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Lethe the Cry of Orpheus

Orpheus saw a small ray of light at the top of the pit he climbed, fighting his way to the surface, scratching his knees, arms, legs, and face on the jagged rocks and slippery slopes. His heart raced as he neared the exit of the Underworld. It tortured him not to turn around or help his beloved to reach freedom. The air blew sweetly down towards him, the smell of lilacs and wild grasses raised his hopes like a seed about to burst from the ground. The light grew and he could feel the darkness slip off his shoulders and fall back down into the pit where shadows and death belonged. He reached the mouth of the cave; the excitement of freedom wiped the memory of a promise made to the king of death. Orpheus turned smiling towards his love, his bride, his life. With horror he watched her being thrown off the side of the wall they climbed. Her eyes widened as she fell back into darkness. Her eyes screamed at him with sorrow and shame. The whisper of one word “farewell” drifted up to him from the blacken cavern. The image of her falling burned a hole into his mind. Without thinking Orpheus raced after her determined to bring her back. The mouth of Hades shut in his face with a definite crack that shook the foundations of the earth he stood upon. An anguishing scream erupted from his Orpheus mouth; he hit the spot that was the opening to Hades with both his hands. He pounded the ground until blood splattered the earth. Anger burned beneath his breast, he knew he had been tricked. The gods are cruel he thought, and he felt their eyes watching his suffering and laughing. Orpheus searched himself for a dagger, a blade, or a knife to plunge deep into his heart so he may reunite with his beloved Eurydice. Disappointment mingled with his grief as he realized he had nothing to end his pain. Orpheus sat at the entrance to Hades, praying one last favor from the gods to open the door to the underworld one last time and allow him to join his beloved if they will not allow her to join him. Silence was his only answer. Orpheus lay down on the rocky ground, feeling the sharpness of each stone pressing into his side, his face, his hands, his feet, he relished in the sensation of pain until even that become numb. A passer byer driving a wooden cart and pulled by an grayish mare stopped near the still body of Orpheus. The man who drove the carriage called out nervously towards the strange bleeding man. “Stranger, do you need some help?” A low growl erupted from Orpheus’s mouth, he was more savange the wild beast that roamed the land. Orpheus leapt up and gnashed his teeth at the man with the cart. The horse startled galloped away the carriage man did nothing to stop his mare. Orpheus listen as the clunking of hooves and creaking of wheels vanished into the hills. He could no longer bare the sight of men. Men who could love and be loved, while he must suffer without his reason for living. Orpheus screamed for his father Apollo, “Why have you let happen! Your cruelty is beyond bearance, if you ever loved me kill me now, or give me back Eurydice!” The sun began to blaze hotter then. Orpheus covered his face as a light grew brightly; he could feel flames burn the back of his arm and his body. A voice echoed over the vacant field. “Son you have had your chance, I cannot give you what you have asked. Your time is not here.” Tears that evaporated quickly ran swiftly down Orpheus’s cheek. “Please father, please kill me. I have nothing. I have nothing.” Apollo said one last word to his son, “I can do nothing.” Orpheus felt the flames and light retreat. Orpheus picked up his harp and began to play the never ending song of his love and loss Eurydice. “Then I shall wander alone until I am reunited” he said to no one. Slowly he began to head south, playing his harp as he headed towards Thrace. He did not bother to brush the stones from his clothes or rub the dirt from his knees, when he stumbled he stumbled, when he crawled he crawled. No longer did he care for the company of men he would seek out the wild solitudes of Thrace wear the animals, muses, maenads, and nymphs lived.

What I have Learned

This class is not perfect, but I have learned something from it nonetheless. When I read a story now, or even when I watch a movie, I look at the characters, the scenes, and the plot as if I would analyze it for class. If a character says something that would not fit his or her personality, I take note. If I notice how the setting impacts what the main character thinks, feels, dos, etc I want to tell someone. I have noticed so many things now, like how an author could have extended a scene to show more about the characters and the plot, and how a movie director could have have gotten us to know more about a character’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc instead of just thrusting us straight into the action. While taking this class, I have developed a respect and a need for the little details that make a story and its characters more real and believable. I have thought about each character as its own person, and in order to make a character I have to know everything about them, including their weaknesses and strengths.

In a way, developing a character for a story is a lot like developing a character for acting. Before I can be a character in a play, I have to know the person I am playing as a person. I need to know their culture, their gender, their race, their age, their important life events, their hobbies, their struggles, everything. I need to understand how they think, so that I can understand how they would say certain things. This is just like in writing a story, because we need to know the characters we are writing about as if we are writing about our real best friend or favorite family member. And in the same way that we give a little bit of ourselves into the character we are playing on stage- through substitutions and interpretations-, so do we place a little bit of ourselves in the stories we write. Both are personal, and both can be fantastic if we put in the hard work to make them real to us, and in the end to our audience.

Finally, there is one important detail I will always remember: If our character is going to be a plumber, have him or her talk about plumbing and prove that he or she knows what they talking about. Like I said, it is the little details that make a difference.

We talked about Amy Hempel’s “In the Animal Shelter” in regards to how a good really short story is even harder to write than a good story. Mary Robinson’s “Yours” is like this too. In just two an a half pages she brings together two people who don’t seem to fit together at first glance and convinces us that they truly love each other and then takes one of them away.

As the story begins, I thought that Allison was going to visit her grandfather. Clark is sitting on the back porch in his slippers, wrapped in a blanket and there are twigs and leaves scattered on the porch. I imagined that he lives by himself and he isn’t able to clean off his back porch in his old age. Then we read that they are in fact married. Upon first reading that “Clark was much older — seventy-eight to Allison’s thirty-five,” the gut reaction is to label her as a gold digger just as Clark’s family does, convinced that he is “being cruelly deceived.” But as the story progresses, we learn that Allison is dying. She is almost at the end of her life and at 78, Clark probably isn’t too far from the end of his. They fit together.

Robinson doesn’t have to explain how they met or how the fell in love, she just gives us a moment with them, carving pumpkins on the back porch and that’s all we need. That’s all I need.

After rereading this story by Raymond Carver, I came up with one big question: why didn’t the boy or the girl bother to ask the man why he was selling all of his things? That says something about them but I can’t quite put my finger on what that something is. The boy and girl went along with the whole strange situation up until the very end. Later, the way the girl talked about it made it seem like she was making fun of what happened. Almost like she didn’t care. I rely on them to ask the questions I want to know the answer to and when they don’t ask, I get disappointed.

The ambiguity of the story makes my head hurt and it gets me thinking at the same time. That was one of my favorite parts about it. Is the man just a drunk who got the crazy idea to put all his furniture on his front lawn? Is he married? If so, what happened to his wife? There are probably more possible scenarios than I could come up with but I’m curious about the one that Carver intended.

“Passion”

I’m not sure yet how I feel about the story overall, but there are so many aspects of this story that I love and that I think Alice Munro excels at conveying to her readers. First, the story begins with the main character Grace, now in her 60’s, going back to visit the Travers’ old summer home. It is imperative that one go back and read the beginning and reread that portion after completing the short story because the reader now can draw more conclusions as to what is actually going on with Grace and going back to Ottawa Valley.

When Munro starts to talk about Grace’s meeting of the Travers family and the time they spent together, the reader can’t connect with her character. However, this is done intentionally. Grace is introduced to the family because one of the sons, Maury, is interested in her and as they start dating, there is little detail on their interactions together and it is evident that Grace doesn’t connect with anyone except for Mrs. Travers. The connection is more of a fascination for Grace and the reader can see that the detail when describing Mrs. Travers is significantly more intimate and emotional than when Maury is discussed. The fascination with Mrs. Travers could stem from Grace’s mother dying at a young age and has never felt quite “home” anywhere else than when she is with the Travers family.

Munro has done a great job of showing the difference in Grace before and after Neil, the other Travers son. Before the holiday gathering of the family, the reader will find it hard to connect with Grace’s character because she has little drive and no real emotions that link to anything that is going on her life except for the family life that Mrs. Travers expresses. There was no excitement in the her character’s voice about dating Maury and she didn’t seem to have any emotion to his wanting to marry her, “When we are married, he would say, and instead of questioning of contradicting him, Grace would listen curiously…None of this seemed real to her” (174). There is nothing but a blasé attitude about her future and Grace knows that Maury is boring, yet there is an acceptance to live passion-free with him, until a complete tone in the story shifts when it is time for the Travers family to all gather for the holidays.

When Grace meets Neil for the first time, it is almost romantically written that she cuts her foot and he arrives right after and she discovers that he is a doctor. Earlier on we do find out that Neil is married, but to an awful woman. I know I was hanging on the edge of my seat and riveted by the language Munro uses when Neil and Grace first interact. Grace notices the way he smells and she notices everything about him, “He had a high pale forehead, a crest of tight curly gray-black hair, bright gray eyes…” (180). The way the narrator lets us into Grace’s emotions is something very new in the story and gives the reader insight on the intimate feeling of their moment. The two have this oddly passionate day together which includes Grace taking care of him when he gets too drunk and all of the passion between them comes to a complete stop when she has a realization that there is no real substance to Neil. Perhaps it is hard to accurately describe the meaning behind all of these choices that Munro has made with this story because after Neil and Grace’s day together, the story ends so abruptly and I’m not even sure what exactly has happened. However, it is evident that Grace’s rollercoaster of tone and characterization ends in a surprising way when she is able to pursue a decent life from a large sum of money from Mr. Travers.

With all of my confusion towards the end of the story, I do applaud Munro in her ability to craft this exceptionally odd list of characters and portray so many varieties of emotion and…passion. Upon completion of the story, I went back and the narrator explains Grace’s return.

What was Grace really looking for when she had undertaken this expedition? Maybe the worst thing would have been to get just what she might have thought she was after.

