Term Paper: Violence, History, and Suppression of Memory

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Violence, History, And Suppression of Memory as Metaphor in Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years Of Solitude

Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez's fantastical masterpiece of magic realism, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) chronicles the long, colorful, violent, repetitive, and ultimately tragic history of the Buendia family of the mythical town of Macondo, an imaginary locale apparently based on Garcia Marquez's own small home town of Aracataca, Colombia ("100 Years of Solitude"). As Maria R. Restorina suggests, within the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, "the totality of Latin American society and history is expressed." In this essay, I will suggest ways in which violence and suppression of memory within the story serve to create future cycles of violence (and future loss of memory) thereby symbolically illustrating the maxim that those (like the Buendias) who forget history shall be doomed to repeat it. I will also suggest that One Hundred Years of Solitude in many ways parallels the history of the Latin American nation Colombia itself, and, in a broader sense, of all Latin American nations, especially in the sense of the modern domination of them by outside forces.

Many readers have come to see One Hundred Years of Solitude, accurately, as something much more than a fantastical, creatively imaginative and dazzlingly original tale, replete with unusual characters, settings, and occurrences, and taking place within a mythical small town where, as it seems, no one, from one generation to the next, can catch a break. One Hundred Years of Solitude is seen often as, as Restorino suggests, as a fantastical allegorical history of the nation of Colombia itself, and, by association, all nations and territories encroached upon by foreign exploitation and the ruining forces of capitalism, but particularly Latin American ones.

The web article "One Hundred Years of Solitude" suggests:

Just as Macondo undergoes frequent changes in government, Latin

American nations, too, seem unable to produce governments that are both stable and organized. The various dictatorships that come into power throughout the course of One Hundred Years of Solitude, for example, mirror dictatorships that have ruled in Nicaragua, Panama, and Cuba.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a tale of groups, communities, and nations: that is, a collective, rather than an individual, story and metaphor. Toward that end and in that respect, this novel is not written, as are most North American and European novels, from a perspective of just one narrator, or "hero," but rather, from the perspectives of multiple individuals having the same experience, a sort of amalgamated, chorus of generations, in which significances are determined not individually and personally, but collectively and through comparison and consensus.

In that same respect, then, Garcia Marquez allegorically chronicles within this story how an actual community, or nation, might experience cultural and historical events and changes. As the web article "One Hundred Years of Solitude" points out:

multiple perspectives are especially appropriate to the unique reality of Latin America -- caught between modernity and pre-industrialization; torn by civil war, and ravaged by imperialism -- where the experiences of people vary much more than they might in a more homogenous society. Magical realism conveys a reality that incorporates the magic that superstition and religion infuse into the world.

The repetitious, unfortunate, fates, of the various members of the Buendia family itself throughout the novel serve as a metaphor for how history repeats itself. Even the names Garcia Marquez gives to the succeeding generations of Buendia family members, e.g., Jose Arcadio; Aureliano; Ursula, underscore how this family, and Macondo itself, are trapped in repetitive cycles they cannot remember long enough to break.

Moreover, Garcia Marquez often reports the repeated travails of particular Buendia family members with matter-of-fact, quasi-journalistic objectivity, an ironical tone that somehow in fact underscores the seemingly factual (indeed, pre-ordained) inevitability of all of those serial, multi-generational, disappointments, disillusionments, disasters and tragedies. The sheer magnitude of unfortunate events that befall certain members of the Buendia family serves, in an ironic way, to make such events seem not only inevitable and entirely factually believable, especially given what has come before. For example, as Garcia Marquez tells us about a quarter of the way through the novel, in a piling-on of amalgamated detail:

Colonel Aureliano Buendia organized thirty-two armed uprisings and he lost them all. He had seventeen male children by seventeen different women and they were all exterminated one after the other on a single night before the oldest one had reached the age of thirty-five. He survived fourteen attempts on his life, seventy-three ambushes, and a firing squad. (One Hundred

Years of Solitude, p.104).

