LITERATURE: 100 Years – The Force Behind the Character

The old gypsy, Melquiades, is an important character to this story.  He brings the wonders of the outside world to Macondo, and to Jose Arcadio Buendia.  Because of this, Buendia holds him in the highest esteem, it seems to me, above his family and village.  With the telescope, the alchemy set, Buendia is rabid with determination to perform miracles.  Yet, he had passed on one of the most obvious miracles the gypsies bring.  Why?  I cannot get the flying carpet out of my mind:

"Unlike Melquiades’ tribe, they had shown very quickly that they were not heralds of progress but purveyors of amusement.  Even when they brought the ice they did not advertise it for its usefulness in the life of man but as a simple circus curiousity.  This time, along with many other artifices, they brought a flying carpet.  But they did not offer it as a fundamental contribution to the development of transport, rather as an object of recreation.

"(…)One afternoon, the boys grew enthusiastic over the flying carpet that went swiftly by the laboratory at window level carrying the gypsy who was driving it and several children from the village who were merrily waving their hands, but Jose Arcadio Buendia did not even look at it.  ‘Let them dream,’ he said, ‘We’ll do better flying than they are doing, and with more scientific resources than a miserable bedspread."

Is then Jose Arcadio Buendia a man who needs the spark to ignite his mind?  Is Melquiades the catalyst to his imagination, the key to Buendia’s sense of duty?  Does he spurn the fun things in life if they are presented as such, because of a need to instead take all seriously and important to mankind?  Is he this altruistic person who is willing to dedicate himself to a cause for the betterment of all? 

Or is he just confused?

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4 Responses to LITERATURE: 100 Years – The Force Behind the Character

  1. steve says:

    Confused or empassioned. It seems to me that as an outside, Melquiades brings the external world to Jose Arcadio Buendia, thus he would spark the imagination. In this way he is both a person and a force–an other, a prompter, and a mystery to be solved. In this way he sparks inevitable intellectual conflict. He is a bringer of conflict, a bringer of the outside.

  2. Mark says:

    This is all fine commentary, but I find myself always second-guessing translated works. Even Dostoevski, etc…

    Does this mean I’m an English snob? No. Still, reading our own best writers resonates more deeply.

    Also, I tend towards a form not now so popular: Jane Austen, even Steinbeck if you can grasp the connection. It’s pure on one hand and just beautiful on both hands.

    But you’ve chose a pretty good one if you’re going to dive into it.

  3. susan says:

    I do worry about translation Mark, but as readers translate their own story even in those written in their own language, I suppose we feel once removed from Marquez.

    Steve, I agree with your insight, and do see Melquiades as the land that Jose sought when he first set out from his birthplace, but he left with no real sense of adventure, but more to leave something behind him, or escape (his murder of Prudencio). But there can be little doubt that Melquiades represents something much more to him than a friend, and he seems to go mentally downhill as Melquiades ages. Nothing appears to bother him more–all the weird doings of his sons–than the loss of Melquiades.

  4. Mark says:

    “Love in the time of Cholera” has this same thread, except it’s a chess game – literally – and the man he played for years.

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