[(essay date 2001) In this essay, Pelayo centers on plot, structure, characters, and theme in five of García Márquez's stories: "Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo," "Big Mama's Funeral," "Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon," "Tuesday Siesta," and "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings."]
If Gabriel García Márquez had never put any of his novels to paper, wrote literary critic Gene H. Bell-Villada, his shorter fiction would have still gained him some niche in literary history. Bell-Villada puts García Márquez in the company of such acknowledged masters of short fiction as Anton Chekhov, Thomas Mann, James Joyce, John Cheever, and Grace Paley (Bell-Villada 119). However, the list of short story masters seems incomplete without the names of Edgar Allan Poe and Latin American short story writers such as Horacio Quiroga, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, and Juan Rulfo, among many others.
Gabriel García Márquez's short stories that are most often read in high schools and colleges in the United States come from his first three books in this genre. It was precisely as a short story writer that García Márquez began to publish, starting in 1947. His early short stories, such as "The Third Resignation" (1947), were published in local newspapers (see Chapter 1 [Pelayo, Rubén. Gabriel García Márquez: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001). While he continues to publish books of short stories, some of the stories contained in his first three books in this genre are nowadays considered classics.
Of these classics, five stories have been selected for discussion here. The five stories are presented in chronological order of publication: they are "Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo" (1955; from Eyes of a Blue Dog); "Big Mama's Funeral," "Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon," and "Tuesday Siesta" (1962; from Big Mama's Funeral); and "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" (1968; from The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother).
The plot of a short story, such as the five in this chapter, will arouse the reader's interest over the duration of the narrative but cannot control the reader's emotional responses. For example, among a class of students, there will likely be many different responses to stories such as "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings."
All five of the short stories discussed in this chapter begin with a character or scene, which precipitously initiates the plot. However, the plot in García Márquez's short stories appears ambiguous, not only in its creation of mood (the creation of a state of mind based on the narrative's information), but also in the way in which the story is told. Although the plot is seen as the plan of the short story, representing the order in which events are told, the reader must also pay close attention to causality (what incites the characters to do what they do).
Although the main characters play a unifying role, the omniscient narrator and the reader are the ones who must put the plot together. Certainly García Márquez's writing seems to challenge the reader with puzzle-like plots where the pieces do not fit together easily, or at all.
In each of the stories the setting is similar: a small, rural town, which is geographically far enough removed from other villages so as to seem to constitute an entire isolated world. Readers may think of the towns as being near or around the Atlantic Colombian coast on the Caribbean Sea. Frequently, the climate is oppressive: tropical, windy, hot and humid, and plagued by frequent and heavy rainfalls. Macondo, the fictional Colombian village of many of Gabriel García Márquez's works, is identified specifically in two of the short stories examined in this chapter: "Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo" (hereafter "Isabel's Monologue"), and "Big Mama's Funeral." In the other three stories, the town where the narration takes place, the reader may assume, is also Macondo or a town like it, but the place name is never mentioned.
Without exception the short stories all have an omniscient narrator, located outside the story, who narrates in the third person singular. This narrator knows everything there is to know about the characters.
As many critics have observed, García Márquez's short stories often depict a narrative structure where there are at least two forces in opposition, as is the case in "Isabel's Monologue." Isabel tells her story as she recalls matters, but her own husband denies the accuracy, and even the reality, of some of her observations. In another example, in "Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon," there are two forces represented by social and economic class, the rich and the poor. In "Big Mama's Funeral," Big Mama is placed in opposition to the townsfolk. In "Tuesday Siesta" as well as in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," an outsider disturbs the peace of the town.
All five stories are also characterized by the pervasive presence of the irrational and the supernatural. In "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," for example, the old man not only has wings, but also uses them to fly.
Another characteristic is that each short story depicts, in some detail, the daily life of a Hispanic rural town, with its sacred rituals and secular celebrations, including Sunday-morning church attendance and the almost spontaneous appearance of a small fair or carnival as a way to mark the unusual.
The following is a brief synopsis of the five stories based on their narrative structure.
"Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo"
In "Isabel's Monologue" the reader is again introduced to the character of Isabel, who is one of the main characters in Leaf Storm (see [Pelayo, 2001] Chapter 3).
"Isabel's Monologue" can be read as a story that was intentionally not included in Leaf Storm or that was deleted from it. In "Isabel's Monologue," she does not mention the doctor, whose corpse is a focal point for the other characters' mediations and actions in Leaf Storm. The strained relationship between Isabel and her husband, Martín, a relationship alluded to in Leaf Storm, is dramatized in "Isabel's Monologue." Her father the colonel, who was a dominant character in Leaf Storm, appears in this story without his military title. Isabel also never refers to the major role he played in marrying her to Martín. Unlike Leaf Storm, where she is the mother of a precocious ten-year-old, in the short story she is five months pregnant with the child.
The time frame of the narrative can be measured by four consecutive days and nights of torrential rain. The persistence of the rain is central to the narrative.
As in Leaf Storm, time in "Isabel's Monologue" is marked by the sounding of the train's whistle at exactly the same time every day: two-thirty in the afternoon. In "Isabel's Monologue" it starts to rain Sunday morning after Mass and does not stop until Wednesday night. The storm, the reader is told by the omniscient narrator, carries away the train tracks and opens up the tombs in the cemetery. Isabel notices the smell of "the dead people floating along the streets" (134) and seems terrified by the idea. However, the reader cannot be sure if there are such floating dead people or if Isabel is imagining it all, as her husband insinuates. He says, regarding the floating dead people, "that's something you made up. Pregnant women are always imagining things" (134).
The opening of the short story sparks no particular interest in a reader of García Márquez, who generally uses more startling beginnings. Instead, as if in slow motion, "Tuesday Siesta" starts with a train coming out of a tunnel and passing by towns surrounded by banana plantations. Nevertheless, as if it were a still photo, it immediately awakens in the reader a quest for understanding that remains unsatisfied even after the story ends. The sudden dialogue in reported speech (someone else is quoting what the characters say) makes the reader wonder who is talking. Who is this old woman dressed in black, and to whom is she talking when she says: "you'd better close the window. The girl tried to, but the shade wouldn't move because of the rust" (99)?
