A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

Pelayo, a married man with a newborn son who lives in a rundown seaside town, finds the old man with enormous wings in his courtyard. Instead of finding the man’s presence miraculous, Pelayo assumes that he’s a shipwrecked sailor. Once the neighbor corrects him, he locks the angel in his chicken coop, abusing the man and charging locals admission to gawk at and even physically abuse him. From the admission fees, Pelayo experiences a change in economic fortune: he quits his job as a bailiff in order to set up a rabbit warren and he and Elisenda build a two-story mansion. Despite this change in status, Pelayo doesn’t meaningfully change as a person: he is the same, simple, bitter man at the end that he was at the beginning. Although he does not have many redeeming features, Pelayo does provide the necessities of life for his wife and child, and (in a way that is not especially caring or charitable) to the old man.

Pelayo Quotes in A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

The A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings quotes below are all either spoken by Pelayo or refer to Pelayo. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Sacred and the Mundane Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings published in 1984.
A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Quotes

On the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and throw them into the sea, because the newborn child had a temperature all night and they thought it was due to the stench. The world had been sad since Tuesday.

Related Characters: Pelayo, The Child
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
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He had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn’t get up, impeded by his enormous wings.

Related Characters: The Old Man (the Angel) , Pelayo
Related Symbols: Wings
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

He was dressed like a ragpicker. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth, and his pitiful condition of a drenched great-grandfather took away any sense of grandeur he might have had. His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked, were forever entangled in the mud. They looked at him so long and so closely that Pelayo and Elisenda very soon overcame their surprise and in the end found him familiar. Then they dared speak to him, and he answered in an incomprehensible dialect with a strong sailor’s voice. That was how they skipped over the inconvenience of the wings and quite intelligently concluded that he was a lonely castaway from some foreign ship wrecked by the storm.

Related Characters: The Old Man (the Angel) , Pelayo, Elisenda
Related Symbols: Wings
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Pelayo Character Timeline in A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

The timeline below shows where the character Pelayo appears in A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
The Sacred and the Mundane Theme Icon
Faith, Religion, and Morality Theme Icon
For days, “the world had been sad”: Pelayo’s newborn has a fever, crabs are infesting the house, the stench of rotting shellfish is... (full context)
The Sacred and the Mundane Theme Icon
Patience, Empathy, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Pelayo finds his wife Elisenda and together they examine the man: he’s “dressed like a ragpicker,”... (full context)
Patience, Empathy, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Pelayo and Elisenda try to speak to the man, but he responds in an “incomprehensible dialect”... (full context)
Patience, Empathy, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Faith, Religion, and Morality Theme Icon
...should club the angel to death because angels are “fugitive survivors of a celestial conspiracy,” Pelayo and Elisenda don’t “have the heart” for that. Instead, Pelayo carries the club and watches... (full context)
The Sacred and the Mundane Theme Icon
Patience, Empathy, and Cruelty Theme Icon
A few hours later, the sick child’s appetite returns and this good fortune makes Pelayo and Elisenda feel “magnanimous”: they decide that the next day they will put the angel... (full context)
The Sacred and the Mundane Theme Icon
Patience, Empathy, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Faith, Religion, and Morality Theme Icon
...walker who got up at night to undo the things he had done while awake.” Pelayo and Elisenda make a lot of money from charging admission fees: they stuff their rooms... (full context)
Patience, Empathy, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Faith, Religion, and Morality Theme Icon
...night’s sleep again without worrying about whether the old man is an angel or not. Pelayo’s courtyard goes back to being as empty as it ever was. (full context)
The Sacred and the Mundane Theme Icon
Patience, Empathy, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Pelayo and Elisenda are not upset that the crowds have died down—they’ve made enough money in... (full context)
Patience, Empathy, and Cruelty Theme Icon
Faith, Religion, and Morality Theme Icon
...drags himself from room to room in the house “like a stray dying man.” Though Pelayo and Elisenda drive him out of one room, he quickly reappears in another. Elisenda grows... (full context)