One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez was first published in Spanish in 1967. It is widely considered one of the greatest works of Spanish language and world literature, and it is one of the key works of the Latin American Literary Boom.

One Hundred Years of Solitude One Hundred Years of Solitude

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    The epic novel tells of the founding of the fictional town of Macondo and the multiple generations of the Buendía family that live there. García Márquez's signature style of magical realism is on full display, and strange misfortunes befall the Buendía family at every turn.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude would pave the way for García Márquez's Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

    Content Warning: The following article mentions suicide

    The Latin American Literary Boom was a literary movement of the 1960s and 70s where Latin American literature rose to prominence on the world stage. Key figures included García Márquez, as well as Argentinian Julio Cortázar, Mexican Carlos Fuentes, and Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude, content warning, StudySmarter

    One Hundred Years of Solitude: A Summary

    One Hundred Years of Solitude begins with the patriarch of the Buendía family, José Arcadio Buendía, and his wife, Úrsula Iguarán, traveling through the jungle after leaving the Colombian town of Riohacha.

    The two arrive at a promising-looking river bank, where José Arcadio Buendía decides to found the town of Macondo. It begins as a small, isolated village where José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula Iguarán have two sons, José Arcadio and Aureliano.

    In its early days, Macondo is visited only by a traveling community led by a man named Melquíades. During their annual visits, the travelers bring with them relics of the changing outside world, novelties like telescopes and magnates that amaze the residents of Macondo.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gypsy wagon, StudySmarterFig 1: A traveling community visits Macondo every year.

    José Arcadio Buendía and Melquíades develop a close friendship. With Melquíades' encouragement, José Arcadio Buendía develops an obsession with alchemy and undertakes various experiments, becoming more solitary and withdrawn.

    Meanwhile, José Arcadio, the eldest son, impregnates Pilar Ternera, the village fortune-teller. He later falls in love with a girl from the traveling community and runs away with them. Úrsula follows, determined to bring him back. On her journey, she discovers that Macondo is not as isolated as the villagers believed. Civilization is a mere two-day journey away.

    A strange orphan girl called Rebeca appears one day and is taken in by the Buendías. They raise her along with their new daughter, Amaranta, and Pilar and José Arcadio's son Arcadio. However, Rebeca brings a plague of insomnia and forgetfulness that soon spreads to the entire town. The villagers are forced to label everything to prevent themselves from forgetting.

    Luckily, Melquíades, previously presumed dead, appears with an antidote, and the villagers recover.

    Melquíades also brought more new technology, the daguerreotype, or the first photographic process available to the public. José Arcadio Buendía becomes obsessed with the daguerreotype. This obsession drives him so crazy that his speech becomes unintelligible, and his family is forced to tie him up to a tree in the backyard, where he stays for all the remaining years of his life.

    Meanwhile, Aureliano Buendía, who has become a master goldsmith under Melquíades' instruction, falls in love with Remedios Moscote, the nine-year-old daughter of Macondo's magistrate. However, he also has sex with Pilar; she becomes pregnant with his child but agrees to help him marry Remedios. The wedding is agreed to on the stipulation that Aureliano Buendía waits until Remedios Moscote reaches puberty.

    In the meantime, Rebeca and Amaranta fall in love with the same man, Pietro Crespi. Pietro decides to marry Rebeca, and Amaranta is beside herself with jealousy. She vows to ruin the wedding, but Remedios Moscote, Aureliano Buendía's young bride, dies, and the wedding is called off.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude is filled with relationships that are often loveless, convoluted, and even incestuous. However, the relationship between Aureliano Bunedía, a grown man, and Remedios Moscote, still a child, is perhaps the most troubling. What bigger point do you think García Márquez is trying to make about the nature of love and relationships?

    When José Arcadio finally returns, Rebeca falls in love with him, and the two are married. Pietro then turns his attention to Amaranta, but she is no longer interested in him, and he kills himself.

    News of civil war reaches the village, and Aureliano Buendía leaves to fight. He is gone for many years, earning the title of Colonel and becoming an important leader of the Liberal fighters. He also fathers seventeen sons with seventeen different women, all named Aureliano.

    Meanwhile, Arcadio grows up and marries Santa Sofía de la Piedad. The two have three children, a daughter, Remedios the Beauty, and twin boys, José Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo.

