Summary and Analysis Section 1-4


The "ghost" of Prudencio Aguilar continues to suffer from the spear wound in his throat, and he comes to haunt the Buendía household. Úrsula oftentimes sees him desperately trying to close his wound with "a plug of esparto grass." Or else, she finds him wandering through the house, looking for a glass of water. Aguilar's ghost becomes an intolerable presence, and yet his ghost becomes an extension of the couple's psychological guilt and fears. In his nineteenth-century masterpiece, Thérèse Raquin, French novelist Emile Zola has the dead husband of an adulterous wife appear as the macabre form of guilt so as to haunt both wife and lover. The use of a "ghost" in 100 Hundred Years, however, is not tragic. It is comic. The humor of Aguilar's ghost appearing suggests something very much like the absurd humor of the film The Rocky Horror Motion Picture Show or Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. Yet the ghost is, in a sense, somewhat terrifying to the Buendías. One night, for example, the couple cannot endure the appearance of the apparition any longer, and so they flee. Thus they begin the trek that leads to the founding of Macondo.

José Arcadio II is born on the expedition through the jungle. Presumably, he was conceived the night Aguilar was killed, when José Arcadio I literally raped his wife because of her accursed chastity belt. The narrator, however, never delves into the motive behind Úrsula's concession to her husband. She simply submits to his masculine passion and to the brutal yet comic expression of Latin machismo. At this point, the plot takes a significant new direction. José Arcadio dreams of a city with walls of "mirrors." In a scene reminiscent of Moses' receiving the Ten Commandments, a "voice in the wilderness" commands José Arcadio I to found Macondo on one specific plot of ground. There, the town springs up, and, immediately, it sinks into isolation. José Arcadio II's birth is followed by the birth of Aureliano, who will become the Colonel. (Amaranta is born later.) Until the arrival of the gypsies, there is merely a primitive tribal kind of existence. As in Faulkner's mythical county of Yoknapatawpha, not much happens in Macondo. The atmosphere suggests rote and repetitious occurrences in the same actions, the same faces, and even in the same names for members of the same family. Relations are fraught with incestuous overtones; sexual energy, rather than love, permeates the fabric of social consciousness, and sex gives the relations between the Buendías a static electric quality, so much so that sparks seem ready to fly at any time.

A number of narrative spirals from the central plot theme begin to emerge. To the horror of his mother, José Arcadio II and the fortuneteller and housekeeper, Pilar Ternera, begin an affair. Úrsula's intervention causes José Arcadio II to flee with the departing gypsies. Then suddenly Úrsula leaves in search of her son, and she does not return for six months. When she does return, she is without her son. Instead, she brings with her a group of professional people who hasten Macondo's step into the twentieth century, into a future filled with "material progress."

Pilar Ternera bears José Arcadio II a son, José Arcadio — nicknamed "Arcadio." The child, however, is raised by his grandparents, something that indicates both family loyalty and its unresolved conflicts with machismo. In this case, the Buendía family accepts without fanfare or rancor the excesses of this son, who developed an enormous, monstrously virile penis during puberty. Pilar Ternera, in turn, then fulfills a similar need with José Arcadio II's lonely brother Aureliano (later, to be the Colonel). And not long after bearing José Arcadio II a son ("Arcadio"), she gives birth to Aureliano's son: a boy who is named Aureliano José.

The fantastic comic images that have until now seemed merely rhetorical become more elaborate and integral to the novel's fable-like narrative. A Guajiro Indian, Visitación, arrives in Macondo, fleeing her town's plague of insomnia and amnesia. Shortly thereafter, this sickness enters Macondo when the mysterious Rebeca arrives in town. We are told then that as a toddler, Aureliano had clairvoyant powers: he predicted that a cooking pot of his mother's would fall — just before it actually did. Now he foresees the arrival of his "step-sister," Rebeca, who will bring the plague to Macondo. As the villagers begin to forget the names of things and as they begin to suffer acute insomnia, the illness becomes a metaphor for lost innocence and pre-consciousness. Macondo has not emerged from its primitive state. Instead, the insomnia plague has made the town regress to the level of fetal consciousness, awake yet unable to articulate conscious impressions. For as the names of things and the names of the things' functions are lost, language itself atrophies, and human consciousness sinks into animal-like mindlessness. Then — as if by magic — a "resurrected" Melquíades appears — with a cure for the insomnia plague. Until then, the patriarch of the Buendía clan, José Arcadio I, had been fruitlessly trying to preserve the names of things with a dictionary — like computer, succeeding in making 14,000 entries.

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