Love in the Time of Cholera | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Love in the Time of Cholera | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Straddling the turn of the 20th century, Love in the Time of Cholera tells the story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, who fall in love in an unnamed South American port city plagued by civil wars and cholera. As Fermina's feelings change from adolescence to adulthood, she marries Dr. Juvenal Urbino and moves on with her life. When Dr. Urbino dies, the former lovers get a second chance. The involved narrative weaves together events from the past and present to show the three central characters at different periods in their lives and to reveal the complexities of love.

Chapter 1

The narrative begins with Dr. Juvenal Urbino examining the corpse of his friend Jeremiah de Saint-Amour. Wanting to avoid the "ravages of time," de Saint-Amour has committed suicide. In a letter, de Saint-Amour reveals his secret identity to Dr. Urbino—disrupting the doctor's methodical routine and his already busy day. After his sacred siesta, while trying to capture his escaped parrot, he falls from a ladder and dies.

Dr. Urbino's widow, Fermina Daza, arranges the funeral and, because the doctor was a respected man, the service is well attended. Florentino Ariza's presence goes unnoticed. After Fermina's close friends leave, Florentino waits in her drawing room to declare "once again" his "vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love." She banishes him and, finally alone, cries, praying for death yet dreaming more of Florentino than her dead husband.

Chapter 2

Florentino Ariza falls for Fermina Daza at first sight, when, as a boy, he delivers a telegram to her father, Lorenzo Daza, on the Park of Evangels.

With his mother's help, he pursues Fermina by writing love letters and composing a violin serenade. Following months of his pretending to read in her presence, they begin exchanging daily letters. After two years, he proposes. When Fermina's father, Lorenzo Daza, discovers their romance, he threatens Florentino's life and takes Fermina on a 21-month journey to forget her "poor lover." Following her return, the young couple carry on their clandestine courtship until, one day, Fermina suddenly changes her mind.

Now, when Florentino Ariza professes his undying love for Fermina Daza, it has been 51 years, 9 months, and 4 days since she rejected him in the Arcade of the Scribes with a sudden decision: "Forget it."

Chapter 3

After his father's cholera-related death, 28-year-old Dr. Juvenal Urbino returns from Paris, determined to reform the city he maniacally loves. His "obsession" with sanitation reduces the cholera epidemic. After examining Fermina Daza, 18, for cholera symptoms, Dr. Urbino cannot stop thinking about her and returns for an unnecessary check-up. She slams the window in his face. Despite Fermina's anger, Lorenzo Daza supports the relationship, and Dr. Urbino begins sending "brief and proper" letters, which Fermina ignores until her cousin Hildebranda Sánchez admires the doctor.

When Florentino learns Fermina is marrying a man with "family and fortune," he is heartbroken. His mother, Tránsito Ariza, persuades Florentino's uncle, Don Leo XII Loayza, to arrange a job for the young man—far away from Fermina. On the riverboat, a woman sexually assaults Florentino, which momentarily distracts him. He returns to the city and has an affair with the Widow Nazaret. Nearly two years later, he glimpses Fermina and Dr. Urbino one day in church; she is radiant and six months pregnant.

Chapter 4

Despite the fact that Fermina Daza is married to another man, Florentino Ariza vows to "win fame and fortune" to make himself worthy of her. He begs Leo XII Loayza for a job with the River Company of the Caribbean and is given a clerk position. Tránsito Ariza's memory fades. She dies, leaving Florentino to pursue sexual liaisons while reserving his heart for Fermina.

Despite happy appearances, Fermina suffers in the house of Doña Blanca, her cruel mother-in-law. After her father's death, she confronts Dr. Juvenal Urbino, telling him of her deep unhappiness. He converts their family businesses into gold, which he deposits in European banks, and the couple leaves the country. After Doña Blanca dies while the couple is in Paris, they return home. Fermina is pregnant once more.

Chapter 5

Florentino Ariza notices that Fermina Daza seems to have disappeared from the city, and he begins to worry. He searches for answers without luck. After learning of her husband's affair with Barbara Lynch, Fermina leaves him for a prolonged visit to Fermina's cousin, Hildebranda Sánchez, in San Juan de la Ciénaga. She is determined not to return to Dr. Juvenal Urbino and stays with Hildebranda for nearly two years. Then Dr. Urbino, to her "joy," arrives and convinces her to come home.

Not having seen Fermina for two years, Florentino must force himself to remain calm when he recognizes her voice in the audience of the movie theater. Obsessed with remaining healthy, Florentino worries that he or Fermina might die before Dr. Urbino. Florentino's Uncle Leo XII retires, naming Florentino his sole heir. When Dr. Urbino dies, Florentino ends his affair with América Vicuña to pursue Fermina.

Chapter 6

Following the initial shock of widowhood, Fermina Daza empties the house of items that remind her of Dr. Juvenal Urbino and begins to feel capable of moving on with her life. Furious with Florentino Ariza's profession of love for her on the day of her husband's funeral, she has written him a rage-filled letter, which she now regrets. His reply to her letter interests her, as it provides an insight to a new Florentino at age 76.

After a year, Florentino boldly approaches Fermina and, surprisingly, she welcomes his presence. The two grow close, despite the complaints of her children, and take a cruise on a riverboat. On the river, they become intimate, and to avoid others and maintain the status of their newfound relationship, they keep sailing back and forth on the Magdalena River.

Love in the Time of Cholera Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action


1 Dr. Juvenal Urbino dies.

Rising Action

2 Florentino Ariza restates his eternal love for Fermina Daza.

3 Flashing back, Florentino falls in love with Fermina.

4 Fermina is expelled; Lorenzo Daza takes her on a journey.

5 Fermina returns and rejects Florentino.

6 Dr. Urbino pursues Fermina.

7 Fermina marries Dr. Urbino.

8 Dr. Urbino has an affair.

9 Fermina sends Florentino an angry letter.

10 Florentino attends Dr. Urbino's anniversary mass.


11 Florentino and Fermina begin weekly visits.

Falling Action

12 Florentino and Fermina leave on New Fidelity.

13 Florentino persuades the captain to raise the cholera flag.

14 The Health Department quarantines New Fidelity.


15 The party decides to travel the Magdalena River forever.

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