Summary and Analysis
The next generation of Buendías moves to the center of the action. Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda del Carpio are married and have a son, José Arcadio V. Úrsula nurses the wild fantasy that the young boy will someday become Pope. Her preposterous whim shows us a stark disproportion between false hopes and realistic plans. Her hope to send the child to Rome and, later, see him assume the papacy is a form of madness based on pride. Of course, the Segundo twins have their own delusions. They reflect cyclical lives and mirror the fates of the Colonel and his brother José Arcadio II. As the latter two brothers shared Pilar Ternera, so the Segundo twins sleep with Petra Cotes. "A panther-faced woman," Petra Cotes is delineated in the language of hyperbole and exaggerated sexuality. But she is more than simply fecund; her fertility is magical; and like Macondo's own regenerative powers, her fertility lacks practical control. She is described as generating wealth merely by riding around Aureliano's fields. Petra Cotes makes Aureliano wealthy, in the course of which she infuriates his wife. So formidable is her bounty that Aureliano is reduced to nonsensical babble: "Cease, cows, for life is short."
The tone of high comedy here marks García Márquez as a skillful practitioner of black humor. And we see this attitude in the author's treatment of Aureliano's wife. For all her beauty, Fernanda del Carpio has grotesque pretensions. An unbearable snob, she represents the straitlaced, hypocritical atmosphere of bourgeois conventions and their inevitable contradictions. She first appears as the intruding Queen of Madagascar. There is a suggestion (never proven, however) that her retinue includes the soldiers who carry out the massacre at Macondo's carnival. But she herself has to be rescued when the shooting starts. So her complicity seems remote and is largely ambiguous. During the massacre, Aureliano Segundo takes her to safety and falls in love with her.
Fernanda's cumbersome moral pretensions drive Aureliano back to Petra Cotes time and time again. If we may define black humor here as a droll indulgence in someone's self-inflicted folly, then Fernanda becomes the perfect vehicle for this kind of mirth. She refuses to defecate in anything but a golden, crested chamber pot, and she is described as suffering from a uterine disorder but is too modest to see a doctor in person. Instead, she begins a long correspondence with an invisible doctor who prescribes a "telepathic operation." At the appointed time, she lies down and falls asleep. When she wakes, she has been stitched from her groin to her sternum. Madness and superstition become interwoven. Fernanda seems hell-bent in driving her dignity into a false, destructive pride.
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