Discussion Questions, Pages 87—195
1. On page 90, we discover that Father Nicanor Reyna, who has come to Macondo to officiate Aureliano's wedding, can levitate when he eats chocolate. What do you think this episode might represent in the broader context of the novel? How is it written to seem real? How is it written to seem fantastic?
2. Why do you think Rebeca repeatedly postpones her wedding after the death of Remedios? What does she gain—if anything—from the community by remaining single? What do you make of her choices?
3. Discuss the political events that take place from pages 103–111. What do you make of the "mad operation," undertaken by table knives and tools, commanded by Aureliano as the chapter ends? What do we learn about war in Macondo or war in general? What does it reveal about Aureliano's character?
4. Discuss the episode of Arcadio's death. What do you make of his calmness at the end and his final pronouncement?
5. What do you think about the fact that Colonel Aureliano Buendía escapes the firing squad and seems to have "nine lives?" How is the plight of Aureliano portrayed convincingly throughout this section of the book?
6. Talk about Úrsula. In the first section of our reading, you learn of her strength and cunning. How does that continue to show itself throughout the book? In what ways is Úrsula innovative? If she is the natural Matriarch of the family, what decisions does she make that you agree with? Does she make any that you disagree with or are confused by?
7. During this section, what do you learn about the Liberal Party? What is its importance in the community of Macondo?
8. Why does Amaranta never marry? Especially, why does she reject Pietro Crespi after she has yearned for him for years? Is there any religious meaning to her virginity?
9. Discuss the complicated, fecund and very unusual sexual patterns of the Buendía clan. Do you find them to be different from the sexual mores of the United States in the 21st century? If so, how?
10. Talk about the role of Colonel Gerineldo Márquez. Why do you think the author gives this man his namesake and not the rest of the Buendía family? What is his place in the structure of the novel?
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.
Use these questions to discuss pages 87-195 with your book club or answer some questions on your own!
"This time [Aureliano] felt the same weakness in his knees and the same tingling in his skin that he felt in his youth in the presence of a woman. He thought confusedly, finally captive in a trap of nostalgia, that perhaps if he had married her he would have been a man without war and without glory, a nameless artisan, a happy animal."— from One Hundred Years of Solitude
When Colonel Aureliano Buendía returns from war, his family is excited—anticipating the return of a long lost brother, son and friend: "We'll finally have a man in the house again," Úrsula said. What they are met with instead is a man "captive in a trap of nostalgia" who is, at least for a time, unable to move on with his life. He sees for the first time that his mother is the only person who had ever "succeeded in penetrating his misery." He tries to kill himself because even Úrsula can no longer console or find him, "[Úrsula] spent the whole morning looking for a memory of her son in the most hidden corners, but she could find none."
Were this a different sort of novel, we might chalk up Colonel Aureliano's sudden melancholia as part of a natural reaction to the grief of war. But since this is a novel about generations of the loneliness in the Buendía family, Colonel Aureliano fits into a pattern instead. When he comes back to the house after years away, Colonel Aureliano Buendía has a choice. He can either reconnect with his family or lock himself away in solitude. He chooses the latter.
The tools he uses to keep his distance from family members and the world are interesting. Aside from literally issuing orders that no one—not even his mother—can come within 10 feet of him, he retreats in ways no one can see. One of the most repeated places Colonel Aureliano hides is in his remembrance of things past. He spends hours contemplating how his life would have been different given different choices. He doesn't attach himself to the flesh and blood people at the house in Macondo, he relives his childhood: "His only happy moments, since that remote afternoon when his father had taken him to see ice, had taken place in his silver workshop where he passed the time putting little gold fishes together."
We begin to recognize the trend. Rather than reconnect with his wife and children when he became disgruntled, José Arcadio Buendía talks to the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar, his dead enemy. Instead of looking deep into his mother's eyes and finding her, Colonel Aureliano Buendía lives in his memories of happier times. He gives up. Rather than choosing life, the Buendía men choose a spiritual death. They use nostalgia to perpetuate solitude and emotional distance until slowly—one by one—they shuffle off into eternal silence.