100 Years of Solitude By Gabriel García Márquez Character Analysis Úrsula Buendía

In all the stories by García Márquez , the women have long lives. They seem more able than the men to make the best of life and to finally accept the inevitable solitude of aging in chronological time. Jack Richardson, in his review of this novel, correctly summed up this difference: "When Colonel Buendía dies, one feels the poignancy in the death of a single being; but when Úrsula is buried, one understands that life itself can be worn down to nothing" (The New York Review of Books, March 26 ,1970). But these stalwart bastions of adversity rarely seem to triumph over the machismo of the Buendía males. Indeed, the female Buendías put up with a multitude of suffering and, as a result, become insensitive to the self-degradation (or in Fernanda's case, hypocrisy) of their body-and-soul loyalty to their men. If the men are ruined by monomania, the women are reduced by their blind constancy. For instance, none of the women really strikes one as erotic although the book abounds with Rabelaisian couplings. But the sexual act is always a mechanical thing, something abstract despite or because of García Márquez' sexual rhetoric (for example, "cat howls in her stomach"; "a panther-faced woman in profile"). In 100 Hundred Years of Solitude, sexuality is muted in maternal desire, which not surprisingly expresses itself through incestuous relationships.

The pillar of the Buendías is Úrsula Buendía, the wife of Macondo's founder, José Arcadio Buendía. Like her husband, Úrsula comes from an early South American family, living in a sleepy coastal village. The Iguaráns and the Buendías have been mating for centuries, and despite the rumors circulating among the two families concerning genetic mutations (the birth of babies as armadillos, or born with pigs' tails), Úrsula marries José Arcadio Buendía. After Macondo is founded, she becomes the mother of Aureliano (the Colonel), Amaranta, and José Arcadio, and she is mother to the adopted Rebeca.

When José Arcadio Buendía loses his mind, Úrsula ties him to a chestnut tree and keeps the family going. When her grandson Arcadio becomes dictator, she prevents him from executing Don Apolinar Moscote, the mayor. She tries unsuccessfully to arrange a marriage between Amaranta and the Italian pianola expert, Pietro Crespi. Then she banishes José Arcadio II and Rebeca for what she considers an unnatural marriage, and she thinks that she will die of shame when her daughter, Amaranta, refuses to wed Pietro Crespi.

Úrsula is very much a part of Macondo's history, especially its linear chronicle; she is always in the thick of the action. After the capture of Colonel Aureliano Buendía, during the first rebellion, she smuggles a revolver to him in an attempt to help him escape. This strategy fails, although the Colonel is ultimately saved from execution by his brother. Through this period of the Buendía defeat, she becomes the "only human being who succeeds in penetrating" the Colonel's misery. Her powers of sympathetic insight even give her the power of prophecy; she foresees the death of her son José Arcadio II. But time and tragedy are cyclical for her — sadness and solitude are, in fact, where she expects to find them. She never loses her equanimity, however, when misfortune, flood, incest, death, or disease occur, for Úrsula always knows that they will be "on time."

Continued on next page...

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

After retirement, how does the Colonel occupy himself?



Quiz