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Literature Study GuidesLove In The Time Of CholeraChapter 4 The River Company Summary

Love in the Time of Cholera | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Love in the Time of Cholera | Chapter 4 (The River Company) | Summary



When Florentino Ariza sees Fermina six months pregnant, he decides to win "fame and fortune" to be worthy of her. He approaches his uncle, Leo XII Loayza, for a position in the River Company of the Caribbean, the company Leo XII founded with his two brothers.

He reconnects with his friends, attends dances, bonds with his coworkers, and changes his diet. Because Florentino is so determined to win Fermina back, Tránsito Ariza buys and renovates the house they live in, which takes nearly three years. During that period, she displays the first signs of memory loss. Trying to "cure" his heartbreak, Florentino pursues love affairs, including one with Ausencia Santander.

On the trolley, Florentino spots Leona Cassiani, the "true woman in his life." She returns his stare. Thinking she is a "whore," he avoids her, leaves the trolley, and changes his direction. She follows him, and he tells her she is mistaken—he does not "do that." She disagrees, saying, "One can see it in your face." Although Florentino thinks she wants him to pay her for sex, she in fact seeks a job with his uncle's company. Because Florentino is embarrassed by his assumption, he helps her obtain a menial job in the "General Section," where other sections send their problems to rot, a position she holds for three years.


The background of Florentino Ariza's father, Pius V Loayza, and his uncles, gives cultural context to the stigma of "illegitimate children" as well as illegitimate children who are not "recognized." Like Florentino, later in the novel, they are the "cream" of the "shop-counter aristocracy." Uncle Leo XII Loayza, who has "come from nothing," denies he is rich. He claims he is "a poor man with money." This gives insight into the characters of Florentino and his father, because their status dictates where they can and cannot go. Their "sanctuary" is the Commercial Club, not the Social Club of Fermina Daza's world.

When Florentino finally sees his resemblance to his father, the realization delivers an emotional shock: "he is growing old." This understanding deepens Florentino's conflict through the theme of aging and time because he hopes to outlive Dr. Urbino to win back Fermina honorably.

In the meantime, Florentino is a "furtive hunter," seeking "abandoned little birds." Birds are a symbol of temptation and danger, drawing characters into compromising situations. Throughout the novel, prostitutes and sexual conquests are often referred to as "birds." To Florentino, they symbolize danger because he wants to maintain his "chaste domesticity of the past," mostly so Fermina will not think less of him.

Gabriel García Márquez again employs letters—a symbol of secret identities, pasts, and connections—to give Florentino a way to empty "his heart of all the words of love" that build up inside him. The hopelessness of his love for Fermina is put to good use, as he creates messages for other hopeless lovers on the Arcade of the Scribes.

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