The reader soon feels the solitude expressed by the description: there are only two people traveling in this third-class car, and they are going to a destination that is never disclosed. The narrator's ambiguity in speaking contributes to the reader's sense of intrigue. The twelve-year-old girl is the woman's daughter, but the woman, readers are told, "seemed too old to be her mother, because of the blue veins on her eyelids" (100). An hour later, at twelve noon, on a "bright August Tuesday," the two women are approaching "a town larger but sadder than the earlier ones" (101). Although, on the one hand, a specific time frame is insistently confirmed, on the other, neither the town nor the main characters are completely identified. The characters are known by their roles: the traveling mother, her daughter, and the priest. A recurring symbol used to mark time in Leaf Storm and "Isabel's Monologue," the train whistle is important once again in "Tuesday Siesta." The train, in fact, works as a narrative thread to help the reader understand the otherwise confusing plot. When the travelers get off the train, around two o'clock (three hours since the story has begun), the townspeople are taking a siesta. The old woman and her daughter "went directly to the parish house" (102). Here the reader finally starts putting the puzzle together, and the story starts to make sense. The mother and her daughter are making a trip to bring flowers to her son's tomb. The town's priest has the keys to the cemetery, and the old woman wants them. Nowhere is the woman's pride and dignity more obvious than at the priest's home. Examples of her pride and dignified bearing are noted previously, as, for example, in the way she sits in the train, although nobody but her daughter is watching. At the parish house she never loses her composure, and she succeeds in getting what she needs: the keys to the cemetery. The priest, who happens to be taking a siesta, wants her "to come back after three" (102); the woman responds that she is taking the train back at three-thirty. So determined is she that the priest gives in. When he asks whom she is coming to see, she gives the name Carlos Centeno: "he's the thief who was killed here last week ... I am his mother" (103).
The omniscient narrator relates that a lonely widow named Rebeca, an old woman living alone for the past twenty-eight years, killed the thief at three in the morning. Rebeca, readers are told, killed the thief with an old revolver "that no one had fired since the days of Colonel Aureliano Buendía" (104).
The reference to Colonel Aureliano Buendía might pass unnoticed by someone who has not read Leaf Storm, "Big Mama's Funeral," or One Hundred Years of Solitude. However, although only fleetingly mentioned in several of the stories, his name seems to connect all the short stories. Each story, then, although able to stand alone, appears as a part of a layered world.
The end of the story, as is typical of Gabriel García Márquez's writing, is open to multiple interpretations. Although the townspeople were supposed to be taking a siesta, everybody, instead, was at their windows or on the streets, while the old woman, with the keys to the cemetery in her hand, "took the girl by the hand and went into the street" (106). That is how the story ends. Any climax or further conclusion is left to the reader's imagination.
"Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon"
The narrative structure of "Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon," of the five stories considered in this chapter, is perhaps the least confusing for nonexperienced readers of García Márquez. Time passes chronologically and the use of flashbacks is minimal. "The cage was finished" (138) announces the omniscient narrator from the start; the same voice reports that it took Balthazar two weeks to accomplish the work. The duration of time in the narrative, as the title announces, is less than one day in the life of Balthazar, a thirty-year-old carpenter. There appears to be less subjectivity in the telling of this story than in the other four. Not only are actions recounted chronologically, the dialogue itself is overheard by witnesses and reported in a straightforward manner. To the crowd that comes to the carpenter's shop, this is "the most beautiful cage in the world" (138). Nobody in the town appreciates the cage more than the doctor, Octavio Giraldo. To him, the cage is "a flight of the imagination" (140). A corresponding absence of interior monologue diminishes the reader's feeling of subjectivity. To Ursula, Balthazar's companion, the cage is simply the biggest she has ever seen, but she fails to comment on the beauty of it.
When the time comes to put a price on the cage, its creator hopes to get twenty pesos but Ursula hopes to get three times as much. Ironically, at the end of story, Balthazar gives it away for free. When Balthazar started making the cage, he had had one goal in mind: to give it to Pepe (a nickname for José), a twelve-year-old child and the son of the richest family in town. José Montiel, the child's miserly father, is a violent and heartless man who decides to pay nothing to Balthazar because he believes an adult should not contract with a child.
"Big Mama's Funeral"
"Big Mama's Funeral," like most of García Márquez's stories, is complex. After the initial reading, a first reaction might be that one is reading the simple story of a woman, Big Mama, who is getting ready to die, surrounded by relatives, a priest, and a notary. Thereafter, however, one realizes that the story is more complex, going back 200 years in the life of Macondo, and particularly its institutions of state and Church.
"Big Mama's Funeral," which is partly humorous, partly satirical, party ironic, and most definitely full of hyperbole (extravagant exaggerations on the part of the narrator to emphasize the verbal account), describes the exercise of a limitless power by a matriarch who has been christened with the name of María del Rosario Castañeda y Montero. María del Rosario, after attending her father's funeral mass at age twenty-two, comes back to her house in Macondo as Big Mama. This is the name with which she will be recognized the world over, until the day of her death, at the age of ninety-two. Her life, explains the narrative voice, is the center of gravity of Macondo. Her death, like her actions while she lived, affects everyone. "She seemed, in truth, infinitely rich and powerful, the richest and most powerful matron in the world" (186). She was indeed powerful, but she was also corrupt, like her maternal grandmother, who fought in the War of 1885 against none other than the legendary (fictitious) Colonel Aureliano Buendía of One Hundred Years of Solitude, "Tuesday Siesta," and Leaf Storm.
If the reader moves from the textual level to an interpretative one, the difference between myth and history may become even more apparent. Seen in this way, "Big Mama's Funeral" portrays both history as fiction (the myth of Big Mama and her family) and fiction as history. The War of 1885 is a documented fact, but the legendary colonel and Big Mama's grandmother do not exist outside fiction.
The funeral in "Big Mama's Funeral" announces both the end of an era and the beginning of another, without taking a position as to whether the next era will be a better one. Instead, the significance of the death is left to literature, to future storytellers of the world. While the story can be seen as the awakening of Macondo from "an oppressive social system" (Foster 1979, 57), it is also about telling a story--about the art of storytelling.