    Colonel Aureliano Buendía finally returns home, disillusioned from the long war, and spends the rest of his life making golden fish in his workshop.

    A railroad reaches Macondo, further reducing the village's isolation. With the railroad comes an American fruit company, which constructs a banana plantation near the village. At first, the plantation and new railroad bring much prosperity to Macondo, but when the banana workers go on strike, thousands are massacred by the Colombian Army.

    Throughout One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez alludes to real events happening in the world outside of secluded Macondo's bubble. For example, the massacre at the banana plantation is based on a real event known as the Banana Massacre. The United Fruit Company was an American corporation that established banana plantations throughout Central and South America. In the early 19th century, the company owned millions of acres of land in countries such as Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica, giving it great influence over the governments of these countries.

    In 1928, workers on a banana plantation in Colombia began a strike demanding humane working conditions. The United Fruit Company portrayed the strike as subversive communist behavior, and the Colombian Army intervened. Workers and their families had assembled in the main square, and officers gave a five-minute warning, far too little time to clear the packed square, before they opened fire on the crowd. García Márquez puts the number of dead at 3,000, but the real number of casualties is unknown.

    José Arcadio Segundo was a foreman at the plantation and is the only survivor of the massacre. The people of Macondo, however, refuse to believe the massacre took place, believing instead that the strike was resolved peacefully.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude, Banana Truck, StudySmarterFig 2: In One Hundred Years of Solitude, a massacre at a banana plantation is based on the 1928 Banana Massacre.

    José Arcadio Segundo’s brother, Aureliano Segundo, marries Fernanda del Carpio and has three children, Renata Remedios, known as Meme, and José Arcadio (II) and later, Amaranta Úrsula.

    Roman numerals in parentheses are StudySmarter's addition to make the many characters easier to distinguish in this summary.

    When Meme grows up, she is sent to a convent after the highly religious Fernanda discovers her with a lover. Meme then has a child, Aureliano (II), who Fernanda raises along with her third and youngest daughter, Amaranta Úrsula.

    Aureliano (II) will be the last of the Buendía line, and, here, Macondo begins to fall into decline. It starts to rain and does not stop for five years. The constant downpour wreaks havoc on the town's buildings and infrastructure. Characters begin to die and move away.

    Amaranta Úrsula and Aureliano (II) fall in love and have a child together, not knowing they are actually related because Fernanda always kept Aureliano (II)'s parentage a secret. Their child, Aureliano (III), is born with a pig's tail and later eaten by ants.

    Amaranta Úrsula died in childbirth, so Aureliano (II) is now completely alone in Macondo. He finds the leader of the traveling community, Melquíades', scrolls which are revealed to be the history of the Buendía family. Just as Aureliano (II) reaches the end of the scrolls and his family's history, a hurricane wipes him and what remains of Macondo out of existence.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude: Characters

    One of the great challenges that One Hundred Years of Solitude presents is the repetitive names of the characters. Generation after generation, the Buendía men are called José Arcadio or Aureliano and the women Úrsula, Remedios, or Amaranta. While the repetition of names emphasizes the circularity of history and human nature, it can make for difficult reading! Keep an eye out for the slight variations in the names of each consecutive generation to keep everyone straight. For clarity, we've added roman numerals to distinguish characters with the same names.

    First Generation

    • José Arcadio Buendía is the patriarch of the Buendía family and the founder of Macondo. He is brilliant and energetic but descends into madness later in his life.
    • Úrsula Iguarán is José Arcadio Buendía’s wife and also his first cousin. For the first part of their marriage, Úrsula Iguarán refuses to have sex with José Arcadio Buendía because she fears their child will have a genetic deformity due to their being related.

    Second Generation

    • Amaranta is Úrsula Iguarán and José Arcadio Buendía’s daughter. She and her adopted sister, Rebeca, fall for the same man, and bitterness and jealousy destroy Amaranta.
    • Colonel Aureliano Buendía is Úrsula Iguarán and José Arcadio Buendía’s second son. Like all the characters who share the name Aureliano, Colonel Aureliano Buendía is pensive, serious, and solitary. He becomes a celebrated colonel during the civil war but passes the last years of his life in solitude, making tiny golden fish, melting them down, and making them anew.
    • Remedios Moscote is a child who is briefly married to Colonel Aureliano Buendía before she dies.
    • José Arcadio is Úrsula Iguarán and José Arcadio Buendía’s first son. Like all the characters named Arcadio, José Arcadio is strong, stubborn, and even brutish.
    • Rebeca is an orphan girl who is raised by Úrsula Iguarán and José Arcadio Buendía. She eventually marries José Arcadio. She arrives in Macondo with the strange habit of eating dirt and whitewash from the walls.

