Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This essay will be discussing the major symbols in ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and ‘A Passage to India’ by E.M Forster. It will also examine the symbols influence on the general meaning of the two novels.
Considered one of the most renowned pieces of writing by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ is a novel that is based on several generations of a Colombian family. Engulfed in history and magical realism, the novel picks on political unrest and struggle; whilst focused around the Buendia family experiences and the head Jose Arcadio Buendia of the family’s motivation to establish a new life in his own way. Within the novel, there are many symbols and metaphors used to convey a hidden message. Some of which are clear, and some ambiguous, are all significant factors of the story. They present concepts which all contribute to the overall meaning and developing narrative.
Marquez presents the setting of the town of Macondo: ‘’At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.’’ (Marquez, l3-p1) Marquez establishes Macondo as an Eden, evoking the holy story of Adam naming the animals.
The first dominant symbol that is seen throughout the novel is small golden fishes that Colonel Aureliano Buendia creates. The meaning of the golden fishes’ shift as the novel progresses over time. The Colonel gives the fishes to his sons and are primarily symbolic of the influence he has on their lives. The fishes at first seem symbolic of his creativity and his capability to form the world around him. As time goes on, the fishes no longer represent the Colonel and is of little value; the symbolism of the fishes diminish and results in the Colonel making them himself. His desire and power to shape the world around him have disappeared by the way he treats the fishes. They are merely remains of a once great leader.
The colours of yellow and gold in ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ are symbolic of the Spanish golden Age and Imperialism. When colonialism hits the town of Macondo through the railroads, the colours of yellow and gold marks the town. Interestingly the same colours in the flag of Colombia today. ‘’The innocent yellow train that was to bring so many ambiguities and certainties, so pleasant and unpleasant moments, so many changes, calamities and feelings of nostalgia to Macondo’’. (Marquez, p228). This is the yellow train brought by Aureliano Triste and is the first thing to connect Macondo to the outside world and brings in a huge number of foreigners and as well as opportunities. The colour yellow here is used to foretell the changes that arrive with the train for example the banana plantation. It also conveys ‘’the imperialist gringos and their banana company to Macondo.’’ The yellow ‘’Bananas become, in essence, the modern economic equivalent of the gold reference’’ (Pettey, pp. 162-178)
The railroads in the novel are also a powerful symbol. The railroads are introduced in chapter 11 as a way to expand the family’s business and they represent the connection of Macondo to the outside world. ‘’It was as if God had decided to put to the test every capacity for surprise and was keeping the inhabitants of Macondo in a permanent alternation between excitement and disappointment, doubt and revelation, to such an extreme that no one knew for certain where the limits of reality lay. It was an intricate stew of truths and mirages that convulsed the ghost of José Arcadio Buendía with impatience and made him wander all through the house even in broad daylight.’’ (Marquez, p230)
This signifies Macondo’s advancement from a small village to a modernized energetic city along with introducing developing transformations such as electricity and new kinds of people such as business travellers. The railroads however take a devastating turn and leads to the development of a banana plantation and the subsequent massacre of thousands of workers.
E.M Forster is a realistic and traditionalist novelist in English literature. His novel ‘A Passage to India’ is a novel of cultural, social and religious conflict that occurred from clashes between India’s indigenous inhabitants and the British colonialists.
‘A Passage to India’ is filled with sophisticated symbolic language that we commonly see in poetry despite the deep and meaningful themes within the novel; each part of the novel is devoted to dominating symbols which are the caves, a mosque and temple. The title of each part of the novel infer to Islam and Muslims, the physical and Hinduism. The structure of the novel also suggests the seasons of weather in India; winter, summer and the monsoon.
The mosque depicts the issue of separation among man and his fellow man and between man and universe. There are efforts by characters within this part to rebuild the growing gap. Aziz, a Muslim and Mrs. Moore encounter each other and connect on an emotional level. They share a friendship and mutual understanding which we see through the novel. This ultimately signifies the west and east meeting harmoniously to build the gaps of race, age and place.
The Marabar Caves appear throughout the novel as a symbol of the mysteries of India and the entire world. The Marabar caves and hills that contain them are fictional but are based on real caves in India called the Barabar caves, which are located 35Km north of Gaya, in the state of Bihar. There are physical distinctive differences between the real and fictional caves.
The caves location is nowhere near human inhabitation and are set within a hill which creates a sense of mystery by itself. Prior to the journey of the caves, not one character knew anything about the caves or could describe them. Professor Godbole as well cannot describe or put into words – he may not want to. After the exploration, they still engulf in a mystery; they symbolize again all that is unknown in the world, even to the most rational and scientific minds such as professor Godbole.
Forster presents the caves with a detailed account ‘’They are dark caves. Even when they open towards the sun, very little light penetrates down the entrance tunnel into the circular chamber. There is little to see, and no eye to see it, until the visitor arrives for his five minutes, and strikes a match. Immediately another flame rises in the depths of the rock and moves towards the surface like an imprisoned spirit: the walls of the circular chamber have been most marvellously polished.’’ Forster conveys through this description the extraordinary obscurity of the Marabar caves.
Forster also represents the manifestation of a blaze against the extremely reflective shell of the Marabar cave: ‘’The two flames approach and strive to unite, but cannot, because one of them breathes air, the other stone. A mirror inlaid with lovely colours divides the lovers, delicate starts of pink and grey interpose, exquisite nebulae, shadings fainter than the tail of a comet or the midday moon, all the evanescent life of granite, only here visible’’(quote). The caves are a representation for everything unfamiliar in the natural world. They depict a prehistoric, inhuman void, the chilling concept of world unity embraced by Hinduism. They also symbolize darkness, mystery and evil. The empty caves show the emptiness of life and void creates an echo that is frightening. This may suggest a unity but not a unity without love goodness and understanding. It negates all their values. The caves strange characteristic also holds a power to make Mrs. Moore and Adela to face an element of themselves they have not recognized before. The experience within the caves trigger Mrs. Moore to understand a darker side of her mysticism – a declining promise to the world of relationships and a growing ambivalence about god; she sees the weakness and falseness of her Christian faith results in her succumbing to apathy after witnessing the void the cave symbolizes. Adela is confronted with the shame and humiliation that she and Ronny are not in fact attracted to each other and she may well not be attracted to anyone.
Towards the end, we are met with last part of novel; Temple. The spirit of the novel that captures love and happiness. Within this part of the novel we see evil starting to weaken and Aziz commits to soul searching for a deeper understanding of India.
Temple encompasses the essence of the novel and begins with Godbole heading over a festival celebration of the birth of Sri Krishna in a temple at Mau during the monsoon season. Amongst all the chaos and noise of the celebration, the god is born, metaphorically and love is admired. Whilst celebrating the birth of the God, the Hindus guided by Godbole believe that all creation is one and share in joy. It is ultimately a vision of god as a universal friend, who embraces all the people and things of this earth in his divine love.
The significance of these symbols in structure form brings to light the racial division that the novel deals with.
The novel is a complex piece of literature that is based on the evil of the British imperialistic rile in India. The symbolic devices used by Forster are important to the overall meaning of the novel because.
Conclusion; forster use of three symbols the cave, temple demonstrate the numerous interpretations and themes of the novel.