‘Once Upon a Time’ by Gabriel Okara

The poet of the poem “Once upon a time” is Gabriel Okara who is a Nigerian. He was born on 24th or 21st of April in the year 1921.In that year Nigeria got independence from Britain so at that time they were still influenced by the British culture. The background of the poem is that he is remembering the way people used to behave and interact with each other and he is comparing it with how people interact with others now. How the people used to do things with their hearts and with pleasure and happiness. It describes what happens when a traditional African culture and civilisation meets with the western culture. My personal opinion of the purpose of this poem is to outline the behaviour and personality people have at the moment and try and bring them back to the personality that people used to have, when they used to do things with emotion and with their heart
The poem is a conversation between a father and his son where the son does things with emotion and the father wants to forget his fake personality and re-learn and create real personalities from his son. And he is asking the son to show him how to express true love and show real personality to others.
It the first stanza the author mentions that people used to laugh with their heart they used to laugh with their emotions, when they would laugh they would do it wholeheartedly and with warmth and they used to laugh with their eyes and show pleasure with them. And know they do it with only their teeth not with their heart, meaning they do not really want to laugh but do it just to get closer to you and with their darky gloomy cold eyes they watch you and wait for you from the corner of their eyes waiting for you to leave “search behind my shadow”. In my opinion the words “they” refer to the white people who had invaded their country and influenced them with their culture. In this stanza the words “ice-block-cold eyes” is used these words emphasize the coldness and the inner hatred they have for you like they can freeze water with their gaze. These also make the poem feel a bit dark and cold and a slight bit sinister

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In the second stanza he further talks about the personalities of the people of the past he says “they used to shake with their hearts” here he is trying to say that when you would meet each other you will shake their hands with pleasure and with warmth and do it willingly. “While their left hands search my empty pockets” from this we can see that they are trying to use him to get to his money or receive something from him. This also shows that the people’s personalities are not real and true
In the third stanza he is talking about when people ask you to come again and say “feel at home” you go there once, twice and the third time they will not let you in thinking that you are a pest and that they do not wanted to see you anymore. The words “feel at home” is used for when you want a guest to feel welcomed and that they belong in that household. Here he mentions that “I find the doors shut on me” this shows that they do not even open the door to tell him that he is not wanted and the moment but instead leaves the door closed keeping him standing outside. This also shows that when people speak they lie not telling the truth but just saying something nice to grasp their heart.
In the fourth stanza he talks about how he has learned to put on faces like how outfits and masks are put on at different times, and with different people you act differently, for example in the office you act in one way to a person but when you meet them on the street you act another way to them, and how all the faces that people have on different occasions. He says “I have learned too” which is suggesting that he has also changed with the change of the people around him. he also mentions “with all their conforming smiles like a fixed portrait” suggesting that they all have the same smile all the time not showing any true emotion.
In the fifth stanza he says that he has also been influenced by the people around him and he has learned to keep his true personality a secret and show the world a fake personality, “to laugh with only me teeth” this part is connected with the part in the first stanza “they only laugh with their teeth” from this you can see a comparison of what people do and what he does now. This also shows that he has changed to blend in with the environment. Here in the part where he says “I have also learned to say `Goodbye’ when I mean `Good-riddance’ that is pointing out to the fact that they will, without thinking and without meaning it they will say “Goodbye”. He mentions forward “that Glad to meet you” meaning that he is happy to see you and is happy with your presence “without being glad” meaning that the did not wanted to talk to you and they disliked your presence and if they could they would of avoided you and “it’s been nice talking to you, after being bored” saying that they say things that they do not mean
In the fifth stanza he concludes it all saying that he does not like what he has become and he wants to be like he used to be when he was like a child so small and innocent. He points out that he really wants to learn how to laugh with emotions like you really mean it and he compares his laugh like that of a snake’s fangs that shows only the teeth snakes are those menacing creatures that are full of venom and can never be trusted and to compare his laugh with a snake gives the image that the man really does not like his fake personality. This stanza sums it well by giving the image to the reader that he is not happy and satisfied with himself
The last stanza is the farther asking and pleading to his son to show him how to laugh and smile like he did when he was a child. The last line sums up the entire poem really well making sure that all strings are tied
The structure of the poem is really good and consistent most of the stanzas have 6 lines in them. It is a very nice poem with a nice smooth flow
 

Analysis of Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez demonstrates the moral questions that arise living in a small, religious Latin-American Society of the 20th century. As Buford describes, Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a “simple narrative, charged with irony that it has the authority of a political fable” (Buford. 1979, 637), solely as a result of their “use of magical realism”. I argue that despite the cliché translation, the narrator accurately expresses through magical realism, moral and ethical dilemmas, the ambiguity there is in the character’s decision and the subsequent social injustices that come thus. Therefore, he protests the idea of honor as worthless justification. 

