I am realizing that Marquez’s love story is not about sex, and not really about love. It is about relationships but, I think, in the individual sense of what a character is seeking and how he/she goes about it and what it represents to them rather than concentrating on the interaction. I believe that in Fermina’s marriage, just as in Florentino’s sacred vow to himself to have her and his relationships with women in the meantime, each is attempting to find their purpose in life. To fulfill and be fulfilled.
The young Fermina wants attention and excitement and gets it from the youthful Florentino, who is seeking some stability and validation in an idol of adoration. Fermino carries the passions within her for Florentino for three years until it has the possibility of becoming real–when she is old enough to accept a suitor. Then of course, one look at Florentino convinces her that he certainly is not suitable.
While Marquez brings us through Florentino’s undying love for Fermina that lasts fifty years despite her marriage to someone else, we still feel for him. We forgive him his lustful dalliances, all 6oo-plus of them, but likely would not forgive him had he himself gotten married. And just to make sure we’re not losing the point, Marquez gives us a more defined portrait of Florentino as he ages, his odd black, out-of style suit, his pale and sickly complexion, his losing battle against baldness, his false teeth; although he was never attractive even in his prime.
But Marquez needs us to forgive Fermina for spurning him, and thus the reminder: Florentino was certainly no prize and likely a shock to her senses after what she’d built up in her mind when she was sent away as a girl to forget him.
So now, after her husband’s death, another seemingly loveless but secure path of marriage, Fermina and Florentino are again having a relationship of letters–perhaps feeling each other out as to what they each can offer, what each is seeking in old age.