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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 31 - 40


How is Florentino Ariza's wardrobe symbolic in Love in the Time of Cholera?

Throughout the whole of the novel, Florentino Ariza maintains the same appearance: glasses for myopia funereal clothing (his father's hand-me-down suit, altered for him by Tránsito Ariza) a walking umbrella (eventually replaced by a cane) His serious clothing reflects a somber mood, symbolizing his mourning the loss of Fermina Daza, who marries another man. After Florentino and Fermina's first night on New Fidelity, Fermina finds him "different," dressed in white, the following morning. His effort (giving up his black clothing for a new wardrobe) showcases the importance of the occasion to him. When Fermina realizes his change of attire is for her benefit, she becomes embarrassed, which in turn embarrasses them both. White is a special color in their relationship, referencing: the camellias he gives Fermina in their youth the roses he gives her later in life his saved "virginity"

In Love in the Time of Cholera, how does Florentino Ariza mourn after discovering Fermina Daza's engagement in Chapter 3 (Journey to Villa de Leyva)?

When Florentino Ariza learns Fermina Daza plans to marry Dr. Juvenal Urbino, he is devastated. His complete collapse worries Tránsito Ariza. Dismayed by her son's "constant weeping," she arranges a job for him in the "jungle of the Magdalena"—far from the "damnable city." The grieving young man sets off on a riverboat named for his late father, the Pius V Loayza. Gabriel García Márquez displays Florentino's despair through several emotional and physical states: Depression: The night before his departure, he plays, "The Crowned Goddess," the waltz he composed for Fermina, making a "supernatural silence" fall over the town. Jealousy: For the first and only time in the narrative, Florentino expresses anger toward Fermina, praying for the "lightning of divine justice" to "strike" her dead before she says her wedding vows to someone who wants her for "social adornment." Masochism and illness: Instead of repressing uncomfortable images of Fermina and Dr. Urbino together, Florentino takes "pleasure in his pain," imagining "minute by minute" of the wedding, shivering the whole time.

What is the significance of Florentino Ariza's weekly meetings with his father in Chapter 4 (The River Company) of Love in the Time of Cholera?

The brief, silent meetings symbolize both Pius V Loayza's responsibility for Florentino Ariza's welfare and his emotional distance. Although the boy is his only child, Pius V keeps him waiting hours outside his offices and never speaks to Florentino when he gives his son an allowance for weekly expenses. Finally, when Florentino reaches the age of 10, Pius V dispenses with the face-to-face meetings altogether—possibly to avoid anyone noticing a growing resemblance between father and child. His fear of society's reprimand stunts any relationship he might have had with the boy. The information Gabriel Garcia Marquez shares about Florentino's father is filled with dramatic irony. Pius V Loayza "[wants] his son to go to the seminary," yet, as an illegitimate child born to Tránsito Ariza—a former illegitimate child—Florentino has no chance of being admitted as a seminary student.

Why is Hildebranda Sánchez's opinion of Florentino Ariza important in Love in the Time of Cholera?

Fermina Daza is very close to her cousin, so Hildebranda Sánchez's opinions matter. When she tells her cousin she feels an "irresistible desire to devour [Dr. Juvenal Urbino] with kisses," the jealousy she inspires influences Fermina to accept the doctor as her suitor. However, Hildebranda has also formed a positive opinion of Florentino Ariza—though "ugly and sad," she believes he is "all love." She also feels a kinship to the jilted suitor because she, too, is a survivor of an ill-fated love affair. Hildebranda carries this mutual history and her good memories of Florentino with her when she visits Fermina following the death of Dr. Urbino. She finds it "impossible" not to talk about Florentino, and with her lament about the "sad little bird condemned to oblivion," she perhaps nudges Fermina toward Florentino—and a second chance for the pair to find love.

In Love in the Time of Cholera, in what ways is the narrator reliable or unreliable?

Gabriel García Márquez uses an unreliable narrator to guide the novel. Quoted in a 1987 interview about the book, the writer warns readers "to be careful not to fall into my trap." He goes on to say, "This novel isn't a historical reconstruction, [but] it contains historical elements used poetically." One example of the narrator's unreliability is an incongruity regarding the "most serious argument" in the marriage of Dr. Juvenal Urbino and Fermina Daza. Chapter 1 contains an account of the time, early in their marriage, when Dr. Urbino and Fermina waged a domestic battle because she forgot to replenish the supply of soap in their bathroom. They sleep apart for more than four months over this, and Fermina even threatens to leave Dr. Urbino. The narrator documents this frivolous incident and its over-the-top consequences with the same seriousness as the affair between Dr. Urbino and Barbara Lynch, which is introduced in Chapter 5 and causes a two-year rift in the Urbino-Daza marriage. During this time, Fermina resides at the ranch of her cousin, Hildebranda Sánchez, because of rage at her husband and the pain of wounded pride. She comes back to the city when Dr. Urbino arrives and persuades her to return home.

In addition to comparing love to cholera—a deadly disease—how does Gabriel García Márquez use figurative language to depict love as a dangerous pursuit in Love in the Time of Cholera?

