At the beginning of the story, it has been raining for 3 days and crabs are everywhere. Pelayo and Elisenda's child is sick, supposedly because of the crabs' stench. An old sickly man with enormous wings is found on the shore. When the couple attempts to communicate with the old man, his incomprehensible language (which is never identified) leads the couple to believe he is a castaway. A neighbor woman who knows everything about life and death tells the couple he is an angel. Pelayo decides to lock the angel in a chicken coop overnight and then send him on a raft to his fate. Early the next morning the local priest, Father Gonzaga, comes to the home, followed by the rest of the community, to test the old man and determine whether or not he truly is an angel. Ultimately, Father Gonzaga finds many reasons why the man cannot be an angel, such as the fact that the old man cannot understand Latin, and that he has too many mortal characteristics. Elisenda, tired of cleaning up the visitors' messes, decides to charge an entrance fee of 5 cents to see the angel, which eventually allows them to amass a fortune.
The crowd soon loses interest in the angel because another freak has risen to fame. The new attraction is a woman who disobeyed her parents when she was young and has since been transformed into a tarantula. In order for her to continue telling her story, the people of the town toss meatballs into her mouth, which was "her only means of nourishment." Though the people of the town no longer see the angel, the family has saved up enough money to build a mansion with balconies and gardens and nets. The angel's health declines and it seems he is on the verge of death. When his last winter in the chicken coop is over he suddenly becomes more healthy and grows a few new feathers. At first, he roams around the house, but Elisenda keeps shooing him out of the rooms with a broom. One day he leaves the house and begins to fly away.