Summary and Analysis
In some degree, tragedy is the fate of all the Buendías. Aureliano marries Remedios, but his happiness is cut short when she dies after her unborn twins become twisted in her womb. The patriarch becomes senile. He now "sees" Prudencio Aguilar so vividly that the ghost becomes a real person. Úrsula has her husband tied to a tree. Fantasy impinges so strongly on reality that the Buendías try valiantly but fail to restrain the patriarch's imagination. This melancholy turn of events is relieved by sharp religious satire. Father Nicanor Reyna, the town's first priest, attempts to prove the existence of God to the people of Macondo by drinking a cup of hot chocolate and then levitating. Pilar Ternera, a strange fortune-teller, gives birth to Aureliano José; Macondo is a fertile place. And the females are noted for their fecundity. But until José Arcadio II returns from his sudden sojourn, sexual conduct seems to follow the conventional patterns of a small town.
José Arcadio II changes all of that. He introduces Macondo to a flagrant promiscuity, offering himself as a stud to the town's females.
Section 5 is a pivotal one. Here, the influence of the terrorist and medical quack, Dr. Alirio Noguera, combines his lust for subversion with the election fraud of Mayor Moscote to trigger the rebellious career of Colonel Aureliano Buendía. From this point on, the novel reaches beyond being a mere tableau of characters. The plot extends now into political symbolism and man's fate.
Colonel Aureliano Buendía begins his bloody odyssey. Hitherto, he has been apolitical. But the rigged election in favor of the Conservatives causes him to support the Liberal rebellion. He has neither political nor military background; he simply designates himself as "Colonel." Ostensibly, he struggles to rid the country of the political corruption and despotism of the Conservatives. Yet his goal is not entirely selfless. He leaves Macondo to the dictatorial rule of his brother, the huge José Arcadio II. Ultimately, the Colonel's violent avocation leads to disillusionment and cynical despair.
José Arcadio II seduces Rebeca. The pianola expert thus loses Rebeca and is haughtily refused by Amaranta. Doubly crushed, he becomes inconsolable and kills himself. So the incestuous ties of the Buendías again entangle another generation. But comic relief is never far away. A maturing Arcadio (III) is still unaware that Pilar Ternera is his mother, and, filled with an irresistible obsession for her, he tries to seduce her. We are treated to a farce reminiscent of Fielding's Tom Jones. There is the burlesque action of musical beds. But whereas Fielding's hero believed that he had slept with his mother, Arcadio (III) is cheated of this fate. Pilar Ternera arranges to have Sofía de la Piedad meet the boy in the darkness of night instead. Again, throughout these couplings, there is passion, but rarely love. Another curious note is that the relations between the sexes are absent of physical abuse. Clearly, the males dominate the Buendía household, but their authority is a dark, latent potential. They never display actual physical cruelty to the women. Male dominance is taken for granted, and the basis for it is merely suggested. García Márquez leaves the means of male authority to our imagination.
The Colonel's military revolt continues as his disillusionment and cynicism deepens. He finally concludes that the only difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives is the different hours that each faction attends mass. Worse, he determines that his heroic struggle has simply been another Latin American power play. In reality, he has been fighting the Conservatives only to see who will become caudillo — the country's "maximum man" or "jefe," as many South American strongmen are called. His isolation assumes preposterous dimensions, verging on suspicion, paranoia, and delusions of grandeur. As protection from would-be assassins, he sleeps inside a (literal) chalk circle. His heroic quest thus becomes absurdly sad. A mysterious gunshot kills the Colonel's brother, José Arcadio II. The murder scene becomes the occasion for García Márquez to demonstrate his great powers of lyrical, fantastic description:
A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta's chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José; and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula [José Arcadio II's mother] was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.
"Holy Mother of God!" Úrsula shouted.
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