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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 (Widowhood) | Summary



Three weeks after Dr. Juvenal Urbino's death passes, Fermina Daza finds it's "impossible not to think about" Florentino Ariza. Not surprised by his presence at the vigil, his "dramatic reiteration of a love that, for her, had never existed" angers her until it is "unbearable" to contain, so she writes Florentino Ariza a letter. "Inspired by blind rage," she attacks his tremendous offense.

On Monday, he finds Fermina's letter. Trembling with "nervous excitement," he reads it six times and then barely moves until morning. Believing the letter requires an answer, he spends several days contemplating what he wants to say and then composes his response on a typewriter. Fermina responds to his six pages, offering an apology for her handwriting. He attempts to seduce her "without any reference to past loves or even to the past itself" and plans "everything down to the last detail." His letters increase as he becomes familiar with the "one-finger instrument." He continues his visits with past lovers (Prudencia Pitre, Andrea Varón) and renovates the house, hoping Fermina will live there.

After a year without a response, Florentino, uninvited, attends Dr. Urbino's one-year anniversary mass. After the event, Fermina, who has gained "serious and thoughtful reasons" to keep living from Florentino's letters, thanks him for coming.


Fermina Daza's struggle with widowhood can be seen as a type of metamorphosis. No longer the individual she was as Dr. Juvenal Urbino's wife, she seeks to become a new person through ridding the house and herself of the physical reminders of her husband. Burning his belongings serves as a sort of spiritual cremation—a ceremony she believes Dr. Urbino would have preferred to burial. Fermina's evolution seems to reflect the behavior Florentino Ariza has witnessed in his multiple liaisons with widows: a lamenting desire to die with her husband, followed by freedom.

Their differences, Florentino's romanticism and Fermina's reason, pose problems for a reunion. Yet, Fermina's blush upon receiving Florentino's first letter, points to an underlying passion. Again, Gabriel García Márquez uses the trusty symbol of letters to represent secret identities, pasts, and connections. Despite her outward behavior toward Florentino, Fermina's current actions hint at change and tender feelings. When she reads the letter three times, liking his "clear-sightedness" and simplicity, it suggests Florentino's new method is effective.

As a reunion with Fermina becomes a possibility for Florentino, he coincidentally realizes the age difference between him and América, and avoids her. When América ignores Florentino, this represents common social conventions which will be reflected later in Dr. Urbino Daza and Ofelia Urbino's reactions to Fermina and Florentino's relationship.

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