"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"
The setting of "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is reminiscent of the setting in "Isabel's Monologue." The narration opens with an omniscient narrator and a torrential rain: "On the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house ..." (203). Where the heavy rains of "Isabel's Monologue" disinter the dead, in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," the rains bring with them "an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn't get up, impeded by his enormous wings" (203). To Pelayo and his wife, Elisenda, the first townspeople to see the man (who is in their own backyard), he is just an old man who speaks in an incomprehensible dialect. To their neighbor, he is "an angel" who is coming for Pelayo's sick child but has been knocked down by the rain (204). Just as the angel becomes immobilized the child seems to recover, and so the neighbor woman's words seem to confirm the supernatural: a visible angel really has come to protect the souls of dying children.
As in most of García Márquez's stories, the ordinary folk of the town provides one of the central focuses, thus taking center stage. In "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," the literal stage is that of two carnivals, the first centering on the activity surrounding the reputed presence of an angel and the second, a more traditional, but no less mercenary affair, with sideshows and feats of strength. Like Pelayo and his wife, the townspeople do not really consider the very old man an angel, yet their curiosity leads them to come and gawk as if he were a rare circus animal. The contradiction is that the townsfolk wish the old man were an angel, a superior being, which, among other possibilities, "could be put to stud in order to implant on earth a race of winged wise men that could take charge of the universe" (205). This dual attitude of skepticism and hope continues, even after the town's priest, Father Gonzaga, assures them that the old man is an impostor. The priest, as did the townspeople before him, notices that the angel does not conform to their idea of what an angel should be; "nothing about him measured up to the proud dignity of angels" (205). Despite the priest's observations and his insistence that the old man might be an evil figure, the news of a "captive angel" spreads throughout the town and surrounding communities, and the people come to see it. Taking advantage of the fact, Elisenda fences her backyard and starts charging admission to see the angel. Unlike Ursula's doomed ambition to make money in "Balthazar's Afternoon," Elisenda and Pelayo "crammed their rooms with money" (206). The couple continue to make money by exploiting the people's curiosity and "faith" until the arrival of another out-of-the-ordinary being: "the woman who had been changed into a spider for having disobeyed her parents" (207). The crowd's appetite for supernatural or grotesque spectacles is now met by the spider woman rather than by the angel. However, the crowd's shift in interest does not interfere with the fact that Pelayo's family has already improved their economic status by exploiting the angel.
The angel, meanwhile, becomes the pet of Pelayo's son. Just as a human would, the angel contracts chicken pox, suffers from high temperatures, and makes both Pelayo and Elisenda fear that he might die. One morning, as Elisenda is cutting onions in preparation for lunch, the old man truly flies away, like a "senile vulture" would, to her relief and that of the old man himself (210).
There are few indications of time in the story. One comes when the narrative voice announces, "at the beginning of December some large, stiff feathers began to grow on [the old man's] wings" (210). Readers will also note that some time has passed as the newborn son, in the course of the story, becomes old enough to go to school.
Genre and Narrative Structure
In Western literature, the short story has its roots in ancient Greek fables, in tales like those of The Thousand and One Nights, and in the collections of stories of the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer and the Italian poet and scholar Giovanni Boccaccio. The short story, as we know it today in Spanish American literature, emerged in the nineteenth century.
The short story as genre can be differentiated from the novel and the novella because it is normally shorter. In fact, the short story encourages concise narration and economy of words. Often the main focus of the short story is the telling of the story, as opposed to character development. The number of characters can be few, and frequently they are not fully developed. At times, the number of characters can be reduced to one or two.
Of the five short stories chosen for this chapter, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is the one that best connects the mundane details of everyday life with what many critics agree to call magic realism. Magic realism is a term not fully defined nor always understood; yet it is often used to describe unique Latin American narratives that mix magic and myths with reality, predominantly the myths of the indigenous and the black communities of the Americas. All five stories, however, are representative of García Márquez's short-story writing, and they all depict three salient characeristics associated with modern short-story writing:
• Fragmentation of narrative time; the emphasis on the uses of time is such that time becomes a theme;
• Subjectivity of plot, normally determined by the difference of the character's viewpoint;
• Ambiguity of plot, mainly because the main theme is left open-ended.
The action of all five stories takes place in a small, rural town. In two stories it is named Macondo, and in the other stories it remains unnamed. This does not mean the stories are limited in meaning by being placed in a rural town. Instead, these short stories may be distinguished from works labeled regionalist, which emphasize the description of a local area and suggest that the problems of the characters are only peculiar to the people of that area. In the short stories of García Márquez, the physical settings are identifiably Latin American in general and Colombian in particular; however, the themes of violence, economic disparity, and the absence of social justice are universal.
In all five stories the reader finds a character--an individual--dealing either with reality, dreams, or illusions, but always operating within a society and affected by its demands. All five stories show a strife-ridden society, but the focus is on the characters and the way they deal with the problems that face them, for instance, the role of women in a patriarchal society in "Isabel's Monologue"; an individual's pride and dignity in "Tuesday Siesta"; the role of the artist in "Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon"; the role of power in a corrupt oligarchic society in "Big Mama's Funeral"; and the exploitation of the individual in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings."
Many of Gabriel García Márquez's short stories open in media res, apparently in the middle of a series of actions, and use leaps of time, either forward or backward, to inform the reader of the complete story. This use of time is typical of a narrative technique that measures time in at least two ways. The first way corresponds to the way in which the events are narrated; it disrupts chronological order in presenting events to the reader. The second corresponds to the sequence in which the events actually occur. Until a story has been read through to the end, only the omniscient narrator knows the actual sequence of events. The reader, little by little, is able to fit together the pieces of the "time puzzle."
The element that is central to the short story is present at the very beginning. In "Isabel's Monologue," a pregnant woman, Isabel, seems to be talking to herself. In "Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon" a carpenter has just finished his masterpiece, a birdcage. An outside narrator interested in reporting to the "world's unbelievers" that Big Mama has died is introduced in "Big Mama's Funeral." "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" commences with the arrival in town of a flesh-and-blood old man with wings. However, as is typical of García Marquez's technique, as the story unfolds it demands the reader's active participation. The narrative text presents a labyrinthine structure that pays little or no attention to the chronological sequence of events.
