Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why do the characters live in "solitude" and why 100 years?

Please comment on the role of solitude in 100 Years of Solitude and the use of 100 years to frame the beginning and end of the novel. Are we isolated by our individual inability to see and understand the people and world around us? Is it some other type of solitude Marquez is talking about? Is solitude the inevitabe fate of all individuals as it seems to be for these characters? Do any of the characters avoid the solitude which consumes most? Does the theme of solitude play out in any of the other novels/stories we read this summer?


Esbee D.B. said...

I feel as if there are many subtleties to the solitude that Marquez names the book after. True, most if not all of the characters end up alone in some way. Many of the Aurelianos end up alone in the workshop or studies, the Jose Arcadios in various madnesses. Remedios the Beauty is assumed to heaven alone. Ursula has to carry on alone after her husband goes insane and dies. Rebeca ends up forgotten and alone in the house she shared with Jose Arcadio. And this is just a small sampling. But there's also solitude emotionally: Aureliano, in his inability to love; Remedios the beauty, either so simple as to be unable to function or so complex that she functions on another level entirely. Amaranta knows the love of no man, caught up in her selfishness and guilt. Fernanda is left by her husband and rules as queen without a country. And again, this is just a few. There's also solitude in the sense of detachment from others: the family is entirely wrapped up in their own affairs (within reason) and romantically a majority fall into incestuous pairings: Ursula and Jose Arcadio Buendia, Jose Arcadio and Ursula (implied somewhat in his love for Pilar Ternera), Pilar and Jose Arcadio Segundo, Jose Arcadio and Rebeca (but not really since they're not biologically related), Amaranta and Aureliano Jose, and finally the last Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula.

However, despite the extraordinary amount of solitary situations, I don't think Marquez is saying that solitude is the end for us all. The novel to me is the account solely of the destruction of this one family, and the various ways man can be forced into solitude. But only if we allow ourselves to be mixed up with such problems will we have to face the pain of that solitude, as all who become connected in the family find usually in death. Hence the 100 years - it's the only way to fully follow the family, as the Buendia family line is in itself a main character that we must see finally die in its own solitude.

(This doesn't really tie into the above but since you asked, solitude in our novels: Victor and the monster both are extremely alone, Victor due to his obsession and the monster because of the fear and terror others have of the unknown and ugly, seeing evil in it; Alex is forsaken by his family and friends, showing the ultimate price of his violence).

Me, Myself, and I said...

All of the members of the family end up alone, in solitude. Sometimes they find love, but something happens. Someone dies, or moves away, or falls in love with someone else. It's a fickle thing.
There are very few connections between members of the family. They are distanced from each other. Everybody manages to forget several family members such as Santa SofĂ­a de la Piedad, Ursula, and even Pilar Ternera. Every family member is distinct, but they're all the same. Every person lives a difference life, but everything is a repetition of something else. A couple men stand in front of a firing squad. A couple wives have twins. The difference in the two sets of stories is in one, the man lives, but the wife dies and in the other the man is shot and the woman lives and bears twins.
Things are repeated, but differently from when they happened the first time.
It isn't exactly 100 years from the beginning of the novel to the end. It is several generations of the family. Ursula and her husband die in the middle and the beginning of the end of the book, but the story continues. The novel is about 100 years long. Nobody is alive throughout the entire novel. A lifespan is usually slightly less than 100 years, though in the book a couple people 'live' to be over 150, though it is debatable whether they are still alive or merely ghosts.
I think that everybody, to some extent is isolated because of an inability to relate to people. However, most people are able to partially relate to some people. The family, however, is unable to relate to anybody. There are a couple young boys who have friendships, but those inevitably fade as they boys grow older. No member of the family is completely happy with another person.
People get wrapped up in their own lives and own problems that they often fail to remember other people. The forgotten characters in the novel show how totally someone can be forgotten. Ursula never really died. She just faded away.
The characters in 100 Years were exaggerations of the possibilities that surround us. It is possible for us to live a life surrounded by people who we connect with, though it was not possible for the family.
This is a really long comment and it's getting more rambly than sense-making, so I should probably stop adding to it shortly. But first...

Victor, in Frankenstein thinks he's alone in the world even though his family is there to support him. It is a slightly different solitude from the family's solitude in 100 Years. Victor rejects the people who are willing to be with him for his life, instead of not having anybody there for him.
Alex, from Orange, is also alone. His friends from the beginning get mad at him and move on with their lives when he gets taken away. He then is always different. Or, at least, he feels different. In "The City of Bones" which I just read Magnus says "Every teenager in the world feels like that, feels broken or out of place, different somehow, royalty mistakenly born into a family of peasants" (it's page 231 if anybody cares, & it's by Cassandra Clare). Alex feels some sort of injustice in his life and rejects other people. He bosses around his 'friends' because he thinks he's better than them, smarter, faster, just better. But they think the same thing about themselves. He thinks he's so different, but in reality he is just like everybody else.

martitr said...

me, myself's comment about being different but the same reminds me of the last line of the book we talked about yesterday. Not sure if you had that in mind, but it points up one of the interesting things about the novel. It seems to be making a larger, general statements about people but then it reminds us that everyone IS different and we can't really generalize about individuals.