One Hundred Years of Solitude

by

Gabriel García Márquez

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Propriety, Sexuality, and Incest Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
The Circularity of Time Theme Icon
Solitude Theme Icon
Progress and Civilization Theme Icon
Propriety, Sexuality, and Incest Theme Icon
Magic vs. Reality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in One Hundred Years of Solitude, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Propriety, Sexuality, and Incest Theme Icon

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, love and lust are inextricably tangled: familial love is confused with sexual love, husbands and wives have so little sexual chemistry that they must satisfy their urges with other partners, and the parentage of many characters is kept secret, heightening the risk of incest. These complicated circumstances are caused by the characters’ misplaced dedication to propriety and social norms. Márquez suggests that if the characters were more honest about their mistakes and desires, then their lives would be more straightforward and fulfilling.

Though the Buendía family is continually afraid of incest and its punishment (having children with a pig tail, as their incestuous ancestors did), their fear is not so strong as to overcome the power of their sexual attraction to their relatives. The patriarch of the family, José Arcadio Buendía, is the first character in the story to commit an act of incest when he marries his first cousin Úrsula Iguaran. Though the family warns them against marrying each other, José Arcadio Buendía says he doesn’t care if the child is born with a deformity because he loves Úrsula so completely; luckily, none of their children is born with the tail of a pig. There are negative social consequences to their union, though: José Arcadio Buendía kills Prudencio Aguilar for mocking him, and the couple leaves their hometown to found Macondo, a place where they won’t be judged. 

Throughout the story Márquez indicates that, despite the pervasive fear of a child with a pig tail, the real danger of incest comes from its social and psychological effects: causing divisions in the family and insecurity around the legitimacy of one’s parentage. For one, the Buendías’ inability to grow their family beyond its original bloodline exaggerates their isolation and solitude. Incest, in this context, keeps them from growing their community through intermarriage. And when characters do intermarry, it not only fails to incorporate new family members, but it also estranges old ones. For instance, when José Arcadio falls in love with his adopted sister, Rebeca, Úrsula disowns them. The couple is passionately in love with one another, and because the threat of the pig’s tail does not apply to their possible progeny (they’re brother and sister, but not by blood), they decide that their relationship is worth the sacrifice of the rest of their family.

In addition to these incestuous developments, many characters find themselves barred by social propriety from the person they love, a comment on the way that rules of decorum can end up causing more harm than good. Aureliano Segundo, for example, marries an outsider named Fernanda del Carpio to whom he is not physically suited, but Fernanda’s Catholicism causes her to refuse divorce and even look past his passionate affair with Petra Cotes. The passion between Aureliano Segundo and Petra Cotes has positive effects beyond just their mutual satisfaction, prompting extreme fertility in the livestock they raise together, a sort of proof from the natural world that they belong together, despite the fact that their community doesn’t accept their union. Furthermore, Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda’s daughter, Meme, has an illegitimate child named Aureliano through her passionate affair with Mauricio Babilonia. Fernanda insists on keeping the baby a secret, claiming he arrived out of nowhere in a basket and raising him as an orphan, never revealing his true parentage for the sake of social propriety.

This social shame takes Mauricio Babilonia’s life, destroys Meme’s, and creates secrecy about bloodline that results, finally, in the child with the tail of a pig. Despite generations of incestuous temptation, the first child born with this dreaded defect is born to Aureliano and Amaranta Úrsula (who do not know they’re related), just before the city is destroyed by a hurricane. Both Amaranta Úrsula and the baby die shortly after birth, which seems to be a punishment for her and Aureliano’s sin, however unintentional. Incest, then, seems like a taboo that should be respected, as is pedophilia, since Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s young bride Remedios Moscote dies during pregnancy, perhaps a punishment for Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s pedophilic passion for her. Despite suggesting that the universe has some taboos that must be respected, though, Márquez generally shows that honesty and desire should take precedence over social propriety. Following social norms leads to unfulfilling relationships, shame, loneliness, and life-destroying secrecy.

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Propriety, Sexuality, and Incest ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Propriety, Sexuality, and Incest appears in each chapter of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Propriety, Sexuality, and Incest Quotes in One Hundred Years of Solitude

Below you will find the important quotes in One Hundred Years of Solitude related to the theme of Propriety, Sexuality, and Incest.
Chapter 2  Quotes

They were afraid that those two healthy products of two races that had interbred over the centuries would suffer the shame of breeding iguanas. There had already been a horrible precedent. An aunt of Úrsula’s, married to an uncle of José Arcadio Buendía, had a son who went through life wearing loose, baggy trousers and who bled to death after having lived forty-two years in the purest state of virginity, for he had been born and had grown up with a cartilaginous tail in the shape of a corkscrew and with a small tuft of hair on the tip. A pig’s tail that was never to be seen by any woman and that cost him his life when a butcher friend did him the favor of chopping it off with his cleaver. José Arcadio Buendía, with the whimsy of his nineteen years, resolved the problem with a single phrase: “I don’t care if I have piglets as long as they can talk.”

Related Symbols: Tail of a Pig
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4  Quotes

“Love is a disease,” he thundered. “With so many pretty and decent girls around, the only thing that occurs to you is to get married to the daughter of our enemy.”

Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6  Quotes

“Don’t be simple, Crespi.” She smiled. “I wouldn’t marry you even if I were dead.”

Pietro Crespi lost control of himself. He wept shamelessly, almost breaking his fingers with desperation, but he could not break her down. “Don’t waste your time,” was all that Amaranta said. “If you really love me so much, don’t set foot in this house again.”

Related Characters: Amaranta, Pietro Crespi
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12  Quotes

“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.

Page Number: 236
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Melquíades, Aureliano
Page Number: 415
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Aureliano
Page Number: 417
Explanation and Analysis: