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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

By , West Chester, PA
Changing Solitude
Solitude is one of the many themes in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Each main character goes through a period of solitude, often multiple times. He uses different aspects of solitude to shape the character. Márquez even finds ways to discuss the solitude of animals and inanimate objects. The town itself embodies the other ideas. The meaning of solitude regarding Macondo and the effects change as the town develops.

Márquez introduces Macondo in a state of physical solitude, with the town built far from any civilization because José Arcadio Buendía could not find the sea. Macondo’s distance from water, a necessity for growing food, surviving, and traveling, indicates early the perpetual solitude of the town. “To the south lay the swamps, covered with an eternal vegetable scum, and the whole vast universe of the great swamp, which, according to what the gypsies said, had no limits” (Márquez 10). Similar emptiness surrounds Macondo on all sides with gypsies as the only outsiders to pass through. They bring connections to the outside world such as the discovery that the world is round. The solitude allows Macondo to exist as a perfect town where José Arcadio Buendía organizes it so each person equally shares everything available.

Macondo loses these utopian qualities when outside influences corrupt the town. Since this unique civilization needs no authority, the people resist the control that arrives in the form of Don Moscote. “They were happy that it had let them grow in peace, and he hoped that it would continue leaving them that way, because they had not founded a town so that the first upstart who came along would tell them what to do” (Márquez 56). The citizens want to retain their solitude without the intrusion of the government or other outsiders. With the loss of complete solitude, Macondo’s dynamics shift. Rebeca brings the insomnia plague, which ravages the town and people’s memories, making capable people struggle in daily activities. Pietro Crespi, a stranger to Macondo, also comes between Amaranta and Rebeca, giving the first violent tendencies, the latter great suffering, and ruining their previously good relationship. The people of Macondo have better success in complete solitude.

The citizens remain oblivious to the problems of the outside world until Don Moscote exposes Aureliano to politics. When Don Moscote switches the ballots for the election, he obscures the truth, resulting in a rebellion that rids Macondo of peace. With Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s new role in the war, Macondo is pulled into the greater issues concerning the rest of the country. “‘Get the boys ready,’ [Aureliano] said. ‘We’re going to war’” (Márquez 100). Aureliano uses Macondo as his base repeatedly, condemning the town multiple times to solitude as the only Liberal possession. The town represents the heart of the rebellion, influencing Arcadio to become a corrupt leader and his execution is one of the first of many violent deaths in Macondo. The introduction of death brings a whole new spectrum of emotions into play in Macondo, making the society the opposite of the original utopian town.

However after the war ends, Macondo begins to slip back into solitude. Solitude is different this time because the rest of the world knows about the town. Whereas Macondo was completely removed from the country’s influence before the war, the government now sends officials occasionally. The building of the railroad links Macondo to the rest of the world, bringing modernization to the town. With this physical link, the banana company and its troubles arrive. “‘There haven’t been any dead here,’ she said. ‘Since the time of your uncle, the colonel, nothing has happened in Macondo’” (Márquez 308). Even with the evidence, no one outside the town believes the events of the banana massacre actually happened. The rest of the country leaves Macondo in a metaphorical solitude, alone in remembering the people lost and the tragedy of that day. The rains that follow produce another physical barrier, preventing any travel to or from Macondo. The connection established with the outside world by the railroad is destroyed and all communication ceases.

The rains mark the start of the last period of solitude for Macondo. The citizens still have contact with the outside when Macondo dries, evident in Amaranta Úrsula and José Arcadio’s travels back and forth and the exodus of many families. “Aureliano could not find anyone who remembered his family, not even Colonel Aureliano Buendia, except for the oldest of the West Indian Negroes…” (Márquez 348). People no longer know the Buendías even though the family established and continue to define Macondo. Macondo achieves ultimate solitude when the Aureliano Babilonia uncovers the meaning of the parchments. In a complete circle in time, the events that occurred in Macondo, the Buendía family, and the town itself are left in absolute solitude, where all traces of life there vanish along with the memory of the rest of the world.

Macondo goes through multiple stages of solitude. The one hundred years spent in solitude refers to the lifespan of the town, confirmed in the last sentence of the novel. The solitude of the town affects everything within Macondo. With each period of solitude, different effects emerge. Macondo depends by fate on the Buendía family with both entities finding the same solitude at the same time. As the novel follows the development of Macondo, the meaning of solitude adjusts.



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