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One Hundred Years of Solitude: Linear and Circular Time

One Hundred Years of Solitude: Linear and Circular Time

Cien Anos de Soledad Style in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is closely linked to myth. Marquez chooses magic realism over the literal, thereby placing the novel’s emphasis on the surreal. To complement this style, time in One Hundred Years of Solitude is also mythical, simultaneously incorporating circular and linear structure (McMurray 76).

Most novels are structured linearly. Events occur chronologically, and one can map the novel’s exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement. One Hundred Years of Solitude is also linear in its broad outlines (Bell-Villida 98). The plot of the novel is simple: Jose Arcadio Buendia marries his cousin Ursula, they found Macondo, the family grows, declines, and is eventually blown off the face of the earth by a hurricane. There is a beginning, and time moves the story to a total, apocalyptic conclusion (117).

Within this linear background, the structure of One Hundred Years of Solitude is circular (McMurray 77). Events throughout the entire novel repeat themselves in cycles. The names Aureliano and Jose Arcadio are repeated in each generation, resulting in a total of five Jose Arcadios and 22 Aurelianos. The men’s personalities also seem to be repeated; the Jose Arcadios are “impulsive and enterprising,” and the Aurelianos are “lucid and withdrawn” (77). The cyclical rhythm is reinforced by six instances of incest that occur over five of the family’s six generations.

One of the most striking instances of cyclical structure is found in the novel’s opening line: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice” (Garcia Marquez 1). Two generations later, chapter eleven opens the same way: “Years later on his death bed, Aureliano Segundo would remember the rainy afternoon in June when he went into the bedroom to meet his first son” (186). These two sentences are grammatically parallel . They open with an adverbial phrase (“Years later”), followed by the subject and then the predicate in exactly the same verb tense. The sentences begin with an event in the distant future and conclude with an allusion to a future event that, in both cases, occurs within the same chapter. As critic Barroa notes, “the words ‘many years later’ appear so often they become the heartbeat of the novel” (104).

Solitude and Isolation in One Hundred Years of Solitude

Solitude and Isolation in One Hundred Years of Solitude

“…Races condemned to 100 years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.” These powerful last words of the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude ring true. The book demonstrates through many examples that human beings cannot exist in isolation. People must be interdependent in order for the race to survive.

Solitude. Examples are found of this idea throughout the one-hundred-year life of Macondo and the Buendia family. It is both an emotional and physical solitude. It is shown geographically, romantically, and individually. It always seems to be the intent of the characters to remain alone, but they have no control over it. To be alone, and forgotten, is their destiny.

The novel begins with geographic isolation. Jose Arcadio Buendia shouts, “God damn it! Macondo is surrounded by water on all sides!” Whether it is, in truth, an island is irrelevant. The town believed itself to be cut off from the rest of the world. In addition, Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula are looking for solitude. The founding of Macondo was a result of escaping Jose Arcadio Buendia’s murder of Prudencio Aguilar. Aguilar’s ghost haunted them, eventually forcing them to retreat.

The family seems to remain very involved within itself. Much of this is Spanish culture. In Spanish-speaking countries, it is not uncommon to find many generations of the same family living in one house. The Buendia house always has various relatives within it. Yet, this is not the only explanation. The incest of the family is a theme throughout the novel, and is a significant factor in the solitude of this family. If a family rarely turns to others to branch out, it eventually becomes completely turned in upon itself: isolated and detached.

Occasionally, the family poisoned with the fate of solitude does reach out. Those who interact with this family share in its unfortunate fate. First to Pilar Ternera, the sexual companion of two of the Buendia boys. Following this sexual interaction, Pilar spends the rest of her life alone. The same pattern is seen with Petra Cotes, simply with another generation. Another example is demonstrated by Remedios Moscote. She is another outsider, paired with Aureliano Buendia. Soon after their marriage she dies unexpectedly and violently.

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