JOHN GERLACH


The Logic of Wings:
García Márquez, Todorov,
and the Endless Resources of Fantasy

Is fantasy dependent on certain themes, and, if so, might these themes be exhausted? My own response to one story, Gabriel García Márquez's "Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," a story in which theme and the atmosphere of fantasy that emerges from the theme are, if anything, negatively correlated, leads me to suspect that fantasy is not closely tied to theme, so that fantasies may be created in any age, without reference to theme.

The story might best be described by starting at the end. At the conclusion, an old man flaps like a senile vulture away from the village where for years he has been held captive. The woman who has grudgingly taken care of him watches him open a furrow in the vegetable patch with his fingernails in his first attempt to rise. She sees him nearly knock down a shed with his "ungainly flapping." As he gains altitude and begins to disappear, she watches "until it was no longer possible for her to see him, because then he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot." George McMurray, in his recent study of Gabriel García Márquez, focuses on this final image and concludes that for the reader (and the villagers) the story is a "cathartic destruction of antiquated myths." My own reaction was quite different: I had the prescribed catharsis, but I came away with my taste for myth and the supernatural intact. I could see how McMurray arrived at his conclusion, because this particular lcarus, with his "few faded hairs left on his bald skull" and the air of a "drenched great-

____________________
From Bridges to Fantasy, edited by George E. Slusser, Eric S. Rabkin, and Robert Scholes . © 1982 by the Board of Trustees, Southern Illinois University. Southern Illinois University Press, 1982.

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