While the ending is messy, it is compelling to understand that Grace was able to find some sort of life for herself even though it came at the expense of the Travers family: figuratively and literally. However, it is unsettling to see her come back since it gives us an unresolved feeling to the short story. Grace comes back, most likely out of some sort of guilt and confusion that she’s harbored for 40 years. The story is a tangle of inevitable doom and disconnect that eventually leads Grace imploring for answers and understanding as she comes back 40 years later to attempt to understand a part of her life that ended so well for her, but tragically and damaging for the Travers, whom she adored.

 

 

 

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Garcia Márquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera,” is filled with rich symbolic imagery.  In my previous post discussing how this novel is indeed a love story, I focused on the motif of the “Holy Spirit.”  Again, I have found another motif that is indeed metaphorical, the “tiger.” Garcia Márquez uses this image to solidify an important theme throughout the novel: sexual and emotional tension.  However, it is not the actual presence of the furry amazon kitty-cat to which Garcia Márquez refers to;  instead, it is the metaphorical image of slaying the tiger, ridding it from the present, that is central to this motif.

The tiger is mentioned on four pages throughout the entire work, each of which contains a pivotal plot moment.  Interestingly, all four references occur during the second half of the story, the first being the moment when Fermina Daza discovers her husband’s infidelity.  Dr. Urbino, thinking of how he could be of help to his weeping wife, decides that:

“he dare not console her, knowing that it would have been like consoling a tiger run through by a spear and he did not have the courage to tell her that the reason for her weeping had disappeared that afternoon, had been pulled out by the roots, forever, even from his memory” (249).

The reader would originally see this metaphor as it seems– that Dr. Urbino finds it pointless to speak to someone who is already so far past seeing reason, and it would be hurtful to explain any further. However, I see this passage a bit differently.  Garcia Márquez continues his sentence without any pause of thought, and goes on to suggest to the reader that the true reason Urbino will not speak to his wife is because she is not the tiger that has been run through by a spear, it is their sexual relationship that has been wounded.  The reason for her weeping is indeed the wandering of her husband’s erotic pleasures away from herself, and he does not have the courage to tell her that he no longer has the urge, or the need, to fulfill his desires elsewhere. It is not his wife he wishes to console: it is her self-esteem, her confidence in her womanhood, her identity as a female lover.

Next, Leona Cassiani. Never before speaking of anything besides their daily work, their conversation on the sofa which ends their relation to one another is filled with erotic tension, which Ariza seizes into action.

“By two o’clock in the morning they had each drunk three brandies and he knew, in truth, that he was no the man she was waiting for, and he was glad to know it.

“Bravo, lionlady,” he said when he left. “We have killed the tiger” (258-259).

Cassiani and Ariza harvested a workplace relationship.  The sexual tension that enveloped the pair was evident the moment Ariza had mistaken her to be a whore, when in reality she was in need of a job which he could provide.  The sexual tension began to dissolve over the years as their relationship became more and more business-like.  She cared for him as she would her own son, and one night when Ariza is upset over the reality that Fermina is growing older, he enters Cassiani’s home for a drink of brandy and some company.  When he tries to seduce her, she rejects him.  Her statement, “I realized a long time ago that you are not the man I am looking for,” is the knife that slays the tiger.  Any sort of electricity that remained between the pair is shattered, and the skin of the tiger remains.  No longer can there be a prospect that the two will have a sexual relationship themselves, as both are practically the same person: both sexually charged, obsessed with the love they never had.  When Leona kills the tiger in this scene, she confirms to the reader that the only woman who holds Ariza’s heart is Fermina Daza.

Later, we understand the depth to which Florentino Ariza feels pain and loss due to Fermina’s rejection of his professed love after her late husband’s funeral.  Garcia Márquez leads us into Ariza’s thoughts by stating:

“The night he reiterated his love to Fermina Daza he had wandered aimlessly through the streets that had been devastated by the afternoon flood, asking himself in terror what he was going to do with the skin of the tiger he had just killed after having resisted its attacks for more than half a century” (284).

Here, Garcia Márquez presents us with the tension of the unknown– a secret in which only one party understands the overall mission, the plot that involves another character entirely, without them being aware of their importance.  Once the unknown is released, and Florentino Ariza is left without his secret, all that is left is the skin of the knowledge– the concrete fact that he has loved one woman for his entire existence.  What attacks was Florentino Ariza resisting for more than half a century? He was resisting the urge to profess his love to a woman already claimed.  He finally gave in, and with the rejection of his unconditional love for a woman he barely knows, but has stalked and been obsessed with for countless years, he wanders aimlessly not only in the streets, but in his heart.  The tiger here is the fear of being exposed, the fear of being judged for your heart; and now that Florentino Ariza has killed the tiger of his secret, he has no idea how to progress.

Later, in the final pages of the novel, Ariza is faced with the same dilemma.  As Fermina leads her lover into the bedroom, Ariza has the realization that he, again, has no idea what he is facing:

“Florentino was on the bed, lying on his back and trying to regain control, once again not knowing what to do with the skin of the tiger he had slain” (338-339).

