Magic realism in literature is the inclusion of elements in the plot that are magical and do not follow the natural order or logic in reality, while the rest of the story, the setting and other elements, remain real and normal. In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”, magic realism is shown through the character of an old man with wings who simply appeared in the couple Pelayo and Elisenda’s courtyard one morning. He looks unusual but other aspects of him seem normal and acceptable according to the laws of logic like he does not exhibit any supernatural powers that are set off amidst great explosions, and his wings are smelly and infested with parasites like ordinary animals with wings on them, and they are also as vulnerable to strong winds as bird wings. In the end of the story, he flies away and his flight is not treated as something magical, either. He flies up to the sky like a bird whose wings that only recovered, clumsily at first then sure and flapping the next. The magical element in the character may be the fact that the man has wings, but the description of these wings, its attributes, and the healing process after being torn by the storm, are very logical and thus, real. Furthermore, near the end of the plot another unusual character, a giant tarantula replaces the old man as the village oddity. The story makes the reader believe in the possible existence of these creatures because of the matter-of-fact tone which the writer employs in the narration. The reactions of the people, frightened at first but accepting later on, also add to this suspension of disbelief. All logic defies the possibility of a human being sprouting wings, but after reading the story and if one visits the sideshows in carnivals, one may be tempted to think that gene mutation could allow everything to be possible.
As to whether the old man is a fallen angel or simply another winged creature could only be implied subjectively by the reader. When the old man arrives into the village, the “Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing and the sands of the beach…had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish (while) the light was so weak at noon” (Marquez). The angel speaks in an incomprehensible dialect with a strong sailor’s voice” (Marquez). He could also fly. The fact that the weather foretells his coming and the other images, suggest that he may have come from heaven. A woman from the village also believes that the old angel may have come for the sick child but is knocked down by the rain. On the other hand, the same images, along with the fact that during his captivity the man seems to be passive and unaware of what the people are doing to him, and his feathers smells and have parasites like those on the wings of birds, imply that he may just be some creature from a faraway land where everyone has wings like him. He does not know the culture of ordinary humans and he only speaks the language of his kind. Aside from his wings, he does not have any more supernatural attribute that humans usually associate with heavenly creatures.
The couple, Pelayo and Elisenda, is initially shocked and surprised by the old man and his wings. After a short while, however, they “very soon overcame their surprise and in the end found him familiar” (Marquez). The same can be said for the other villagers. Their first reaction is that of wonderment and alarm. After some time, however, especially after deciding that this angel does not comply with their religious expectations as to how a heavenly creature should act and look like, they make him an oddity. Like a carnival freak sideshow, Pelayo and Elisenda profits from him, charging admission from those who would like to see the old man with wings. The paying audience also wants him to perform for them or do something other than sit and mope.
When the angel flies away at the end of the story, Elisenda watches him with relief for both herself and the angel. He has become an annoyance to the family for the past months. He does not bring them money anymore since the attention of the people has shifted to another freak show, the human who transformed into a giant spider. Since the collapse of the chicken coop he has been dragging himself around the house like an unwanted resident. His departure is seen by Elisenda as the return of their private and normal lives without any of the unusualness and thus, discomforts that the angel brought upon his arrival.
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings.