Though some far off war may have been brewing for a time, war seems to come to Macondo like a bolt of lightning. Announced by Úrsula as if it had just come over the wire, the news of war sparks a riot that culminates in "a mad operation, twenty-one men...armed with table knives and sharpened tools" (p. 110) and a change in government with the very unlikely Aureliano stepping in to run the war.
In conjunction of the coming of war comes a significant change in Aureliano Buendía. Always withdrawn, a "sentimental person with no future, with a passive character, and a definite solitary vocation," (p. 108) Aureliano is one of the last people in the book we would have expected to rise to the occasion and become a leader. He has not only an unlikely character, he has been preaching passivism and protesting war on principle for several pages preceding his ascension to the ranks of Colonel. Why, then, does he take over the army of Macondo and become a decorated and persecuted war hero for the rest of his days?
As it has borne out in many writings and portraits of war in the 20th century, it seems that men's characters are often revealed by the very act of war. Aureliano might very well have continued to be a passive, unassuming man who certainly wouldn't have fathered 17 sons by 17 women and survived 14 attempts on his life had Macondo not gone to war. It becomes more than a matter of duty with Colonel Aureliano; indeed it seems that Aureliano has accepted his destiny, predicted by Pilar on page 83, "You'd be good at war. Where you put your eye, you put your bullet."
With the superstitious nature of the Buendía family, even if all of the Buendías had wished to preserve the purity and innocence of their sequestered community such a thing could never have been. Just as progress permeates the community when Úrsula returns from her quest to find her son, so progress descends in the form of war and many of the men of Macondo find its pull irresistible.
As such, we begin to understand a clear delineation in the generational offspring of Úrsula and Josè Arcadio Buendía. The Aurelianos, more closely aligned with Úrsula and progress, move society forward. By contrast, the Josè Arcadios, like their fathers, stagnate. These two "sides" of the family are at odds with each other, helping to perpetuate the lack of solidarity that so plagues the Buendías. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the remainder of the novel.
Read the second chapter explanation, Nostalgia and Solitude: Pages 87-195.
Use these questions to discuss pages 87-195 with your book club or answer some questions on your own!