I’ve upset Mark in my finale review of this novel, and realize that I didn’t truly give adequate time to the novel in my post.
Perhaps I should have made it clearer; sex was not the be-all, end-all of their relationship. In fact, it’s not all that important to them, even to Florentino, who has dreamed of this all his life.
What Marquez relates is that the withered body parts are not a turn-off, but accepted as fact. Fermina and Florentino have become accustomed to the changes brought in aging. Marquez has prepared them–and us–for the obvious by granting little expositions of their physical and mental maturity. Florentino is shaken by the sight of seeing Fermina trip on a stair in the church. He realizes as well that he may die before her, that his whole life plan can easily be thwarted by death.
Their joy in each other is surprisingly found in their conversations, their sitting silently hand in hand. This is the way they take off into the sunset, on a riverboat they see as their freedom from demands, yet knowing full well they will return home and marry. The future, what is left to them, is willingly looked forward to in spending such days together. This is what their hearts yearned for, though they didn’t realize it enough to seek it from past relationships.
Many passages in the novel reflect their ties to their environment, even while they can see it for what it is, decaying and ravaged by weather and war and man’s abuses of the land, they choose to see it better than it is–just as Florentino sees Fermina through the years.
Why I believe that Marquez has brought these characters to a higher level is that had they married in their youth, Florentino’s determined efforts to win her and his ultimate personal success in business and life would not have been his way of life had he been with her. Fermina would not have matured into the full and loving woman she’s become. They would not have been happy together for those fifty years, I don’t think, but with what they’ve learned from life in that time, they will be.