Love in the Time of Cholera

Major themes

Narrative as seduction

Some critics choose to consider Love in the Time of Cholera as a sentimental story about the enduring power of true love. Others criticize this opinion as being too simple. García Márquez himself said in an interview, "you have to be careful not to fall into my trap."[4]

This is manifested by Ariza’s excessively romantic attitude toward life, and his gullibility in trying to retrieve the sunken treasure of a shipwreck. It is also made evident by the fact that society in the story believes that Fermina and Juvenal Urbino are perfectly happy in their marriage, while the reality of the situation is not so ideal. Critic Keith Booker compares Ariza’s position to that of Humbert Humbert in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, saying that just as Humbert is able to charm the reader into sympathizing with his situation, even though he is a "pervert, a rapist, and a murderer," Ariza is able to garner the reader’s sympathy, even though the reader is reminded repeatedly of his more sinister exploits.[4]

Narrative as deconstruction

The novel examines romantic love in myriad forms, both "ideal" and "depraved," and continually forces the reader to question such ready-made characterizations by introducing elements antithetical to these facile judgments.

Love as an emotional and physical disease

García Márquez's main notion is that lovesickness is literally an illness, a disease comparable to cholera. Ariza suffers from this just as he might suffer from any malady. At one point, he conflates his physical pain with his amorous pain when he vomits after eating flowers in order to imbibe Fermina's scent. In the final chapter, the Captain's declaration of metaphorical plague is another manifestation of this.

The term cholera as it is used in Spanish, cólera, can also denote passion or human rage and ire in its feminine form. (The English adjective choleric has the same meaning.) Considering this meaning, the title is a pun: cholera as the disease, and cholera as passion, which raises the central question of the book: is love helped or hindered by extreme passion? The two men can be contrasted as the extremes of passion: one having too much, one too little; the central question of which is more conducive to love and happiness becomes the specific, personal choice that Fermina faces through her life. Ariza's passionate pursuit of nearly countless women stands in contrast to Urbino's clinical discussion of male anatomy on their wedding night. Urbino's eradication of cholera in the town takes on the additional symbolic meaning of ridding Fermina's life of rage, but also passion. It is this second meaning to the title that manifests itself in Ariza's hatred for Urbino's marriage to Fermina, as well as in the social strife and warfare that serves as a backdrop to the entire story.

Aging and death

Jeremiah Saint-Amour's death inspires Urbino to meditate on his own death, and especially on the infirmities that precede it. It is necessary for Fermina and Florentino to transcend not only the difficulties of love, but also the societal opinion that love is a young person's prerogative (not to mention the physical difficulties of love when one is older).


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