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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 | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


What is significant about Fermina Daza's reaction to Florentino Ariza's proposal in Chapter 2 of Love in the Time of Cholera?

When Florentino Ariza proposes in Chapter 2 (Devastating Youth), Fermina Daza experiences the "clawings of death," exposing her doubts. She has been happy to indulge in romantic dreams by way of their letters, but the realization that Florentino is serious and this may dictate the rest of her life terrifies her. When her aunt, Escolástica Daza, convinces her to accept, it becomes clear she is still a child who can be manipulated. Escolástica's "lucidity" reveals her past and regrets, which she uses as an emotional club to influence Fermina. Her current situation of living with her brother represents the fate of women who choose not to marry, developing the theme of society versus passion. Fermina's request for postponement and Florentino's response, "We'll grow old waiting," create dramatic irony because Florentino will end up waiting over 50 years for Fermina.

In Chapter 3 of Love in the Time of Cholera, how does Dr. Juvenal Urbino respond to his homecoming, and how does the city receive him?

When Dr. Juvenal Urbino returns from Paris in Chapter 3 (Symptoms) and finds that everything seems "poorer and sadder" than when he left, the scene introduces dramatic irony. While he was away, he had romanticized the city and its people. Now, seeing the devastation caused by warfare and a cholera epidemic, he feels he cannot remain in his "rubble-strewn homeland." Only gradually does renewed contact with family and friends erode his initial distress and convince him this is "the sad, oppressive world that God [has]provided for him, and he [is] responsible to it." The opposition Dr. Urbino faces in trying to initiate the modern medical practices he has learned in Europe points out similarities with the character of Don Quixote, as his presence and beliefs "[provoke] the resentment of his older colleagues and the sly jokes of the younger ones."

When Dr. Urbino pays the Daza household a follow-up visit in Chapter 3 of Love in the Time of Cholera, what is revealed regarding Fermina Daza's influence in her family?

Fermina Daza's lack of power or influence is demonstrated when Lorenzo Daza forces her to apologize for slamming the window in Dr. Juvenal Urbino's face in Chapter 3 (Symptoms). She cries "with rage" in her bedroom, "waiting for her father so that she could make him pay for the afternoon's humiliation." Both Lorenzo and Dr. Urbino arrange "casual encounters" with each other, which displays how little agency (power) women have during this period. Before marriage, they are controlled by their fathers. After marriage, they are controlled by their husbands. As seen in her father's manipulation regarding Fermina's feelings for Florentino Ariza, it becomes apparent that women also have very little control over who they marry.

How does the theme of plague figure into Florentino Ariza's journey to forget in Chapter 3 of Love in the Time of Cholera?

Just as Lorenzo Daza takes Fermina Daza from Florentino, Tránsito Ariza sends Florentino on a journey to forget Fermina in Chapter 3 (Journey to Villa de Leyva). In a deep depression because of his former fiancée's upcoming nuptials, Florentino approaches his journey like "a dead man attending to the preparations for his own funeral." His demeanor develops the theme of plague. Like the cholera that ravages people's lives, love causes Florentino intense pain. Time slows, passing "minute by minute." Again, the lovesick Florentino is mistaken for having cholera, and the Captain prescribes bromides and quarantines him. On the journey, the boat encounters the disasters of war and cholera. The sight of buzzards riding on floating bodies—some of which may be cholera victims—alludes to unseen threats and danger surrounding the area.

What is the significance of the hot air balloon ride in Chapter 5 (House Calls) of Love in the Time of Cholera?

The balloon ride provides a view of wonders to come in the new century: air travel and air mail. It also provides insight into the devastation that cholera and civil war have caused in Colombia. Gabriel García Márquez notes the city of Cartagena de Indias withstood centuries of assault by pirates and English invaders, only to be destroyed by cholera. The author also demonstrates how inured people have become to the casualties of civil war and cholera: upon seeing large numbers of corpses in the fields below, Dr. Juvenal Urbino notes wryly that if cholera killed them, "it must be a very special form of cholera, because every ... corpse" has been shot. The flight also points out a difference of opinion between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. Florentino has a rather stuffy idea: the balloon ride is "not a suitable exploit for a woman, least of all one as old as Fermina Daza." Fermina, on the other hand, has flown previously at the World's Fair in Paris and is excited to take flight. She and Dr. Urbino are the first passengers to climb aboard. Fermina's excitement contrasted with Florentino's concern about suitability support the theme of society versus passion.

