Marquez’s Literary Devices in “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”

Paper Info
Page count 4
Word count 1134
Read time 4 min
Topic Literature
Type Essay
Language 🇺🇸 US


The story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is one of the captivating pieces of literature that covers a lot of elements in writing. It is about the relationship between humans and an angel (Marquez 1). Marquez uses a lot of literary devices such as symbolism to present his ideas, which makes the work stand out in an age of sophisticated writing. Characterization is one of the literary devices explored by Marquez in the story. Pelayo and Elisenda show how human beings judge others based on their looks (Marquez 1). In the story, the author also uses judgmental and somber tones to depict that individuals have an unrealistic and insatiable desire that blinds them toward reality. Therefore, Marquez brings the story to life with the unique use of tone, symbolism, and characterization that depict the true nature of society.


Marquez sets a negative tone from the beginning of the story. In the beginning, the author introduces the readers to a sad situation. The community was invaded by crabs, and Pelayo’s child was sick. Marquez describes this environment by stating that “the light was so weak at noon that Pelayo was coming back to the house after throwing away the crabs” (1). In addition, the author introduces supernatural beings in the opening paragraph by showing the dreamy character of an old man with enormous wings. Marquez soon dispels any notions of the old man being an angel by having his face down in the mud and unable to get himself out due to his massive wings. Pelayo and Elisenda cage and mistreat the old man, and he, later on, gain the strength to fly away. Therefore, Marquez uses a sad tone to take the readers through the negative ordeals that the characters face in the story.

The tone of Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” varies throughout the novel, conveying the eventual negative implications of high hopes. The work’s first pitying tone reveals a gloomy setting in which Marquez paints the people as caring, and the tone becomes judgmental while criticizing the unfortunate angel’s overly terrible condition (Marquez 2). The rising brutality and artificiality of the people toward the angel, which Marquez describes in a solemn tone, imply that human nature, with its severe stereotypes and aspirations, never allows for contentment or fulfillment. Thus, through pitying, judgmental, and solemn tones, Marquez demonstrates that people have an unreasonable and unquenchable drive for tangible outcomes, which can only lead to disillusionment and blindness to the reality of given situations.


Wings are commonly associated with strength and unlimited movement. In the Christian faith, angels are typically represented as gorgeous winged entities. Interestingly, the angel’s wings in the story merely communicate a sense of old age and sickness (Marquez 2). Despite being filthy, torn, and bare, the old man’s wings are mysterious enough to entice thousands of pilgrims and tourists. The angel draws a crowd of people who gather to see the uncommon creature. When the villagers examine the old man, they observe how the wings blend into the body. The villagers were surprised that no one else had wings (Marquez 3). As a result, although the wings are undermined at the story’s start, their usefulness is seen at the end of the story when the angel flies away.

The author portrays the spider woman as an unpredictable character of self-centered people and their beliefs. In the story, she becomes a spider due to disobedience to her husband (Marquez 3). After hearing about the old man, the people assemble at Pelayo’s house, inspired in part by faith and a desire to see him perform the miracles (Marquez 3). However, the people’s trust in the old man fades because he can only perform minor miracles. People began to gather around the woman because she could convey her sorrowful story that contrasts with the old man’s. Although the spider woman is as strange as the old man with wings, she is more appealing to the villagers (Marquez 3). Marquez uses the spider woman to demonstrate the different options that people have and choose in society.


One of the characters Marquez uses to bring the story to life is the old man. The entire story revolves around the old man with enormous wings. At the start of the story, the man is set to be in Pelayo and Elisenda’s yard (Marquez 1). Marquez presents the man as old, filthy, bedraggled, and speaks a different language that the villagers do not understand. The wings and incomprehensible language made the villagers believe that the man was a fallen angel. However, the church believes he is a Norwegian, despite appearing clueless about the surrounding (Marquez 3). Based on this, the author shows the readers the level of discernment of the church on spiritual things. Marquez portrays the church as deceitful due to their description of the old man. Therefore, the author ensures that the readers understand that the church may also be wrong.

Moreover, Marquez uses Pelayo to describe warm, cooperative, but sometimes self-centered people. Pelayo is an ordinary villager who is impoverished but prepared to accommodate the winged old man in his chicken coop (Marquez 1). He looks after the old man, consults the local priest politely, and has the insight to reject the more lavish suggestions from the other villagers. However, Pelayo does not want to care for the man indefinitely and does not feel bad about using the old man for financial gain. Marquez uses the personality of Pelayo to show the readers how unpredictable people can be through the interplay of good and bad attributes.

In the story, Elisenda is shown to represent people who love others when they are beneficial and hate them when they become useless. Despite the old man’s blessings, Elisenda’s attitude toward him is mostly wrath and aggravation. Once his value as a roadside attraction has faded, she sees the old man as a burden. However, the old man irritates her to the point where she refers to her new home, which she purchased with the proceeds from the old man’s exhibition, as a “hell full of angels” (4). Marquez presents Elisenda as a self-centered person due to her behavior of using others to fulfill her desires and leaving them when they are not beneficial.


Marquez employs tone, symbolism, and characterization to show the readers to show the true nature of society. He uses a sad tone from the beginning from the start of the story to display the unfortunate moments that people face. The author uses the wings to represent the strength and supernatural ability of the old man. In addition, the author uses characterization to present ideas such as self-centeredness, hatred, perseverance, and many others. These stylistic devices help the author in bringing the story to life.

Work Cited

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. “A very old man with enormous wings: A tale for children.” Leaf storm and other stories (1972). Web.

Cite this paper


EssaysInCollege. (2023, January 13). Marquez’s Literary Devices in “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”. Retrieved from


EssaysInCollege. (2023, January 13). Marquez’s Literary Devices in “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”.

Work Cited

"Marquez’s Literary Devices in “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”." EssaysInCollege, 13 Jan. 2023,


EssaysInCollege. (2023) 'Marquez’s Literary Devices in “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”'. 13 January.


EssaysInCollege. 2023. "Marquez’s Literary Devices in “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”." January 13, 2023.

1. EssaysInCollege. "Marquez’s Literary Devices in “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”." January 13, 2023.


EssaysInCollege. "Marquez’s Literary Devices in “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”." January 13, 2023.