As similar cruel and unfortunate events occur again and again, the separate tragedy of each is, in effect, squashed into flat indistinctiveness.

Irvin D. Solomon suggests that, in precisely this way, the novel:

doubles as a commentary -- many would say an allegory - for modern Latin

American history. From the founding of the village of Macondo near the Colombian coast by Jose Buendia and Ursula Iguaran, his wife-cousin, to the prophesied destruction of the once-great but long-moribund city 100 (or 150) years later, the plot erratically follows the six ensuing generations of the Buendias, all condemned to fundamental solitude. The timeline begins in a pleasant and pristine world which comes to endure... brutal civil war, railroads and modernization, and Yankee imperialism, all of which turn

Macondo into a run-down banana town of wooden homes and zinc roofs strikingly similar to the author's own home town of Aracataca. In the end, the town, like each Buendia, dies from inexplicable yet long-unfolding events.

A the story takes on the force of a metaphor for all the cycles of life that have characterized an entire region.

The patriarch of the Buendia family of Macondo is Jose Arcadio Buendia; his two sons, one also named Jose Arcadio, the other named Aureliano (Aureliano grows up to be the famed Colonel Aureliano Buendia), and their various children and descendants, including the cruel dictator (the grandson of the patriarch, and the son of young Jose Arcadio and Rebeca) Arcadio Buendia. One Hundred Years of Solitude tells a one hundred-plus year history of the Buendia family, as Garcia Marquez (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, for which One Hundred Years of Solitude was singled out for special mention) spins a fantastical tale about a once peaceful and pristine world invaded by capitalism.

And, like Latin America itself, and Colombia in particular, Macondo, is gradually corrupted: more ruined for each succeeding generation through the results of successions of power struggles and abuses of power, combined with foreign interference, and then outright abandonment and neglect. It is the sad fate of Madondo, and the Buendia family, like an actual place used up and then deserted, to languish and then, eventually, to disappear altogether. Elizabeth a Spillar suggests, of Macondo:

Macondo is situated in a mysterious no-place, somewhere in South America, that defies rational explanation. Bounded by an "enchanted region,"

Macondo is an uncharted site that does not even appear on the maps of the dead (336, 80). As a utopia, Macondo is a place that is in some sense created rather than founded because it is a physical realization of the idea of isolation.

In fact, before settlers arrive from afar to build banana plantations around the area, pristine Macondo has almost no contact with the world outside. One Hundred Years of Solitude opens with both a reference to a violent act soon to come, and its soon-to-be victim's remembrance of simpler times. The first sentence, a recollection by Colonel Aureliano Buendia, reads: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember the distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice" (Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, p. 11).

In fact, in the bygone days of Colonel Aureliano Buendia's recollection, Macondo is so simple and isolated that even the appearance of ice is a novelty. Occasionally, gypsies come along to sell wondrous items like ice, and even telescopes. However, for the most part, Macondo remains undisturbed, until the first banana planters come.

From there Garcia Marquez chronicles, through a rich combination of seemingly journalistic objectivity and sometimes outrageous-seeming (but always clearly symbolic) magic realism, the gradual decline of Macondo, and (by association) actual places as well.

Although violence is not in itself a key theme, Garcia Marquez's use of exaggeration and magic realism to elaborately and exaggeratedly depict violent incidents parallels the dizzying occurrence of such historical events within Colombia itself. Juxtaposition of violence and loss of memory underscores the essential theme of solitude, its causes, and its unfortunate effects -- a powerful and important subject from which the book takes its title.

Further, as the web article "One Hundred Years of Solitude" implies, the cyclical violence within the story does in fact parallel real life:

Just as Macondo undergoes frequent changes in government, Latin American nations, too, seem unable to produce governments that are both stable and organized. The various dictatorships that come into… [END OF PREVIEW]

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