100 years of solitude discussion questions

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100 years of solitude discussion questions

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Revised 28 March 2012

Huh? Oh. Oh, man. Wow.

I just had the
weirdest dream.

There was this little town, right? And everybody had, like, the same two names. And there was this guy who lived under a tree and a lady who ate dirt and some other guy who just made little gold fishes all the time. And sometimes it rained and sometimes it didn’t, and… and there were fire ants everywhere, and some girl got carried off into the sky by her laundry…

Wow. That was messed up.

I need some coffee.


The was roughly how I felt after reading this book. This is really the only time I’ve ever read a book and thought, “You know, this book would be awesome if I were stoned.” And I don’t even know if being stoned works on books that way.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (which is such a fun name to say) is one of those Writers You Should Read. You know the type – they’re the ones that everyone claims to have read, but no one really has. The ones you put in your online dating profile so that people will think you’re smarter than you really are. You get some kind of intellectual bonus points or something, the kind of highbrow cachet that you just don’t get from reading someone like Stephen King or Clive Barker.

Marquez was one of the first writers to use “magical realism,” a style of fantasy wherein the fantastic and the unbelievable are treated as everyday occurrences. While I’m sure it contributed to the modern genre of urban fantasy – which also mixes the fantastic with the real – magical realism doesn’t really go out of its way to point out the weirdness and the bizarrity. These things just happen. A girl floats off into the sky, a man lives far longer than he should, and these things are mentioned in passing as though they were perfectly normal.

In this case, Colonel Aureliano Buendia has seventeen illegitimate sons, all named Aureliano, by seventeen different women, and they all come to his house on the same day. Remedios the Beauty is a girl so beautiful that men just waste away in front of her, but she doesn’t even notice. The twins Aureliano Segundo and Jose Arcadio Segundo may have, in fact, switched identities when they were children, but no one knows for sure – not even them. In the small town of Macondo, weird things happen all the time, and nobody really notices. Or if they do notice that, for example, the town’s patriarch has been living for the last twenty years tied to a chestnut tree, nobody thinks anything is at all unusual about it.

This, of course, is a great example of Dream Logic – the weird seems normal to a dreamer, and you have no reason to question anything that’s happening around you. Or if you do notice that something is wrong, but no one else seems to be worried about it, then you try to pretend like coming to work dressed only in a pair of spangly stripper briefs and a cowboy hat is perfectly normal.

Another element of dreaminess that pervades this book is that there’s really no story here, at least not in the way that we have come to expect. Reading this book is kind of like a really weird game of The Sims - it’s about a family that keeps getting bigger and bigger, and something happens to everybody. So, the narrator moves around from one character to another, giving them their moment for a little while, and then it moves on to someone else, very smoothly and without much fanfare. There’s very little dialogue, so the story can shift very easily, and it often does.

Each character has their story to tell, but you’re not allowed to linger for very long on any one of them before Garcia shows you what’s happening to someone else. The result is one long, continuous narrative about this large and ultimately doomed family, wherein the Buendia family itself is the main character, and the actual family members are secondary to that.

It was certainly an interesting reading experience, but it took a while to get through. I actually kept falling asleep as I read it, which is unusual for me. But perhaps that’s what Garcia would have wanted to happen. By reading his book, I slipped off into that non-world of dreams and illusions, where the fantastic is commonplace and ice is something your father takes you to discover.

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“[Arcadio] imposed obligatory military service for men over eighteen, declared to be public property any animals walking the streets after six in the evening, and made men who were overage wear red armbands. He sequestered Father Nicanor in the parish house under pain of execution and prohibited him from saying mass or ringing the bells unless it was for a Liberal victory. In order that no one would doubt the severity of his aims, he ordered a firing squad organized in the square and had it shoot a scarecrow. At first no one took him seriously.”
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One Hundred Years of Solitude Study Guide

How might one argue that One Hundred Years of Solitude is a realistic novel, despite its fantastic and magical elements? One Hundred Years of Solitude shares many formal elements with traditional realist novels. The overall tone of the novel is matter-of-fact, with events portrayed bluntly, as if they actually occurred. In this environment, what might otherwise seem incredible begins to seem commonplace both to the novelist and to his readers. This is also a novel that grants myth—both biblical and indigenous Latin American—the same level of credibility as fact. It is sensitive to the magic that superstition and religion infuse into the world. One Hundred Years of Solitude, then, is a realistic novel in the sense that it asserts a unity between the surreal and the real: it asserts that magic is as real—as relevant, as present and as powerful—as what we normally take to be reality.

Sign up for our newsletters! What kinds of solitude occur in the novel for example, solitude of pride, grief, power, love, or death , and with whom are they associated? What circumstances produce them? What similarities and differences are there among the various kinds of solitude? What are the purposes and effects of the story's fantastic and magical elements? How does the fantastic operate in the characters' everyday lives and personalities?

The house, in a quiet part of Mexico City, had a study within, and in the study he found a solitude he had never known before and would never know again. Cigarettes he smoked 60 a day were on the worktable. Outside, it was the s; inside, it was the deep time of the pre-modern Americas, and the author at his typewriter was all-powerful.
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After retirement, how does the Colonel occupy himself?

From the start of One Hundred Years of Solitude, there are several reminders of the tangible material world. The train line that eventually comes to town is even worse, bringing with it all the baffling and crazy apparatus of market capitalism. Even the machine-gunning of a crowd is based on a real event. Much of the book is similarly grounded in politics and history, and other kinds of truths. One Hundred Years of Solitude offers plenty of reflections on loneliness and the passing of time.

The cognitive impairments experienced by Macondo's inhabitants are remarkably similar to those observed in SD, a clinical syndrome characterized by a progressive breakdown of conceptual knowledge semantic memory in the context of relatively preserved day-to-day episodic memory. First recognized in , it is now considered one of the main variants of frontotemporal lobar degeneration. The mythical town of Macondo has been stricken with the dreaded insomnia plague. One day he was looking for the small anvil that he used for laminating metals and he could not remember its name. Aureliano wrote the name on a piece of paper that he pasted to the small anvil: stake. In that way he was sure of not forgetting it in the future.

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