Again, Ariza had ended the unknown which comforts his life.  In this case, he has confronted and resolved the sexual tension which has clouded his thoughts for more than half a century.  The skin of the tiger is again a fact: every woman he had slept with had been a temporary relief– a drug for the pain he felt that each woman was not Fermina.  Now that Fermina is undressing in front of him, giving him the reality of his sexual fantasy, he is clueless on how to handle himself.  The unknown is now the known, and the tiger of the sexual tension between the pair was just slain outside the bedroom door.

The tiger being slain is simply the excuse, whereas the skin that is left behind is the consequence of desire.

 

Garcia Marquez does a spectacular job of character development and providing the reader with a rich sense of place that aids the readers in the ability to fully understand the internal struggles of each character. While I am unsure as to whether or not this truly is a love story, it is evident that the characters themselves really can’t come to a concrete definition of love anyways. The novel forces us to think about love in such a way that is passionate and immediate but also never ending. Urbino was able to provide for Fermina, but when she was alone in the end, Florentino Ariza was there for her as well. Therefore, it seems that Fermina never truly knows what love is and the novel is more about Florentino and his quest to obtain Fermina as his. I don’t think it matters that Florentino had many affairs because he was still on this vivid pursuit of Fermina. To me, the pursuit wasn’t love but more about conquest and that he never had her for himself, he was always watching Urbino have her. Even in the end when Ariza pretends that the boat is infected, it is him declaring a conquest of himself. This entangled struggle for the definition of love is something that Garcia Marquez wrote perfectly. The way he develops each character with an immense detail that continues throughout the whole novel. While it is easy to get lost in the detail, it is there for a reason which is to prove to the reader that these characters are real people, searching for love.

 

 

Let us Suffer

Was it JGB that really said, ” The shorter the story – the better it has to be?”

Yes, Jenny made me remember.

Long suffering was definitely the point of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 240 pages that span a lifetime. Of course, it felt a bit too played out for me. Since others weighed in ever so politely, I will as well.

I personally applaud Wendy’s thorough review in which she sort of says what I would say about this particular story being so typical. To quote:

Girl meets boy, they fall in love, Daddy hates boy, they separate, girl meets new guy and falls in love with him as well, many years pass, guy 1 proclaims he is still in love, and they are finally reunited.

We continually ask: what made this different, what made this new? But as I saw it (and as others do as well, apparently), that was not the point of this piece. This story was “we’ll come together in the end – despite it all.” It was a piece in which characters were what were supposed to make the story. Garcia Marquez uses realistic symbols and metaphors that are meant to build up and make the story “different” and make a larger point about love using the traditional plot line and form.

In any case, the story was about the journey and how love plays a role in that journey. It spent time on gorgeous, painful details of setting and character because there is time to when mirroring a life’s journey, when making us wait for an ending we know will eventually come. This could not have been achieved any other way than omniscient, distant narration and very particularly realistic language. The symbols themselves are very body-centered and the setting entirely based in true history.  Women are crows (or dangerous birds); life is a river; love is a disease. Garcia Marquez carries on this long journey, living it in every word, making us live it and experience it.

From the sky they could see, just as God saw them, the ruins of the very old and heroic city of Cartagena de Indias, the most beautiful in the world, abandoned by its inhabitants because of the sieges of the English and the atrocities of the buccaneers. They saw the walls, still intact, the brambles in the streets, the fortifications devoured by heartsease, the marble palaces and the golden altars and the viceroys rotting with plague inside their armor.

Now, I will say, because the main characters are supposed to make the piece, perception of the main character alters enjoyment of the piece itself if one cannot find solace in the beauty of the setting itself. This is to applaud Garcia Marquez because he has made these characters so human that we are inclined to either love them or hate them as if they were real. Personally, I had difficulty connecting with the piece because I found the main character almost abhorrent in his actions, his pining, his welpish two-faced qualities (clearing my throat, I will say 622 and no more). What I did connect with was the dichotomous relationship he had with himself and his internal struggle. This was very well written and explored. In fact, it was beautifully written: gritty, shocking, lustful, unabashedly portraying mad investment. It’s almost a game of numbers: does fifty-one years, nine months, and four days make up for 622?

Looking through other reviews on book sites, you’ll find that those who have issues with the book do not have issues with the way it was written, but rather the who it was written about (the what). They dislike the characters, not the prose.

I don’t like the characters. (This was going to be a list, but then I realized that this is the only reason I have.)”

Those who loved the book understood Garcia Marquez’s mastery of depicting human flaws and the strange beast that is love.

” How am I expected to feel happiness for this spindly little man? Yet, I know how he feels in his loneliness and desire for true love. … How can I feel joy for her? Yet, I’ve been her before. I see that in myself.”

I suppose the best part of this novel in any regard is Garcia Marquez’s constant present attention to detail in his prose and descriptions of where we are historically. The dense, rich language overwhelms the senses, bombards a reader into submission to the experience of Latin American culture.

