Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel, One Hundred Many years of Solitude, uses Magical Realism to portray political events and atmospheres that Marquez, himself, and other Latin Americans experienced throughout their lifetimes. Political unrest, governmental upheaval, and financial instability were all experienced during Marquez's childhood and adulthood. Though Magical Realism is rendered in many possible ways, Marquez, in particular, in One CENTURY of Solitude, uses elements of the supernatural, Spiritualism, the paranormal, and divine, alongside reality to capture certain feelings, tensions, and thoughts experienced during these times. Magical Realism is defined by Stephan Hart, writer of "Magical Realism in the Americas: Politicised Ghosts in One CENTURY of Solitude, THE HOME of Spirits, and Beloved" as:
[T]he sense in which occurrences seen as supernatural in the First World (such as ghostly apparitions, humans with the ability to fly, levitate, disappear or increase their weight at will) are presented as natural from a Third World perspective, while occurrences viewed as normal in the First World (magnets, science, ice, railway trains, the films, phonographs) are presented as supernatural from the point of view of your inhabitant of the Caribbean. (Hart 116)
People who have lived for any amount of time in Latin American are used to stories about ghosts, superstitions, and fortunetellers. However, if we have not forgotten history, or the nature of Western "civilizations, " we'd recall that Christianity, along with notions of the importance of science and technology, were forced upon the native people during times of exploration and colonization. Not absolutely all of the native stories and beliefs would be destroyed, though. Those that maintained some small portion of their old world passed stories, beliefs, and superstitions on in some form to their offspring, which have developed into a more modern Spiritualism.
Spiritualism is the "belief that the dead manifest their presence to people, usually by way of a clairvoyant or medium" ("SPIRITUALISM"). Spiritualism also involves the reading of divinity cards, seances or communing with the dead, and healing of the mind, whether through energy work or herbal treatments. Spiritualism is not really a literary device like Magical Realism; rather, it is part of your cultural belief system, but it does indeed have literary implications in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Spiritualism accomplishes a lot of what Magical Realism does by expressing the novel's theme of the inextricable nature of days gone by, present and future. What readers must understand is that in Latin American culture, Spiritualism, pre-Christian beliefs, the belief in ghosts, and the reading of cards play an enormous role in the culture. Quite simply, Latin American culture, itself, is an exemplory case of Magical Realism.
Marquez grew up by his grandparents in Aracataca, Colombia, in the province of Magdalena (like the River Magdalena in the novel). Much like the Buendia home, their house was on the coast and was almost cut off from the exterior world, had it not been for the large amount of relatives who constantly filled the large house. Marquez's grandfather was a retired colonel who told the most amazing stories of war and his adventures (Sickels). Amy Sickels, writer of "Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Cultural and Historical Contexts, " wrote extensively about Marquez's home life and childhood. She remarked about how he was inspired to create by those around him and when he had not inspiration enough, his grandmother was also a master story-teller, who told Marquez "stories of ghosts and the dead" (Sickels 20).
Marquez said that he wrote the novel in the tone that his grandmother used while telling her stories: "She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness" (Hart 116). It is even said that his grandmother inspired the character of Remedios in One Hundred Years of Solitude, who, while hanging sheets from the line to dry, was taken up to heaven. Together with the influence of his grandparents and the fantastic amount of folklore he heard, it is not hard to see why Marquez find the literary device of Magical Realism through which to inform his own stories for a global audience (Gunther). Ghosts and apparitions, omens, apocalyptic prophecies, and fortunetellers are some of the components of Latin American Spiritualism within the novel. Furthermore, a Latin American reader would most like not initially spot the Magical Realism; rather, she or he would notice the familiar components of Spiritualism in the task, like ghosts and apparitions, omens, apocalyptic prophecies, and fortunetellers.
Several ghosts appear from time to time. Melquiades is the first person in Macondo to die; thus, he is the first ghost to appear. The very description of Melquiades combines the supernatural and human characteristics: "That prodigious creature, said to possess the keys of Nostradamus, was a gloomy man, enveloped in a sad aura, with an Asiatic look that seemed to know what there was on the other hand of things" (5-6). Melquiades is an associate of an band of gypsies who becomes near the Buendia family and who delivers the technology to metropolis of Macondo. He's overweight and is rumored to really have the gift idea of prophecy with knowledge that would rival Nostradamus. His abilities are mysterious and his survival of several plagues is totally unbelievable to the reader, but is accepted by the people he makes connection with. He becomes Jose Arcadio Buendia's mentor and good friend. He dies from a fever in Singapore, but later shows up as a seemingly living ghost in Macondo and rekindles his friendship with Jose Arcadio Buendia. Once Melquiades returns, though, growing older catches up with him and he dies again, though Jose Arcadio Buendia claims he's still alive, not in a body: "with the invisible existence of Melquiades, who continued his stealthy shuffling through the rooms" (73). Melquiades' spirit provides comfort for Jose Arcadio Buendia while he experience other losses, but he still mourns the second death of a dear friend.
