A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

How does Marquez comment on the importance of interpretation both in human life and in the art of literature?

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The story illustrates the human need to interpret life's events. The Old Man, an exaggerated dramatization of any strange event, is interpreted in many different ways. Individual characters - the neighbor woman, Pelayo, Elisenda, Father Gonzaga, and all the onlookers - try to attach meaning to the Old Man, or to reduce his meaning, in terms of their own lives. Thus Garcia Marquez stages the inevitable situatedness of human experience. We see things through our own eyes, and the search for a universally applicable meaning is inevitably doomed.

Still, even though we cannot settle for a simple interpretation that applies to everyone, we can still realize that we think and feel from our own perspective. The major failure of the people in "Very Old Man" is not that they fail to interpret the Angel, but that they fail to acknowledge their own role in the interpretive process. They cannot see themselves with any perspective, in other words. Pelayo and Elisenda never seem grateful to the angel, though he makes their fortune. They simply imprison him. Similarly, other characters lack perspective on the Angel. They argue for their own interpretation of the events, then grow bored, never pausing to consider the Old Man's possible feelings, never bothering to notice their own narrow vision.