One Hundred Years of Solitude

Summary and Analysis of Section 6, Chapters 12-13

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The train brings the outside world's technology to Macondo: movies, phonographs, and more and more prostitutes skilled in all sorts of arcane arts. The town responds to the new technology in their own unique way. For instance, the movie-going public tears up the seats in anger when an actor whose death they had wept over in one movie reappeared in the next movie. An event that provokes even more amazement, doubt, and consternation is the establishment of a banana plantation in town by an infusion of white, foreign businessmen. They set up their own side of town with luxurious terraces and an electrified fence. Miraculously, they are endowed with "means that had been reserved for Divine Providence in former times"‹they change the weather, the harvest cycle, and even the path of the river. The new arrivals bring a constant string of visitors into the Buendia home, much to the consternation of Fernanda, and produce much excitement and chaos in the town.

Only Remedios the Beauty is undisturbed. Permanently ensconced in "a magnificent adolescence," she behaves much the same way as a child would: wandering the house naked, shaving her head when her hair becomes too bothersome, and dressing, when she bothers to put clothes on, in a "coarse cassocks" because she cannot be bothered with feminine garb like petticoats and corsets. All of her unconventional behavior only makes her more and more desirable to men, who at last claim that they are being driven mad by her scent. At least three men die in wild pursuit of her, while she remains blissfully unaware of her power. The only Buendia who understands her at all is Colonel Aureliano Buendia, who claims over and over that she is the most lucid member of the household. At last, in a mysterious interlude, she ascends to heaven and is never seen again.

As the foreigners quickly cement an imperialist regime, using the locals for labor and keeping all the profits for themselves, Colonel Aureliano Buendia feels, for the first time, "tormented by the definite certainty that it had been a mistake not to have continued the war to its final conclusion." The Conservative politicians, after all, are making it easier for imperialism to penetrate the country. One day, out of outrage at a particularly brutal atrocity, he threatens to arm his seventeen sons so that they might get rid of the foreigners. Immediately, unnamed assassins hunt down sixteen of his sons and shoot them on the spot, all the while searching for the seventeenth Aureliano. The tragedy sends Colonel Aureliano Buendia into a "blind and directionless rage" similar to the feelings that have accompanied him during tragedies throughout his life. He even makes a half-hearted attempt to stir the fires of war in his old friend Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, but the latter rejects the idea.

Meanwhile, Jose Arcadio II and Meme are approaching adolescence and are getting ready to go off to school. Ursula has doubts that she has managed to properly mold Jose Arcadio II, who will be going to the seminary. The truth is that Ursula has gotten old. She has lost track of her age and is completely blind, although no one can tell because she compensates for her loss of sight with an exceptional memory and highly evolved sensory impressions. A nuisance to everyone else, she is solitary with her thoughts, and she comes to a series of deeply disturbing realizations about the family. She is sad about the way time has passed. Amaranta, too, is solitary; she begins sewing her own funeral shroud. At this time, with the children gone, Fernanda takes over the running of the increasingly quiet and gloomy house. Her severity drives away both Jose Arcadio Segundo, who becomes a foreman at the banana plantation, and Aureliano Segundo, who returns to the home of Petra Cotes with a redoubled energy. The wild parties and revelry begin again, and Aureliano Segundo regains his reputation as a generous host and a remarkable carouser; one day he nearly kills himself in an eating contest.

When his daughter, Meme, comes home for school vacation during the summer, Aureliano Segundo abandons Petra Cotes to play the role of a doting husband and father. Meme is a bright, well-adjusted child, possessed of her father's generosity and abandon: she invites 68 schoolgirls and 4 nuns to come home with her for a week's vacation, creating a humorous uproar in the house (Fernanda orders 72 chamberpots).

After the schoolgirls leave, Jose Arcadio Segundo begins to frequent the house more often to speak with Colonel Aureliano Buendia. Like the colonel, Jose Arcadio Buendia is fiercely solitary and withdrawn from the family. Ursula has given up her hopes of communicating with either of them; Colonel Aureliano Buendia remains alone within himself. He passes away under the same tree that housed Jose Arcadio Buendia for so many years.

Analysis:

The passing of Colonel Aureliano Buendia is a sad event for many reasons: not only is he a living link with the past, a reminder of times wherein the people of Macondo felt that political activity could still produce solutions to their problems, but he is one of the book's most sympathetic and reliable guides. Without his stabilizing influence, the reader will feel more and more adrift on the increasingly strange and unsure waves of the book. The loss of Ursula as a credible narrator serves to underline the reader's alienation. Critic Ricardo Gullon notes that Ursula's function in the book is to plant the novel with "everyday realities" so that the fantastic may enter smoothly. Without her calming, common-sense guidance, the book is increasingly adrift in the chaos that envelops the town and the Buendia family.

It is not surprising that Marquez decides to strand the reader at this moment of the book: he is preparing for the emotional and moral climax of the book, the banana strike. With the influx of foreigners and the advent of capitalism, the reminders of a better, purer past‹Colonel Aureliano Buendia, Ursula, and the otherworldly Remedios the Beauty‹are either killed off or silenced to prepare for a confused, morally ambiguous future of technological progress wherein both the reader and the inhabitants of Macondo will be left to figure things out on their own.

Of particular interest in this section is the tone of the narration. The narrator of Solitude is admirably detatched and keeps a straight face whether the topic is death, sex, or a miracle, but there are subtle differences in the way events are rendered. Note, for example, that the narrator treats the ascension of Remedios the Beauty as a natural event, while the audience's reaction to the cinema is treated almost as a legitimate rebellion. The fact that the narrator treats Remedios the Beauty's ascension, clearly a mystical and otherworldly event, as more normal than the cinema should give you an idea of how Marquez feels about technology, progress, and foreign imperialism. In this vein, there is nothing more confusing and unbelievable than the proliferation of foreign influence and foreigners themselves, especially if they are there to abuse the natives. And the beauty of Solitude is that it is possible to see Marquez's point, even if you do not necessarily agree with the politics of the belief. To a village that has grown used to the fantastic but has remained isolated from technology and foreigners, little would be more troubling and disturbing than the advent of movies, record players, and technology that can move rivers and change the weather. Marquez brilliantly makes these quotidian realities seem even more magical than the divine miracle that removes Remedios the Beauty from the earth.