One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1982 “….in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts”.
Marquez portrays the afflictions and woes of women where he exposes the patriarchal and stereotypical representation of women and on the other hand, gives us a ”heightened understanding of their inherent worth and roles in society”. Through a women-centered understanding of the book, I will commend on the roles of women in my essay.
We understand that, feminism is a political movement demanding for the “status, rights and desires of women to be taken into consideration”. Peter Barry points out that the Anglo-Americans treat literature as representation of women’s lives and experiences. This kind of debates and criticisms put into use social history to highlight the cause as provided by Marquez in representing Macondo village with close resemblances to his native place, Columbia and where he draws the chronicle of the Buendia family.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez tries to reflect the reality of the role of women in Latin America and portrays women characters with strong qualities who performs important roles in family affairs. As a critic points out, each woman has her own past, her own quirks and her own version of normality, but they all have one common characteristic: an absolute force, a superior personal strength. When the novel starts off, the “youthful patriarch” Jose Arcadio Buendia is shown as a strong character but eventually transforms into a nothingness and a lazy person. When Jose went “crazy”, Ursula Iguaran, his wife, who’s “capacity for work was the same as that of her husband” would not lose sense of the reality and becomes a responsible person for the family. When the family is affected by insomnia, she acts as the “nurturer” “…who had learned from her mother the medicinal value of plants, prepared and made them all drink a brew of monkshood..”. In an interview Gabriel Garcia Marquez once said, “…in most cases, women are the practical sex. It’s men who are the romantics and who go off and do all kinds of crazy things; women know that life is hard. Ursula is a prototype of that kind of practical, life-sustaining woman.”
By deconstructing the role of gender, men who claims to be superior and represent the stereotypical machismo of Latin America and seems unaffected by societal norms, tend to be, on a deeper understanding, just like women affected by normative gender roles. While some critics perceives the male characters in the novel as the dominant ones. These views echo the traditional and stereotypical roles performed by the division in labor where the male characters take part in wars, scholarly activities and are allowed to travel around the world while the female characters remain within the domestic sphere and looks after the family and home as a responsible wife and mother. Gender theory has tried to decipher these conventions mainly in second- and third-wave feminism’s critique based on the performance of the gender roles.
Referring to an instance in the novel, right after Ursula’s son, Jose Arcadio, runs away with the gypsies, Ursula is the one who chases after him, leaving behind her newborn baby Amaranta at home. Her husband, Jose Arcadio Buendia, diapers the baby, takes her to the village women to be nursed four times a day, and sings her to sleep. After five months Ursula returns home after discovering the route in the jungle which her husband was unable to. She arrived “rejuvenated” and with “new clothes”. With this reversal of roles, Marquez is able to break free the shackles of the stereotypes of the Latin American culture and the societal constructions around it.
Just like Pilar Ternera and Ursula, Fernanda del Carpio, who is the wife of Aureliano Segundo fits into the “gender paradigm”. Upon her arrival in the Buendia household, she takes charge of the daily household routine and begins to change the atmosphere of the house. Fernanda’s “discarding of tradition” marks her as a rebellious figure. Amaranta, Ursula’s daughter has the most distinct character. She is able to predict her own death and has premonitions of the future, just like her mother and Pilar Ternira and dies a virgin. Remedies the Beauty is the paragon of virtue with a sense of innocence and is the most desirable to the men in their village.
The breakdown of women’s character like Rebeca, who is the adopted daughter of Ursula, has a habit of putting “handful of earth in her pockets and ate them in small bits, without being seen” calls for a psychological problem to be dealt within the realm of her psyche and her inability to handle herself. This also describes the mental conditions of women maneuvered by dominations and looking for respite at oddity.
Several of the Buendia men are sexually voracious and have a habit of going to the local brothels every now and then. The novel explores female sexuality who “have unconventional relationships with men and who deviate from society’s standards of sexual behavior”. Petra Cortes and Pilar Ternera is an example of a sexually liberated woman. They comparatively are happier than the women who doesn’t indulge in sexual activities in the novel.
Thus, the woman in the early 20th century were placed in a patriarchal society where men were always superior to women. But with variations ”the dominant hegemonies as structures can be re-written and deprived of their power”. Hence, in the Macondo village, as a critic Irvine D.S. Winsboro said ”for their part, the Buendia woman are continually concerned with keeping the family together in a dynastic sense. They are stern, naive, and sometimes sexually wanton but generally they are the mothers and custodians of the Buendia male line”.
- Barry, Peter, Beginning theory: An Introduction To Literary And Cultural Theory 3rd edition, Manchester University Press, 2009.
- García Márquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude, London Penguin, 1996.
- academia.edu/ influence and power of women in One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
- Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’. Ed. by Harold bloom. Chelsea House Publishers, 2003.
- Arejola- Billanes, Lorna. ‘Images of women in the selected novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’