Garcia Marquez is a master of the pen to be sure. He captured the reality of the time and love and life, almost entirely, all in 240 pages.

Perhaps I should read One Hundred Years of Solitude before speaking more on love, life, and suffering in that novel.

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In “The Most Girl Part of You” there is a relationship with pleasure and pain that is expressed perfectly by Hempel. Even in the very beginning, “Big Guy” is trying to crack his teeth by taking back ice water and “then straightaway throws back slugs of hot coffee” (111). There is nothing pleasurable about chugging hot coffee and yet Big Guy takes pleasure in this ritual. Furthermore, with the exploration into the relationship of pleasure and pain, there is the big theme of mortality in the play, as the narrator’s dad has been dead for most of her life and Big Guy is dealing with the recent death of his mother. Big Guy finds comfort with the motherly attributes that the narrator’s mother portrays and clings to being the man of their home as the narrator describes it as feeling like a real family.

Big Guy continues to explore with the connection between pleasure and plain when the narrator teaches him to sew. Upon his completion of learning, he sews the narrator’s name into his skin. Hempel uses beautiful language to describe the odd and somewhat gross process, “blue thread that trails like a vein and turns milky as it tunnels through the bloodless calloused skin” (115). As Hempel shows this comfort from pain, she describes it in a way that I’d never think to do, it’s beautiful and allows the reader to realize why this pain might give Big Guy an aid of comfort. It is evident that the narrator is attracted to Big Guy from the beginning. When they go to the party, there is more beautiful imagery in an unlikely place when they decide to dance together, “and the hand that is at the small of my back catches as it slides across the silk of my good new dress…It’s the dry, jagged skin form where he pulled my threaded name out of the place where he had sewn it” (118). That sentence is my favorite in the story because it expresses so many feelings of the narrator. The narrator doesn’t care that he is nicking her new dress because it is from a place where she was a part of him, it is almost comforting for her to think of that when it catches on her dress.

Finally, there is the last scene of the short story when the two of them go back to her house and no one is there. There is a brief moment of casual mortality as the two of them watch the moth in her refrigerator die, with only a brief moment of trying to help the insect. The way that Big Guy shuts the mosquito into the drawer without explanation is perhaps a way that he wants to make death something more casual and since they tried to help the moth and it didn’t work, he shuts the drawer  and aids in the mortality of the insect. Big Guy then takes a razor blade to all of the narrator’s mosquito bites, making the bites stop itching but provoking an idea of pain with the razor blade on her skin. The narrator gets even more out of this action, when he decides to kiss her. The kissing leads to more on the couch and there is such eerie and unsettling imagery when they are making out on the couch, “we take the length of the couch, squirming like maggots in ashes…I am bleeding through my clothes from the razored bites when Big Guy pushes his knee up between my legs” (121). The narrator is taking pleasure, once again from perhaps giving him something during his time of coping and pain. They are both getting some kind of comfort with one another and the reader is evident of this feeling that there is pain provoking their actions in the end, and that is perhaps where this eerie feeling comes from. Hempel does a wonderful job of giving the reader a feeling of uneasiness by the relationship that is shown in the story with the way they cope, or try to cope with death.

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The Passing of Time

Even though I am not fond of the characters in Love in the Time of Cholera, I do believe that Garcia Marquez does a wonderful job with descriptions. He knows how to give us the right amount of details in just the right places. There was one part in particular that I loved. This was on pg 339.

Then he looked at her and saw her naked to the waist, just as he had imagined her. Her shoulders were wrinkled, her breasts sagged, her ribs were covered by a flabby skin as pale and as cold as a frog’s.

This was beautifully written. While reading, I could imagine this in my mind. Florentino has waited so long for this moment, but he imagined it happening when they were both much younger. When their skin was tight with youth and health, not sagging and old. Even though, however, the moment when Florentino and Fermina became one was not in the original plan, it does not make this moment any less sweet. Finally, Florentino and Fermina are together.

I am not like Fermina’s children, who do not believe that older people should experience love and sex. I believe love is found at any age, at any time. I am still skeptical about Florentino’s supposed love for Fermina for over fifty years; you can read my other blog post for this, but when Florentino and Fermina are together at last I could finally feel their love. And when Florentino told the captain to keep on sailing, I cheered for them. They could be together, on the adventure they both dreamed of, with no one to tell them that they are wrong. The ending was perfect and everything I wanted; it was the conclusion to the love story that I was looking for.

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I Don’t Understand

Something was said in class today that I found very confusing, but I did not know what to say to it. So I am going to write it in a blog post, and hopefully someone will read this and help me understand.

We were going through one of the stories when JGB said that we should try not to write short stories. He said that our stories need to be “longer, deeper, richer,” with more details about the characters and the setting. I could not understand this, because we have read some stories outside of class by professional authors that have been short, and in my opinion did not give much detail.

