Summary and Analysis Section 16-20


In retaliation for the threatening workers' strike, Mr. Brown, we are told, "unleashed a torrential rain" that lasts for four years, eleven months, and two days. In addition, the duration of the storm makes the Yankees single-minded, irrational, and vengeful. The rains fill the lustful glutton Aureliano Segundo "with the spongy serenity of a lack of appetite." To all intents and purposes, the town and its inhabitants are "peering over the precipice of uncertainty." When the rains stop, Macondo is in ruins. Úrsula slips into complete solitude; by now she is merely a plaything for little Amaranta Úrsula and Aureliano Babilonia. The matriarch begins to live in the distant past, beyond senility, an absurd creature for whom existence lacks all meaning.

Section 16 begins the novel's denouement. José Arcadio V returns from Rome, defrocked and in disgrace. Úrsula dies of old age. Her life has been a tribute to endurance and industry. But at her death, she is a caricature of her former self, shriveled up like a raisin. The hyper-maniacal and prideful, prudish Fernanda develops voodoo powers. Her jealousy feeds murderous intentions. Formerly, she could tolerate Aureliano's sexual infidelity, but now his lust has turned to love — with Petra Cotes. For that betrayal, she tries to kill him by sticking pins in his photograph. She is successful, but just before he dies, Aureliano sends Amaranta Úrsula off to school in Brussels. So begins another serial possibility in the character of Amaranta Úrsula. Aureliano's death by voodoo, however, does not indicate the ferocious homicidal passion directed at him. The brutality of his death is indicated only when Santa Sofía cuts the throat of his corpse: he is symbolically butchered. Here, we should recall that García Márquez is well-known for his flair of choosing the dramatic moment to conclude a plot; thus, as we recall, the fate of the twins is tied — so when Aureliano dies, his brother José Arcadio IV falls dead in Melquíades' room. They both fall victims to the ravages of time.

The pace of the narrative quickens. Rebeca dies, and the circle of characters tightens, thus concentrating now on the focus of action. There are many harbingers of dire things to come. Father Isabel claims to have seen a monster, described as "the Wandering Jew." And indeed a winged monster is caught and killed. Then strange omens appear, described in the manner of ancient Aztec and Oriental accounts of preludes to natural disasters. The priest loses his mind; he is replaced by Father Ángel after a tongue-in-cheek account of celibacy's tendency to induce sexual derangement. Borrowing from his novella Leaf Storm, at this point, García Márquez offers the phenomenon of birds again — this time, bursting through windows during the mid-day heat and dying inside houses. Luminous orange discs pass through the sky. It is as though we are about to witness an earthquake. Such bizarre occurrences give a magic aura to the town's decline and portend the novel's ominous conclusion.

Aureliano Babilonia takes up the study of the gypsy's manuscripts again. In this task, he fulfills the logical expectations generated at the beginning of the novel. José Arcadio V (whom Úrsula had hoped would become Pope) at first scorns him and restricts him to the study. But this harsh sentence only makes Aureliano transcend the needs of physical existence, and his isolation compels him to embrace the intensity of his solitary struggle to unravel the mysterious Sanskrit codes. Another plot coil is unraveled when the last of the Colonel's seventeen bastard sons emerges. His appearance is another example of the author's cruel black humor. The man is fleeing from unknown assassins and seeks sanctuary at the Buendías' house. The two men refuse to let the fugitive inside, and later he is murdered in the same way as his brothers — shot through the ashen cross on his forehead.

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