Discussion Questions, Pages 315—The End
1. Discuss the lasting impact of Meme's love affair with Mauricio Babilonia. What do his lingering yellow butterflies represent? What do you think about the way love seems to derail some of the Buendías, including Meme?
2. Talk about the banana strike. What details do you find interesting about the way García Márquez portrays it? Does what happened seem realistic to you? If not, why do you think it doesn't?
3. Take some time to consider the way that the government has changed or developed over the course of the novel. Do you feel that the way the Buendía family is "governed" has shifted? Do they have less or more power than they did in the beginning of the book?
4. "It rained for four years, eleven months and two days." What does the rain represent?
5. What about the culture or the family seems to be in decline during the final portion of the book? What is "decline" and how, specifically, is it manifested?
6. Talk about the deaths of many of the substantial characters. What is similar about the ways they die? What do you think the way death is portrayed in this novel says about the author's view of life and death?
7. Think about Aureliano and Amaranta Úrsula's love affair in terms of how it's different from other love in the book and also the same. What does the fact that they give birth to the fabled last of the line say about their affair? How do they, together and separately, carry on the spirit of the Buendías?
8. Discuss how Nigromanta is the natural successor to Pilar Ternera's domain in the novel. In what ways are the two characters similar? In what ways are the different?
9. Why do you believe that this novel is important for people to read? If you were going to recommend it to a friend, what would you say to persuade him or her to read it?
10. Talk about the final paragraph. How did it make you feel?
For a deeper understanding, read the chapter explanation!Macondo's Banana Strike: Pages 315—The End "The workers, who had been content to wait until then, went into the woods with no other weapons but their working machetes and they began to sabotage the sabotage." — from One Hundred Years of Solitude
The economic and political takeover of Macondo by the banana firm, the strike by field workers, and the military repression and massacre that García Márquez covers in One Hundred Years of Solitude are closely based on events from 1900–1928 in rural Colombia. From modest Colombian holdings, the United Fruit Company of Boston grew into a virtual state-within-a-state in a zone stretching from coastal Santa Marta to Aracataca (the author's hometown). As in Macondo, the firm had separate American-style residential compounds, company stores for foodstuffs, and it's own irrigation system and water policy. Because the United Fruit Company of Boston hired field hands only through subcontractors to avoid Colombian labor legislation, they consistently claimed that United Fruit Company had no employees. Similarly, the six lawyers in the novel argue that "the banana company did not have, never had had, and never would have any workers in its service," and the court establishes "in solemn decrees that the workers did not exist." (p. 320) Indeed, they truly did not.
Seen through the eyes of José Arcadio Segundo and the small child he picks up and cares for during the melee, the struggle for human rights and dignity in the novel takes on a very human face. Though he has been through the massacre himself, when José Arcadio Segundo steps away from the dead that lay strewn in the streets, they disappear. "The streets were deserted under the persistent rain and the houses locked up with no trace of life inside." (p. 331) He, as the sole survivor of the massacre, is told by a villager: "You must be dreaming. Nothing has happened in Macondo, nothing has ever happened, and nothing will ever happen. This is a happy town." (p. 333)
In this, the most brutal, political episode in Gabo's novel about life in Latin America, the author makes a bold statement with unbelievable grace and style. As a young boy, Gabriel García Márquez saw his town, his family and his life blown to the four winds by the real banana strike. As a man, he comments on it with powerful melancholy and truth, showing clearly how events can be manipulated, revised and excised by those in power. Even the Buendía family, who held every ounce of power at the beginning of the novel, find themselves helpless in the face of powerful entities from outside their culture.
In this instance we begin to truly understand the Buendías solitude, their loss, their helplessness, their grief. It is here that our hearts connect to what this family has lost, what they cannot regain, and what it feels like to be the oppressed.
Use these questions to discuss pages 315–The End with your book club or answer some questions on your own!
How does this relate with the author's message of solitude? Find out!Melquíades' Parchments Revealed: Pages 315—The End "Aureliano could not move. Not because he was paralyzed by horror but because at that prodigious instant Melquíades' final keys were revealed to him and he saw the epigraph of the parchments perfectly placed in the order of time and space: The first of the line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by the ants." — from One Hundred Years of Solitude
Though the parchments, Melquíades' historic creative output, appear early in the tale of the Buendías, it is not until the last three pages as the novel winds to completion that we learn what has been written on them. It is not until the end that we—along with the "last of the line"—understand how much Melquíades the gypsy was a soothsayer, a prophet, and the final arbiter of the family's fate. He knew everything all along.
With this revelation in the eleventh hour comes an entirely new way to read the novel we are just finishing. All of a sudden, the full tragedy of "fate" hits home. We learn that not only were the Buendías fated to their decline but every one of their actions—as a family and as individuals—was pre-determined. Their lives were literally written on parchments that predated them all—and could not have been read until the very moment they were deciphered by the last Buendía standing, "prophesying himself in the act of deciphering the last page of the parchments, as if he were looking into a speaking mirror." (p. 447)
Can you imagine this novel ending any other way? García Márquez couldn't have wrapped the novel up in a neater package. At once, Aureliano Babilonia's life's purpose is fulfilled, Melquíades' role cemented and the Buendía line's awkward choices understood, and in a way, sanctioned. The author (both Melquíades and who he has come to represent...García Márquez himself) has been tragicomically called out for what he is: a manipulator of men's souls and a creator in the most complete sense. The icing on the cake is what the parchment's revelation says about humanity—that perhaps we are all damned and redeemed by our heritage, our culture and our nature.
Gabo's masterstroke is complete with the final sentence: "Races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth." In one stroke, he dashes all of our hopes for the future of humanity. Yet, considering the humor and irony we have come to expect from García Márquez, do races ever get a second chance? Are we in control of our own destiny, or does every family have a Melquíades of sorts?
William Kennedy wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race." In the end, it is at once pessimistic, optimistic—and ultimately—realistic.