Love in the Time of Cholera | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Love in the Time of Cholera | Chapter 4 (Upward Mobility) | Summary



After Leona Cassiani recommends disbanding the company's General Section, she wins Leo XII Loayza's respect and various promotions. Because of her "simple gratitude" to Florentino Daza for getting her a job, she refuses any advancement that would put her in a position above her friend.

One summer day, Dr. Juvenal Urbino appears in Florentino's office. Because Leo XII, Dr. Urbino's biggest patron for his "artistic enterprises," is taking his siesta, Florentino invites him to wait in his office. During the "eternity," Dr. Urbino talks endlessly as if he "did not even care if anyone was listening to him." Eventually, he brings up Fermina Daza, saying, "Without her I would be nothing." Realizing they are "victims of the same fate" who share "the hazards of a common passion," Florentino is sad the charming and elegant man has "to die in order for [Florentino] to be happy."

He remembers the first Poetic Festival, which he participates in because Fermina announces the winners annually. At the festival he meets Sara Noriega. Florentino falls in love with Sara, who accepts him "for what he really [is:] a man passing through." At the fifth Poetic Festival, Sara thinks Fermina sabotages her poem, which does not win, and calls her a "whore." Florentino "hurries to a cautious defense," saying she has "risen to the top by virtue of her own merits." He tries to change the subject but, after the argument, begins to "see her with different eyes" and searches for a way to reject Sara. After she says she is expecting someone else, he leaves without a word.


Like letters and telegrams, Leona Cassiani's memo to Leo XII Loayza represents her secret identity. Remaining silent because of her "position as a charity employee" and her "respect for the hierarchies in the section," she explains her solution to the problem of the General Section, revealing her ferocity and wisdom in the business world. Despite the limitations of her past (an elementary school education and training in hat-making), she has, like Leo XII and Florentino Ariza, the determination to work her way up.

After the death of Tránsito Ariza, Florentino relies more heavily on Leona. As Tránsito supported his future and believed in him, by buying and renovating the house for him and Fermina, Leona supports his professional life by offering him "suggestions" for the Board of Directors and ideas trumping the "traps set by his secret enemies." Although Florentino has been attracted to Leona over the years, when he tries to seduce her, it seems like an act of incest. Leona refuses his advances, saying a sexual encounter would be "as if I were going to bed with the son I never had."

The theme of aging and the passing of time is invoked through Fermina's appearance. At the Fifth Poetic Festival, Florentino notices her "maternal age" in the "size of her waist and the slight shortness of breath." The theme of aging and time adds tension, because the narratives of life and love compete with each other while Florentino, in his words, does "nothing more than wait." Yet, as he ages, he begins to cross previous boundaries. Formerly, his intimacy is only sexual, but, with Sara, he discovers he loves her "in the fullness of her years."

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