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One Hundred Years of Solitude | Discussion Questions 1 - 10

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Why is it significant that José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula leave their native village in One Hundred Years of Solitude?

After José Arcadio Buendía kills Prudencio Aguilar, Úrsula, the more intuitive of the couple, reports multiple "hallucinations." Frustrated, José Arcadio Buendía confronts the sad ghost, threatening to kill him again. José Arcadio Buendía's guilt and insomnia motivates the Buendías to leave, believing their absence will grant Prudencio Aguilar peace. However, founding a new village gives José Arcadio Buendía, whose fate is predestined, the illusion of control. Prudencio Aguilar continues to haunt the patriarch. The murder victim's ghost physically follows him to Macondo. José Arcadio Buendía's violent past also haunts him mentally and emotionally, affecting his life choices and mental state. Because of guilt, he allows Don Apolinar Moscote to remain in town and eventually descends into madness.

What is the importance of the story of great-great-grandmother Iguarán's injury in One Hundred Years of Solitude?

The sounds of Sir Francis Drake attacking Riohacha causes Úrsula's great-great-grandmother to sit on a hot stove. The injury renders her "useless." Self-conscious about her burns, she becomes a recluse. For her peace, her husband moves her to a clandestine village, far from pirates. Úrsula's great-great-grandmother becomes a foil for the Buendía matriarch. The knowledge of her ancestor's weakness motivates Úrsula to be strong and useful throughout her life. She vainly wishes her descendants inherit her "unbridled courage." Even when cataracts steal her vision, her intuition and other senses sharpen, allowing her to remain independent and helpful for the majority of her life. When no one else can find Fernanda's wedding ring, Úrsula remembers Fernanda, and while cleaning the children's room finds the ring and places it on a shelf, out of the children's reach. As the matriarch of the Buendía family, Úrsula uses the knowledge of her family's past to dictate her future and to help her descendants.

Over the course of One Hundred Years of Solitude, how does José Arcadio Buendía's character change?

In the beginning of the story, José Arcadio Buendía serves as a "youthful patriarch" for the town, divulging practical advice. The inhabitants admire him. Because his house is the first built, others build their homes in its likeness. With the introduction of the gypsies in Chapter 1, he is distracted by the "wonders of the world": magnets, astronomy, alchemy. This change is reflected in his appearance. Once clean shaven and athletic, over time he grows a beard and dresses sloppily. In Chapter 4 following Melquíades's funeral, José Arcadio Buendía studies a pendulum for days without eating or sleeping. In his delirium he insists, on Tuesday, it's Monday. On Friday when it still seems like Monday, he destroys everything the gypsies introduced to him. With the help of 20 men, his son Aureliano ties him to the chestnut tree.

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chapter 4 what is represented by the two requirements given for Don Apolinar Moscote to stay in Macondo?

When Don Apolinar Moscote returns to Macondo, José Arcadio Buendía allows him to stay on two conditions: Houses can be painted according to the inhabitants' preference. The soldiers must leave. José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula plan to paint their house "white, like a dove." In this scenario, the couple represents Macondo, and Don Apolinar Moscote represents the government. The patriarch explains all he has done to organize the town—alone—and he insists they continue exercising their free will. Because he's haunted by Prudencio Aguilar's ghost, José Arcadio Buendía lets the mayor stay. The mayor sets the colonization of Macondo, a symbol of Colombia, into motion as a way to exert his will and oppose the independence of its residents.

How does the second expedition to find human contact in One Hundred Years of Solitude develop the characters of José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula?

Wanting to connect with the outside world, José Arcadio Buendía, the "most enterprising man" in the village, departs with Macondo's founders. Enveloped in a jungle, they travel without sun for 10 days. In darkness, they are "overwhelmed by their most ancient memories" and sadness. When they discover the sea, they return empty-handed. This tarnishes José Arcadio Buendía's reputation. When José Arcadio runs away, Úrsula tries to follow him. Instead, she discovers a town on the opposite side of the swamp. Its inhabitants receive mail, what her husband has searched for, and Úrsula victoriously returns with them. In her absence, her husband cares for the baby with the help of a wet nurse while Úrsula, the matriarch, a feminist character, displays how she is actually the most enterprising person in the village.

