One Hundred Years of Solitude | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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One Hundred Years of Solitude | Symbols

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Macondo

For over 100 years the mythical town of Macondo grows, experiencing advances and setbacks that represent Colombia's controversial history of civil wars, colonialism, plantation economy, and industrialization. Because of its symbolism and intricate entanglement in the plot, the setting of Macondo, in a way, acts as a major character. In Chapter 1 the town begins as "twenty adobe houses" along a riverbank—"so recent that many things lacked names, and ... to indicate [things] it was necessary to point." As government, religion, military, and the banana company are introduced, most inhabitants accept the changes. Others, such as José Arcadio Buendía, Colonel Aureliano Buendía, and José Arcadio Segundo, become ostracized.

As the story comes to its end in Chapters 19 and 20, the inhabitants of Macondo, the Catalonian and four friends, and Amaranta Úrsula's imported canaries flee the ruined town. Whoever and whatever remains is annihilated by the prophesied apocalyptical winds. Once a bustling city, Macondo has now faded into obscurity, mirroring the growth and demise of the Buendía family.

Railroad

In Chapter 11 of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Aureliano Triste introduces the railroad as a way to not only expand the ice factory's business but to connect with the outside world. When he proposes it, the inhabitants are bewildered: "That was the first time the word [railroad] had ever been heard in Macondo."

The railroad, a symbol representing Macondo's evolution from village to bustling city, introduces many modernizing technological changes (electricity, film, telephone) and people (travelers, business people). Circularity is once again seen in the railroad as the modern equivalent to the gypsy caravan that brought with it instruments and technologies the residents had never before seen. The changes cause both infatuation and disgust, creating tension in the area. In Chapter 15, the railroad station is the site where the army tragically massacres over 3,000 innocent, unarmed banana workers and their families, Macondo's "fatal blow."

Yellow and Gold

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the colors yellow and gold are symbols of the Spanish Golden Age and imperialism. As colonialism infiltrates Macondo, it is marked by yellow and gold, one of the colors of the flag of present-day Colombia. In Chapter 11, the train Aureliano Triste leads into town is yellow. In Chapter 12, the fruit that is grown and harvested in Macondo is a yellow banana. This banana company unfairly employs Macondo's people while ravishing the area.

The defeat of characters who rebel against the pressures of power are also connected with the colors. When José Arcadio Buendía, who challenges and polices Don Moscote's authority, dies in Chapter 7, it rains yellow flowers. Whenever Colonel Aureliano Buendía withdraws from the Liberal Party and others, he makes ornate gold fishes to distract his mind from the wars. In Chapter 14, Meme's lover—who works for the banana company and is critically and unjustly shot by one of the mayor's guards—is surrounded by yellow butterflies.

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