    Third Generation

    • Aureliano José is the son of Colonel Aureliano Buendía and Pilar Ternera, the local sex worker and fortune teller.
    • Arcadio is José Arcadio and Pilar Ternera’s son.
    • Santa Sofía de la Piedad is Arcadio’s wife.
    • The Seventeen Aurelianos are the sons that Colonel Aureliano Buendía has with seventeen different women during his participation in civil war campaigns.

    Fourth Generation

    • Remedios the Beauty is Santa Sofía de la Piedad and Arcadio’s daughter.
    • José Arcadio Segundo is Santa Sofía de la Piedad and Arcadio’s son.
    • Aureliano Segundo is Santa Sofía de la Piedad and Arcadio’s son. He and José Arcadio Segundo are twins.
    • Fernanda del Carpio is Aureliano Segundo’s wife.

    Fifth Generation

    • José Arcadio (II) is Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda del Carpio’s son.
    • Amaranta Úrsula is Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda del Carpio’s daughter.
    • Gaston is Amaranta Úrsula's husband.
    • Renata Remedios, better known as Meme, is Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda del Carpio's daughter.

    Sixth Generation

    • Aureliano (II) is the son of Meme and her secret lover, Mauricio Babilonia. He is the last member of the Buendía family and the final resident of Macondo.

    Other Characters

    • Melquíades is the leader of the traveling community that visits Macondo early in the town's history. He is the first person to die in Macondo, and he makes mysterious prophecies on scrolls that are later revealed to be the complete history of Macondo and the Buendías.
    • Pilar Ternera is a fortune-teller and sex worker. She has a child with both José Arcadio and Colonel Aureliano Buendía.
    • Pietro Crespi is the love interest of both Rebeca and Amaranta. He intends to marry Rebeca, but she marries José Arcadio instead. He then proposes to Amaranta but is rejected, and he kills himself.
    • Mauricio Babilonia is Meme’s secrete lover and the father of Aureliano (II), the last member of the Buendía family.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude: Key Themes

    One Hundred Years of Solitude is a complex novel with many interesting themes, including solitude and isolation, history and the passage of time, and family.

    Solitude and isolation

    Solitude is a reoccurring theme throughout One Hundred Years of Solitude. Many of the characters seek solitude or are forced into solitude by others. José Arcadio Buendía isolates himself to delve into his experiments, and he is later isolated by his family when he goes insane. His son Aureliano also finds peace in the solitude of his goldsmith workshop, and Aureliano (II), the final member of the Buendía family, ends his life in complete solitude, alone in what remains of Macondo.

    Macondo itself, an isolated town in the jungle, is also an image of solitude. At the beginning of the novel, the town is completely cut off from civilization. It slowly begins to be subject to more outside influence, but when the novel ends, Macondo has once again been swallowed up by the solitude of the jungle.

    Time and history

    One Hundred Years of Solitude spans approximately a century in the lives of six generations of the Buendía family. The passage of this time is an important theme in the novel. Time moves in unexpected ways, sometimes speeding up and slowing down or moving fluidly between the past, present, and future.

    The novel covers many years and the many generations of the Buendías, revealing a circularity of time and history. Patterns of events and behaviors begin to emerge. One place where this theme is particularly clear is in the repetition of the family's names. The family members also have predictable traits that come with their names. For example, the Aurelianos of the family are solitary and reserved, while the José Arcadios are stronger, more boisterous, and even brutish.

    Finally, the story of Macondo is also circular in nature. The town begins as nothing at the beginning of the novel and again passes out of existence by the end.

    What does the discovery of Melquíades' scrolls at the end of the novel add to the theme of history and the passage of time?

    Family

    The Buendía family is the driving force of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Throughout generations, they are unable to break their repeated patterns and history, and decisions made by earlier generations continue to affect the family for years to come.

