Understanding the text
Answer the following questions.
a. How does the narrator describe the weather and its effects in the exposition of the story?
➜ It had been raining for three days in the exposition of the story, and Pelayo was dumping the crabs inside his house into the water. The sea and sky had become a single ash-grey entity, and the beach’s sands, which had glinted like powdered light on March nights, had turned into a stew of mud and decaying shellfish.
b. Describe the strange old man as Palayo and his wife first encounter within their courtyard.
➜ When Pelayo and his wife Elisenda came across the unusual elderly man in their courtyard, they discovered him dressed as a rag picker (a person who collects and sells rags). Only a few faded hairs remained on his bald head, and he was in the terrible condition of a drenched great-grandfather, his large buzzard wings dirty and half-plucked entangled in the mud.
c. Why did Pelayo and Elisenda imprison the old man in the chicken coop?
➜ Pelayo and Elisenda imprisoned the old man in the chicken coop after discovering that he was an angel who had come with a plan to take their child.
d. Why was Father Gonzaga not sure about the old man being a celestial messenger?
➜ Father Gonzaga was not sure about the old man being a celestial messenger since he noticed that he didn’t even understand God’s language or how to greet his ministers.
e. Many people gathered at Palayo’s house to see the strange old man. Why do you think the crowd assembled to see him?
➜ Many people gathered at Pelayo’s house to see the strange old man. I think the crowd assembled to see him as they found him inside the chicken coop and wanted to have fun with the angel as a circus animal.
f. Some miracles happened while the crowd gathers to see the strange man. What are these miracles?
➜ Some miracles happened while the crowd gathers to see the strange man. These miracles are:
- The blind man who didn’t recover his sight but grew three new teeth,
- The paralytic who didn’t get to walk but almost won the lottery, and
- The leper whose sores sprouted sunflowers.
g. State the irritating things that the people did with the strange old man.
➜ The crowd began to irritate the strange old man since he was unable to impress them. They pulled his feathers and threw stones at him to get him to stand. They poked him with a branding iron and burned him. The old man did not react to them at first, but he eventually got aggressive due to unbearable pain.
h. How and why was the woman changed into a spider?
➜ Because she had sneaked out of her parents’ house without permission to dance and had disobeyed her parents, the lightning bolt of brimstone came through the crack of the tow of the fearful thunderclap in the sky, and the woman was changed into a spider.
i. Describe how Elisenda saw the strange man flying over the houses.
➜ Elisenda was cutting some bunches of onions for lunch when she sensed a wind coming in from the high seas and ran to the window, where she observed an angel making his first attempts at flight. He kept his balance and made it through the last few houses, miraculously holding himself up with the risky flapping of a senile vulture. She kept looking at him until she couldn’t see him anymore.
Reference to the Context
a. The arrival of a strange old man at Palayo’s courtyard arouses many suspicions and explanations. Explain how the neighbour woman, Father Gonzaga and the doctor speak of the strange man. Why do you think these three people give three different kinds of interpretations?
➜ The arrival of a strange old man at Pelayo’s courtyard arouses many suspicions and explanations. He was an angel who must have come for the child, but he was knocked down by the rain due to his old age, according to the neighbour woman who understood all about life and death. When the old angel could not understand God’s language or how to sense his ministers, Father Gonzaga, the parish priest, doubted him. Because his weak feathers smelled of the outdoors, he warned others against being ingenuous to avoid the risks of being curious. The doctor discovered a whistling sound in his heart and kidneys, indicating the impossibility of his being alive, and he was shocked to see his natural wings and wondered why others didn’t have them.
The strange old man is described differently by the neighbour woman, Father Gonzaga, and the doctor. These three persons, in my opinion, presented three separate explanations for the strange old man because his appearance and activities were utterly different from those of the actual world. He had wings, and his language was also not understandable.
b. This story belongs to the genre of ‘magical realism’, a genre perfected by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novels and short stories. Magical realism is a narrative technique in which the story-teller narrates the common place things with magical colour and the events look both magical and real at the same time. Collect five magic realist happenings from the story and argue why they seem magical to you.
➜ This story belongs to the genre of ‘magical realism,’ a genre perfected by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novels and short stories. For example, the title “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” portrays the old man as a magical character or a being from a mythical world. Five magic realist happenings from the story are listed below:
- Pelayo was returning to the home after throwing away the crabs when he saw an old man lying face down in the mud, hindered by his enormous wings. It is magical in the sense that humans in this physical world do not have wings.
- During the talk with Pelayo and his wife, the old strange man responded in an unfamiliar language with a strong sailor’s voice, indicating that he was from another planet.
- The old man, according to the neighbour woman, is an angel who has come to take the sick child to heaven. The word “angel” itself refers to a magical link in the story.
- Father Gonzaga equated the strange old man with the devil and warned others about him. Capturing the old man and the description of Father Gonzaga is equally amazing and magical.