The ghost of Jose Arcadio Buendia appears, also, after he was linked with a tree where he died: "It had been an intricate stew of truths and mirages that convulsed the ghost of Jose Arcadio Buendia under the chestnut tree with impatience and made him wander during the home even in broad daylight" (224). In Fernanda's solitude, was quietly visited by "the dead ghost of Jose Arcadio Buendia who sometimes would come to sit back with an inquisitive attention in the half-light of the parlor while she was playing the clavichord" (258). Nobody is startled by the occurrence of the ghosts; rather, folks are comforted by them, while the existence of the living is wearying and lonesome.
Both ghosts mentioned above also present another aspect of Spiritualism in the novel, the omen or sign of what it to come. Omens may maintain positivity or negative, but also for the Buendias, omens usually indicate death. The ghost of Jose Arcadio Buendia manifests himself and reveals an omen about the fate of the colonel. Ursula have been weeping under the tree where Jose Arcadio Buendia had died, however the colonel could not see him. The idea that the colonel cannot see him provides further evidence toward Spiritualism, because, as mentioned previously, the fact that ghosts manifests themselves for certain people. Ursula tells the colonel, "Say hello to your father" (241), so when he asks his mother the actual ghost says, she replies, "He's very sadbecause he thinks that you're going to die" (241). This omen was confused by the colonel because he had no wish to envision the ghost of his father, "the powerful old man who had been beaten down by half of a century in the open air" (241).
Omens repeat themselves in this novel, and Ursula is aware of this idea. She seems to have some kind of medium-like skills herself, since she is able to see ghosts, as well as produce her own interpretations and predictions without needing cards. She understands that Buendias die unexpectedly and with no signs of sickness whatsoever. For instance, Aramanta receives an omen of death and proceeds to send letters to prospects she had wronged in the past in order to clear her conscience and have Ursula make a statement that she dies a virgin. Ursula will not doubt that Aramanta received the omen because she's ability to recall the meaning of your omen when it concerns a Buendia family member.
The third factor of Spiritualism that is present in the novel is also the most significant: fortunetelling. Making predictions in a work of literature lends itself to the idea of foreshadowing, but what's different about OHYS, is that the predictions are often interpreted incorrectly or mistaken, or they have significantly more of a direct effect on the continuing future of the characters than they realize at that time the prediction is received. Many characters in the novel make predictions and other characters rely on those predictions and their spiritual guidance. Jose Arcadio Buendia, for instance, makes predictions about the planet earth and other scientific matters, but he also would make simple predictions about events; for instance, some was coming. Ursula, though, "as she did whenever he made a prediction, tried to break it down with her housewifely logic" (40). Fernanda uses spiritual advisor to assist her in making decisions about her own body, dates when she should practice "venereal abstinence" (209).
Melquiades, the gypsy, made the most influential predictions, the prophecy of Macondo. At first, while discussing his prediction of the future of Macondo with Jose Arcadio Buendia, he thought that he was mistaken. He predicted that Macondo "was to be always a luminous city with great glass houses where there is no trace remaining of the races of Buendias" (53). His predictions are the actual novel are following and based upon. In other words, they both motivate the start and the end of the novel. In the final pages of the novel, Melquiades' predictions come to fruition:
Aureliano read aloud without skipping the enchanted encyclicals that Melquiades himself had made Arcadio pay attention to and that were the truth is the prediction of his execution, and he found the announcement of the birth of the very most beautiful woman on earth who was simply rising up to heaven in body and soul, and he found the origin of the posthumous twins who quit deciphering the parchmentsThen he skipped again to anticipate the predictions and ascertain the date and circumstances of his death. Before achieving the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the location of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men (417)
The notion that the story's genesis and destruction are envisaged in Melquiades' prophecy exemplifies the novel's theme of the indivisibility if days gone by, present, and future. Though Melquiades' predictions are indissoluble in the novel, the type of Melquiades does meet his end rather early on. There is a character, though, who is present for the duration of the novel and can be an important fortunetellerPilar Ternera.
Pilar Ternera is the epitome of modern, Latin American Spiritualism in the novel. She actually is said to be modeled after Gabriel Garcia Marquez's mother, Luisa Santiaga: "a spirited, strong-willed woman with a liberal upbringingShe won the lottery several times based on information she claimed to have gotten in dreams" (Stavans 42). Pilar is "a merry, foul-mouthed, provocative woman" (25) who became a servant to the Buendias, but was later known in the town for her love-making skillsas a prostitute who never took payment for her services and who just wanted to make certain her customers were happy. Also, she reads other characters' fortunes, the past, and future with Tarot cards. She's the capability to heal the psyches of others and she actually is blessed with an exceptionally long life.