    The Buendías cannot escape themselves. Beginning with Úrsula Iguarán and José Arcadio Buendía, who are first cousins, and ending with Aureliano (II) and Amaranta Úrsula, who are nephew and aunt, the Buendías continue to convolute their family line and perpetuate the repetition of their fate.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude: Key Quotes

    The first line of One Hundred Years of Solitude is among literary history's most iconic opening sentences.

    Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." -One Hundred Years of Solitude (Chapter One)

    This line immediately introduces the book's main themes, including time, history, and family. It also expresses the joy of discovery in something as commonplace as ice, shadowing the magical realism that will permeate the novel.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude, Ball of Ice, StudySmarterFig 3: At the beginning of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Colonel Aureliano Buendía remembers when the traveling community brought ice to Macondo.

    The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point." -One Hundred Years of Solitude (Chapter One)

    This quote suggests that Macondo is founded at the very beginning of time. The town is a kind of Eden, pure and untouched. Throughout the novel, it loses its innocence before it is erased from the map, returning to the pure, untouched state of nature.

    Throughout the long history of the family the insistent repetition of names had made her draw some conclusions that seemed to be certain. While the Aurelianos were withdrawn, but with lucid minds, the José Arcadios were impulsive and enterprising, but they were marked with a tragic sign." -One Hundred Years of Solitude (Chapter Ten)

    Here, Úrsula Iguarán ponders the repetition of names in the Buendía family and the repetition of traits that accompanies them. She recognizes the circularity of time in the patterns that are repeated generation after generation.

    Magical Realism in the Novel One Hundred Years of Solitude

    As an author, Gabriel García Márquez is often credited with popularizing magical realism, and his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is a key example of this unique writing style.

    Magical realism is a literary genre where magical or supernatural elements are included in an otherwise realistic text. These elements are blended seamlessly into the realism of the story, and characters generally accept them as if they are unremarkable.

    The novel has many magical or fantastical elements woven seamlessly into the story's realistic setting. One Hundred Years of Solitude is set in Colombia, and real-life events are referenced throughout the novel. However, inexplicable, supernatural things also occur.

    In one instance, for example, the entire town of Macondo contracts an illness that causes insomnia. All the residents cease sleeping entirely. At first, this isn't a problem; the residents are even happy with their new productivity. Soon, however, the next symptom of the plague begins to manifest: forgetfulness. Bit by bit, the residents begin forgetting childhood memories, the names of things, and their uses. Colonel Aureliano Buendía begins the practice of labeling things to preserve memory:

    The sign that he hung on the neck of the cow was an exemplary proof of the way in which the inhabitants of Macondo were prepared to fight against loss of memory: This is the cow. She must be milked every morning so that she will produce milk, and the milk must be boiled in order to be mixed with coffee to make coffee and milk. Thus they went on living in a reality that was slipping away, momentarily captured by words, but which would escape irremediably when they forgot the values of the written letters." -One Hundred Years of Solitude (Chapter Three)

    One Hundred Years of Solitude - Key takeaways

    • One Hundred Years of Solitude is a novel written by Nobel-prize laureate Gabriel García Márquez.
    • It tells the story of the founding of a fictional town called Macondo and the Buendía family that lives there.
    • The novel spans approximately one hundred years and six generations of the Buendía family.
    • Key themes include solitude and isolation, history and the passage of time, and family.
    • One Hundred Years of Solitude is a work of magical realism, with magical and supernatural elements worked into an otherwise realistic text.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude, content warning, StudySmarter

    Frequently Asked Questions about One Hundred Years of Solitude

    What is the message of One Hundred Years of Solitude?

    One Hundred Years of Solitude is a complex novel with many important themes. One of the novel's key messages is the circular nature of time and the repetition of history.

    Why is One Hundred Years of Solitude magical realism?

    One Hundred Years of Solitude is considered magical realism because it includes magical and supernatural elements in an otherwise realistic text.

    What is the tone of One Hundred Years of Solitude?

    One Hundred Years of Solitude is narrated in the third person in a detached, matter-of-fact tone.

    What happens at the end of One Hundred Years of Solitude?

    At the end of One Hundred Years of Solitude, the last remaining member of the Buendía family discovers a collection of scrolls that detail his family history and the history of Macondo. The moment he finishes reading, he is killed, and Macondo is erased by a hurricane.

    Is One Hundred Years of Solitude a classic?

    One Hundred Years of Solitude is a key work in the canon of world literature.

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