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Invitation to World Literature

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Key Teaching Points and Discussion Prompts

Characters

  1. If you had to write a timeline of Melquiades' life for a biography, how would you do it? Think of his birth, death, and rebirth, and the hinted-at span of his life.
  2. What do you think drives José Arcadio (II) to run off with the gypsies? Is it fear of the known future, or the lure of the unknown future?
  3. What might the death of Remedios, wife of Aureliano (I), signify? How might it be a comment on what drives men to make war?
  4. What is ironic about the purity of Remedios the Beauty, considering her ancestry?

Plot Actions

  1. José Arcadio (I) is sometimes described as being driven mad by nostalgia. What could this mean?
  2. Remedios dies of blood poisoning while pregnant with Aureliano (I)'s child—what could this symbolize about Aureliano (I) and his impact on the girl who had to become a woman to marry him?
  3. Who runs the banana company, and why do they massacre the workers?
  4. What might the years of rain symbolize? The rain diminishes Macondo and the Buendias—why?

Themes

  1. What is the relationship of Macondo to the outside world?
  2. Aureliano (I) makes little gold fishes in his retirement. What do these remind you of? What do they help you recall about his childhood? How does his activity resemble the novel's own creative process?
  3. What does the insomnia plague represent? What are the pros and cons of complete memory loss?
  4. Fear of abnormality runs through the novel. What is abnormal in this world? What is normal?

Discussion Prompts to Encourage Critical Thinking

  1. The novel's opening sentence is famous; it zooms into the mundane future to record a magical flashback, setting the tone for a story that moves between two worlds and, as we discover at the end, is a prediction of the future written long before the events it foresees and describes take place. How does that opening sentence impact you and your reading?
  2. The novel ends with Macondo and its inhabitants completely disappearing, all traces wiped out, as if they had never existed. How does this parallel the experience of political dissidents and opponents of the drug cartels in Latin America who are "disappeared" by their enemies?
  3. What do you think science represents in the story? What does it mean to the Buendías? What does it mean to the gypsies?
  4. José Arcadio (I) and his wife Úrsula fear producing mutant children as a result of their close relationship, (they are cousins). Do they avoid this misfortune? Think about their descendents, their mental and physical difficulties and their illicit, crazy, or murderous actions. Is there a Buendía curse?
  5. What symbolic meaning might the ghost of Prudencio hold? Think of when he appears to José Arcadio (I)—what is significant about each time he visits, and José Arcadio's (I) passionate reaction?