Introducing Úrsula Iguarán Buendía
As the moral conscience of the novel, Úrsula struggles to restrain her self-defeating family members in their headlong rush into incest (her son José Arcadio marries his sister Rebeca), promiscuity (her son Aureliano produces seventeen illegitimate sons), profligacy (her carousing great-grandson Aureliano Segundo), and bitterness (Amaranta). Though a moral woman, she is not crippled by her morality: after all, she takes in the illegitimate grandson abandoned by her son José Arcadio when he runs off with the gypsies, adopts little Rebeca who may or may not be a biological relative, and opens her home and heart to Aureliano's seventeen bastard sons.
But Úrsula is also not superhuman—her power and influence are sadly limited. She can't stop her son José Arcadio from becoming a gypsy, and later a male prostitute any more than she will be able to dissuade her grandson Arcadio from becoming the most despotic ruler Macondo has seen or the Colonel from executing a man who deserved clemency. She's powerless to stem the losses and tragedies that beset the family. We must conclude that there are forces of evil for which no woman, even one as powerful as Úrsula, is a match. Like the matriarchs of the Bible, Úrsula seems to live to an impossibly old age. She watches over the family until the last Buendía dies, and the town's fate is sealed. As such, Úrsula is both the force that keeps the novel going for five generations and the moral conscience of a family in decline.