Character Analysis Pilar Ternera


The other woman of significance is Pilar Ternera. Among the original founders of Macondo, her parents took her there to separate her from a man who raped her at fourteen "and continued to love her until she was twenty-two." Pilar comes to the Buendía house as a chore girl but soon begins to read their futures in her cards. She becomes the mistress of the Buendía sons — first of José Arcadio II, then of Aureliano. She bears Arcadio to José Arcadio II, and she is the mother of Aureliano José by the Colonel. When Macondo is infected with the insomnia plague, she adds to the confusion by devising a scheme of reading the past in the same cards that she had previously read the future. We are told that this practice leads to an imaginary reality for Macondians, a reality "which was less practical for them but more comforting." In her predictions, Pilar is always proven right by subsequent events. As she forecasts, Rebeca is never to be happy until her parents are in their graves. In addition, Pilar warns Aureliano Buendía about food poisoning and warns him that his son Aureliano is not to attend the play where he will be assassinated.

Pilar's son Arcadio is raised by the Buendías; he never learns that Pilar Ternera is his mother. Once, he tries to seduce her, but she escapes by paying Sofía de la Piedad to become his mistress. Aureliano José has the same attraction to her as his brother, Arcadio, does, but he discovers that she is his mother. When this revelation occurs, the two become very close, "accomplices in solitude."

Pilar is summed up best in terms of her wasted beauty. In her old age, she becomes madam of a local brothel but "never charges for the service" of loaning her room: She never refused the favor just as she never refused the countless men who sought her out even in the twilight of her maturity, without giving money to lose and only occasionally pleasure." During her lifetime, in addition to her sons, she has five daughters, who are described as having her same hot blood.

During the long time when Amaranta Buendía is knitting her shroud, Pilar Ternera becomes — in the dying woman's eyes — the embodiment of death. Meme, the daughter of Fernanda and Aureliano Segundo, goes to Pilar Ternera for advice on her affair with Mauricio Babilonia, but she fails to recognize that "the centarian witch was her grandmother." In old age, Pilar Ternera is always ultimately linked to the Buendías and their problems. Similarly, Aureliano Segundo goes to her to seek relief for the lump in his throat that is strangling him to death.

Pilar Ternera lives to be one hundred and forty-five years old; she appears finally as a madam comforting the melancholy Aureliano Babilonia. She dies in her rocking chair and, in accordance with her wishes, is buried in the rocker under the center of the brothel dance floor. There, in her tomb, "the sins of the past would rot."