In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Márquez calls into question the nature of fact and reality. He suggests that the recorded history of Colombia is one that has been shaped by the Conservative victors, and so he seeks to tell the history of Macondo through the lens of lived experience, complicating the story and showing the reader the way perspective can shape reality. This is directly related to the literary style of magical realism, in which magical elements are presented as commonplace—a style that evolved, in part, as a way of embodying the everyday nature of horrific violence in the colonization of Latin America. Márquez takes into account aspects of life that tend to be ignored by written history, including unjustifiable genocide, superstition, and the exaggeration of feelings, thereby pivoting the perspective of this story away from the logical narrative recorded in history books and toward one focused on the extraordinary lived experience the people of Macondo.
Márquez’s clearest demonstration that official history does not always match reality is the story of the strike. When the workers on the banana plantation strike for better working conditions, they are systematically rounded up and murdered and then their bodies are dumped in the ocean. José Arcadio Segundo is the only worker who survives, but his story is not believed when he returns to Macondo—people prefer instead to read a fabricated newspaper story claiming that the strike ended peacefully. In this case, Márquez is making the point that people would prefer to believe a toned-down version of history that allows them to avoid facing the truth of the horrific events. The effect then, is to prompt the reader to question what historical narratives can be trusted, destabilizing the accepted narrative of Colombian history.
While Márquez shows official history to be somewhat disconnected from reality, the book presents magic and reality as being utterly compatible. This suggests that reality can be stranger than the stories we tell about it, and it gives a poetic way of illustrating emotions and experiences that are too extreme to be conveyed in words. For example, when José Arcadio Buendía, the patriarch of the family, finally dies, a rain of yellow flowers falls from the sky, illustrating the intense grief of the town for its founder. While the death of the town’s founder and the family’s patriarch might be seen to have historical significance, Márquez uses the flowers to show that it this death is an emotional, humane event rather than an “official” one. All of the examples of magic in the story allow for a historical narrative based on lived experience, rather than a more academic, “official” account of historical facts. Márquez thereby shows that the truest account of life is one that allows for the subjectivity of personal experience.
Magic vs. Reality ThemeTracker
Magic vs. Reality Quotes in One Hundred Years of Solitude
José Arcadio Buendía dreamed that night that right there a noisy city with houses having mirror walls rose up. He asked what city it was and they answered him with a name that he had never heard, that had no meaning at all, but that had a supernatural echo in his dream: Macondo.
“If we don’t ever sleep again, so much the better,” José Arcadio Buendía said in good humor. “That way we can get more out of life.” But the Indian woman explained that the most fearsome part of the sickness of insomnia was not the impossibility of sleeping, for the body did not feel any fatigue at all, but its inexorable evolution toward a more critical manifestation: a loss of memory. She meant that when the sick person became used to his state of vigil, the recollection of his childhood began to be erased from his memory, then the name and notion of things, and finally the identity of people and even the awareness of his own being, until he sank into a kind of idiocy that had no past.
In the meantime, Melquíades had printed on his plates everything that was printable in Macondo, and he left the daguerreotype laboratory to the fantasies of José Arcadio Buendía, who had resolved to use it to obtain scientific proof of the existence of God. Through a complicated process of superimposed exposures taken in different parts of the house, he was sure that sooner or later he would get a daguerreotype of God, if He existed, or put an end once and for all to the supposition of His existence.
On the next day, Wednesday, José Arcadio Buendía went back to the workshop. “This is a disaster,” he said. “Look at the air, listen to the buzzing of the sun, the same as yesterday and the day before. Today is Monday too.”
On a certain occasion when Father Nicanor brought a checker set to the chestnut tree and invited him to a game, José Arcadio Buendía would not accept, because according to him he could never understand the sense of a contest in which the two adversaries have agreed upon the rules. Father Nicanor, who had never seen checkers played that way, could not play it again. Ever more startled at José Arcadio Buendía’s lucidity, he asked how it was possible that they had him tied to a tree. “Hoc est simplicissimus,” he replied. “Because I’m crazy.”
