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Love in the Time of Cholera | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Love in the Time of Cholera | Chapter 6 (New Fidelity) | Summary



Fermina Daza, feeling pulled to the river, contemplates a boat trip. To Florentino Ariza, she says she wants to leave and "keep going, going, going, and never come back." Despite Florentino's array of boating information such as maps, postcards, and poems, Fermina, on her own, plans a 13-day trip on the New Fidelity (a coincidental name, reeking of Florentino's "chronic romanticism").

After boarding, she occupies the Presidential Suite while Florentino has a cabin on the common deck. Escaping the bustle, Fermina invites Florentino to sit with her on the deck to watch the river. He notices her crying and asks if she wants to be alone. She says no, and he reaches for her hand. Understanding that her marriage had "more difficulties than pleasures, too many mutual misunderstandings, useless arguments, unresolved angers," she asks Florentino to leave, praying he will know how to return in the morning. He tries to kiss her, which she refuses, claiming she smells "like an old woman." The second night, after listening to music, an earache makes Fermina retire early. She lets Florentino kiss her, exclaiming, "ships make me so crazy." When the boat runs out of fuel, the heat makes it "easier to love without questions." They remain inseparable, "satisfied with the simple joy of being together."

At the final port, Fermina is "distraught" by the presence of her old acquaintances, who might judge her for taking a "pleasure trip." While dining with the captain, Florentino asks "hypothetically" if there is a way to make a trip without stopping, without passengers. Captain Samaritano says that "hypothetically" if there is a case of cholera, they can make that trip "without anything." Florentino orders him to raise the yellow flag, which signifies cholera. The captain obeys, only asking if his lover, Zenaida Neves, can join them. On the "rapid" journey back, the members of the "floating fiesta" play cards, drink, eat, dance, and sleep.

When the boat arrives, the Health Department questions Captain Samaritano and then orders him to wait in Las Mercedes Marsh to be quarantined. Florentino and Fermina wait silently, watching the "throbbing of his temples." After Captain Samaritano says there is "no way out of the mess," Florentino suggests they "keep going, going, going, back to La Dorada." The captain asks how long they can keep "coming and going," and Florentino—"illuminated by the grace of the Holy Spirit"—answers, "Forever."


On New Fidelity, when Florentino Ariza receives a telegram informing him of América Vicuña's death, Florentino keeps the news to himself. This reveals Florentino's self-centeredness, as he thinks of himself first, wondering about an "explanatory note," essentially whether he could be blamed for her suicide.

Aging and time and society versus passion are seen again as themes; Ofelia Urbino, Dr. Marco Aurelio Urbino Daza, and Dr. Urbino Daza's wife have different reactions to the budding relationship between Florentino and Fermina. While her son and his wife are happy for the couple and welcome "love at any age," Ofelia has prejudice against a relationship she considers "revolting." The division between the family members signifies the opposition of society versus passion. Again, Florentino and Fermina confront opposition. This time, society, instead of classism, promotes ageism by stigmatizing love. Fermina complains to her daughter-in-law, "A century ago, life screwed that poor man and me because we were too young," and now her children want to screw them because they are "too old."

On the trip, Florentino and Fermina allow themselves the anonymity, away from society's expectations and outside of their former lives, to figure out how to be together. Gabriel García Márquez supports the theme of plague, as raising the yellow flag of cholera enables the New Fidelity to continue Florentino and Fermina's voyage of love without interruption from the outside world. Florentino grants Fermina's wish to "keep going, going, going."

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