One story I think of in particular is Amy Hempel’s story “In the Animal Shelter.” This is a story that is one page long. Now I know there are stories out there that can be short and be amazing, but in my opinion I felt like this story could have gone further. This story does not give a clear narrator, we don’t know the narrator’s gender, profession, age, relationship to the women coming to the animal shelter, or why this narrator is writing/talking about this story. “In the Animal Shelter” reminds me of a background description, one made to prepare us for a larger plot… but there is no larger plot. Nothing is happening that goes beyond that one page.

This is why I am confused. Why is it ok for others to write stories that talk about nothing, and don’t give the readers really any story, but yet in class we are told to write long stories that are full of details and descriptions? What is the difference? Is it because we are simply students? Someone please help me to understand!

 

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez functions as a love story primarily by highlighting the impact and weight that love has on our lives. This function, I believe, is made salient by the use of exaggeration. I think that a love story functions best through exaggeration because it helps us retell the “same old story” in different and more interesting ways. It is very easy, when writing, to be sucked into a frame of a stereotypical love story. It is enlightening that Garcia Marquez avoids doing this by being generally honest and blatant about the feelings of his characters and themes.

I read that in an interview Garcia Marquez explained the development of the love story as being inspired by the story of his young parents, and a story he heard of two older people who would escape to Acapulco to partake in a passionate affair. As he wrote the story of his parents, who in reality eventually did marry at a typical age, he began to see how the stories could be shaped together to become more interesting, saying that as soon as his parents were married, they were no longer “interesting literary figures.” I appreciate understanding the development of the story and can recognize Garcia Marquez’s understanding of what makes a story actual literature worth publishing and worth reading, as opposed to just a story about his parents that is like many love stories before and after, I’m sure.

As mentioned before, the novel functions as a love story primarily by highlighting the weight that love has in our lives. Everything that the characters in the story experience is for the most part based upon love. Their feelings, the actions that happen, the disease, etc. are all components of the love story. This is better developed by Garcia Marquez’s beautiful yet, at some times, arduous detail of a character’s emotions. He had such a deep understanding of each of the characters, in a way greater than many novels I have ever read. The story carries its weight also by presenting a story that seems real, and like any good stereotypical “love story” gives us hope that in a world full of disease and pain love may still endure through time. I can think of a less grand literary venture, yet seemingly similar story The Notebook which has essentially the same framework. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, Daddy hates boy, they seperate, girl meets new guy and falls in love with him as well, many years pass, guy 1 proclaims he is still in love, and they are finally reunited. A love story gives us hope and follows this framework, yet it is the development of the characters, their personalities, locations, quirks, histories, etc, that changes the story into something new and beautiful that can be told yet another time.

The most moving part of the novel is the passion that was evident when it was written. Garcia Marquez enters into deep subject matter and approaches disease and personal battles in a fresh new way in which he is asking and trusting us as readers to trust him and follow the development of the story. My favorite part of the story is at the beginning of the sixth chapter, when Fermina is struggling to deal with the death of her husband. The attention to detail that is paid to this side of love is very important to the story’s function as a love story. Not only do we see love develop, and love be denied, but we also see it completely lost. It is the attention that is paid to all aspects of love in this novel that makes it an enduring love story.

It’s easy to just label Fermina Daza as a bitch and say that she in no way deserved either of the men in her life. I’m stepping up to the plate to defend her. Florentino Ariza has been in love with her for more than fifty years, and after the day at the Arcade of the Scribes, she doesn’t give him the time of day. All that time he has been waiting for her, but that’s not what is important. What is important is that she finally comes to terms with that love.

It’s not that she doesn’t care about him; she does. It just takes her longer than we wanted for her to understand the nature of it. Her feelings toward Florentino Ariza manifest themselves in one of my favorite scenes in the entire book.

“The only thing that hurts me is that I do not have the strength to give you the beating you deserve for being insolent and evil-minded,” she said. “But you will leave this house right now, and I swear on my mother’s grave that you will not set foot in it again as long as I live.”

How badass is that? How could anyone say that she doesn’t care about him? I don’t think their relationship is a matter of who does or doesn’t deserve to be happy; all that matters is that they get to be together despite the fact that, as Fermina Daza herself says, “A century ago, life screwed that poor man and me because we were too young, and now they want to do it again because we are too old.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Garcia Marquez’s choice to reunite Fermina Daza and Florentio Ariza. Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic, but I believe that if something is meant to be, the universe will find a way to make it happen. In Garcia Marquez’s universe, the inevitable comes true and makes for a happily-ever-after a lifetime in the making.

L

What’s Love?

It seems that all the characters in Love in the Time of Cholera ask themselves if they really know what love is. They all seem to understand familial love, but romantic love baffles them well into their senior citizen years. I myself have never experienced romantic love, so I actually don’t understand it either. It would seem that everyone has certain expectations when it does come to love, while Florentino seems to have an idealized notion of love. That is, he wishes to romance his love, to woo her with his words as a true romantic would do. I would even go as far as to say that Florentino’s love portrays the stereotypical woman’s love in most romance stories; very rarely is it the man who must pine for the woman. I would say, for lack of a better term, that Urbino and Fermina exhibit a comfortable love with one another, while Urbino’s affair with Ms. Lynch seemed to be fueled by a more animalistic passion that they perhaps confuse for love.