The stories, at first impression, seem to make no sense at all. It is often unclear whose voice the readers hear or whose viewpoint they are reading. Many of the stories incorporate the absurd, the unreal, the supernatural, elements of the underworld, and magic realism, combining the fantastic and the mythic with the ordinary activities of daily life. (The Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier first applied the term magic realism to literature in the late 1940s.)
The following is a brief synopsis of the five stories based on their narrative technique.
"Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo"
In "Isabel's Monologue," events do not unfold in chronological order; instead, the story follows Isabel's thoughts using a technique known as stream of consciousness, which describes the flow, in any given order, of actions, thoughts, and feelings as they come to mind. Although she frequently narrates in the first person singular and the title says this is a "monologue," implying a single person speaking alone, the narration leaves room for ambiguity. In Macondo, the weather is hot, but three days of consecutive rain have made a change in the temperature. To Isabel it is the temperature of a fever chill. She says, "feet sweated inside the shoes" (92). It is unclear whose feet and whose shoes were sweating. If they were Isabel's feet, she would say, "my feet, inside my shoes." However, ambiguity is a technique frequently used in García Márquez's narrative, even in a monologue. The ambiguity, however, intentionally interferes with the understanding of the story, which seems to consist of juxtaposed thoughts that come and go as Isabel quotes the words of her stepmother, her father, and her husband.
Concerning the use of time as a narrative technique, "Isabel's Monologue" depends on the stream of consciousness, a technique that places great importance on time and often makes time a theme in itself. In this short story, time is fragmented and most definitely ambiguous. The reader must decide whether the events actually occur or whether the reader is reading about a dream. The main character, Isabel, is not sure whether she is actually dreaming. As she says, she is "confused by the mix-up in time." She then adds, "Good Lord, ... it wouldn't surprise me now if they were coming to call me to go to last Sunday's Mass" (96). The sentence construction of the ending confirms the ambiguity of the story: it starts in the present tense, then moves to a subjunctive form in the past, and then goes back to the present, only to mention an event that obviously has already taken place.
According to Harley D. Oberhelman, García Márquez has been quoted saying that "Tuesday Siesta" is his best short story, and he (García Márquez) recognizes it as one containing "purely technical tricks" (Oberhelman 1991, 20). "Tuesday Siesta," indeed, will surprise readers with its narrative technique. The opening seems to follow a chronological order that soon is broken by a flashback (an earlier event brought up in the middle of the narration, interrupting the time sequence of the story). The use of the flashback allows the reader to start putting together the pieces of the puzzle-like story. The reader learns, through the flashback, that the poor woman and her daughter, both dressed in black, are coming to this nameless town to bring flowers to her son's tomb. Only then do readers learn that the son was killed in an attempted robbery. The flashback, however, does not answer the ambiguity created by the use of language, and above all, by the way the story ends. The omniscient narrator delivers a story known fully but revealed only in fragments; the narrator thus creates confusion, anguish, and intrigue in the readers.
The story seems to follow a technique in which the opening of the narrative presents the reader with numerous possibilities of what the story may be about; most of those possibilities appear to be eliminated after a reading of the flashback; but then the end of the story leaves the reader, as the opening did, with numerous possibilities of interpretation.
How are the townspeople going to react to the two women? Oberhelman, for example, sees an unfriendly town. He sees a mother that "boldly faces the ominous challenge of a hot Tuesday afternoon in the streets of an unfriendly town" (Oberhelman 1991, 22). Are the townsfolk so unfriendly as to interfere with her intent to see her son's tomb? Will they stone her for daring to break the peace of the town, first, by association, by her son's intentions to rob an old woman's house, and second, by her stoic, proud, dignified attitude?
"Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon"
The opening of the story, by an omniscient narrator, is in medias res. However, the order of events related to the finished cage and the selling of it evolve in a rather easy-to-follow format. The time frame reveals that Balthazar has been working on the cage for two consecutive weeks; he turned thirty in February; and Ursula has been living with him, unmarried, for four years. This is what the omniscient narrator knows, but time in the story is marked differently: "it was the first week of April and the heat seemed bearable because of the chirping of the cicadas" (189). The plot itself, that of selling the cage to José Montiel, follows a chronological order. The time frame of these events begins one April afternoon when Balthazar finishes the cage and ends the morning after, at five o'clock.
"Big Mama's Funeral"
In "Big Mama's Funeral" the narrative technique is similar to that of "Isabel's Monologue" in the use of a juxtaposition of events that do not follow a linear and logical story. From the funeral at the opening of the story, an omniscient narrator takes the reader through 200 years in the life of Macondo, the same town where "Isabel's Monologue" takes place.
"Big Mama's Funeral" alludes to an oral tradition. At the start of the story and at its end, the narrative technique makes it clear that the reader is reading a piece of folklore, a folktale that has been transmitted by word of mouth--the essence of what is known as folk literature. The narrative voice tells the reader that before Big Mama, her father ruled Macondo, and before her parents, her grandparents. This form of oligarchic government (a type of government by a few people, who are often related to one another) is a system that, in this story, comes to an end with the death of Big Mama.
The narrative technique in "Big Mama's Funeral" is rich in humor, irony, satire, and the use of hyperbole. The humor in "Big Mama's Funeral" can be found throughout the story, as in the following instance. As the crowds gathered for Big Mama's funeral, a large parade of beauty queens march, in single file, behind a "universal queen." There are queens for everything--a banana queen, a soybean queen, and, as the narrator says, a queen for "all the others that are omitted" (199).
Humor in García Márquez is often satirical, as in the previous quotation. A satire, in literature, often focuses on the character's vices or shortcomings, with an intent to call for change or improvement. Through humor, the narrator attacks, with wit, human folly. In the quotation about the queens, the criticism of beauty pageants is obvious.
In "Big Mama's Funeral," irony, like humor and satire, is present throughout the story. For example, the reader knows that the words of admiration and awe expressed for Big Mama indicate precisely the opposite. Certainly neither a president nor the Pope would come to the funeral of a matron who dies in a remote, unknown, little rural town. "Big Mama's Funeral" is filled with humor and satire; it cleverly censures a feudal society, where the individual is absolutely powerless.
