Úrsula plans a dance to inaugurate the newly renovated house, ordering a pianola to provide the music. An Italian expert named Pietro Crespi arrives to set up the instrument and to teach the dances that matched the most current music. The family is awed by the music of the player piano and José Arcadio Buendía tries to take a picture of the ghost playing. Rebeca and Amaranta are enthralled by the handsome, genteel man.
Again, José Arcadio Buendía attempts to use technology for a more fantastic purpose without success. An outsider becoming an immediate love interest for the Buendía daughters emphasizes how insular the community is and what a welcome presence an outsider is for their lives and culture.
José Arcadio Buendía, having determined that God does not exist because he could not take his picture, takes the pianola apart two days before the party to try to figure out how it works. Though he tries to put it back together, the instrument doesn’t work when Úrsula attempts to get it to play at the party. Finally José Arcadio Buendía forces the machine to play, but the notes are out of order. The partygoers dance anyway.
José Arcadio Buendía’s faith is reliant on the arbitrary proof he seeks, and when he can’t get a photo of either God or the ghost, he abandons his faith readily. His interest in technology prompts him to take apart the piano, but he doesn’t have the skill to put it back together properly, forcing the partygoers to dance to out-of-tune music.
Pietro Crespi returns to repair the pianola and Amaranta and Rebeca assist him. On the last day of his visit, they hold an impromptu dance and Rebeca weeps when he leaves and goes back to eating dirt. One of the Moscote daughters, Amparo, begins to visit and secretly delivers a letter to Rebeca from Pietro Crespi. Aureliano Buendía’s hopes of being joined with Remedios Moscote are revived, believing that she will accompany her sister on one of her visits. He walks through town with his best friends, also second generation Macondo residents, Magnífico Visbal and Gerineldo Márquez, looking for her, but never sees her.
The Buendía siblings here suffer from unrequited love. Though both of the Buendía daughters admire Pietro Crespi, it becomes clear that Pietro Crespi is interested in only Rebeca. Her reversion to eating dirt shows the extremity of her sorrow at losing him. Aureliano’s interest in Remedios is inappropriate because of her age, but this doesn’t stop him from attempting to seek her out.
One day, while making little gold fish in the workshop, Aureliano Buendía hears Remedios’s voice outside and invites her in. He gives her a fish and she runs away. Aureliano, pining for Remedios Moscote, begins writing poetry. Rebeca waits for more communication from Pietro Crespi. When the mail delivery mule doesn’t arrive as expected, Rebeca has a tantrum, and Úrsula forces open Rebeca’s trunk, finding the letters.
Aureliano uses his silversmithing skills to make little gold fish that he sells and gives away, turning what was a hobby of his father’s into a business that can actually benefit the family. The siblings continue to attempt to keep their love interests a secret, though Rebeca’s is revealed because of her emotional behavior. The mule marks progress in Macondo in the form of news being delivered by letter, rather than just troubadour.
Aureliano Buendía goes with this friends to Catarino’s store, where rooms have been added to serve as a brothel. Aureliano is repulsed by all the women, but soon blacks out and wakes up in the company of Pilar Ternera. They have sex, but Pilar Ternera offers to talk to Remedios Moscote for him. Amaranta, too, becomes lovesick over Pietro Crespi, though her love is unreturned. Remedios Moscote accepts the idea of marrying Aureliano. José Arcadio Buendía agrees to Rebeca marrying Pietro Crespi, but Amaranta swears to herself she will stop the wedding at all costs.
The store where Aureliano had first encountered the prostitute he hoped to marry has become a proper brothel now, showing the progression of prostitution in Macondo. Aureliano follows in his brother José Arcadio’s footsteps, losing his virginity to Pilar Ternera, a relationship that can continue to satisfy his carnal desires until Remedios comes of age. Amaranta’s stubbornness is revealed in her commitment to keeping her sister from marrying her true love.
José Arcadio Buendía goes to ask for the hand of Remedios Moscote. The Moscotes believe he must be confused about which daughter his son wants to marry, and when José Arcadio Buendía sees little Remedios, he goes home to confirm. When he returns to say that, yes, Aureliano Buendía would like to marry little Remedios, her parents counter that there are six older daughters more suited for marriage and that Remedios still wets the bed. Señora Moscote tells Úrsula that Remedios has not yet reached puberty and the marriage is delayed.
Despite the age difference between José Arcadio Buendía and Remedios being significant, the only thing that prevents their marriage from taking place immediately is that Remedios hasn’t menstruated. It is no issue that she is a child and still wets the bed. This shows an adherence to formal rules around sexuality, rather than decisions governed by common sense.
Melquíades dies again after suffering from a rapid process of aging that left him in a state of dementia. He drowns in the river, but José Arcadio Buendía is reluctant to bury him, believing him to be immortal. Eventually they bury him and have a wake in his honor. Amaranta confesses her love to Pietro Crespi, but he doesn’t return her interest. She promises to stop their wedding and she is sent away on a trip to try to distract her, with Úrsula as company.
Melquíades dying again is more proof of the impermanence of death in this story, as characters are already haunted by ghosts from their past. The Buendía family, having already seen him come back to life, decline to bury him since he might come back to life again. This is echoed later on with José Arcadio Segundo’s fear of being buried alive.
Pietro Crespi visits often, bringing along gifts of mechanical toys that distract José Arcadio Buendía from his grief. Aureliano Buendía dedicates himself to teaching Remedios Moscote to read and write. Rebeca lives in fear of her sister’s threats to stop the wedding. She goes to Pilar Ternera to read her future, and Pilar tells her that she will not be happy as long as her parents remain unburied. She is confused, but José Arcadio Buendía goes in search of the bag of her parents’ bones. He summons the masons who did the remodeling and one reveals he encased the bones in a wall. They dig them out and bury them next to Melquíades. Pilar Ternera begins to visit the house again and tells Aureliano that he will be good in war.
The mechanical toys from Pietro Crespi show how technology can be used for frivolous purposes and act as a balm that distracts people from more important goals. Aureliano follows the tradition of characters with his name teaching others, following in the footsteps of the things his own father taught him. The bones of Rebeca’s parents, which have been haunting her since her childhood, are finally laid to rest, so that Rebeca might try to move on from her past—something all the characters struggle with. Pilar’s predictions are trusted as fact, an example of the way fortune-telling provides the solace of certainty about the future.
José Arcadio Buendía connects a mechanical ballerina toy to a clock mechanism and is deliriously happy when the toy dances for three days straight. He loses sleep and sees again the ghost of the Prudencio Aguilar, the man he killed. José Arcadio Buendía begins to think that every day is the same as the one before. He falls into deep grief over those who have died and smashes everything in the laboratories, speaking gibberish. Aureliano Buendía calls the neighbors to help him and twenty men are needed to overpower José Arcadio Buendía and tie him to a tree in the courtyard. Úrsula and Amaranta return and José Arcadio Buendía is still tied to the tree, totally unaware of who they are. They untie his wrists and ankles, but leave him tied at the waist, and build a shelter of palm branches to keep the sun and rain off of him.
José Arcadio Buendía continues his pattern of altering technology, though not for any useful purpose. His return to insomnia prompts the return of his old tormentor, though it’s significant to remember that prior instances of insomnia caused dreaming while awake, calling into question whether Prudencio is a ghost or just a daydream. His insomnia also produces the effect of lost time, prompting him to believe that every day is the same as the one before. Eventually, his frustration with his lived experience prompts him to react violently. By separating him from the technology which drove him out of his mind, they hope to keep the rest of the family safe, though his insomnia has also caused him to forget the ones he loves.