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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 | Themes


Society versus Passion

A narrative concerned with manners, Love in the Time of Cholera focuses on the central characters' customs, thoughts, and values surrounding love. While Florentino and Fermina's relationship serves as the plot's focus, the novel is not solely about an ideal love. It explores the different kinds of love that sustains characters during their lifetimes, such as the following:

  • traditional or widely accepted, as with Fermina and Dr. Urbino's marriage
  • marginal, as with Lotario Thugut's transactions at the transient hotel
  • physical, as with Florentino's string of sexual relationships while he waits for Fermina
  • secretive, as with Jeremiah de Saint-Amour and his lover, sitting a seat apart at the movies.

In the tight-knit city where "everything" is "known," Fermina, the beloved of the love triangle, struggles with love. She has intense feelings of love for Florentino. But rather than give in to this passion, Fermina breaks up with Florentino and succumbs to her father's disapproval by marrying a man of her father's choosing. Yet, as Fermina discovers, her respectable marriage does not solve her social problems. Others, such as Sara Noriega and Tránsito Ariza, judge Fermina as the "lowest kind of whore" for marrying for money instead of love. In Fermina's struggle to balance feelings of passion and love with social expectations, she becomes a nontraditional heroine—a woman whose life and love extend beyond her marriage to Dr. Urbino into her old age.

Aging and Time

Love in the Time of Cholera opens with Jeremiah de Saint-Amour's suicide to escape old age, an act that is considered a shame, not because the society is Catholic and suicide is a sin, but because his death supposedly "is not for love." The novel meditates on the narrative and life of love, and what Dr. Juvenal Urbino considers the "proper word" for an intense fear of old age, "gerontophobia."

In Chapter 1 (Jeremiah de Saint-Amour), when Dr. Juvenal Urbino looks at his friend's corpse, he thinks—for the first time—death has "looked back at him." Recognizing that his mortality is an "immediate reality," he meditates on death. His death eventually leads to the opposition Florentino and Fermina face as they rekindle their "devastating love." As Dr. Urbino Daza escorts Fermina (his mother) onto the New Fidelity in Chapter 6 (New Fidelity) for their steamboat trip, he admits to his wife that he thinks at a certain age, love becomes "indecent."


Like the cholera that ravages people's lives, love is a plague that causes trouble for Florentino. Throughout the novel, his lovesickness produces the same symptoms as the disease that causes the "greatest death toll" in their country's history, as expressed in Chapter 3 (Symptoms). Florentino's godfather, his driver, and the captain all witness and try to treat him for the love he does not want to be cured of. The symptoms other mistake for cholera include "the weak pulse, the hoarse breathing, and the pale perspiration of a dying man" as seen in Chapter 2 (Lost Innocence). While Florentino's heartache and mental health vary over the course of the narrative, his love for Fermina remains constant, as cholera ranges throughout the area.

Although both ideas are toyed with throughout the novel, ultimately, love serves neither as a panacea for the disease nor as its cause. Instead, both are facts of life to be managed.

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