LITERATURE: Love in the Time of Cholera – Drama

Marquez touches upon a sensitive topic here with Florentino Ariza, who has just discovered that Fermina Daza has decided upon wedding the persistent Dr. Juvenal Urbino.  Urbino may not have had the dedication to the affair from Fermina, but he is desirable by her family and so there is no need for the careful hiding of love (as was the case with Florentino), which also served as the force and intrigue to Fermina.  But she is won nevertheless.  Ariza is brokenhearted and accepts an arranged position far away to forget his passion.  Aboard the ship that takes him on his journey:

One night when he stopped his reading earlier than usual and was walking, distracted, towards the toilets, a door opened as he passed through the dining room, and a hand like the talon of a hawk seized him by the shirt sleeve and pulled him into a cabin.  In the darkness he could barely see the naked woman, her ageless body soaked in hot perspiration, her breathing heavy, who pushed him onto the bunk face up, unbuckled his belt, unbuttoned his trousers, impaled herself on him as if she were riding horseback, and stripped him, without glory, of his virginity.  Both of them fell, in an agony of desire, into the void of a bottomless pit that smelled of a salt marsh full of prawns.  Then she lay for a moment on top of him, gasping for breath, and she ceased to exist in the darkness.  (p. 141)

Male rape.  Big question since there must be some compliance on his part–though physical and likely beyond the control of his mind.  But he made no attempt to stop her, and indeed, was taken by surprise. 

Why does Marquez put an end to Ariza’s agony of passion for Fermina in this way?  The natural culmination of his desire for Fermina would have been this physical act of love, and yet it is almost as if Fate has declared, "all right, already; this is what it’s about."  Florentino is just as quickly sent out of the room, but he attempts for the next several days to discover his attacker.  Intrigued by the incident, enlightened perhaps, and anxious.  Marquez has shown us the power of the mind through the enduring love of Florentino for Fermina over many years.  Is there a hint here of the basic instincts that are stronger than the mind to drive the natural act of mankind?

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