Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Gabriel Garcia Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Gabriel Garcia Márquez

García Márquez, affectionately nicknamed “Gabo,” was raised by his maternal grandparents for the first 10 years of his life in the small town of Aracataca. He eventually moving to Sucre to live with his father, a pharmacist. García Márquez’s grandfather, who held progressive views about politics and great storytelling talents, became a significant influence in young García Márquez’s life. García Márquez was then sent away to school in Baranquilla, where he began writing humorous poems and comic strips, and later moved to Bogotá, where he completed his secondary studies and studied law. However, García Márquez soon gave priority to his writing and worked as a reporter for a local newspaper in Cartagena—an early job that commenced his long, esteemed career as a journalist. García Márquez never finished his higher studies, instead working as a journalist in various Colombian cities and in Venezuela. In the 1950s, García Márquez published various novels, short stories, and journalistic essays that brought him national fame as an author and journalist. After spending time as a foreign correspondent in Europe, García Márquez married Mercedes Barcha, with whom he had two children. They ultimately settled in Mexico City, where García Márquez published his emblematic novel One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1967, which won him international recognition. García Márquez continued to publish creative work throughout his life, including his other well-known novel Love in the Time of Cholera in 1985, two memoirs, and several screenplays. In 2012, García Márquez’s brother announced that the author was suffering from dementia. García Márquez died of pneumonia in Mexico City in April 2014.
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Historical Context of Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera is set in an unnamed city by the Magdalena River that can be loosely identified as Cartagena, Colombia. The novel references various episodes of Colombian history. Colombia’s long history of social stratification and wealth disparity (vestiges of colonial rule) are depicted in the differences between the poor, cholera-afflicted life of the people in the slave quarters and the aristocratic families who struggle to maintain their status. Colombia’s first took place in Cartagena in 1849, but countries around the world suffered from various cholera pandemics throughout the 19th century. Cholera causes people to suffer from severe diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration, leading to mass-scale deaths. It spreads primarily through inadequate treatment of human feces and drinking water, as Dr. Juvenal Urbino realizes in the novel. Love in the Time of Cholera also mentions the various civil wars that are known as La Violencia in Colombia, a 10-year civil war between the Colombian Liberal and Conservative parties, estimated to have cost the lives of some 200,000 people. The fighting took part largely in rural areas, with political leaders and police encouraging impoverished supporters of the Conservative Party to seize land from peasant Liberals. Other events mentioned in the story, such as the sinking of the Spanish ship San José (which carried precious metals) off the coast of Cartagena, are inspired by historical occurrences.

Other Books Related to Love in the Time of Cholera

Gabriel García Márquez is known as one of four Latin American novelists famous for launching the rise of Latin American literature in the 1960s and 70s. Other prominent writers were Peruvian Mario Vargos Llosa, Argentine Julio Cortázar and Mexican Carlos Fuentes. Among these writers, García Márquez—and, in particular, his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)—is considered one of the foundational works of magical realism. Stylistically, the book was influenced by both Modernism (García Márquez was a fan of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner) and the Cuban Vanguardia movement which embraced both surrealism and the heritage of their island, becoming increasingly political in their ideology. Although magic is not explicitly present in Love in the Time of Cholera, magical realism has certain salient characteristics, more or less present in each work—in particular, a realistic setting in which super-natural, mysterious, or violent events are presented in a neutral tone by the narrator as though they were mere details of ordinary life. This technique allows writers to compose hidden political critique—for example, in Gabriel García Márquez’s work, criticism of the civil war violence in his native Colombia, U.S. imperialism, and other forms of oppression. Other prominent writers of magical realism around the world are Chilean Isabel Allende, Argentine Jorge Luís Borges, British-Indian Salman Rushdie, and Japanese Haruki Murakami.
Key Facts about Love in the Time of Cholera
  • Full Title: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • When Written:
  • Where Written: Mexico City
  • When Published: 1985
  • Literary Period: Postmodernism
  • Genre: Novel
  • Setting: An unnamed port in a Caribbean country (often interpreted as Cartagena, Colombia)
  • Climax: On the day of Dr. Juvenal Urbino’s death, Florentino Ariza tells Fermina Daza that he still loves her.
  • Antagonist: Dr. Juvenal Urbino can be considered Florentino Ariza’s most direct rival, since he is married to Fermina Daza, whom Florentino is madly in love with. More generally, though, the true antagonists in the novel are the various obstacles to love and happiness with which the protagonists are faced, such as social norms and unrequited love.
  • Point of View: Third person

Extra Credit for Love in the Time of Cholera

Dear Old Mom and Dad. Gabriel García Márquez meant for Love in the Time of Cholera to be a book about love and aging. To find inspiration for his novel, he interviewed his own parents about their relationship. Their testimony serves as the foundation for Fermina’s relationships with Florentino and Dr. Urbino.

High Fidelity. Gabriel García Márquez sustained a long friendship with famous Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. After violent scandals marred the reputation of the Cuban revolution, García Márquez, unlike many other Latin-American intellectuals, maintained a close relationship with Castro. Although García Márquez strongly criticized some of Castro’s political decisions, the two men were bound by enduring trust and a mutual love for literature.