The narrative voice uses the stream of consciousness technique, as in "Isabel's Monologue." This gives the reader the illusion that many years have gone by within the story, but in reality there are only fourteen days of narrative discourse. This is itself is a kind of hyperbole, an exaggeration of a funeral, as is the size of Big Mama. In this short story, exaggeration is a narrative technique. It becomes so matter-of-fact that the reader will laugh, while acknowledging that the narration implicitly denounces what it narrates. The story is in the form of a folktale, no doubt, but it seems to covertly underline the social and historical disgust of peoples who are tired of both omnipotence and omnipresence. Tired of everything: and Big Mama was indeed everything.
"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"
The narrative technique of this story is similar to the previous four yet offers two differences worth mentioning. First, the locale (the setting where the narrative takes place) is geographically different. Unlike the previous stories, this one takes place in a seashore town. Second, the time frame moves in linear form (in chronological order), from the angel's arrival to his departure, several years later.
Written in 1968, a year after the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude, as Oberhelman points out, this story represents a transition from the fiction of Macondo. By this he means that the book from which this short story was taken, The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother, differs thematically from the first two volumes of short stories, Eyes of a Blue Dog, and Big Mama's Funeral. He writes:
The transition is to central themes later seen in his most recent fiction: exploitation on both a personal and a national scale, the extraordinary power of the human imagination, and the use of the sea as an enduring metaphor.
(Oberhelman 1991, 36)
"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is most definitely a story of powerful imagination and of exploitation. The reader of this short story must accept that it indeed depicts an imaginary world where angels can be old, unattractive, sickly, and yet have wings and fly. The narrative structure of this story, viewed through the treatment of both plot and character development, clearly exemplifies magic realism.
The short story, as a genre, does not have time for the extensive character development typically found in the novel. For the reader, the time of the reading is, by definition, short, even if much time passes within the short story itself, as is the case in both "Big Mama's Funeral" and "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings."
The short story often focuses on a single component. It is a brief close-up, but not always of character. It may depict a town or an existential situation, as in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," for example. In this story, Elisenda and Pelayo are types that represent the town. Rather than regarding the old man as a supernatural or heavenly creature, they keep him in their chicken coop and use him to make money. The town, unsure whether the old man represents something miraculous, comes to examine and admire the old man as a novelty but returns finally to provoke and taunt him. Later, just as Elisenda and Pelayo's interest shifts away from the old man, whom they now regard as a nuisance, the town's interest shifts in wonderment to the spider woman.
Nevertheless, there are certain important observations to be made about character development in Gabriel García Márquez's short stories. Often the depiction of a character appears as a portrait or a sketch rather than a full-blown painting, painstakingly completed over the length of a work. Even though the reader appears to witness the transformation of María del Rosario Castañeda y Montero to Big Mama on the day of her father's funeral, it is witnessed from outside the character and the story does not reveal how she developed.
Many characters appear in more than one story; a short story may sometimes provide a close-up of a single character the reader has met in a different story. Of the five short stories considered here, "Isabel's Monologue" best exemplifies this technique, which is common in the writing of Gabriel García Márquez. The continuity of character in novels, novellas, and short stories contributes to the construction of a coherent, credible world. Many of the same characters alternately play larger and then smaller roles. Apart from his pivotal role in One Hundred Years of Solitude, many characters in the novellas and short stories also know Colonel Aureliano Buendía. Among these short stories, he is mentioned with admiration in "Big Mama's Funeral" and "Tuesday Siesta."
An additional observation about character development regards the types of characters in the short stories: with the exception of Isabel in "Isabel's Monologue," the main female characters represent strong women. These include the strong-willed mother in "Tuesday Siesta," the ambitious and domineering Ursula in "Balthazar's Afternoon," the equally domineering Elisenda in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," and, most definitely, the unlimited power of Big Mama in "Big Mama's Funeral." The model for the female character in García Márquez's writing is, without a doubt, a strong, iron-willed woman who never succumbs. She faces and fights the adversities brought on her, either through societal codes or through her own marital status. From Ursula Iguarán, the matriarch in One Hundred Years of Solitude, to Fermina Daza, in Love in the Time of Cholera, García Márquez seems to pay tribute to female characters in his fictional works. The same can be said of his portrayal of nonfictional female characters, as in his journalistic work, News of a Kidnapping.
There is one additional characteristic of García Márquez's short stories that appears seemingly obvious, that is, the less than spiritual role of the Church. The Church as an institution, through the character development of its leaders, appears more as a bureaucratic organism than as a spiritual leader. The Church hierarchy is too busy, for example, to pay attention to the needs of the smalltown clergyman who writes asking for advice regarding the angel. The knowledge of Father Gonzaga in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" is as limited as that of a woodcutter--the job Father Gonzaga held before becoming a priest. Another example is the priest in "Tuesday Siesta." He seems skeptical of the things he says and not interested in the pain of a mother whose son was killed. While these two clerical figures are depicted as rather indifferent, the lay members of the congregation do not fare much better. The churchgoers in "Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon" do not seem to remember the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself. They walk by Balthazar, who is lying in the street, and they ignore him because he is drunk. In García Márquez's fiction, the clergy are not men equipped with theological training or answering a calling or vocation, but simply men doing a job.
What follows is a more detailed description of character development in each of the five short stories examined in this chapter.
"Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo"
The characters in "Isabel's Monologue" are taken from García Márquez's first novella, Leaf Storm. As is the case in the novella, Isabel is married to Martín. In the short story, Isabel is the main character as would be expected from the title. Ironically, however, Isabel differs in character development from the women typically depicted by García Márquez. Indeed, Isabel is their opposite. She is weak in character, subservient to her husband and her situation, inactive, and bereft of free will. The story depicts her as motionless. While everyone around her seems to be in motion, she sits and ponders. As she watches the torrential rains fall, she loses her sense of time and of reality.
