In the novel, Love in the Time of Cholera written by Gabriel García Márquez, there are many symbols to represent, literally, love in the time of cholera. These symbols are flowers, birds, and rain. Márquez uses these similar terms to describe the effects of love and cholera throughout the novel by using all of those symbols ultimately represent or foreshadow anguish and unfortunate disasters that Cholera can bring. Cholera was a contagious disease affecting most of the population in where the story takes place.
Though, this book is heavily centered on the disease and love, the author is primarily focusing on literal “lovesickness”. One generally does not associate sweet and pure love with diarrhea, infections, or a painful death, which is why cholera is used to depict the lovesickness in this novel.
Cholera is a disease, like falling in love (lovesickness), drives you crazy, you suffer, and you could die without ever being content with the life you’ve had so far.
An example of lovesickness in the novel, is when Florentino is driven crazy by falling in love with Fermina. Instead of being a physical illness like cholera, lovesickness is a mental disease.
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Florentino was so crazy in love with Fermina,the only way he could deal with this love was to eat flowers. Flowers represent the anguish of love and further suffering.Though flowers represented hope and love for Florentino, it ultimately lead to disaster of suffering, just like how cholera suddenly ends a life.
It was as if Fermina was the flower petals, and Florentino consumed the flower petals to consume all the affection and rejection he was receiving from Fermina. Until Fermina can be with him, the only thing that Florentino has of Fermina are those flower petals he is consuming. Florentino also suffers from physical pains of lovesickness.
The flower petals he consumes make him so violently ill, that his mother thought he had cholera, which is ironic considering the parallel of the two. Florentino feels the anguish of love and the only for him to express that was to consume flower petals. This was necessary for Florentino because he was suffering so much emotional pain he almost felt dead, and physical pain was imperative for him to feel alive.
Birds, like Cholera, lead to death. Márquez uses the birds in the novel as an ironic message of love that soon leads to a disastrous end. Birds were the reason why people died, just like Cholera will make people die. In the novel, Márquez does not include a character that actually died from Cholera. However, he does include characters that die from “love sickness” at the hands of birds. Since lovesickness serves as a parallel to Cholera, we can assume that birds also represent Cholera, which is the fate of death.
The most prominent example is when Dr.Urbino tried to catch his beloved parrot and eventually fell to his death. The parrot that Dr. Urbino spent countless hours of dedication and the bird that he had paid more attention than he did to his own children, that lead ironically to his death. Another example when Olimpia Zuleta gave Florentino a carrier pigeon as a thank-you for rescuing her and her parasol. Florentino sent back the carrier pigeon with an unsigned love note, and thus the romance between the two began.
The Pigeon that lead to a romance between the two soon ended when the husband discovered her infidelity and Olimpia was killed. Both Dr.Urbino and Olimpia lose their lives to love, whether it be because of a bird or for a bird. I believe that the birds also
And last but not least, rain (or any type of water) finally represents a point in the book when a barrier has been overcome and there is a renewed chance for love. Rain represents the drastic change in a book, just like how Cholera can bring about a drastic change in one’s life. The first downpour of rain brings about two critical changes, which is when Dr. Urbino dies and the reappearance of Florentino in Fermina’s life.
The rain not only symbolized a tragic and sad death, which is what Cholera is, the rain symbolized a new renewed hope of love between Florentino and Fermina. The rain is possibly the only “positive” symbol Márquez uses in order to portray Cholera as a drastic change in the novel.
Throughout Love in the Time of Cholera, Márquez uses symbols such as cholera, flowers, birds and rain, to symbolize important aspects of love and to describe Cholera. Though these symbol may seem little or no significance in the beginning, a reader can clearly see and understand the importance, effect, and deeper meaning of these symbols and how they tie together to
figuratively portray Cholera.-KC