Throughout the novel, Gabriel García Márquez uses vocabulary that paints love in dangerous terms, sometimes as a living creature and, at other times, as a force of nature or another hazardous situation. Some instances of dangerous love included in the story are listed below. People or animals: Following Fermina Daza, Florentino Ariza is termed "a solitary hunter," tracking a young girl who walks with a "doe's gait." Upon receiving Florentino's proposal, Fermina feels "wounded for the first time by the clawings of death." Florentino attempts to determine the identity of the woman who sexually assaulted him and "in whose panther's instincts he might find the cure for his misfortune." Florentino, after professing his love for Fermina at Dr. Juvenal Urbino's funeral, worries about what he should do with the "skin of the tiger he ... killed after [resisting] its attacks for ... half a century." After they determine there will be no sex between them, Florentino tells Leona Cassiani, "We have killed the tiger." When he confesses to the affair with Barbara Lynch, Dr. Urbino fears that comforting Fermina would be "like consoling a tiger run through by a spear." The prostitutes of the transient hotel display "ridges of the razor cuts of love." Forces of nature: Escolástica Daza "[becomes] frightened by the intensity of the blaze that she herself had helped to ignite." Escolástica realizes "her own life [is] threatened by the fire of love." In writing to Fermina, Florentino "[burns] himself alive in every line." Hazardous situations: About to meet with Lorenzo Daza, Florentino ponders "the fatality of love." Trying to persuade Fermina to accept his letter, Florentino assures her that "It is a matter of life and death." Tránsito Ariza assures her son, "the kingdom of love ... is a harsh and ungenerous kingdom."

How does Florentino Ariza resemble his father—Pius V Loayza—in Love in the Time of Cholera?

While in proximity to Leo XII Loayza (who mentions Pius V Loayza often, perhaps as a way of showing he does not want to take his place), Florentino Ariza learns how they are similar: Writing love poems: Florentino's "lyricism" is because Fermina Daza haunts him, and his father pens poems "decorated with drawings of broken hearts" for Tránsito Ariza. Similar style and "identical" handwriting: Florentino finds a sentence in his father's notebook—"The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love"—that mirrors his own response to Lorenzo Daza's death threat. Sexual appetites: When Leo XII walks in on Florentino having sex, he says, "You screw just like your dad!" who has multiple affairs. Florentino's fidelity to Fermina Daza is emotional and one-sided, but his father is legally married.

In Chapter 6 (New Fidelity) of Love in the Time of Cholera, how does sex introduce conflict to Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza's relationship on New Fidelity?

During the first week of their trip, Florentino Ariza caresses Fermina Daza, who is nervous but finally has "enough anisette in her heart," to say, "If we're going to do it let's do it ... like grownups." Time and aging have introduced fear and shyness in each of them. She undresses in the dark; he admits his penis is "dead"—"Too much love is as bad for this as no love at all." Disappointment drives each of them to antagonism. He seeks to blame her for his disfunction and she takes sadistic pleasure in teasing his body with mock caresses,"like a kitten delighting in cruelty" until he leaves "ashamed." It seems Fermina must push Florentino's tolerance to the limit to convince herself "at last of her love." Florentino returns the next morning. They have "hurried and sad" sex. Afterward, Fermina feels "empty" and fears they have "screwed up everything." They heal from their disappointment, sex being made difficult because of age and timing, and wait for "inspiration" before being physical again.

In Chapter 2 of Love in the Time of Cholera, what is the significance of how Florentino Ariza busies himself while Fermina Daza is on her journey to forget?

While Fermina Daza matures on her journey in Chapter 2 (Journey to Riohacha), Florentino Ariza remains stagnant, distracting himself with fantasies of sunken treasure he hears about at the transient hotel. As he earlier fell for the easy beauty of romantic poems, he also falls for the romantic idea of sunken treasure. He resolves to salvage the silver, pearls, gold coins, and emeralds for Fermina, as a symbol of his passion. After learning everything about Spanish galleons, he decides he needs a diver and navigator. Gabriel García Márquez hints at Florentino's ineptitude at finding a seasoned treasure hunter by having him choose 12-year-old Euclides, one of the boys who dives for tourists' coins. After three expeditions, Euclides convinces Florentino to share his secret and then conveniently uncovers two pieces of jewelry, reporting the shipwreck site to Florentino. Florentino, taking Euclides's miraculous discovery at face value, then involves his mother. Tránsito Ariza is significantly more worldly wise than her son. She examines the jewelry settings and precious stones, and reveals that the pieces are fakes; Euclides has betrayed Florentino's trust. After swearing innocence, the diver disappears. In exposing Florentino's naïveté, the interaction foreshadows the disaster of his heartbreak.

What is the significance of almonds in Chapter 2 (Lost Innocence) of Love in the Time of Cholera?

When Florentino Ariza first sees Fermina Daza, the "beautiful adolescent with almond-shaped eyes," a "cataclysm of love" is released. The beginning of their relationship is shaded with almond trees; Fermina and Escolástica Daza read and embroider under them, while Florentino watches from beneath an almond tree in the park across the street. The trees and the image of Fermina's eyes evoke the bitter-almond scent of gold cyanide featured in the opening scene of the novel. The chemical is infamous in the city for suicides inspired by love and, in Jeremiah de Saint Amour's case, by fear of aging. Almonds foreshadow the pain Florentino will suffer through almost 52 years of unrequited love. As the yellow leaves fall from the trees, Florentino waits more than half a century for Dr. Juvenal Urbino's fatal fall, which gives Florentino a chance to be with Fermina again.

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