Going back to Florentino, he also has a psychical love trait. This is obviously seen when he’s with his Fermina stand-ins, but at the same time we are able to see that Florentino does actually care about a good percent of these women. Garcia Marquez wrote so that every character would have a personality, and in doing so the readers are able to feel sympathy for most of Florentino’s conquests.

The many forms of love presented in this story show a great complexity that fits the personalities of all humans.

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LinToCLove in the Time of Cholera is an extremely extravagant novel. The pages are filled with bright colors, loud sounds, interesting textures, full odors, and complicated emotions. This novel was much longer than The Sorrows of Young Werther, as well as the stories that have been selected for us to read. With a novel of this length Garcia Marquez is able to explore every option. Each page has at least one digression that doesn’t really add information to the main story line but does add scenery or backstory or minute detail that fleshes out our understanding of a character. Often, the digression follows a thought-process of one person or another, and it lets us see how the character is thinking/feeling and his motives behind thinking or feeling that way.

This story is written with an omniscient narrator, giving the author the liberty to make every singular character tangible to the reader. A love story with such emotional baggage asks for a lot of suspension of disbelief from the reader. In this story, Florentino Ariza falls in love with a girl a few years his junior, Fermina Daza. It is, of course, love at first sight. After this, he pursues her in such a manner that it threatens his health. When she finally requites his love, her father removes her from him and they are forced to try and span the space between them with telegraphs instead of the love letters that they had become accustomed to. When Fermina returns, she suddenly realizes that she never actually loved Florentino and she brushes him off in a public market place. After all of this, he continues to wait for her, for fifty years, even after she has been married and given birth to children. Everything in his life is controlled by her motivation, and he is still all-consumed by his love for her. This situation seems drastically unbelievable, especially in our current time. But with his intricate details, Garcia Marquez makes us believe that these characters are real people, with concrete motives and ideas and emotions.

 

Happily Ever Afters

Love in the Time of Cholera is of course a love story. From the opening scenes we know that the story is of longing and pining for the love of a very wonderful Fermina. The fact that the love story doesn’t run smoothly is what makes this happily-ever-after so wonderful. Page after page Florentino wishes he could love Fermina the way he feels she deserves. Page after page their relationship is not allowed. At first it is the father and then it is Fermina herself. Finally it is the good doctor. Florentino can only hope and wait for Dr. Juvenal Ubino to pass away so that he can swoop in and make his move.

A happily-ever-after can only work if the rest of the relationship is racked with problems and difficulties. Garcia Marquez provides enough conflict to keep the two lovers distanced from one another for, eh, fifty-one years, nine months, and four days. When Florentino and Fermina are finally granted their happily-ever-after, they seem to have earned it, both characters in their own way have paid for their choice to not be with the other. After being granted their happily-ever-after, the story is all the more heartbreaking because of their age. Time is short, and now that they’ve finally found the one they truly love, it’s almost time to pack their bags and leave this world. It’s tragically beautiful to have waited so long for the right one, only to turn around and lose them.

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The Holy Spirit

“Fermina,” he said, “I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love.” (50)

Love in the Time of Cholera takes the reader through pain, confusion, hope, heartbreak, and joy; all emotions that can be wrapped into one word: love.  Florentino Ariza puzzles us with his undying love for a woman he barely knows– a woman who has rejected him for nearly 52 years.  Is this a completely unrealistic tale, too dramatic and unbelievable to be considered “serious?”  It depends on how you read it, and how you want to interpret it.

In the small class discussion we had on Thursday about the book, people were very thrown off by Florentino’s line to Fermina regarding his virginity near the end of the story:

She spoke in a casual manner, and he replied without hesitation, in a steady voice: “I’ve remained a virgin for you.” (339)

 

In reality, Florentino had sexual relations with over 600 women in the 51 years, 9 months, and 4 days that he and Fermina were not romantically involved.  So, why would he lie to her now that she is laying in bed beside him, listening to his every word?  There are three realistic options: he is a pathological liar, certifiably insane, or is full of the “Holy Spirit,” which speaks for him.

