Love in the Time of Cholera | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Love in the Time of Cholera | Chapter 3 (The Wedding) | Summary

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Summary

Upon returning to the city, Florentino Ariza learns Fermina Daza has married Dr. Juvenal Urbino and is honeymooning in Europe. He grows a mustache, which changes his "entire being." During the war, Tránsito Ariza sends Widow Nazaret, whose house is destroyed by cannons, to Florentino's, hoping a woman's presence would "cure him" of Fermina. After six months and his teaching her that "nothing one does in bed is immoral if it helps perpetuate love," the two "forget" each other.

Believing he has "survived the torment" of Fermina, he sees her—visibly pregnant—leaving mass with Dr. Urbino. To him, she seems like "another person." The sight of them—"an admirable couple" with "fluidity"—makes him loathe himself.

Fermina encounters jealousy among other women for marrying the "most incomparably elegant young man of the day." The night of the wedding, they depart on a ship for their honeymoon. Because Fermina is sick for the first three nights, Dr. Urbino comforts her and they talk. On the fourth night, she—having never heard a man urinate—says, "I have never been able to understand how that thing works," so her husband, a doctor, approaches sex scientifically, explaining his anatomy. That night they only kiss. "Aware" he is not in love with her, he knows there will "be no obstacle in their inventing true love." On the fifth night, Fermina initiates sex, "without fear, without regret."

After three romantic months in Europe during which Fermina has not become pregnant, she and Dr. Urbino undergo fertility testing. Eventually, the "miracle" occurs. On their return, Fermina is six months pregnant.

Analysis

During Florentino Ariza's "curative journey" away from the city, Gabriel García Márquez gradually erodes the young man's relief at leaving Fermina Daza behind. Instead of an atmosphere of calm, the author raises tension as Florentino takes masochistic pleasure in imagining Fermina's wedding and honeymoon. His feverish imaginings even reinforce the theme of plague, as he becomes Ill and the ship's captain suspects he has cholera.

Birds, a symbol of temptation and danger, adorn Widow Nazaret's dresses following the first sexual encounter between her and Florentino Ariza. After wearing mourning attire for three years, she sheds any sign of her husband's death. It was the custom, during mourning, to transition into an "intermediate stage of blouses with little gray flowers." Rather than such sedate clothing, the widow adopts "provocative dresses decorated with macaws." The macaw, a parrot, may also foreshadow a death that will be important to Florentino: that of Dr. Juvenal Urbino. Fermina Daza's escaped parrot signals both danger and temptation, as Dr. Urbino is tempted to capture the bird when he sees it on a low branch of the mango tree and is lured into more dangerous territory as the bird hops onto higher branches. Eventually, the temptation leads Dr. Urbino to lose his footing and fall to his death.

Just as in early and late passages of the novel, Fermina selects Florentino over choices other people would make for her, so she does here. The purchases she makes on her honeymoon support the theme of society versus passion, as she chooses items that appeal to her rather than things society might choose. Instead of haute couture, she buys merchandise from secondhand shops. Her insistence on her own taste rather than society's dictates shows how she differs from the upper class. Her choice of exotic feathers and whole taxidermied birds again invokes birds as symbols of temptation and danger.

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