- The transformation of the woman into a spider as a result of the brimstone lightning bolt, the doctor’s prediction regarding the strange old man and his observation of a whistling sound in the old man’s heart and kidneys, the old man’s antiquarian eyes, his first attempt at flight and then his passing over the last houses, and many more are not normal events in this physical world. As a result, the storey falls under the genre of ‘Magical Realism.’
c. The author introduces the episode of a woman who became a spider for having disobeyed her parents. This episode at once shifts people’s concentration from the strange old man to the spider woman. What do you think is the purpose of the author to bring this shift in the story?
➜ The author introduces the episode of a woman who became a spider for having disobeyed her parents. This episode at once shifts people’s concentration from the strange old man to the spider woman. I think the author’s intention in introducing this change in the story is to demonstrate a magical connection between two separate events. Because the storey has elements of magical realism, the author intends to depict something strange or amazing happening in the world to tie the storey to the world of magical realism.
The Strange old man is given a sense of “magic realism.” He portrays humanity’s blindness to beauty and mercy; he is a sort of Christ figure. The Spider-girl is a character in a travelling carnival show that visits the village. A spider-girl happens to be the main attraction. The villagers are shocked. Watching her is much less costly, and she entertains the audience, whereas the shy angel recoiled from the attention. This is more appealing to the general public than an old winged man who overlooks the people around him. The curious masses quickly depart from the angel in favour of the spider, leaving Palayo’s courtyard vacant. The morality story behind the spider girl of disrespecting her parents and God turning her into a spider was also well received by the audience. The crowd has almost completely forgotten about the angel. It also argues that people prefer interesting and entertaining activities to serious ones.
d. The story deals with the common people’s gullibility. How do Palayo and his wife take advantage of common people’s whim?
➜ A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings is a short storey about the common people’s gullibility. Pelayo and his wife Elisenda discover an old guy with wings in their courtyard and attempt unsuccessfully to talk with him. Then they get their neighbour woman, who tells them that the old man is an angel and that it was on its way to take their sick child. They place the angel in the chicken coop, and their child’s fever breaks in the middle of the night. They decide to let him go, but when they return to the courtyard at dawn, the entire community has gathered to watch the angel’s appearance. Father Gonzaga arrives soon afterwards, saying that the old man is a fake.
He promises to obtain the truth from the church’s higher courts. The story of the angel travels like wildfire, and the courtyard quickly takes on the appearance of a marketplace. Elisenda then comes up with the brilliant idea of charging a 5 cent admission fee to visit the angel; they become wealthy very quickly. While they await their judgement, Father Gonzaga works tirelessly to keep the crowd under control. In this way, Pelayo and his wife take advantage of the common people’s whim by charging visitors to see the old man.
Reference beyond the text
a. An irresistible crowd queues at Palayo’s house for many days simply to look at the strange old man. Narrate an episode from your experience or from another story where people assemble in crowds, not for any noble cause.
➜ An irresistible crowd queue at Palayo’s house for many days simply to look at the strange old man. A similar scenario can be found in Nissim Ezekiel’s poem “Night of the Scorpion.” The poem is about a specific incident. When it had been raining steadily for 10 hours and a scorpion had gotten into their house and stung his mother before fleeing into the rain. All of the surrounding farmers gathered like swarms of bees. They uttered God’s names to reduce the Scorpion’s movement. They started looking for it with lights and lanterns. They were unable to locate the scorpion. They saw that the poison went through his mother’s veins with the scorpion’s motions. They claimed that it would wash away her sins from her previous birth and lessen the calamities of her next birth. Poison, they declared, would cleanse her physical and spiritual ambition. His mother was in distress as they spoke. His father was rational septic. He had been experimenting with powders, plants, and mixes. He even poured some paraffin on the bitten toe and ignited a flame to it. However, the pain vanished after 24 hours. His mother thanked God that the Scorpion chose her and saved her children from being stung.
b. The taste of children is different from grown-ups. What are the elements in the story that make ‘The Old Man with Enormous Wings’ a children’s story?
➜ The taste of children is different from grown-ups. The elements in the story that make ‘The Old Man with Enormous Wings’ a children’s story are:
- Characters: The old man is presented as an angel who has unexpected wings who appears to be neither fully human nor fully surreal.
- Conflict: The characters like the neighbour woman, Father Gonzaga, the doctor etc have conflict or tussle regarding the character of the old man.
- Fun time: The situation becomes funny as the crowd gather in the yard to see the old man and even pay 5 cent admission fee for seeing the angel.
- Setting: The weather location of the story is rainy and muddy outside with chicken coops, seaside, woods, yard etc.
- Five senses: Among the five senses, some senses like the sight of the people to the old man, dirty smell of his body, and feelings of the different characters and crowd is found in the story.
- Sentence structure and devices: The story contains simple sentence structure and devices like symbols. The old man represents Christ-figure comes o save people yet is spurned and humiliated by them
- Wings: Wings represent power, speed, and limitless freedom of motion. In the Christian tradition, angels are often represented as beautiful winged figures.
- The Spider-Girl: The spider girl represents the fickleness with which many self-interested people approach their faith.
- Supernatural elements: The old man having wings, the woman changes into the spider, people’s faith in angels etc.