As soon as José Arcadio closed the bedroom door the sounds of a pistol shot echoed through the house. A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta’s chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.
“Holy Mother of God!” Úrsula shouted.
“Quite the opposite,” she said, “I’ve never felt better.”
She had just finished saying it when Fernanda felt a delicate wind of light pull the sheets out of her hands and open them up wide. Amaranta felt a mysterious trembling in the lace on her petticoats and she tried to grasp the sheet so that she would not fall down at the instant in which Remedios the Beauty began to rise. Úrsula, almost blind at the time, was the only person who was sufficiently calm to identify the nature of that determined wind and she left the sheets to the mercy of the light as she watched Remedios the Beauty waving good-bye in the midst of the flapping sheets that rose up with her, abandoning with her the environment of beetles and dahlias and passing through the air with her as four o’clock in the afternoon came to an end, and they were lost forever with her in the upper atmosphere where not even the highest-flying birds of memory could reach her.
She did not tell anyone about it because it would have been a public recognition of her uselessness. She concentrated on a silent schooling in the distances of things and people’s voices, so that she would still be able to see with her memory what the shadows of her cataracts no longer allowed her to.
He grew harder and harder ever since Colonel Gerineldo Márquez refused to back him up in a senile war. He locked himself up inside himself and the family finally thought of him as if he were dead.
Úrsula did not get up again after the nine nights of mourning for Amaranta, Santa Sofia de la Piedad took care of her. She took her meals to her bedroom and annatto water for her to wash in and kept her up to date on everything that happened in Macondo. Aureliano Segundo visited her frequently and he brought her clothing which she would place beside the bed along with the things most indispensible for daily life, so that in a short time she had built up a world within reach of her hand.
Úrsula was their most amusing plaything. They looked upon her as a big, broken-down doll that they carried back and forth from one corner to another wrapped in colored cloth and with her face painted with soot and annatto, and once they were on the point of plucking out her eyes with the pruning shears as they had done with the frogs. Nothing gave them as much excitement as the wanderings of her mind. Something, indeed, must have happened to her mind during the third year of the rain, for she was gradually losing her sense of reality and confusing present time with remote periods in her life to the point where, on one occasion, she spent three days weeping deeply over the death of Petronila Iguarán, her great-grandmother, buried for over a century.
From very early in the morning he could be seen going through the town, even in the most outlying and miserable sections, trying to sell tickets with an anxiety that could only be conceivable in a dying man. “Here’s Divine Providence,” he hawked. “Don’t let it get away, because it only comes every hundred years.”
At first he attributed it to that the fact that Aureliano could speak about Rome as if he had lived there many years, but he soon became aware that he knew things that were not in the encyclopedias, such as the price of the items. “Everything is known,” was the only reply he received from Aureliano when he asked him where he had got that information from. Aureliano, for his part, was surprised that José Arcadio when seen from close by was so different from the image that he had formed of him when he saw him wandering through the house. He was capable of laughing, of allowing himself from time to time a feeling of nostalgia for the past of the house, and of showing concern for the state of misery present in Melquíades’ room. That drawing closer together of two solitary people of the same blood was far from friendship, but it did allow them both to bear up better under the unfathomable solitude that separated and united them at the same time.
And then he saw the child. It was a dry and bloated bag of skin that all the ants in the world were dragging toward their holes along the stone path in the garden. Aureliano could not move. Not because he was paralyzed by horror but because at that prodigious instant Melquíades’ final keys were revealed to him and he saw the epigraph of the parchments perfectly placed in the order of man’s time and space: The first of the line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by the ants.
Macondo was already a fearful whirlwind of dust and rubble being spun about by the wrath of the biblical hurricane when Aureliano skipped eleven pages so as not to lose time with facts he knew only too well, and he began to decipher the instant that he was living, deciphering it as he lived it, prophesying himself in the act of deciphering the last page of the parchments, as if he were looking into a speaking mirror. Then he skipped again to anticipate the predictions and ascertain the date and circumstances of his death. Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.