Are people part of this world or we really don’t belong to it? Maybe we’re just strangers, the incidental guests, who dropped in for a moment?
This idea unites the two stories, which I’m going to analyze – A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and My Singular Irene by Jose Alcantara Alcanzar. Both stories create the impression of hopelessness, as they indicate bitter alienation of a human in a society, which is ready to swallow his identity.
Having different plots, the two stories nevertheless indicate the common concept – they allegorically describe a person’s life from birth to death. However, in both stories birth and death change their meaning to the reverse one.
The time, when the events start, is said to be the beginning of spring, which is naturally associated with the birth. In Marquez’s story the birth is also marked by the presence of a new-born baby, but it not him, who is symbolically born but a old man with enormous wings. It is suggestive that is born already old, like in the legend about Buddha’s birth.
The reverse order of things is also demonstrated in the fact that he is born from the earth, even from mud (analogical to the traditional burial of a human body). That’s the picture Pelayo saw: “He had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn’t get up, impede by his enormous wings” (p.371, paragraph 1).
It is opposite to the beautiful concept, when a child, pure and innocent, is sent by the heaven. But in Marquez’s perception, a human is mercilessly thrown into this world, where he has to face loneliness and misunderstanding.
The Angel is disempowered and helpless throughout his staying among people, and so is the heroine of Alcanzar’ story. And the reason for the condition is the same – the wings. Irene is butterfly, which a certain version of angelic image too. Besides, it is interesting to note that for ancient Greeks butterfly sounded exactly like the word, denoting a human soul – psyche.
That why in the story My Singular Irene the same way from birth to death- in a conventional meaning – is symbolically described, which is in fact has the opposite direction – from death to life, to renaissance, to magic transformation.
For years he’s been kept in her cocoon by her husband who embodies limits of the society. It is noteworthy, that in his narration he uses a lot of restricting words as ‘allow’, ‘permit’, “demand”, ‘forgive’ and ‘forbid’. All of them he applies to Irene. He tries to control his wife’s life, leaving her no space for breathing. It would be wrong to say that he doesn’t love her, he does in fact in his own way, as a collector of butterflies.
Indeed, the metaphor of a butterfly acquires a broader meaning: “Irene rolled down the window and by accident some butterflies got inside and were trapped” (p.12, paragraph 3) This sentence suggests the concept of human life as seen by Almanzar. It is evident that this view is very similar to the one presented by Marquez.
An angel who was thrown into this world and was put by people into a cage reveals the same meaning as butterfly-person, who flew into this world accidentally an was trapped. For both writers, the metaphor for human existence is prison.
For Almanzar it is both prison and journey, so that as a result we have a kind of prison on wheels. For Marquez life is a cage in a zoo with thousands of spectators watching and torturing you. I fact, life is a hell for angels.
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