Discussion Questions, Pages 197-313
1. Talk about the role the ghost of Melquíades plays in the lives of all the Buendías that he continues to visit after he dies—especially Aureliano Segundo and Aureliano (II). Link this with the "traffic of the dead" that passes through Macondo. What do the ghosts have in common?
2. Spend some time thinking about all the different kinds of love that exist in the novel. Are there loves that seem to transcend the ravages of everyday life, warfare, history, and time itself? What kind of love is the most prevalent?
3. How is old age treated in this novel? Do you feel that a person's place in the Buendía family changes as they grow old? How is their wisdom utilized by the community, and how could it possibly be utilized better? Do you think the characters themselves changed as they aged?
4. Do you feel any of the characters "learn" from their mistakes or heartaches? If so, who and in what ways?
5. The narrator states on page 213, "Remedios the Beauty was not a creature of this world." What sets her apart from the other Buendías? Are there any other literary characters that she reminds you of?
6. Discuss the icons of female beauty and power used throughout the book. In what ways do you consider the female characters to be strong—and similarly, how do they appear weaker or more fragile than the male characters?
7. Talk about the many jubilees, festivals and other kinds of celebration that occur in Macondo. Do there seem to be more of them in these pages than there were at the beginning of the book? If so, why do you think that might be?
8. "The innocent yellow train that was to bring so many ambiguities and certainties, so many pleasant and unpleasant moments, so many changes, calamities, and feelings of nostalgia to Macondo" blows into town on page 239. Put this into context with your general knowledge of progress in Macondo. Did you have a feeling of elation or foreboding when the train/banana company first arrived?
9. Discuss the significance of Úrsula's decision to raise José Arcadio (IV) to be the next Pope. What does this say about her, and why does she do it? What does his "reaction" to his schooling say about him? How do you think it plays into other religious elements in the novel?
10. So far, which character do you connect with most strongly? Name the three things you like about that character most. What do you think this character says about human nature, morality, family, or life in general?
For a deeper understanding, read the chapter explanation!Cult of the Goddess: Pages 197-313 "Remedios the Beauty was proclaimed queen. Úrsula, who shuddered at the disquieting beauty of her great-granddaughter, could not prevent the choice. The most impetuous men would go to church with an aim to see, if only for an instant, the face of Remedios the Beauty, whose legendary good looks were spoken of with alarming excitement throughout the swamp." — from One Hundred Years of Solitude
Remedios' beauty is so renowned that it brings men to Macondo—to worship at the alter of a beauty so legendary that she has become a "magical fascination." Yet no matter how princely the man or the grand the gesture, Remedios seems oblivious to her hold over men, and her physicality altogether: "She accepted the yellow rose without the least bit of malice, amused...and she lifted her shawl to see his face better, not to show hers" (p. 213). From the first time we meet her, we know Remedios is not meant for the kind of flesh and blood love that consumes so many Buendías. Her role as sovereign ruler, or Queen, of Macondo's biggest festival of the year is by its very nature to put her on a pedestal for worship. It is as if to say that she serves no worthy purpose in Macondo other than to represent something purely supernatural and outside the fray of daily living.
Later it is assumed that Remedios the Beauty possesses "powers of death." One thing often said of the dead is that they were "too good for this life," and surely this notion plays into her strange demise, rising away from the world, "abandoning with her the environment of beetles and dahlias and passing through the air" (p. 255). She leaves the world just as she came into it, "even from the time when she was in her mother's womb, [Remedios the Beauty] was safe from contagion" (p. 214).
What is most interesting about Remedios the Beauty is not what she does but what she represents. She is a break from three strong female archetypes that pervade One Hundred Years of Solitude: the strong, capable, earth-bound mother we see in Úrsula, the lusty Pilar Ternera and the bitter and lonely Amaranta. These women seem to overpower us with the solidity of their natures—their feet are so solidly on the ground they may as well be tacked down. Remedios the Beauty is a whimsy, a flight of fancy as light as a feather. She is a beauty that can't be possessed, a smell that you can't get out of your head—literally—and every other cliché about love you can conjure up. She is a goddess whose intelligence is irrelevant, who moves through the world in wide-eyed innocence unbothered by the concerns of man—or even clothes! By worshipping the goddess in her, we can see the same goddess in ourselves...the one that lives outside of earthly cares and watches the world as a silent, unaffected, perfect observer.
The passionate fruition of Meme and Mauricio Babilonia's love affair is one of the sweetest and strangest episodes in the host of strangely romantic episodes that riddle One Hundred Years of Solitude. With it, Gabriel García Márquez perfectly captures the crush of initial attraction and the blush of the beginnings of love. Meme and Mauricio, originally oblivious to each other in the great ocean of Macondo, are suddenly drawn to each other like a couple of magnets— drawn not only to one another's strangeness, but also by an immediate sense of comfort they find in their connection. Both lovers operate somewhat outside Macondo's social fabric and come from very different backgrounds. Mauricio is a sensitive mechanic for the Banana Company— Meme's mother hates everyone associated with the company. Meme is an educated proper young woman who hides her propensity for gossip and parties from her rigid mother. Meme finds herself both repulsed and attracted to Mauricio's bold advances under the nose of her disapproving mother. "Although she was flattered by the audacity and ingenuity of Mauricio Babilonia, she was moved by his innocence." (p. 309)
Swept up in their love affair, neither Meme nor Mauricio seem aware of the consequences of their actions. Spurred on by Pilar Ternera, who acts repeatedly as sexual advisor to the Buendías, Meme has "the same feeling of bravery that she had felt on the drunken evening." (p. 311) Mauricio, for his part, seems to be riding the wave of acceptance coming from a woman above his class stature. Chances are, he dared to hope she would ever show an interest in him, and indeed "at first his crudeness bothered her." (p. 310). Once they fall into their lovemaking routine, however, they have utterly thrown class differences and caution to the wind.
As with so many encounters in this novel, Meme's butterfly love affair end in tragedy so severe it seems almost impossible. Mauricio dies a broken man; Meme spends the rest of her life in silence living at a convent. If we could ask them whether or not it was worth it, what might they say? Being natives of Macondo, probably that fate had them in its clutches all along. After all, Fernanda says of Mauricio the first time she meets him, "He's a very strange man. You can see in his face that he's going to die." It is also an interesting twist that the butterflies that connect the lovers are also their downfall—had Fernanda not remembered butterflies from the dark of the movie theater, she might never have uncovered her daughter's secret.
No matter what happened in the end, the language García Márquez uses to capture the feelings in new love is particularly moving and magical. Meme finds herself "splashing in a bog of hesitation," "swallowing her blush and absorbed in tribulation," and "naked and trembling with love among the scorpions." Though the entire episode lasts a mere seven pages, it resonates with a passion so intense and real it seems to jump off the page. While love and sex are clearly important themes in One Hundred Years of Solitude, seldom is it handled with such ardor or with as stunning a visual cue as a steamy bathroom filled to overflowing with butterflies.
Use these questions to discuss pages 197–313 with your book club or answer some questions on your own!
Printed from Oprah.com on Saturday, December 7, 2013