Love in the Time of Cholera

by

Gabriel García Márquez

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Letters Symbol Analysis

Letters Symbol Icon

In Love in the Time of Cholera, letters represent the desire of various characters to either display or obscure the truth from others. Writing letters provides an opportunity for characters to reveal their true selves or, on the contrary, to disguise some of their intentions. Before committing suicide, refugee Jeremiah de Saint-Amour writes Dr. Juvenal Urbino a letter describing his past crimes. This act of transparency demonstrates de Saint-Amour’s desire for his true identity to be known, even if it is unflattering and might shock his friend—who, in addition, will be unable to answer de Saint-Amour since he will be dead. Florentino Ariza’s letters to Fermina Daza, on the other hand, are not meant to highlight past immoral deeds, but to seduce her. In his youth, Florentino uses lyrical poetry to do so, whereas in old age he writes meditations on issues related to life and death. These strategies reveal that Florentino has learned new, innovative ways to impress the woman he loves, even if his actual intentions (to win Fermina over) have not changed. Letter-writing, in this sense, is not necessarily fully honest and genuine for every character in the novel, since they can choose to reveal only the aspect of themselves that might appeal to their addressee, according to their particular goals. This issue is further complicated by the fact that Gabriel García Márquez never transcribes any letter for readers to see. This suggests that the actual content of letters might matter less than characters’ reactions to them. In other words, the capacity for letters to serve as vehicles for people’s emotions and desires ultimately proves more important than their literary content. The various uses of letter-writing in the novel thus signal the variety of intentions that characters have toward each other—whether this involves telling the truth and revealing one’s past crimes or building trust to achieve romantic seduction.

Letters Quotes in Love in the Time of Cholera

The Love in the Time of Cholera quotes below all refer to the symbol of Letters. 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:
Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Love in the Time of Cholera published in 2007.
Chapter 6 Quotes

It had to be a mad dream, one that would give her the courage she would need to discard the prejudices of a class that had not always been hers but had become hers more than anyone’s. It had to teach her to think of love as a state of grace: not the means to anything but the alpha and omega, an end in itself.

Related Characters: Florentino Ariza, Fermina Daza
Related Symbols: Letters
Page Number: 293
Explanation and Analysis:
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Letters Symbol Timeline in Love in the Time of Cholera

