Magical Realism in: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ “One Hundred Years of Solitude”


Nic Cappellini

Freshman CI



Magical Realism In: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude

Sources (4):

Research piece: The genre of magical realism played and still plays an important role in the political and economic structure of postcolonial Latin America. Although magical realism has been a major writing style within Latin American, the term itself was not introduced until recently. Magical realism is defined as “a literary genre or style associated especially with Latin America that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction”. This style of writing creates an excellent medium for authors to interpret both sides of colonialism; those who were ruled and those who ruled. Take in mind that at this time, the Latin American world, more specifically Colombia was dominated by the oppositions of governments. For the next few decades, Latin America would begin to reform and rebuild what was left of their government. What makes magical realism unique is the fact that it can be interpreted a number of ways. This leaves its readers left to determine what is real and what is fiction. This type of writing is extremely specific and must follow certain criteria in order to uphold its function. Magical realism was developed by Alejo Carpentier, a writer from Cuba. After being introduced, this type of writing spread throughout the world and all “new” Latin American writers incorporated it into their works. (Edison 2) The purpose of magical realism is to relate to real events with popular beliefs or fantasies. In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, there are many instances of magical realism. Marquez draws a parallel between the citizens of Mancado and those who run it. The reader will realize after the last few chapters of the book, that most of the city’s leaders are characterized as outlandish and erratic. This is a great example in which the author expresses his opinion about his country’s leaders and socio-economic system.

One large event comes to mind that completely segregates the citizens from the government. On December 6, 1928, 47-2,000 banana plantation workers were massacred for protesting harsh working conditions. The workers were thought to have been under communist influences, so in order to eliminate the problem, the Colombian army was ordered to kill any protester. In the novel, the same event occurs and many citizens of Moncado become distraught. Ten years later, Jose Arcadio comes back to Moncado and nobody in the town seems to remember the tragic event. This may seem absurd, but looking at the perspective of Colombian citizens at the time, it seems extremely plausible. Magical realism in this part of the novel is the question of whether the massacre occurred or not. The reader is left to judge whether this event actually happened or if Jose Arcadio is just making it up because he is crazy. It is hard to think how much power and influence the government must have had in order for the citizens to forget events such as this. The purpose of magical realism in this scene of the novel adds confusion in order to dismiss the horror of the actual event. Magical realism has been used to undermine some of the treacherous ordeals Colombians were facing at this time.

Magical realism is interpreted differently in North America due to its secular culture and different form of government. Many American authors view magical realism as an invasion of fantasies into a realistic story. In fact, this style of writing is misinterpreted most of the time around the world because this type of writing perfectly ties itself to Latin America’s historical journey. This type of writing is extremely beneficial because it has allowed Latin American authors to relate to the people around them who find themselves as products of the unstable Latin American governments. Texans may be able to relate to this by reviewing the Classical Western genre created in the South. At an earlier time, southern people were able to relate to their everyday experiences by reading about the life of cowboys and Indians. Although most of the stories that were created in Western genre were fiction, there were key elements in these stories that sparked some truth. This is the same way magical realism applied to people of Latin America and this creates a large bond between the authors of these books and the people who read them and are moved by them. Overall, magical realism helps create a fictional yet realistic boundary between the people of Latin America and those who ruled over them.

Thematic Analysis

The book One Hundred Years of Solitude is an excellent medium of magical realism, because it gives plenty of perfectly illustrated examples representing the chaotic governments during this time in Latin America. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of the most critically acclaimed authors at his time because of the vagueness of his work. Before diving deeper into some of the more thought provoking examples, a basic setup of magical realism must be explored. In one instance, Remedios, the beauty, is suddenly lifted up into the sky by a force that is unknown. Marquez describes this force as a magical wind indirectly, by drawing attention to the powerful light of the sky and the violent flapping of the sheets that were being hung to dry. At this time, Ursula is watching calmly and wishing that Remedios would not have taken her sheets with her. The inclusion of everyday details falls seamlessly into the narrative making the reader believe that the event is actually happening. The author even mentions what time of day it is to add to the magical reality that Remedios is flying off into the air. There is something more important underlying in this scene and it deals with Remedios and her beauty/innocence. Remember that Remedios is viewed as the most beautiful girl in Moncado and has all the men in the city drooling over her. Yet, they still keep their distance and watch her in pure awe. In a sense, she is magical symbol herself because she is unrealistically beautiful, she walks naked everywhere she goes and seems to wander aimlessly. Remedios represents the unattainable, the “one that got away”, and this is clear to see when she begins to fly off into this sky. This is not directly solely towards men but towards all audiences. The author in this moment is defining all of humanities “unattainable” goals or ambitions as facets of imagination. This is motivation for the Latin American people at this time, because most of them had lost hope of ever reaching a stable point economically. Remedios also represents society’s false expectation of what women or men should look like physically. The ideal that men or women should look a certain way in order to achieve happiness started long before this time and continues to hinder present day societies (i.e. The United States).

The mystery of Melquíades and what he represents is the largest source of magical realism in the novel. Melquiades is a gypsy who frequently visits the city of Moncado with other gypsies as well. The author draws a parallel between the town and their belongings and the gypsies and their “magical inventions”. This is important because it stresses the relationship between foreigners and the natives and how they view each other’s cultures. For example, a small town in Africa would view our skyscapers and telephones as magical belongings because they have never been exposed to those types of items.

Personal Narrative

My life began with a normal amount of information about my childhood and the daily struggles I would deal with. For some reason I can remember everything and anything that occurred to me ever since I came out of the womb. I was born in the month of February in the year almost 2000. I watched as my mom and grandmother took care of me on a daily basis. After a couple of years, my grandmother left me and my mom had to start sending me to magic tricksters who always had different inventions every time I went. There was a sort of eerie feeling I got as I watched the people handling me tinker around with these items in front of my face. I always wondered why they needed my attention, they acted as if it was in order to feed their life sources. Later on I began to hangout with my cousins more often and was eventually sent to attend a private school with them. During my earlier years of private school I did not “behave” and this was probably was due to a lack of structure. Both of my parents were never together and one of my family members told me that I occurred on accident, which really didn’t hurt my feelings, it just really made me curious.


Three Sources; Infinite Metaphors

Metaphors and symbols seem to be come to us naturally and tend to fall seamlessly across almost every literary piece known to man. When people come across metaphors and symbols it helps them express deep thought and conceptualize. There are countless instances in which a person might come across a metaphor or symbol. In the movie The Postman, Mario (the main character) finds himself having intellectual conversations with the famous poet, Pablo Neruda. Mario becomes interested in poems due to the female attention that comes with it. Although he is far from being a poet himself, he is able to find metaphors and symbols towards the end of the movie. For example, when Pablo asks what fishing nets in Italy are like, Mario says they are “sad”. This can be interpreted a number of different ways but the main idea is that Mario was able to interpret what he had experienced with the nets and allot it a bigger meaning. At the end of the movie, Mario has found multiple metaphors and symbols within Italy that help describe what Italy is like in deeper terms. Mario mentions the stars, the church bells, and the sound of fish nets being hung up. Although the audience may be amused by all of the random sounds Mario choices there is a meaning behind each and every one. At the beginning of the movie, Mario has slight depression due to the fact that he has yet to find joy in his life. He views his hometown as a place that is not so special and yet at the end of the story, all of those characteristics of his country that he might of disliked and neglected, have now become reasons why it is actually beautiful and meaningful. This story is an example of how symbols and metaphors have an important impact on human perspective.

Next I would like to mention a piece of poetry as an example of metaphors and symbols, one specifically by Pablo Neruda, that really captures the meaning of life. The poem is called Walking Around. The poem begins with Neruda saying “It just so happens I am sick of being a man”, which will set the tone for half of the poem. In this, he means that he has been a man so long and continuously had to deal with the complications of being a man, that he is actually sick of being a human. He literally state that he feels “dried up” and “waterproof”. This metaphor could refer to the wrinkles and damage his skin possesses at the time or it could refer to the fact that he feels all of his young energy is drained. Neruda later goes on to say that “I want to lie still like stones or wool”, meaning he would rather just be and not have to face human challenges on a daily basis. The attitude of the poem changes quickly when he says “Still it would be marvelous, to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily”, or “killing a nun with a blow to the ear”. This assumes that he would find joy in revolting against the ideals with which he grew up with in order to add excitement to his life. Towards the end of the poem he begins explaining how he goes about his life in rage and in skepticism, forgetting all of the desires of being something besides a human. This is something that I find interesting because I might soon have feelings such as these as I progress throughout my life.