What is symbolic about the mirror Florentino Ariza buys from Don Sancho in Chapter 5 (House Calls) of Love in the Time of Cholera?

The mirror becomes an obsession for Florentino Ariza when, by coincidence, he and Fermina Daza both dine at Don Sancho's inn. Florentino catches Fermina's reflection in the mirror and then spends the evening eagerly observing her every move. Starved for her love, he is entranced to share a "moment of her life ... in the forbidden precincts of her intimacy." Displaying his intense passion for Fermina, Florentino persistently attempts to buy the mirror from Don Sancho, because it "had been occupied by her beloved reflection." Although Don Sancho eventually relents, he has an obsession with the mirror himself, because it is rumored to be one of a pair that once belonged to Marie Antoinette.

In Chapter 6 of Love in the Time of Cholera, what is the significance of the two Justice newspaper articles and the letter Florentino Ariza sends the newspaper in response?

When the gossip-laden articles appear in Chapter 6 (Calling)—one about Dr. Juvenal Urbino's fictitious affair with Lucrecia del Real del Obispo and another about Lorenzo Daza's criminal business deals—they enrage and devastate Fermina Daza. When she stops visiting the family mausoleum, she shows that she cares less for society's opinions than she once did—even though her real reason is frustration at not being able to chastise her dead husband. She still can express her passion, though, and does so by sending insults to her former friend, Lucrecia del Real del Obispo. The article about her father, however, extinguishes her rage and replaces it with deep despair. Her public shaming and emotional turmoil support the themes of society versus passion as well as aging and time. Florentino Ariza's view of the situation differs from Fermina's. In her anger, Florentino sees a rebirth of the young Fermina's wildness. This glimpse of his former fiancée fires up a youthful zeal in the "lame old man" whose "reasoned, incisive" response is published anonymously in the Commercial Daily, the "most serious newspaper" in the region. His impassioned defense of Fermina's honor again bolsters the theme of society versus passion, while his letter reinforces a friendly connection with Fermina who welcomes his return with "renewed affection."

In Chapter 3 (The Wedding) of Love in the Time of Cholera, how does Florentino Ariza cope when he returns to the "city of Fermina Daza"?

To allow his emotional wounds to heal, Florentino Ariza avoids locations, items, or situations that remind him of Fermina Daza: The telegraph office: Telegrams were their mode of communication while she traveled to Riohacha and what originally brought him to the Daza house, where he first saw her. Telegrams are, thus, loaded with emotional trauma for him. The violin: His instrument, once a source of enjoyment, is now laden with wistful memories; his serenades of his original song, "The Crowned Goddess." Saturday night dances: Places he and Fermina used to go are now painful to visit. His avoidance of her shows how deeply he is hurt. Because his sexual encounter with Rosalba proved a distraction from his memories of Fermina, he begins a sexual relationship with the Widow Nazaret in the hope of forgetting. It is notable that this, and other affairs to come, is a physical, not an emotional, relationship.

In Chapter 4 of Love in the Time of Cholera, what are some examples of figurative language Gabriel García Márquez uses regarding Leo XII Loayza and Florentino Ariza?

Gabriel García Márquez uses figurative language throughout Love in the Time of Cholera. Some examples regarding Leo XII Loayza and Florentino Ariza in Chapter 4 (The River Company) include the following: Leo XII is a singer with "the voice of a galley slave," and his "thundering" is so emotional that it can "make even tombstones cry" and "flood a solemn funeral with weeping." The ships in his riverboat company are in poor shape, as they are said to be "still afloat out of sheer distraction on the part of fate." Using an extended metaphor, García Márquez describes Florentino's failure to write an effective business letter: "no matter how hard he twisted, he could not wring the neck of his die-hard swan."

In Chapter 2 of Love in the Time of Cholera, how does dramatic irony arise during Lorenzo Daza and Fermina Daza's journey?

When Lorenzo Daza brings Fermina to the house of his brother-in-law in Chapter 2 (Journey to Riohacha)—Lisímaco Sánchez—readers gain more insight into his character. While he complains about Florentino Ariza, he fails to recognize that 25 years ago, his in-laws were complaining about him. This situation creates dramatic irony in that the audience can see he is being hypocritical, but the irony escapes him. His past—a "braggart" without a "background" whose business "seemed too simple to be honest"—reflects his current life: a transplant in the coastal city, who buys and renovates his house with cash. He shows very little character growth, and his refusal to allow Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza to pursue their romance drives the plot.

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