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One Hundred Years of Solitude

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A novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


an individualistic life possible in a collectivistic society?”


Plot Overview


Hundred Years of Solitude is the history of the isolated
town of Macondo and of the family who founds it, the Buendías. For years, the
town has no contact with the outside world, except for gypsies who visit the
town, giving new technologies like ice and telescopes. The founder and head of
the family, José
Arcadio Buendía, is a man who does what he wants no matter what and is a
man who always questions things around his life. He remains a leader who is
also deeply solitary, alienating himself from other people and his family in
his obsessive investigations into mysterious, mostly paranormal matters. These
character traits are inherited by his future generations in the novel. His
older child, José Arcadio, inherits his strength and his impetuousness. His
younger child, Aureliano, inherits his intense focus. Gradually, the village
loses calm, alone state when it establishes contact with other towns in the
region. Civil wars begin, bringing violence and death to peaceful Macondo,
which, previously, had experienced neither, and Aureliano becomes the leader of
the Liberal rebels, achieving fame as Colonel
Aureliano Buendía. Macondo changes from a nice calm, and partly magical
town to a town irreversibly connected to the outside world through the  bad fame of Colonel Buendía. Macondo’s
governments change several times during and after the war. At one point,
Arcadio, the cruelest of the Buendías, rules like a dictator and is eventually
executed by a firing squad. Later, a mayor is appointed, and his reign is
peaceful until another civil uprising has him killed. After his death, the
civil war ends with the signing of a peace treaty.

than a century goes by over the course of the book, and so most of the events
that García Márquez describes are the major turning points in the lives of the
Buendías: births, deaths, marriages, love affairs. Some of the Buendía men are
wild and sexually active, always going to brothels and taking lovers. Others
are quiet and solitary, preferring to shut themselves up in their rooms to make
tiny golden fish or to investigate ancient manuscripts. The women, too, range
from the outrageously outgoing. A sense of the family’s destiny for greatness
remains alive in its tenacious matriarch, Ursula Iguarán, and she works to keep
the family together despite its differences. But for the Buendía family, as for
the entire village of Macondo, the outside forces of modernity are devastating.
Imperialism and capitalism reaches Macondo as a banana plantation moves in and
exploits the land and the workers, and the Americans who own the plantation
settle in their own fenced-in section of town. Eventually, angry at the
inhumane way in which they are treated, the workers go on strike. Thousands of
them are killed by the army, which sides with the plantation owners. When the
bodies have been dumped into the sea, it starts to rain and it does not stop
for five year, creating a flood that sends Macondo into its doom. As the city,
beaten down by years of violence and declining progress, begins to fall to
pieces, the Buendía family begins its process of final extinction, overcome by
nostalgia for days of the past. The book ends almost as it began: the village
is once again alone, isolated. The few remaining Buendía family members turn in
upon themselves incestuously, alienated from the outside world and doomed to a
solitary ending. In the last part of the book, the last surviving Buendía
translates a set of ancient prophecies written in an ancient language, and
finds that all of his, his towns, and his familys life has been predicted: that
the village and its inhabitants have merely been living out a cycle,that was
foretold, incorporating great beauty and great, tragic sadness.


Collectivistic vs. The Individualistic


is a cultural value that is often characterized by a group of people that stick
together among individual people and prioritize themselves over the
individuals.(Schwartz, S. H. (1990). “Individualism–collectivism: Critique
and proposed refinements”. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. 21:
139–157.) Individuals who are in a collectivistic society tend to find
themselves in line with the goals and ambitions of the group and show their
effort in the group and not out the group. The group can be defined differently
accourding to different cultures. In some it may be family, in other it may be
racial, ethnic or religious. Collectivism is an important part of Marxism and
Leninisim, and played an important role in creating the ideal profile for the
Soviet Union Citizen, who would choose the “Motherland” over himself/herself and
even sacrifice his/her life for the sake of the country. This collectivistic
language which used terms life “masses” and “collective” was often used in
Soviet propaganda and it was used by famous authors such as Bertolt Brecht and
Valdimir Mayakovski. (Overy, Richard. The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany,
Stalin’s Russia. p. 301, Horn, Eva (2006). “Actors/Agents:
Bertolt Brecht and the Politics of Secrecy”. Grey Room:
38–55.) Looking at this it shouldn’t come as a sürprize that Garcia Marquez
was, a revolutionary and had collectivistic views of his country, Colombia and
Latin America in general. In this sense it is clear that Garcia Marquez is
inspired by Collectivism when he started writing about Macondo and the Buendia


is the cultural value that emphasizes on the individual being free of any
groups and being morally dependent on the self, rather than the group.
Individualism promotes the right to pursue goals and desires of oneself and
being independent and self-reliable.( Ellen Meiksins Wood. Mind and Politics:
An Approach to the Meaning of Liberal and Socialist Individualism. University of California Press.
1972.) Individualism advocates that an individual should have priorities of
oneself over a group, and sohuld act according to the interest of oneself,
rather than act according to society or the government. Macondo in this example
is a town that is collectivistic, but the Buendia family’s male side always
tries to be the individualist. They always try to reach their goals and
ambitions, but fail miserably in doing so. The individualistic tone is also set
by the plantation, which represent the arrival of capitalism and in racing
certainty, individualism. Much of 100 years of solitude is drawn from Garcia
Marquez’s life, as told by him in an interview when asked about his political

because you must remember that, although my father is a conservative, my
grandfather the Colonel was a
liberal. My political ideas probably came from him to begin with because,
instead of telling me fairy-tales when I was young, he would regale me with
horrifying accounts of the last civil war that free-thinkers and anti-clerics
waged against the conservative government. My
grandfather also told me about the massacre of the banana workers which took
place in Aracataca the year I was born. So you see my family influenced me
towards rebellion rather than towards upholding the established order.”


light of all these information and reading the book. I found that in a collectivistic
life such as Macondo, individualism would simply fail. It happened in the book
as the family crumbled because of individualism over the years, and it is
likely to happen in real life. The same scenario would apply vice versa, as
seen with the fall of the Soviet Union. A collectivistic society fell because
it was created in an individualistic World. In this sense the banana plantation
can be a metaphor of the United States and Macondo in this metaphor would be
the Soviet Union. Reading with the knowledge that the book itself was written
in the era of Cold War, the book makes a lot of sense, indirectly implying the
two ideologies. The books ending also suggests that this aggression of two values,
is cyclical and will always be in loop throughout time. The book has a
fascinating language and the tenses are written in such a way that a lot of
d?fferent points in time are implied in a single sentence like the wirst sentence
of the book:

“Many years later, as he faced the
firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon
when his father took him to discover ice.”

conclude I would like to say that this book is a fantastic read and I would
suggest it to anyone who would like to enjoy a deep, meaningful novel with a
fantastic language. The book’s issues on communism, capitalism, collectivism,
individualism and nostalgia are all eloquently written and discussed throughout
the book with the generations of the Buendia family. The cyclical nature of
life and family, combined with the literatures finest (and probably one of the
first) magical realism, it is a fantastic read. It might be the finest
exploration on the world, family, nature, life, death, and nostalgia this
century has ever seen.




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