Dark Dimensions of Humanity in 'A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings'


As Pelayo returned home one day, he stumbled upon an old man face down in the mud, sporting a pair of gigantic wings. This encounter with a fallen angel sets the stage for Gabriel García Márquez's exploration of human nature in his short story, "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings". In this critical analysis, we delve into Márquez's portrayal of humanity, unraveling themes of greed, selfishness, short attention spans, and inherent cruelty.

Human Greed and Selfishness

One prominent theme in the narrative is the manifestation of human greed and selfishness.

The protagonists, Pelayo and Elisenda, find themselves in possession of a celestial being. Initially contemplating releasing the angel from their chicken coop, they opt instead to capitalize on their unique discovery. Charging admission to behold the captive angel in their courtyard becomes a means of exploiting the situation for personal gain (Márquez 6).

Their decision to profit from the angel's predicament is a stark reflection of human nature.

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In a society driven by self-interest, individuals often prioritize personal benefit over altruism. The visitors who flocked to witness the spectacle were more concerned with their own problems than the angel's welfare, illustrating a prevailing selfishness inherent in human behavior.

Short Attention Spans

Humanity's propensity for short attention spans becomes evident as the narrative unfolds. The initial awe and fascination surrounding the fallen angel give way to the fickleness of human interest. The arrival of a traveling circus featuring a woman transformed into a spider diverts the crowd's attention, leaving the angel forgotten in the courtyard (Márquez 10).

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This transient fascination mirrors the broader human tendency to constantly seek the next best thing—whether it be the latest fashions, high-speed automobiles, or cutting-edge technology. The angel, initially a marvel, succumbs to the fleeting nature of human interest as a more captivating spectacle captures the collective attention.

Inherent Cruelty

Márquez masterfully unveils the darker side of human nature through the lens of cruelty inflicted upon the angel. From futile attempts to feed him mothballs to the reprehensible act of burning his side with a branding iron, the narrative paints a grim picture of the inherent cruelty within the human race (Márquez 9). The initial act of imprisoning the angel is cruel in itself, but the subsequent torment endured by the celestial being at the hands of the community accentuates the depth of this cruelty.

The disappointment expressed by the people when the angel fails to answer their questions underscores the inherent expectation of self-gratification. The weeks of torment inflicted upon the helpless angel reveal a callousness ingrained in human nature—a cruelty that transcends mere curiosity and manifests as a disregard for the well-being of the other.


Gabriel García Márquez, through the lens of his fiction in "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings", offers a poignant commentary on the philosophy of human nature. The narrative serves as a mirror reflecting the imperfections and flaws of humanity, challenging the idealistic notions some may hold. The portrayal of human greed, selfishness, short attention spans, and inherent cruelty collectively paints a picture of a humanity far from perfect and wonderful.

Márquez, in his exploration of the fallen angel and his interaction with the community, invites readers to contemplate the aspects of their own nature that may resonate with the characters in the story. The pessimistic undertone suggests that humanity's darker tendencies are not isolated incidents but rather integral components of our collective character.

Updated: Dec 29, 2023
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Dark Dimensions of Humanity in 'A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings'. (2016, Jun 21). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/a-very-old-man-with-enormous-wings-by-gabriel-garcia-marquez-essay

Dark Dimensions of Humanity in 'A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings' essay
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