Short Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez was born March 6, 1927. His parents moved away to a neighboring town in search of work just two years after his birth leaving Gabriel with his maternal grandparents. He eventually attended Liceo Nacional de Varones University where he wrote essays for the school paper. After his graduation, he moved to the National University of Colombia and studied law. Over time, his focus shifted away from law towards writing. When the Bogota Riots disrupted his studies he jumped at the chance to transfer to the University of Cartagena and pursue a career as a writer.

Marquez is famous for combining whimsical and deeply political elements in the same story. His humorous and slightly detached perspective gives his work an unbiased tone. In a sense, Marquez combines a journalistic objectivity with a novelists charm. In each of the three stories referenced below, Marquez finds the time to include amusing details that make the reader laugh despite somewhat dark subject material.

Many portions of Marquez' personal history have found their way into his stories. The romance in "Love in the Time of the Cholera" is roughly based on his parents own love story. The violence directed towards the striking banana pickers in "100 Years of Solitude" comes from his grandfather's own outcry over a similar event in Latin American history. No doubt countless other pieces of Mr. Marquez' life can be found in his stories.

His literary career includes novels, short stories, screenplays, and editorials. In 1982 he received the Nobel prize for literature.

Magical Realism

Mr. Marquez usually writes in a literary style formally known as magical realism. Magical Realism involves the strange juxtaposition of both realistic and fantastical plot elements in the same story. For example, in his book "100 Years of Solitude" Marquez includes people with tails, gypsies with magic carpets and a disease that makes people forget how to sleep. Each of these strange plot devices is worked into an otherwise realistic story about the history of a small town.

Below are a few examples of where magical realism has spilled into other works.

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Paul Christiaan Bos' 2nd entry in his "Ten Dreams" exhibition
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Susanna Clark's wildly popular Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is still on the New York Times best seller list
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Guillermo del Torro's horror film Pan's Labyrinth won three oscars

"The Last Voyage of the Ghost Ship" by Marquez

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The ghost of an old slave ship wanders through a rural harbor once a year. The story follows a downtrodden boy's desperate attempts to prove the ship is real.

Plot

The story follows a young boy living in a small coastal village in the Caribbean. Once a year, the boy witnesses the arrival of a ghost slave ship. During each visitation, the slave ship glides through the town's small harbor and eventually crashes silently against the rocks whereupon it finally disappears. Despite his best efforts, the boy is unable to convince anyone of the boat's existence. The story ends with the boy guiding the ship past the treacherous rocks and straight into the center of town. As the boy announces his victory, the ship becomes real. The story ends with all of the townsfolk gawking at the behemoth sized ship.

Symbolism

Perhaps Marquez used the townsfolk's refusal to recognize the appearance of the slave ship as a metaphor for our refusal to acknowledge slavery's mark on our history. Within this interpretation, the slave ship's ridiculous size (it is orders of magnitude larger than the local church) would represent the enormity of slavery's weight on our consciences.

Points of Interest

Many readers miss the fact that this 5 page story is one sentence long. Rather than progress sentence to sentence, Marquez draws the reader into the story with successive verb to simile progressions: "[...]it was an intermittent ship sailing along, appearing and disappearing, toward the mouth of the bay, groping its way like a sleepwalker for the buoys that marked the harbor channel[...]".

Given that the story is about the ghost of an ancient slave ship, it is not surprising that it is so dark. However, Marquez added another disturbing element to his story. Whenever the boy initially tries to tell people about the ship, catastrophe results. Soon after telling his mother of the ship, she dies. The following year, the orphaned boy screams to the townsfolk that the ghost ship is in the harbor. The townfolk refuse to believe him and give him a severe beating. The ships eventual arrival in the center of town is portrayed as the malicious revenge of the boy who constantly repeats to himself the phrase, "Now their going to see who I am" as he guides the ship towards the town.


"A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" By Marquez

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After a winged old man crash lands into a rural village, the townspeople react to his arrival in a number of ways.

Synopsis

Pelayo and Elisenda, a man and wife with a sick child, find an old winged man struggling to stand up in their courtyard. The townspeople gather around the creature, speculating about where it came from and whether or not it is an angel. The couple soon decides to throw the man in the chicken coop and charge the townspeople admission to see him. The town priest comes and is shocked to discover that the winged man does not speak Latin, "the language of God". This leads the priest to denounce the man as an imposter.

Strange miracles occur among the townspeople, and soon after a traveling sideshow brings a spider-woman to town. She gradually overtakes the winged man in popularity. With the money they made from the winged man, the couple builds a two story mansion with bars on the windows to prevent any further angels from intruding.

One day, while chopping onions, Elisenda watches the man try to flap his wings and fly away. After numerous failed attempts, he succeeds and flies off towards the horizon.

Magical Realism

The appearance of the winged man and the woman with a spider's body, as well as the minor miracles that occur in the story are all treated as commonplace.

Symbolism

The townspeople treat the winged man with little respect. Even though he has wings and performs small miracles, the town priest calls him ingenuous. The couple sells out by charging people admission to see the man. They then make a mansion with their money. This can be read as a rejection of indigenous tradition in exchange for colonial ideals of success: a large house and plenty of money.

"Eyes of a Blue Dog" By Marquez

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A man falls in love with a woman he meets in a dream. She wistfully reminds him that when he wakes she will have faded from his memory.

Synopsis

Eyes of a Blue Dog is set in the middle of the dream shared by two people. The narrator and the woman dream of each other every night, but the narrator always forgets when he wakes up. They've devised a plan to find each other with the phrase "eyes of a blue dog", but have yet to be successful. Every morning the two are woken up by some arbitrary happening in the real world - the sound of a spoon hitting the ground, for instance.

Themes - Isolation, Loneliness and Intimacy

There is a sense of intimacy presented in the story, even though the characters in the story never have the chance to fulfill their longing. Instead of illustrating "intimacy" itself, Marquez uses the dream world as an idea of isolation and loneliness to portray intimacy (or the lack thereof) between the characters.

Isolation and loneliness can be seen throughout the story. The fact that neither of the characters can have physical contact with each other points to the theme of isolation. They can never meet outside of the narrator's dreamworld, and thus can never really be together. The characters' lack of control of the dream world (for example, when the narrator wants to touch the woman, she refuses, afraid that physical contact would ruin everything) lends a sense of fragility and careful balance to the relationship. Furthermore, in the dream, the woman keeps reminding the narrator of the phrase "eyes of a blue dog" so that he will use it to find her in the real world, even though she knows he can never remember it. The unfortunate woman always ends up desperately searching for the narrator, who helplessly forgets everything.

Despite the lack of physical connection, the bond between the two is very strong. A sense of intimacy rises from their deep understanding of each other. Even through the absence of physical contact, they still manage to feel they are together in their dreams; their growing understanding of and emotional dependence upon each other prevails over the desire for physical connection.

Characters

The Narrator

The narrator is a man who never remembers his dreams after he wakes up. Even though he was the one to suggest the phrase "eyes of a blue dog", he can never remember it in the morning, and can never remember to look for the woman in waking life.

The Woman

The unfortunate one who bears the burden of remembering everything in the dream with the narrator. She desperately seeks the narrator, hoping he will recognize the phrase by writing it down everywhere and saying it aloud. She is found writing the phrase in lipstick on the tiles of a drugstore, muttering it under her breath and repeating it to every waiter she ever meets.


Other Works by Marquez

Novels and Novellas

One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Autumn of the Patriarch, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Love in the Time of Cholera, The General in His Labyrinth, Of Love and Other Demons, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Leaf Storm, No One Writes to the Colonel, In Evil Hour

Nonfiction works

The Novel in Latin America: Dialogue, The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, When I Was Happy and Undocumented, The Solitude of Latin America, The Abduction, The Fragrance of Guava, Clandestine in Chile, A Country for Children, News of a Kidnapping, Living to Tell the Tale.

External Links

Discussions of Magical Realism: