Perceptions and Prejudices: Marquez’s “A very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

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Updated: Sep 01, 2023
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Metaphorical Analysis: The Angelic Paradox in “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

From the story’s beginning, Marquez describes the man as a “dirty and half-plucked” angel. The author uses a paradox in this story to show how, instead of how we often characterize angels as ‘beautiful,’ the man found is far from that. Ironically, in this story, the wings represent age and disease. Despite this heavenly creature, the angel seems like any other earthly creature. The use of this man with enormous wings is a metaphor used to represent those who differ from society’s definition of “normal.

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” The theme of cruelty can be observed when the older man is first caged at Elisenda and Pelayo’s home.

People began to throw food at the older man; they did not need to treat him like an animal in a zoo. Everyone in society treated The old man disrespectfully: “Even the most merciful threw stones at him, trying to get him to rise so they could see him standing.”

Society’s Treatment and Judgement: An Analysis of Cruelty and Compassion

The older man becomes a freak show within the town he fell into. This highlights the central theme of the story: cruelty and compassion. Instead of being in awe over this angel, the people only come to see miracles performed. As the crowd continues to mistreat the older man, Pelayo and Elisenda stand back and swim in the money they are earning. Because the older man does nothing to impress them, he is poked and burned with a branding iron, an instance of unquestionable cruelty.

Society can also be seen as selfish because they judge the older man for his appearance. In addition, the fact that Pelayo used the older man to earn money demonstrates the theme of selfishness. Pelayo only cared for his own family and did not consider the older man’s well-being. Although both Elisenda and Pelayo mistreated the older man, when Elisenda saw him fly away, she experienced a moment of regret, almost as if she did not realize how much her life had changed since his arrival.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez teaches a lesson through the themes he illustrates in “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.” He opens the eyes of society to how we often react to those who differ from us or judge others without getting to know them first. People in our society today can be cruel, selfish, and unkind, and Marquez’s themes may apply to the lives of society.


  1. Márquez, G. G. (1972). A very old man with enormous wings. In Leaf storm and other stories. Harper & Row.
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Perceptions and Prejudices: Marquez's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings". (2023, Sep 01). Retrieved from