fernanda's cruelty because of his origins. The critic Ricardo Gullon notes that the tragedy of incest was the tragedy of each family member's desire to return to the ruined family house, shutting out the rest of the world. And with Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula, the sense of "solitude" became destructive to the point that nature encroached on their house and returned them to a primal, almost pre-human state. The critic Emir Rodriguez Monegal points out that the greatest tragedy of this book is also the most overlooked one: the death of the baby, ignored in Aureliano's rush to read Melquiades' parchments. Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula have regressed to a state of solitude that even the death of their own child is meaningless. When society has broken down to this state, it is perfectly understandable why the line‹and the society‹should end.
With the end of the book, Marquez completes the cycle begun with Genesis and fleshed out with details from his own history. Just as the Buendia family ends, he prophesizes, so will other lines and other stages of history. Time passes, whether or not we are all hiding ourselves in old laboratories and ignoring the signs of the apocalypse. Whether we are ready or not, everything comes to an end, and someday we will too.