The timeline below shows where the symbol Letters appears in Love in the Time of Cholera. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Social Norms vs. Personal Fulfillment Theme Icon
Moral Corruption and Cynicism Theme Icon
On his way home in a carriage, Dr. Urbino gives a quick glance to Jeremiah’s letter and tells the coachman to go to the old slave quarter. Returning to the letter,... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Illness, Mortality, and Hope Theme Icon
After the chess game, Jeremiah wanted to write a letter to the man he admired the most in his life and his closest friend, Dr.... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Social Norms vs. Personal Fulfillment Theme Icon
Illness, Mortality, and Hope Theme Icon
Moral Corruption and Cynicism Theme Icon
...she laid on Jeremiah’s bed during the long hours in which he wrote his difficult letter. Then, she made coffee and cut the rose that she now wears. Dr. Urbino is... (full context)
Chapter 2
Love Theme Icon
...Fermina everywhere. He sits in the park next to her house. He writes a long letter full of segments of love poems that he reads continually. His mother tells him to... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Social Norms vs. Personal Fulfillment Theme Icon
...is alone in her doorway, and tells her that he wants to give her a letter. Surprised by his determined tone, at odds with his seemingly passive attitude, Fermina tells him... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
...about him, which the narrator mentions is one aspect of love. After fervently re-reading Florentino’s letter, Fermina initially thinks she does not have to respond, but she simultaneously becomes obsessed with... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
...each other all the time, become obsessed with each other, and write each other daily letters even though it will take them one year to talk to each other again. (full context)
Love Theme Icon
...Daza’s domineering attitude, Escolástica allows Fermina to communicate secretly with Florentino. The young lovers hide letters in secret spots. Tránsito becomes worried by her son’s state, feeling that Florentino is putting... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Moral Corruption and Cynicism Theme Icon
In the meantime, Florentino reads and memorizes a variety of love poems that fuel his letters. He also spends time in the hotel, where he discovers scars on the women’s bodies,... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Social Norms vs. Personal Fulfillment Theme Icon
Moral Corruption and Cynicism Theme Icon
...la Luz, the Superior at Fermina’s school, saw that Fermina was secretly writing a love letter. This led Fermina to be expelled. When Fermina finally told her father the truth, he... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Illness, Mortality, and Hope Theme Icon
...happy to be so well taken care of. When her cousin hands her a telegraphed letter, Fermina cries, understanding that Florentino was able to use the telegraph network in the country... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Social Norms vs. Personal Fulfillment Theme Icon
...realizes that it is possible to be happy even without romantic love. However, in her letters she determines to organize the practical details of her future relationship with Florentino, as she... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
...him and tells him to forget her before walking away. She later writes him a letter telling him that her feelings for him were an illusion. She returns to him everything... (full context)
Chapter 3
Illness, Mortality, and Hope Theme Icon
...honored by the city. De. Urbino’s father ultimately died of cholera while writing a farewell letter full of love to his family. It is only when Dr. Urbino receives his father’s... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Social Norms vs. Personal Fulfillment Theme Icon
...chess, which would remain an addiction throughout his life. Dr. Urbino then sends Fermina a letter, in which he asks, in a simple way, for her father’s permission to visit her.... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Social Norms vs. Personal Fulfillment Theme Icon
Moral Corruption and Cynicism Theme Icon
Fermina receives three more letters over the next months, including an anonymous threat saying that she will incur disgrace if... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
...soon impressed by his kindness and devotion in helping her mail her secret lover a letter. She tells Fermina that Florentino’s life clearly revolves around love. (full context)
Love Theme Icon
...thinking of Dr. Juvenal Urbino constantly. The next morning, therefore, she writes Dr. Urbino a letter, telling him that he can talk to her father. Florentino Ariza soon discovers that Fermina... (full context)
Chapter 4
Love Theme Icon
After work, overwhelmed by his love for Fermina, Florentino begins writing love letters free of charge in the Arcade of the Scribes. He has a steady stream of... (full context)
Sex and Morality Theme Icon
...by Olimpia’s house. Over the next few days, Olimpia and Florentino begin exchanging secret love letters through carrier pigeons. This is the first time Florentino left written proof of his involvement... (full context)
Chapter 5
Love Theme Icon
Illness, Mortality, and Hope Theme Icon
...and discomfort related to old age. When he finally gives up, he sees that a letter is waiting for him by the door—the letter he has hoped to receive for over... (full context)
Chapter 6
Love Theme Icon
Social Norms vs. Personal Fulfillment Theme Icon
Although Florentino interprets Fermina Daza’s letter as a proof of love, she wrote it out of pure anger. Her vicious words... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Illness, Mortality, and Hope Theme Icon
...about this event were replacing her thoughts about her husband that she wrote a scathing letter to him. (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Social Norms vs. Personal Fulfillment Theme Icon
Florentino decides to apologize to Fermina. After receiving her letter, he was not hurt by her insults but knew that he must respond to her.... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Sex and Morality Theme Icon
Florentino begins writing regular letters to Fermina, satisfied that she has not sent any back. After one month, he numbers... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
...however, she walks up to him and thanks him for coming. She has found Florentino’s letters fascinating and has been amazed at his change in tone. In his letters, he’s communicated... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Illness, Mortality, and Hope Theme Icon
...the doctor tells him to stay in bed for two months. He therefore resumes exchanging letters with Fermina. Annoyed by Florentino’s frequent mentions of the past, Fermina becomes convinced that Florentino... (full context)
Sex and Morality Theme Icon
Moral Corruption and Cynicism Theme Icon
Fermina also receives a letter from Florentino containing a news clipping that declared that Dr. Juvenal Urbino and Lucrecia del... (full context)