Character development in "Tuesday Siesta" is of particular interest to the reader because the story centers on a dead man outside the narrative time. He was a thief named Carlos Centeno Ayala, and he is the only character with a name. His mother, the main character, comes to town to pay homage to him at the cemetery. Her twelve-year-old daughter accompanies her. On the one hand, she is an outsider, who is rejected by the community. On the other hand, she is a strong individual who defies the community. As is often the case with García Márquez's female characters, she is the embodiment of a strong, solid, decisive, goal-oriented woman, who will remind readers of Ursula Iguarán in One Hundred Years of Solitude and Fermina Daza in Love in the Time of Cholera. As might be expected of her character, she manages to get the key for the cemetery from the town's priest, walks to the cemetery, leaves flowers on her son's grave, and leaves town as quietly as she entered. Although she is the mother of a thief, she leaves behind an image of dignity and pride.
"Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon"
This story is named for Balthazar, but once again a female character, Ursula, truly plays center stage. Ursula, who is a strong character, usually makes the economic decisions for herself and Balthazar. Although not married, Ursula and Balthazar live as husband and wife. The character development of this couple is reminiscent of the character development used in No One Writes to the Colonel. They are developed as the antithesis of one another. He is a dreamer, who builds a birdcage for a child without worrying about price. She is a pragmatist (a practical person) who views his work in monetary terms. As is the case with the old couple in No One Writes to the Colonel, Ursula and Balthazar complement each other. However, like the old colonel in No One Writes to the Colonel, Balthazar makes the final decision for the couple when he decides to give away the birdcage.
"Big Mama's Funeral"
The number of characters in "Big Mama's Funeral" is large and varied. There is one, nevertheless, who outshines all the rest: María del Rosario Castañeda y Morales.
Possessing the characteristics of a rigid matriarch, this woman's Christian name means little or nothing to the townsfolk, who think of her as Big Mama. Her mighty power has been passed down to her and her predecessors, from generation to generation, for a total of 200 years. Her power is omnipresent (is present everywhere at all times). It permeates all aspects of life in Macondo: the social, political, economic, and moral systems all obey her rule. Nothing escapes her power, supervision, influence, and right to approve; above her is only God, and beneath her is everybody else. Her power is absolute: she has power over people, places, and both material and immaterial things. To the people of Macondo, her rule is untouchable, undeniable, and indivisible. Her power over them is second nature, and they cannot think of her as a mortal being.
However, as is the case in Greek mythology, where heroes often have a fatal flaw, this tropical goddess suffers from a lack of love and from infertility. Her kingdom is one of abundance, but her personal life is one of solitude and she dies a childless virgin. As a consequence, her ancestral line comes to an end. There will be no more Big Mamas to inherit the absolute power her family had enjoyed for 200 years. Ironically, after her death, no one remembers her rule. On the contrary, everyone--the Pope, the president, the beauty queens, the crowds--now feels free to exercise free will. The only one who might have objected is gone.
Beyond the literal meaning of the story, there is a clear analogy between Big Mama and the Spanish rule in the Spanish Americas. It is not difficult to see the parallels between what goes on in the short story and the feudal authorities, the loss of the Spanish prestige in Europe, and the decline of the Spanish power in Latin America. A feeling of emancipation is reflected in the collective character of the townsfolk.
"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"
All the characters in this story, with the exception of the angel, share a common characteristic: they all believe in winged angels, but in a preconceived fashion. Angels cannot be old, ugly, or sickly. Everyone--from the priest, Elisenda, Pelayo, and the neighbor to the town in general--seems to react in the same way, within the same parameters. The townspeople, as character, can, therefore, be viewed equally well through Elisenda, Pelayo, and Father Gonzaga.
Elisenda and Pelayo are simple people. They live under very poor economic circumstances and their only child is sick. When Pelayo comes upon the winged old man he does not know what to think of him. Neither does his wife. Their frame of reference has no concept for such a reality. Their first response to it is awe, but after a short while they start to find the winged old man familiar, even human-like. Their neighbor, an elderly woman who supposedly understands all matters of life and death, calls the winged old man an angel. The townspeople, however, crowd into Elisenda and Pelayo's house. Their curiosity brings them to see this winged old man, whom they treat like a circus animal. Although the narrative voice never describes the winged old man as an angel, the characters do, and decide to put it to a test. Elisenda and Pelayo capitalize on the townspeople's doubt and start to charge everyone who wants to see him. Indirectly, the angel does perform the miracles he is supposed to. The sick child of Elisenda and Pelayo gets well, and their poor economic status changes. The angel, nonetheless, does not get any better treatment. He continues, until the end, to be treated as a circus animal.
Elisenda and Pelayo do not behave any differently than the rest of the townspeople. They, like the people who come from afar to see the winged old man, seem conditioned by their ignorance and superstition. They all want the old man to perform miracles as proof of his supernatural powers. They want to use the winged old man as a civil, military, and cultural figure. Some people even think of him as a stud for a new super-race. In the end, the entire furor over the angel shifts to a newer arrival--another freak-like spectacle, the spider woman. The townspeople move on to another object of amusement, and the angel is left behind. Only then, when no one is paying attention, does the very old man with enormous wings fly away.
Father Gonzaga, as a clerical figure, is called upon by the townspeople to clarify whether the old man is indeed an angel. However, Father Gonzaga is only a simple and ordinary man who was a lumberjack before he was ordained. He consults a catechism book but finds no answers. Father Gonzaga then turns to the Church's bureaucracy: the bishop and the Pope. However, instead of an answer, Father Gonzaga receives more questions from the Church authorities. The problem, however, solves itself when the townspeople's fascination with the angel shifts to the spider woman. Since the Vatican does not respond any further to Father Gonzaga, he loses interest as well.
Thus, the town as character is portrayed as indifferent, not firm in its beliefs, frivolous, superstitious, and superficial. This is a town that moves back and forth, lacking firm convictions.
The interpretation of thematic issues may vary from reader to reader. For example, the role of the Church, a rather stable and influential power in Latin America, seems to pass unnoticed. The role played by the priest in "Tuesday Siesta" is irrelevant, and therefore it goes unnoticed. In "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," the priest not only has a minor role in the story, but the townsfolk seem to ignore him. The five short stories discussed in this chapter are individual portraits that can be better seen by thematic issues that tie them together. These are themes that can be perceived throughout García Márquez's works because they are either personal or universal themes. These are themes that appeal to everyone and that stand the test of time. The themes examined here are: the stranger in town, greed versus generosity, lack of love between a couple, and solitude.