The story A Hundred Years of Solitude encompasses multiple metaphors and symbols that are recurring throughout its entirety. One important instance is the constant appearance of the “gypsies” at Moncado. The introduction of new objects and ideas make some of the residents reach the point of insanity (aka Jose Arcadio Buendia). Every time that Moncado seems to reach a point of slight stability, the gypsies come in with new ideas and inventions that seems to distract everyone in town from more important matters. The gypsies seem to resemble distraction and keep Moncado in a more primitive state. For God’s sake they are not even capable of creating an irrigation system in order to tend to their crops well. When humans witness the success and progression of others, they tend to either regress or become over motivated to the point where they give up their goals more quickly. Another symbol that intrigued me was Fernanda’s “invisible doctors”. During this state, Fernanda was irritable and controlling and she was apparently unable to have sexual intercourse. This is extremely symbolic in terms of ones psychological state. Fernanda’s “invisible doctors” could just be viewed as her body and conscience telling her she has reached the period of infertility (menopause). When people notice that something might be off with their body, they usually are told by their BODY. People then tend to diagnose themselves with certain problems or illnesses and take it upon themselves before actually consulting an expert.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

The movie Women on the Urge of a Nervous Breakdown is not distinctly connected with the book The House of Spirits. The reader has to closely evaluate the themes of feminism and power within both works of art. In the movie, we see the main characters as predominately women as we see in The House of Spirits. Not only this but yet again we see the men holding some form of power and wealth. Ivan (Pepa’s lover), in the movie Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (WOUNB), is an extremely popular and wealthy man. In House of Spirits we see Esteban holding even more power being a wealthy politician who owns a whole community as well (Tres Marias). I noticed that with this “power” the men in both works derive a specific attitude. Ivan assumes that Pepa is ignorant and will fail to figure out why he hasn’t returned her calls. Esteban assumes the same of Clara when he becomes bored and begins to resume his affairs with peasants and prostitutes. Also when I see Clara stuck in moments of silence (pregnancy) or clairvoyance or when she tries to become politically active (when she joins the feminist organization), I notice that Esteban automatically assumes she is incompetent or laughs at her. So in conclusion I notice that men automatically assume that women, in their natural states of mind, are hysterical or outrageous. The article from the guardian supports this notion by giving an example of Harriet Harman (female politician ) and how she is described in a news article. The article mentions that instead of “proposing policies” she embarked on a “crazy crusade”. Now regardless of Harman’s policies or views, it obvious to see belittlement of Harman solely because of her gender. There are countless other modern day examples of sexism towards women that I will not go into detail about. My point is that men usually have higher positions within society, especially today, and with this power we see the overall attitude of men towards women (working in the same fields) as belittling. An overlapping theme that I mentioned in my last blog was the power of women. The women in The House of Spirits are strong in the deepest form of the word as well as the women portrayed in WOUNB. These women are not physically strong but mentally and spiritually powerful, which is something that most of the male characters in both plots lack. Pepa is independent before she even meets Ivan and has a successful career in the acting department. From figuring out Ivan’s plans to drugging investigating cops, Pepa is the ultimate badass within the movie and her strength and wittiness are portrayed even further when she saves Ivan’s life yet still walks away from him. I could compare this to the strength that Clara possesses as she is able to ignore/tolerate Esteban and still be able to find joy through other things. Esteban cannot get over this and becomes obssessed with her till the day he dies. I think it’s ironic to see the man with so much power and prowess (who even believes that Clara is ignorant) to succumb to her mental and spiritual strength. In conclusion I believe that both power and feminism stood out as some of the more important and clear themes within both works.


Nunn, Gary. “The Feminisation of Madness Is Crazy | Mind Your Language.”The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 08 Mar. 2012. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Canby, Vincent. “Concentric Eccentricities in Almodovar Tale.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Sept. 1988. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Sutton, Ed. “Plot Summary.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.


Volver/House of Spirits Comparison

It is clear to see the almost identical relation of the characters in the film Volver and that of the book House of Spirits. All of the women characters in Volver share and equal distrust towards males and carry the notion that “life continues without a man or not”. With this idea comes a sense of camaraderie between Irene, Sole and Raimunda. We also see this connection between Clara, Blanca, Alba, and Ferula throughout House of Spirits. During Volver, Raimunda’s daughter stabs her father for making sexual advances towards her and Raimanda shows little sympathy for her spouse. I see a slight parallel in The House of Spirits, due to the fact that Clara tolerates Esteban’s attitude but does not love him in the slightest. This creates a strong bond between Blanca and Clara, because neither of them show fondness of Esteban and avoid him especially in times where he throws tantrums and becomes violent.  In both stories, the women are depicted as strong and independent, suffering from the trials and tribulations that life and men bring upon them. They both send the same message to feminist supporters, which is to persevere through these times of female oppression and disrespect. The male characters in the movie Volver differ rather drastically. Paco, Raimunda’s husband, is portrayed as the typical couch-bound bum who has recently been fired from his job. He is also depicted as a pervert for nearly forcing sex upon his wife (which she shows absolutely no interest in having) and sexually assaulting his daughter. These actions go hand in hand with the actions of Esteban Trueba while he is living at Tres Marias. They are both depicted as power hungry that only focus on their own interests.  The store owner shows respect and trust towards Raimunda due to the fact that he asks her to take care of his shop while he travels abroad. The last male character that sticks out is the movie producer that asks Raimunda to feed him and his crew after they finish filming. This character is younger and shows hospitality and respectfulness as well. Since there are few male characters in Volver it is hard to argue that all the men depicted are anti-feminists, however I do notice a clear connection between Paco and Esteban. The magical realism displayed in Volver is much more literal compared to that of The House of Spirits. The only magic depicted in the movie, is the question that maybe Irene (the mother of Sole and Raimunda) is a ghost. Whereas in House of Spirits, the magic conducted by Clara is taken the the extreme when she is able to, at one point, float across a room in a chair. The two stories are large feminist statements, each with their own individuality. Thank you for your time and my work cited will be in the link below.

Works Cited

Scott, A. O. “The Darkest of Troubles in the Brightest of Colors.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Nov. 2006. Web. 09 Sept. 2016.


Ebert, Roger. “Volver Movie Review & Film Summary (2006) | Roger Ebert.” All Content. N.p., 21 Nov. 2006. Web. 09 Sept. 2016.





Commentary Week 1 (House of Spirits)

The book itself has created a battle within my mind. Between the oppressed women depicted and the power driven men, I have found myself questioning my beliefs and values towards modern sexist problems. Chapters three and four take a different approach on describing the character Esteban Trueba. In chapter one, Esteban is portrayed as respectable, valiant, and loyal as he expresses his love and gratitude for Rosa and her family as well. Esteban spent years trying to win Rosa and her family over and eventually succeeded. Although, after Rosa’s death, Esteban seems to become a bitter and pitiful man. I say pitiful because although he is strong and feared by many of the people he encounters later on, he seems to lose sight of his morals and becomes empty inside. This is first seen when he enters Tres Marias for the first time. He is taken back by all of the savagery shown by the inhabitants of the land and automatically assumes that he will control them forever because they have no hope. Something that I found ironic was the way he referred to equality and how he executed equality in Tres Marias. There is simply no correlation between the two. His opinion does change towards the end of chapter four when he states that only certain people deserve equality, excluding the people of Tres Marias. I noticed that Esteban is extremely obsessive in anything he decides to accomplish and he will not stop until he is satisfied. What really strikes me as funny in chapter five is Clara’s ability to make Esteban so angry without doing anything. She is a strong (if not the strongest) woman figure in the book and she seems to be the only person who stands up or ignores Esteban’s obsessive rage. It is interesting to see such a strong and powerful person like Esteban, be humbled so easily by Clara.




I just recently watched Pan’s Labyrinth and I am never going to watch it again. This movie was more of a “one-time” experience that left me wondering what was real and what was not. The director mixes mythical fairytales with the traumatic environment in which the movie takes place. Although m0st parts were eerie and difficult to watch, I enjoyed the movie as a whole and how the director’s ending differed from a majority of American endings.