One Hundred Years of Solitude | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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One Hundred Years of Solitude | Chapter 1 | Summary

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Summary

Every month of March the gypsies, a derogatory term that refers to traveling ethnic groups, visit the city of Macondo and introduce modern inventions to its inhabitants, such as magnets, the magnifying glass, and the telescope. Each visit, José Arcadio Buendía, the patriarch and founder of Macondo, becomes infatuated with another idea. While he's distracted with his new obsession, his wife, Úrsula, resists or foils it.

With navigational tools, José Arcadio Buendía discovers the earth is round. The gypsy prophet Melquíades gives him alchemy materials, and the two become close friends. When Úrsula turns the town against the gypsies, José Arcadio Buendía expresses his frustration with human limitations.

Wanting to discover other "civilizations," José Arcadio Buendía leaves. After he and his group stumble across a Spanish ship, they discover the sea and realize Macondo is a peninsula. When he suggests moving Macondo to a better location, Úrsula refuses. When the gypsies return, José Arcadio Buendía tries to find Melquíades but learns he's dead. Saddened, the three children drag José Arcadio Buendía to the "novelty" tent, where they discover ice.

Analysis

The novel begins in the middle, "Many years later," with Colonel Aureliano Buendía remembering the discovery of ice with José Arcadio Buendía. In the memory, he faces a firing squad, which creates suspense. Quickly the narrator introduces the theme of past and present by immersing the reader in the history of the gypsies in Macondo.

The first chapter grounds the reader by introducing the first and most of the second generation of the Buendía family. Their "truly happy" town is also introduced. At the time, Macondo consists of 20 riverside houses. Through fantastical language and images, the reader learns that Macondo contains magical elements:

  • José Arcadio Buendía experiences a "hereditary memory," a relative passing on information to blood family instantaneously.
  • Aureliano, who was born with open eyes and "wept in his mother's womb," has psychic abilities.

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Questions for Chapter 1

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