Pilar's seemingly magical powers as a lover and her ability to read fortunes give her an extremely powerful female role. In Latin America culture, the girl is generally handled the realm of domestic space, sexually repressed, and without much authority outside of her own home. There has been a movement within Spiritualism, though, toward a more powerful spiritual leadership role for girls, as well as for women to be intellectually, spiritually, and sexually free (Finkler). Marquez's mother might well have possibly been the vehicle through which this movement was expressed in his own life as well as inspiration for such a solid, liberated female character. Being a lover, she holds power in the foreseeable future of Macondo as she gives birth to Buendia sons, and since a reader of the cards, she holds power for the reason that she can influence decisions made by others.
Pilar's ability to learn the cards also further demonstrates the novel's theme of the inextricable nature of the past, present, and future (like Melquiades' prophecy). When reading Tarot cards, there are spreads that will reveal answers to questions or problem the inquirer poses. Though the question may be about the future, days gone by is ever-present and influencing the cards. The symbolism in the cards and their position in the spread enable the cards to be interpreted. For instance, she reads the cards for Colonel Aureliano Buendia in support of managed to reveal "after spreading and picking right up the cards three timesWatch out for the mouth area" (135). Later, the colonel was poisoned. In this case, her interpretation was correct, yet it was incomplete.
Pilar's relationship with the cards is very much like that of Ursula's relationship with the recognizing of omens. Pilar is so deeply involved in the Buendia family that she finds no mystery in their card readings: "There is no mystery in the heart of any Buendia that was impenetrable for her due to a century of cards and experience had taught her that the history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions" (396). This also builds on the novel's theme of the undividable nature of days gone by, present and future-Pilar's history with the Buendias allows her to easily predict their future as well as their past: "Pilar was the one who contributed most to popularize that mystification when she conceived the secret of reading the past in cards as she browse the future before" (47).
This theme is also exemplified when Jose Arcadio Buendia, at the same time, in fear that the people of Macondo would lose their memories, decides to create a memory machine "that he had desired once in order to remember the marvelous inventions of the gypsies. The artifact was based on the possibility of reviewing every morning, from starting to end, the totality of knowledge acquired during one's life" (48). The frequent repetition of events will allow visitors to "remember" and make decisions accordingly. What is interesting, though, is the fact that Pilar's intuition that the Buendia genealogy is similar to a machine is a primary correlation with how Jose Arcadio Buendia viewed it as well. Alternatively, Pilar's understanding of the cards was not always useful or useful; rather, what they revealed was very disheartening on her behalf. She saw in the cards that "Aureliano Jose was the tall, dark man who had been promised her for half of a century by the king of hearts, and like all men sent by the cards, he reached her heart when he was already stamped with the mark of death" (152-153). The cyclical nature of the interpretation of the cards mirrors that of life, where the past is in the end tied to the future, and today's is somehow a result, or consequence, of both.
Pilar also serves as a spiritual advisor for Amaranta when Amaranta is alarmed and maddened by the uncertainly of her future. She seeks Pilar's counsel, but having such an comprehensive knowledge and knowledge of the Buendia family, Pilar can provide Aramanta with psychological relief by giving "her recipes that in cases of trouble could expel 'even the remorse of conscience" (289-90). Kaja Finkler, writer of "Dissident Religious Movements in the Service of Women's Power" discusses, at length, the increasingly powerful role of women as spiritual leaders and guides. Like Pilar, these guides will "prescribe only natural herbs and spiritual cures" (Finkler 488).
In her old age, though, Pilar turns from the use of the cards. She learns through the frequent repetition of omens and events, she's learned a lot more from experience than from interpreting the cards. Prior to the destruction of Macondo, Pilar, has ended the age of a hundred forty-five, dies in her wicker chair: "She had given up the pernicious custom of keeping track of her age and she went on living in the static and marginal time of memories, in another perfectly revealed and established, beyond the futures disturbed by the insidious snares and suppositions of her cards" (395). Her insight as to what the near future holds for her is based upon her discernment of the past, not by the dangerous interpretations and guesswork mixed up in reading of the cards.
In conclusion, even though Magical Realism is the chief, defining characteristic of the novel, A HUNDRED Years of Solitude, the elements of Latin American Spiritualism cannot be ignored. This cultural beliefs examined in the text, rather than an obscure literary device, illustrates the novel's theme involving the past, present and future. Furthermore, it might be not as likely for a Latin American reader to immediately acknowledge the Magical Realism; rather, the reader would recognize the familiar story-telling and subject matter due to the Spiritual nature of the culture, itself. Also, the character of Pilar Ternera, with her card-reading and healing abilities, is a blatant example of a modern Spiritualist that Finkler discusses in her work. Through Marquez's use of ghosts and apparitions who manifest themselves limited to certain characters, omens and apocalyptic prophecies that are often mistaken or ignored until they come to fruition, and fortunetellers and spiritual guides, like Melquiades and Pilar Ternera, the guy can capture the essence of the tales of his grandparents and the fantastical nature of the Caribbean (Hart 116).