The theme of a stranger in town, an outsider who does not fit into the community, is an important one in both "Tuesday Siesta" and "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings." In both short stories the outsider fails to fit into the social structure of the town. In "Tuesday Siesta," the outsider is an older woman who may be known to the community. She walks the streets as someone who knows exactly where she is going. Everyone in town watches her arrival and departure, but no one talks to her, perhaps out of fear. The woman has come to visit her son's grave. The townsfolk, as if to watch a parade, come out to see her. There appears to be no pity for her loss. She comes and leaves without human contact, except for the priest. The reader feels the tension building and wonders whether she and her twelve-year-old daughter may be stoned to death. The tension experienced by the reader is similar to the tension in Leaf Storm (Chapter 3 [Pelayo, 2001]), and for the same reason--a stranger who has been rejected by the community. In "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," the old man plays the same role. The townsfolk do not interact with him; instead, they treat him as a circus animal whose only value is entertainment.
The theme of greed versus generosity is clearly seen in "Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon." Balthazar, a poor carpenter who seems to play a messianic (savior) role, is represented as having a heart of gold and a love for children. His concubine, however, can be viewed as the human representation of greed. While Balthazar is content to give his work, a masterfully built birdcage, to José Montiel's boy for free, Ursula incites Balthazar to charge a large amount. It is due to her greed that Balthazar ends up having to give the birdcage away. She wants sixty pesos for the birdcage, which José Montiel, the boy's father, refuses to pay. José Montiel argues that adults should not negotiate with children (143). José Montiel plays the role of the heartless rich man in town, like that played by Sabas in the novella No One Writes to the Colonel.
Another theme that seems to appear in several of the short stories of this chapter is the lack of love between a couple. In "Isabel's Monologue," Martín, Isabel's husband, does not love her, even though she is pregnant with his child. In the story, he speaks badly of her. In Leaf Storm, where the pair is more fully developed, Martín abandons Isabel and their ten-year-old son. In "Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon," Ursula and Balthazar are not married but have lived together for four years. In a small town such as theirs, Ursula can thus be seen as a woman unworthy of marriage. Likewise, in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," Elisenda and Pelayo do not seem to enjoy a loving relationship. They seem more interested in benefiting from the old winged man than even in taking care of their sick son.
The one theme that envelopes all five stories, as might be expected by readers of García Márquez, is the theme of solitude. One of the most prominent themes in Gabriel García Márquez's work, it interests many readers perhaps because it is a natural condition for humankind. Ironically, to be alone, in solitude, the individual needs the presence of others. Only when the individual is aware of others can he or she experience solitude.
The setting in all five stories is an isolated town that seems to have been forgotten by civilization. The main characters in each story also suffer from physical isolation, another form of solitude. In "Tuesday Siesta," the entire town rejects the thief's mother. No one seems to know where she came from or to care about her. In fact, there is a mutual hatred, as reflected in the woman's words and the attitude of the town. Do not even drink their water, she tells her daughter, and above all, no matter what, do not cry (101).
In "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," the winged old man is viewed as an object, not a human being. He is isolated in a cage as if he were, indeed, an animal. His isolation is total. He does not speak the same language, ignores the town's social and cultural codes, and is the only one of his kind in the town.
At the end of "Balthazar's Marvelous Afternoon," Balthazar lies drunk in the street as if he were dead yet no one offers him assistance, not even the Christian women who are seen walking to church that very morning.
In "Isabel's Monologue," the solitude suffered by Isabel is perhaps the most poignant variety that a person may bear. She seems to suffer so severely that she talks to herself as if she has lost her mind.
In "Big Mama's Funeral," the solitude of Big Mama, ironically, is the greatest of all. Everything about her is big, including her solitude. Although she is as rich as King Midas, Big Mama lacks what humans need most, love and sexual companionship. She dies a virgin, with no family to mourn her passing or continue her bloodline. She is indeed the epitome of solitude, alone in the forgotten town of Macondo, where, according to the narrative voice in One Hundred Years of Solitude, none of its inhabitants will have a second opportunity on earth.
Alternative Reading: Reception Theory
Reception theory focuses on the reader's role in literature, as opposed to analytical criticism, a literary theory that pays particular attention to the text as a self-contained work (see Chapter 3 [Pelayo, 2001]). As such, reception theory is interested in the act of reading--that is, the mechanics and use of language, as interpreted by the reader. It focuses on how the reader responds to the facts found in the narrative, the inferences a reader makes when reading a given text, and methods that help to bring the reader into a form of consciousness that allows for the criticism of his or her own identity and beliefs. Thus, the reader is an active entity in the creation of meaning. The text has meanings that are activated only when the reader reads them. Thus, it is up to the reader to activate the potential viewpoints present in the text through which García Márquez interprets the world. In the latter half of the 1970s, literary critic Wolfgang Iser was among the theoreticians who paid special attention to reception theory. According to Iser, all texts have certain gaps, which the reader must fill to derive his or her own understanding of the text. The text itself, however, demands that the reader react on the basis of what the text contains.
Reception theory critics generally group the readers into two categories: the real reader and the hypothetical reader. The real reader is defined by a specific reading public such as the one in literature classes or those whose responses are recorded by critics in relation to a given literary work; this reader is also identified as the implied reader. Thus, the real reader and the implied reader are the same.
The hypothetical reader is a category often identified as the so-called ideal reader (Iser 27). The hypothetical reader can be constructed or reconstructed from a social and historical knowledge of the times. The hypothetical reader (also identified by theoreticians as the ideal reader), of all possible readers is the one, Iser notes, born from the brain of the philologist (someone who studies languages from linguistic and historical backgrounds), the critic, or the author him- or herself (Iser 28). The hypothetical reader is the one capable of understanding exactly what the author meant when writing the text; as this is an impossibility, this reader is purely fictional and has no basis in reality (Iser 29).
