Is the church as solid and strong as it seems? In “The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”, Garcia Marquez uses magical realism to challenge religious beliefs; hence, proving religion is not what is seems. To begin with, when the old man with enormous wings lands in Elisenda and Pelayo’s courtyard and after concluding that the man must be someone who survived a shipwreck they call their neighbor to see him. Their neighbor proclaims right away that he must be an angel.
Her reaction to the man with wings is purely influenced by faith.
She blindly assumes things based on what she has been taught her whole life: “He’s an angel,” she told them. “He must have been coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old that the rain knocked him down. ” (Garcia Marquez 1) This shows how religion influences the interpretation of various events; hence, limiting them to find a deeper or more meaningful significance to any situation.
Pelayo’s reaction is guided by fear and insecurity, which somehow is portrayed in the story to symbolize that the Church institution, generates fear instead of preaching God’s word.
How Garcia Marquez describes the angel is a critique to the Church due to the fact that it is described as a ragpicker in a pitiful condition and extremely old. Pelayo judges the angel on his appearance. Wasn’t the angel supposed to look all white, attractive and divine such as church says? If he was this way, then Pelayo would most likely honor and respect him rather than treat him like an animal; this doesn’t only ruin the idea the Church has about an angel, but also results very disappointing, meaning that after all, religion results to be a disappointment.
Garcia Marquez clearly describes how Colombian society is, and how ignorant they are due to religion. The town expresses hope and expectations are the angel’s visit. Many had big dreams and had relied on this angel to put an end to all their problems as if he was sent down from God. These expectations however are not rational; they are based on their beliefs and the emotions that this angel had generated. Humans in general are always looking for the easy way out and the simplest way to put their problems to an end.
This angel served as the answer they had all hoped for; likewise, religion does this in a daily basis. Religious people rely the blame on God for what happens around them, whether its good or bad, it is the easiest way to justify life’s actions limiting human’s chance of thinking for themselves; therefore, they are ignorant. As we go further, critiques towards religion and ignorance continue. One of the strongest is probably when Father Gonzaga, gives his verdict about if the visitor was an angel or not.
He tells people the Old Man is not an angel in view of his appearance, and when he tries to communicate with him in Latin he gets no response; that being the case, ignorance takes over again and people believe churchmen simply because of the position they have in society. Catholics often believe the Church knows everything about life, and so they must believe everything they say as if they could not think for themselves.
Father Gonzaga felt somehow threatened by the angel’s presence because he could no longer be in the position he was and the angel would be seen as superior to him due to his divinity. “The parish priest had his first suspicion of an imposter when he saw that he did not understand the language of God or know how to greet His ministers. ” (Garcia Marquez 2). He takes advantage of the situation when the Old Man does not answer in the language of jesus, ridiculing him and making himself look once again closer to God rather than the Old man.
In addition, the final conclusion about that the old man is a norwegian sailor once again ridicules the Church showing such absurd assumptions; nevertheless, he dares to create comparisons to argument his final word about the impostor the angel was, “He argued that if wings were not the essential element in determining the difference between a hawk and an airplane, they were even less so in the recognition of angels. ” (Garcia Marquez 2). Furthermore, taking the whole Church as a character compared with the angel himself we can see the contrast of true religion and the human representation of it.
Meaning that the angel symbolizes religion itself, and the church represents the institution that has corrupted this divine word. Church manipulates everything to be more powerful. In contrast, the angel is extremely patient, he isn’t affected by what people were doing to him and through magical realism, Garcia Marquez manages to create a situation in which church and humans can be looked upon ridiculously because the angel uses all of the things against him to grow strong and flee; wherefore, religion is a bigger authority and more valuable than church as an institution.
To conclude, throughout the whole story we can witness how Garcia Marquez uses magical realism fusing the reality of Colombian society and the divinity and fiction of an angel. He generates a critique towards religion stating that religion acts as a blindfold and limits humans to think beyond what they are taught to believe in; hence, we can understand that religion in the story can perfectly fit as a synonym for ignorance.