Depiction Of Real-life Issues In One Hundred Years Of Solitude

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez has been one of the most revered literary works globally. This is due to its exquisite style in creating an imaginary world where people thrive, advance ideas, and are faced with situations that face people in the real world. Literary scholars have indicated that Gabriel Márquez’s utopian city in that story can serve as an alternative history owing to its striking similarity to reality. In this imaginary story consisting of seven generations, Gabriel Márquez tells of a multi-generational story of the Buendía family whose founding father José Arcadio Buendía is said to have founded a town by the name Macondo which is fictional and stands in Colombia. The story shows the town’s founding father, Jose Arcadio, killing Prudencio Aguilar because of suggesting that Jose was impotent. Then in one of the nights, Jose dreams about a city named Macondo, which mirrors life, and upon waking up, he decides to build Macondo at the riverside. The founding itself is utopic and Jose believes that Macondo is surrounded by water. For many years, the city of Macondo exists generations after generations with the occupants (Jose’s family) experiencing many and unusual events frequently. The activities make them suffer although they do not seem able or even willing to escape from them. Notably, the town is shown as disconnected from the real world and misses out on developments. However, there is a group of gypsies who keep close ties with the Buendía Family and occasionally visit and introduce new technologies such as telescopes, magnets, and ice. Jose shows great interest in understanding the intricacies of the universe and has a high level of curiosity about the technology brought to Macondo by the Gypsies. However, his obsession with mysteries and the subsequent withdrawal finally leads him to run insane, speaking only in Latin. ​Later on, his family tied José Arcadio to a chestnut tree for years until his death.    

Eventually, Macondo is shown to have opened up to the outside world and, correctly, a newly independent Colombia. Later, an election is held between the country’s Conservative and Liberal parties. The rigging and subsequent government formation by the Conservative party attracts the attention of Aureliano Buendía, who is inspired to join politics. Aureliano fights for years, becoming a revolutionary icon despite his life always being in danger. He later retires and goes back to his workshop, where he spends his entire life making a tiny goldfish. More technology comes to Macondo, and an American fruit company is established. The story shows prosperity towards the end but ends in disaster when workers for the fruit company’s plantation are massacred and Macondo is left in a deplorable state. The only two remaining members of the Buendía family is Amaranta Úrsula and her nephew Aureliano, get married oblivious of the fact that they are committing incest. Finally, Aureliano is left alone discovering many hidden secrets after Úrsula dies while giving birth and ants eat the child. There are many instances in the book when two opposing concepts, events, or ideologies are insinuated or expressed. One of them is the fact that there is a sharp contrast between the Gringo (Americans) and the natives of Macondo. In the story, the natives of Macondo are presented as people who suffer a lot of unusual events for years with the development of their city being close to nothing; it was “a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stone”. The opposite is exact for the Americans who later visit and settle in Macondo when it finally opens up to the outside world. The story shows American's possessions and portrays them as affluent owing to their ability to set up a fruit processing plantation called simply by “The Banana Company” Further, they are shown to have set a segregated place to live, alienating the natives. The sharp contrast indicates the economic as well as the civilization gap between the two. For instance, the segregation created when the banana fruit company builds a segregated village across the river is a symbol of affluence and a depiction of the social status that the American company owners commanded. The contrast also suggested the abundance in which the ‘gringo’ approached technology and economic development. There was no technology in Macondo before opening up to the outside world. Additionally, there is no evidence of any person from Macondo or the Buendía family who had introduced any initiative associated with new technology.    

Márquez demonstrates how certain aspects of the story varied with an opposing feel when the natives were compared to visitors. Correctly, it is shown that the Americans who establish a business in Macondo seem inclined more to pure reality contrary to the magic and utopia of the native people of Macondo. In essence, only the Buendía family lives in a fictional life where magic is prevalent. For example, when José Arcadio Buendía, the patriarch of the family, finally dies, magic takes center stage with a “rain of yellow flowers falling from the sky” to illustrate that the town deeply mourns the founder. On the other hand, the American visitors usher a new era of reality when they set up a fruit processing company in Macondo and employ the natives. The contrast shows the presence of hyperreality among the people of Macondo, which is not evident in the real world. Márquez brings out the differences between the natives of Macondo and the westerners that the way to experience reality is mainly dictated by background. Notably, the reason for the contrast could be explained via the unique reality of Latin America that, for a long time, has had different scenarios, including modernity, pre-industrialization, and civil war. The fact that the western imperialism introduced a different dimension of reality.    

Another different aspect is how the natives relate to solitude. The fictional town is founded in the forest, and only one family is shown to occupy it, with its founder being portrayed as a secluded man. The fact that the town is set in the deep forest gives it an image of the colonial outposts that were isolated for reasons of fighting the colonists. Therefore, the occupants of Macondo continue to be solitary and selfish, with every Buendía family member is exhibiting habits of living for themselves and clinging to their territory. This As a result, Macondo is not connected to the real world, thus setting it apart from real development, including technology and trails of modernism. On the other hand, the Americans who make entry into the city and set up a business, are presented as free and have free will to grow. They do not suffer like the natives who are said to have undergone numerous different and unusual events without any possibility nor willingness to escape. The “gringo” represents imperialism that shakes the city of Macondo, and forces change into it. After opening up to the outside world, members of the Buendía family get exposed to the natural world, and they die one after another from various incidents such as the massacre on the banana plantation. The family falls until the last member, Aurelius is left alone and discovers secrets from the past. This is in contrast to the gringo, who is not affected by the natural world.    

As those examples are given above, it seems so obvious that Gringo’s living way is valued more than the other, especially in this modern world where humans depend heavily on technology, economy and free will. However, in the novel, it seems like Jose’s family, the native is preferred to live in their own way and appear to fit better in it because once you were living in a simple society, it’s very hard to develop into a new world where everything is more complicated and only money is valuable. The novel showed that Buendias associated with both ways of living. He spends half of his life living in a town that isolated from the outside world and half being a soldier leading the liberal army throughout the civil war. Buendias seems like the first one in Jose’s family that could fit in both societies without being crushed by one or the other.    

The story by Gabriel Márquez is a representation of the issues that have faced the people in real life. Specifically, the story highlights the repetitive and somehow inescapable situations that signify battle with history. Besides being visited by ghosts, the seven generations of the Buendía family seem to be controlled by the intricacies of time and are a true reflection of the history of Latin America. As seen in this essay, there are instances where ideas are presented as opposing concepts. Notably, the opposition between the natives and the ‘gringo’ presents the reader with more intrigues and has a striking revelation about the two sides. The differences reveal significant gaps between reality and superstition, affluence, and poverty, as well as the issue of civilization. The natives are shown to have had no touch with technology, which appeared commonplace to the visitors. The visitors also sidelined the natives after setting up a factory and building isolating a village, which further revealed the gaps in levels of civilizations. Most prominent is the fact that Macondo is set to be separated from the rest of the world, and the occupants lack the ability and the goodwill to escape their troubles. In a broader context, Macondo and the situations that occur the seven generations of Buendía family are representative of Latin America and have lessons as alternative history. 

Works Cited

  • Márquez, Gabriel García. One hundred years of solitude. Penguin UK, 2014.
16 December 2021
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