100 Years of Solitude




100 Years of Solitude
Just as Edmund Spenser believes in “the ever-whirling wheel of Change; that
which all mortal things doth sway,” so too does Gabriel García Márquez. In One Hundred
Years of Solitude, Colonel Aureliano Buendía experiences life and the changes which
accompany it. Spenser views human life as a constant change from one stage to another.
The change may be either good or bad; but one thing is certain, change is inevitable.
Colonel Buendía is a dynamic character who transforms from an idealistic leader into an
increasingly cynical and corrupt man. Toward the end of his life, he isolates himself from
the rest of the world.
In the beginning of Aureliano’s career, he is an idealistic leader who is respected
by his peers. He leads an uprising of “twenty-one men under the age of thirty, armed with
table knives and sharpened tools” against the Conservatives occupying Macondo. He
adamently disagrees with their form of government and begins the reform movement led
by the anticlerical and democratic bourgeoisie. After the Liberal victory, Aureltio becomes
“Colonel Aureliano Buendía.” Aureliano’s leadership parallels his father’s leadership of
these young men’s fathers who helped him found the village of Macondo. Similarly,
Aureliano commands respect from his subordinates and has enormous power over other
men as well. After being captured by the enemy, Aureliano is not executed because the
Conservative firing squad is only too happy to switch sides and follow him into the Liberal
army. Colonel Aureliano appears to be immortal and ubiquitous, returning triumphant,
surviving numerous assassination attempts, and continuing to hold the loyalty of his
friends. When his comrade in-arms and oldest friend, Colonel Gerineldo Márquez,
proposes marriage to Aureliano’s sister, Amaranta boldly rejects him because “[Gerineldo]
loves Aureliano so much [he] wants to marry [her] because [he] can’t marry [Aureliano].”
The Colonel has great allegiance and affection from those below him. However, as
Aureliano’s attitudes change, he loses their love and respect.
After fighting many battles, Aureliano becomes increasingly cynical and corrupt.
He comes to understand his own thoughts by writing out his experiences in verse. In this
way, he comes to the terrible realization that “[he] is fighting for pride.” As for what
Gerineldo calls the “Great Liberal party,” Aureliano declares that it “doesn’t mean
anything to anybody” because the only difference between the Liberals and the
Conservatives is the different hours that each party attends mass. Worse, he determines
that his heroic struggle has simply been another Latin American power play. Likewise,
Aureliano is a sell-out. He is easily persuaded to give up everything that he has gained for
the Liberal cause: land reform, anticlericalism, and the “aspiration for equality of rights
between natural and legitimate children” for money from the Conservatives. The warfare is
futile and has caused him to “rot alive.” Power has gripped the Colonel, distorting his
idealism and his values from his earlier days, when he thought it important to redistribute
lands and protect civilian lives. In the same way, he orders Gerineldo Márquez executed
because of a trivial matter. He then spends the night trying to break “the hard shell of his
solitude” in order to recover some compassion for others. What results, though, is not
love, but a new burst of pride and power. He decides to end the civil war by force rather
than negotiation. Aureliano’s cynicism and debauched view of the world lead to the final
tragic stage of his life.
In the latter part of his life, the once glorious Colonel Aureliano Buendía isolates
himself from the world around him. He does not have the capacity to love, and the fact
that he has had sex with countless women, without ever learning their names or even
waiting for daylight to see their faces, shows his inability to experience true love. He has
fathered seventeen “children of all ages, all colors, but all males and all with a look of
solitude that left no doubt as to the relationship.” His indifference to his surroundings and
circumstances lead to his loneliness. Like his father before him, the Colonel begins to lose
contact with the world. He reaches the extreme of self-isolation when he orders a chalk
circle drawn around him and refuses to let anyone, even his mother, come closer than two
meters. The futility and desperation of his solitude is shown by his frustrated suicide
attempt. After the Conservative victory, he tries to kill himself by aiming the gun to his
chest. But the bullet misses all his vital organs. For the remaining years of