Throughout the entire novel, there are several reoccurring themes that constitute and unify almost every interaction.  One of which, is the “Holy Spirit.”  Typically, when you first read these two words, you think Christianity– the phrase that is used to term Jesus’s presence after his crucifixion is indeed the “Holy Spirit.” So, what does Márquez mean to do by using this term throughout this novel? After Florentino professes his love for Fermina on the day of her husband’s funeral, she stares at him in disbelief:

Fermina Daza would have thought she was facing a madman if she had not had reason to believe that at that moment, Florentino Ariza was inspired by the grace of the Holy Spirit. (50)

This quote is extremely important in our understanding of Márquez’s intention for the rest of the novel, and is better understood once the novel is read in its entirety, and this passage is then re-read.  The Holy Spirit here is not a reference to Christianity, but instead is a reference to true love– a reckless and passionate fury of emotion that causes someone to speak and do unexplainable things.  The key in Fermina’s thought process that can lead us to this conclusion is Florentino being “inspired” to say what he had said.  Here, she is excusing Florentino’s feelings for something resembling a love potion.  He is not mad, or insane, he is speaking to her in such a disrespectful and ludicrous way, because he is overcome with an emotion that speaks for him.  This happens again later in the novel, when we are presented with Florentino and Lorenzo Daza drinking anisette together in Chapter 2.  When Lorenzo Daza threatens to shoot Florentino if he continues to interact with his daughter, Florentino has the courage to stand up to a loaded pistol, held by a very angry father.

But his voice did not tremble because he felt himself illuminated by the Holy Spirit.

“Shoot me,” he said, with his hand on his chest. “There is no greater glory than to die for love.” (82)

So, Florentino has sex with over 600 women, lies to his lover’s face about his purity, and spends 51 years of his life nursing the pain of a broken heart, eager to confess his love for Fermina because he is consumed by the Holy Spirit.  This is Márquez’s idea of true love.  It is not merely an emotion that one feels when they receive a love letter and read every little word, or a word one says to another in order to break a silence: it is an illness.  By using the Holy Spirit in parts of the novel that are dicey and full of drama and pain, Márquez conveys to us that Florentino has caught an illness, not an emotion.  The Holy Spirit has filled his body with a plague that causes him to feel agony every moment he is not with Fermina, and he prevents this agony by sleeping with a disturbing amount of women.  The physical sensation he feels when Rosalba takes his virginity on his first boat trip serves as a revelation for Florentino: sex is an antidote for the pain he feels when aching for Fermina, every second of every day.

Like Cholera, love is a sickness that can cause an intense pain– enough for someone to feel physical illness.  With some diseases, there is a cure or a symptom reliever.  With others, there is no cure, and you have to live with the pain presented to you.  Florentino chose a medicine that enabled him to stay alive for 51 more years, enough time to cure his chronic illness by falling in love with the woman who gave it to him.

For a while, I’ve been following a blog run by Louise Ma. She designs artistic diagrams and representations of abstract aspects of love. It’s a good place to go for inspiration or artistic enjoyment.

Check it out: http://love.seebytouch.com

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Love Birds

After you get past the almonds and eggplants, then there the birds.  Dr. Juvenal Urbino’s death comes about because he tries to catch a bird. This detail could have been completely irrelevant to the rest of the story. Garcia Marquez could have chosen never to mention birds again. Of course, he doesn’t forget the birds at all because he’s a genius. No, Garcia Marquez brings up birds again and again. Florentino calls his lovers birds and enjoys hunting for them.  Garcia Marquez uses this word as a means of associating L, S, and D and paralleling Urbino and Florentino. Then there’s the bizarre detail about the baby kept in a birdcage. Love is a kind of suffering and a protection. It is comforting and isolating and vulnerable. Like the parrot responsible for Urbino’s demise, it is stubborn and defiant and honest.

Some people are saying that Florentino doesn’t deserve Fermina. Others say Urbino doesn’t deserve her. They’re both right.  Florentino’s manic, fairy tale love reminiscent of Werther is unrealistic and Urbino’s infidelity is painful.  None of them deserve love. Love isn’t fair. If it were based on logic, very few people would be loved or choose to love. The way people see the faults in others and still cherish them is what makes love important.

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LSD

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.

Warning: Contains Cyanide

During the first workshop class I had with JGB, he talked about the three most common topics writers write about: love, sex, and death, or LSD. Sometimes writers cover only one or two (I’m usually an LD person), but Garcia Marquez covers the trifecta. Within the first few pages he associates the smell of almonds with love and suicide. Then for the rest of the book, he pairs Florentino’s desperate love with almonds.  Meanwhile Florentino’s most famous achievement is his 622 affairs, most of which were loveless. By the end of the book, Florentino is described as having ageless skin, making it seem like he had been dead during the fifty-one years of affairs, only coming alive again when he is able to pursue his first love. Fermina had always associated eggplant with poison and, similarly, imagined the wedding night as a blood sacrifice. After she’s married, she starts to love eggplant.

For the characters in Love in the Time of Cholera, love, sex, and death are almost equivalent. Fermina’s love interests are a doctor familiar with all the types of cholera and man hungry to experience all the love he can possibly grasp, whose aging resembles symptoms of cholera.  There are instances where Florentino accidently gets his lovers murdered. Garcia Marquez knows what he’s doing here. Given these examples, I couldn’t help but think about Charon and Styx when Florentino was working for the river company. Traveling down the river, death is always present. Urbino and Fermina see it from the balloon and the riverboat captain sees cholera ships pass by. In the end, they use cholera as an escape from their worldly responsibilities and continue to love forever. They escape the fate of the unrequited and seem to achieve immortality.

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