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Literature Study GuidesLove In The Time Of CholeraChapter 5 Journey To San Juan De La Ciénaga Summary

Love in the Time of Cholera | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Love in the Time of Cholera | Chapter 5 (Journey to San Juan de la Ciénaga) | Summary



With Dr. Juvenal Urbino's approval, Fermina Daza, "alive and well," stays with Hildebranda Sánchez, who is "forgotten by the world." Furious and determined not to return, Fermina leaves with her 15-year-old goddaughter, claiming she needs a "change of scene." She spends nearly two years on her cousin's San Juan de la Ciénaga ranch.

Since their honeymoon, to Dr. Urbino's frustration, Fermina has sniffed clothes to decide whether they need washing. She discovers a "disturbing" scent on her husband's clothes. Witnessing his changed personality—"evasive" and like a "caged lion"—she confronts him after his siesta. He asks her, "What is going on?" to which she replies, "You know better than I." He immediately ends his four-month-long affair with his patient Barbara Lynch. Late Sunday night, he confides everything to Fermina, which makes her weep "in rage." She leaves that Friday as the "mere thought of revisiting her adolescent haunts consoled her in her unhappiness."

While the Bishop of Riohacha visits for lunch, he asks Fermina to confess. She maintains she has "nothing to repent of." The bishop tells Dr. Urbino that Fermina's "long stay" is due to "her inability to find a way around her pride." Soon after, Dr. Urbino arrives at Hildebranda Sánchez's ranch, saying, "It is better to arrive in time than to be invited." Thinking she will "die of joy," Fermina accompanies him home, "determined to make him pay with her silence for the bitter suffering."


Fermina Daza's suspicions that Dr. Juvenal Urbino is having an affair crank up tension as she suffers, "with an unbearable anxiety that [gnaws] at her innermost being." When she eliminates Barbara Lynch as a possible mistress because she is black and "not ... her husband's taste," it supports the theme of society versus passion—exposing upper-class racism and how little Fermina knows her husband. As her behavior changes, it raises Dr. Urbino's belief that the biggest disturbance to marriage is the disruption of stability. This then draws attention to the loves Fermina has chosen between, furthering her conflict with the theme of society versus passion.

With Barbara Lynch, Dr. Urbino mirrors Florentino Ariza's stalker tendencies. After Barbara visits the clinic, he records her information and orders his carriage to her house, like Florentino frequently orders his driver to pass by the Urbinos' villa. Yet, Dr. Urbino's status, a prominent doctor, gives him an advantage over Florentino in this scenario. Barbara recognizes him and invites him in.

This passage again contains a symbol: the caged troupial (a type of oriole) on Barbara Lynch's porch. The bird signifies temptation and danger, and warns against Dr. Urbino's crossing the threshold of her house. Before he leaves, he and Barbara schedule an appointment, unofficially beginning the affair. The passage also advances the theme of society versus passion, as Dr. Urbino, "lost in the labyrinth of Miss Lynch," struggles between his intense feelings for his mistress and the comfort of his conventional marriage.

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