Reception theory is seemingly prescriptive. This literary theory assumes that the real reader may be able to activate, or interpret, the gaps that the author intentionally leaves for the reader to fill. Reception theory allows for different possible ways of reading the same text. The real reader is capable of, and willing to, understand the text individually but sees the role of the text to be stronger. It is through the text that the implied reader makes inferences, elaborates illusions, and arrives at conclusions, in accordance with his or her historical, cultural, and individual circumstances.
The five short stories selected for this chapter are all challenging. Being able to interpret them successfully puts great demands on the reader. By examining "Tuesday Siesta" in detail in terms of a reception theory model, readers should better understand how the theory works in practice.
How does the reader react to the use of language in the opening sentence of "Tuesday Siesta"? What are the reader's inferences when the following is read: "the train emerged from the quivering tunnel of sandy rocks, began to cross the symmetrical, interminable banana plantations, and the air became humid and they couldn't feel the sea breeze any more" (99).
The reader may ask: who are they? Are there two people or more? Are they all of the same gender and age group? Are they a couple, and if so, are they married or unmarried? Are they a father and son or daughter? Are they just friends? The possibilities for interpreting the facts of the opening sentence are numerous and may vary from reader to reader.
A reader may also ask: where is this story taking place? Any attentive reader may imagine a tropical place where banana trees grow near the sea, but the question remains as to exactly where.
The fact that so many speculations and inquiries may be drawn from the opening sentence proves, on the one hand, that most readers bring to the text their own active participation, whether knowingly or not. On the other hand, as the reader continues, the text answers many of the inquiries. According to British literary critic Terry Eagleton, the reader makes implicit connections, fills in gaps, draws inferences, and tests out hunches. The reader, in the terminology of reception theory, as Eagleton notes, concretizes the literary work: without his or her continuous active participation there would be no literary work at all (Eagleton 66).
"Tuesday Siesta," as well as the other short stories reviewed in this chapter, is filled with indeterminacies (elements within a narrative text that depend for their effect or result on the reader's interpretation). However, due to ambiguity in the use of language, the interpretations may vary in a number of different ways.
The reader's response to the indeterminacies (questions) of they and where in "Tuesday Siesta" might be influenced by his or her own interests and viewpoints. The reader eventually knows that the indeterminate they means an old woman and her young daughter, both dressed in black and traveling by train. However, the more the reader learns in response to his or her inquiries, the more complex the text becomes.
At the end of the short story the reader may not necessarily have answers to all the indeterminacies (questions) that the narrative may have provoked. Was the old woman once a citizen living in this town? Is the town so typical that we need not know its name? Why is there so much pride and dignity in the old woman's behavior? The reader has to end the story on his or her own terms, for the ending is an indeterminacy.
In reception theory, the act of reading is always a dynamic one, moving both in time and space. The reader, whether successful or not, strives to make sense from what he or she reads. The reader organizes the material as it is being read, selecting what he or she considers relevant and concretizing certain information. In concretizing, the reader attempts to see in the text not what he or she is already prepared to see and understand, but what "Tuesday Siesta" suggests. This in turn allows the reader to elaborate one or more perspectives that culminate in an integrated illusion. An integrated illusion may be temporary in the sense that what the reader holds to be a fact on one page may prove to be altogether different after he or she turns the page. Illusion may also operate in the sense that what the reader comes to understand might be what he or she wanted to read into the story. The reader brings into the story his or her own education and upbringing, including religious beliefs, race, gender, and age.
As the title of "Tuesday Siesta" implies: "at that hour [when the two women got off the train], weighted down by drowsiness, the town was taking a siesta" (101). The reader concretizes the information and elaborates an image, which, in reception theory, is referred to as an illusion of the townsfolk. This illusion is almost immediately contradicted by the text. What comes next in the story contradicts both the short story's title and the illusion that the reader was concretizing: the townsfolk, at that hour, are not asleep and instead carefully observe the two female characters in their progress through the town.
The reader's efforts--of trying to reconcile the indeterminacies (gaps or questions) of the text with his or her own illusions--continue throughout the text, for García Márquez's short stories do not necessarily move through time in a linear fashion. He employs backgrounds and foregrounds (the use of devices and techniques such as the flashback or the interior monologue so that language calls attention to itself). He also creates different layers of meaning, which the reader continually attempts to understand, either consciously or not.
García Márquez deliberately leaves elements of his short stories in a rather vague and often ambiguous fashion. This is, indeed, his writing style. To be able to read García Márquez's short stories according to reception theory, the reader must be willing to read the text with a critical awareness that allows for a viewpoint different from his or her customary expectations. This is not necessarily because of García Márquez's use of magic realism, the absurd, the supernatural, or the elements of the underworld, but because the main premise of reception theory is a belief that the act of reading should open the reader to new viewpoints. Through the act of reading the reader must be willing to question his or her values and allow them to be transformed.
Works by Gabriel García Márquez (in English Translation)
Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín. Trans. Asa Zatz. New York: Henry Holt, 1987.
News of a Kidnapping. Trans. Edith Grossman. New York: Knopf, 1997; New York: Penguin Books, 1998.
The Autumn of the Patriarch. Trans. Gregory Rabassa. New York: Harper and Row, 1976; New York: HarperPerennial, 1991.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Trans. Gregory Rabassa. New York: Knopf, 1983.
Collected Novellas: Leaf Storm, No One Writes to the Colonel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Trans. Gregory Rabassa and J. S. Bernstein. New York: HarperCollins, 1990; New York: Perennial Classics, 1999.
The General in His Labyrinth. Trans. Edith Grossman. London: Jonathan Cape, 1991.
In Evil Hour. Trans. Gregory Rabassa. New York: Harper and Row, 1979; New York: HarperPerennial, 1991.
Leaf Storm and Other Stories. Trans. Gregory Rabassa. New York: Harper and Row, 1972; New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1979.
Reviews and Criticism
General Reviews and Criticism
Bell-Villada, Gene H. ed. García Márquez: The Man and His Work. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
Oberhelman, Harley D., ed. Gabriel García Márquez: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991.
Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
Foster, David William. Studies in the Contemporary Spanish-American Short Story. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1979.
Iser, Wolfgang. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. 1978; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.