Love in the Time of Cholera | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Love in the Time of Cholera | Symbols


Letters and Telegrams

Letters and telegrams appear often in the novel and represent secret identities, pasts, and connections. When Lorenzo Daza discovers Fermina Daza's letters from Florentino, she has amassed three years of evidence, convicting them of their love. Their interaction and eventual secret engagement begins with a feverish letter that Florentino is too afraid to give the 13-year-old object of his affection, as it contains "seventy-pages of compliments." In Chapter 1 (Jeremiah de Saint-Amour), the first sentence Florentino speaks to his eternal sweetheart references the symbol: "All I ask is that you accept a letter from me." Their relationship begins—again—with a letter. In Chapter 5 (Mourning Bells), Florentino recognizes at once Fermina's "imperious handwriting" on the envelope, "floating in a puddle inside the entrance."


Birds symbolize temptation or danger as they draw people into compromising situations. The inciting incident in the romance is Dr. Juvenal Urbino's death in Chapter 1 (Escaped Parrot). Caused by his pet parrot, his death makes a reunion between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza possible, and, because of the doctor's fame, a "renowned" artist recreates the image of Dr. Urbino's "fatal moment," as he leans perilously on the ladder while reaching for the elusive parrot. This dramatic incident, featured at the beginning of the novel, draws the attention of readers to the birds throughout the story. Their presence calls for caution and often signals a moral crossroad.


Love in the Time of Cholera is filled with disasters. Disasters represent unseen obstacles to happiness. Whether the catastrophes are caused by forces of nature (cyclones, storms, rain), humans (deforestation, hunting, infidelity, murder), or animals (the rabies-induced killing spree by the German mastiff at the Urbinos' villa), the events inflict personal, local, and universal tragedies on the characters.

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