What are the effects and the significance of the insomnia plague in One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chapter 3?

When Rebeca arrives from Manaure, she—through Úrsula's candy business—infects Macondo with the insomnia plague that Visitación and Cataure have fled. As the town's memory begins to fail, a side effect of the plague, Melquíades arrives and cures the inhabitants, but the event foreshadows the eventual destruction and erasure of the Buendía line and Macondo. The insomnia plague represents the negative forces that accompany outsiders and threaten vulnerable communities. The event evokes the symbol of Macondo, which represents Colombia's controversial history of colonialism. Because the plague threatens to erase the memory of the inhabitants, it renders the newly established Macondo powerless.

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, what is symbolic about Aureliano Triste bringing a yellow train to Macondo in Chapter 11?

Not only is the railroad a symbol of Macondo's transition from village to bustling epicenter, but the color yellow symbolizes the Spanish Golden Age and imperialism. Beforehand, the inhabitants' only connection to the outside world, other than letters, were the gypsies, so when they see people working on a railroad, they assume it's them. The color of the train foreshadows the arrival of the banana company, whose fruit is also yellow. The last sentence of the chapter includes a few of the polarities commerce has brought to the sleepy town: "ambiguities and certainties, ... pleasant and unpleasant moments, ... changes, calamities, and feelings of nostalgia."

How does bitterness affect Amaranta's character in One Hundred Years of Solitude?

Amaranta displays bitterness throughout the novel, which stunts her character's growth. Amaranta's bitterness leads her to inflict emotional pain on others: When Amaranta confesses her love to Pietro Crespi, he suggests she meet his younger brother instead. Amaranta, "humiliated," swears to sabotage the wedding and threatens to kill Rebeca. Following José Arcadio and Rebeca's marriage, Amaranta dotes on Pietro Crespi during his Tuesday visits until he proposes, trapping him in "an invisible web," only to break his heart. Amaranta indulges in illicit affairs with young Aureliano José and José Arcadio, then breaks off the relationships, psychologically stunting the boys left in her care. Amaranta's bitterness leads her to inflict physical and emotional pain on herself: Following Pietro's death, after mourning in her room she plunges her hand in hot coals and wears a black bandage for the rest of her life. After her first unrequited love, Amaranta is unable to have relationships with other adults. Like Pietro, she leads on Colonel Gerineldo Márquez only to refuse him. Amaranta's bitterness affects her character in a detrimental way, as she causes emotional pain to herself and others and harms herself physically.

When Amaranta rejects Pietro Crespi's proposal, how does the writer show the character's grief in One Hundred Years of Solitude?

When Pietro schedules a wedding day after their long engagement, Amaranta refuses cruelly, "I wouldn't marry you if I were dead." He, typically refined, mourns. Because of the previously rich and varied prose, the repetition of sentences beginning with "He" illustrates the character's changed attitude. In the first half of the long paragraph, there are eight sentences beginning with "He," outlining his grief. This repetition creates an unchanging mood, or atmosphere, which illustrates Pietro's depression. The diction, then, changes and Pietro, who suffered Rebeca's abandonment seamlessly, loses "control." This is displayed with his erratic behavior, ignoring work and crying to Úrsula. When he, lovesick, sings at night, all of Macondo—except Amaranta—awakens, moved because they believe "no other person on earth could feel such love." This description shows readers the hopelessness of Pietro's unrequited love, and, shortly after, he commits suicide.

Why is Colonel Aureliano Buendía's infatuation with Remedios problematic in One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chapters 3 and 4?

When Don Apolinar Moscote returns to Macondo with his family, Colonel Aureliano Buendía is haunted by his nine-year-old daughter Remedios. His desire pains him "like a pebble in his shoe." The theme of love and its various forms drives the narrative. Usually, the taboo lust that appears in the novel is incestuous, but in this case it's due to pedophilia. When he asks Don Apolinar for Remedios's hand, Don Apolinar, the father of six older daughters, says he chooses the one "who still wets the bed." Señora Moscote asks the family to wait until their daughter is "the age of conception" to marry. Additionally, José Arcadio Buendía is angry that his son loves his enemy's daughter, which deepens the conflict.

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