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Opening with the line: “on the day when they were going to kill him” (Marquez. 1983, 1), Marquez introduces/foregrounds the use of magical-realism in a third-person magical tone narration, to explain how the soon-to-be-killed Santiago Nasar experienced two separate and differing dreams about trees. His blatant criticism of the existence of truth in the most objective manner, sets forth the idea that there is no truth in anything and thereby leaving it up to the viewer to “choose between contradictory versions of what constitutes the truth [in order to set up] a dialogue between the past and the present” (Dale 2008, 27). Moreover, nothing is shown to be what it seems; Santiago’s first vision explained him “going through a grove of timber trees where a gentle drizzle was falling, and for an instant, he was happy in his dream, but when he awoke, he felt completely spattered with bird shit.” (1). In his next dream, “he’d dreamed that he was alone in a tinfoil airplane and flying through the almond trees without bumping into anything,” (1). The contrast that Marquez creates with his super surrealistic descriptions of events, while they are indeed quite underwhelming and ordinary when compared to surreal characteristics in the novel, demonstrates the presence of magical-realism. For example, when Santiago dreams about the “gentle rain”, we know it is in a sense a magically described occurrence, that will be realized in the “real world”: The light downpour in his first vision occurs just as he is about to die. This demonstrates an impending doom of the event, and as Mustier says, despite everyone in the town knowing the murder about to occur, they fail to prevent it, and as Ahmad says this is the inconsiderate behaviour of a society that will do nothing to prevent the murder of a fellow human being. (Ahmad. 2015, 5).
Throughout the novel, Gabriel demonstrates the damaging effect of racism – a result of honor and magical-realism -has on society, by highlighting the role slaves have in this fictional society. By mirroring the setting with our current society, (even despite the abolition of the slave trade), Garcia’s protests the societal expectations that have been set in by tradition. Divina Flor and her mother, Victoria Guzmán are both Afro-American and therefore the victim of the societies hate, disrespect and prejudice, solely based on their race. This group is in response to how the Spanish conquered the Caribbean and started a slave trade. Servants to Santiago Nasar, they are rather literally treated like slaves, thereby showing the never-ending results following colonization. Furthermore, Garcia continues to use magical-realism to show their destiny for this low-ranking role and how doomed they were. Victoria Guzmán enticed by Ibrahim’s luscious life, “made love to him in secret for several years in the stables of the ranch, and he brought her to be a house servant when the affection was over” (8). Divina Flora, “knew that she was destined for Santiago Nasar’s furtive bed” (8). Nevertheless, the belief in racial superiority is only “a hereditary compulsion to molest the eligible servant in his home” (Stone. 2013, 116). Ibrahim’s and Santiago Nasar’s inclination towards the youngest servant women and the complete ownership they believe they have over the lesser race is justified and has been normalized by his ancestors. This submissive attitude from the Afro-American groups, that they will accept/submit to their “masters” torment, is manifested when Flor immediately becoming “overwhelmed by the drive of her glands” when Santiago Nasar “grabbed her by the wrist when she came to take the empty mug from him” (8). This represents the eons of fear for a slave’s master.
Perhaps the most obvious example of racial discrimination in this novel establishes a contrast between what right and is wrong. Divina’s father is just another one of her mother’s most recent mate; thus, showing that her mother’s purity has been taken by those with a social standing they believe to be greater, therefore they believe their actions are justified. Garcia’s disgust can be seen through Victoria Guzmán’s, when she describes Santiago Nasar’s shock when “she pulled out the insides of a rabbit by the roots and threw the steaming guts to the dogs” (Marquez. 1983, 6). Therefore, the act of discarding the rabbits to the dogs could be related to how later the hounds want to devour Nasar’s guts from his dead body when it is “exposed to public view in the centre of the living room” (69). Relating to this, the contrast created when Garcia makes Divina Flor howl right after the dogs are described to be ‘howling’ outside the house of the murdered Santiago Nasar stands metaphorical to show the intensity of girl’s sin. Likening Divina Flor actions to that of a dog emphasizes the low status of the black community in the Caribbean. Furthermore, the references in the book about the slaughter of animals immediately can be compared, even unknowingly by the reader to how Santiago Nasar was butchered. As a result, the smell or should I say stench is that both the Vicario twins and the whole town suffer. Not only does his smell engulf the whole town like a plague, signifying the collective guilt everyone had in the murder. This belief is so extreme that the Maria, a slut and therefore a symbol of impurity and defilement will not make love to the narrator as he “smells of him”. The suffering that follows as they fail to “scrub” away the smell from their hands, follows in line with Sir and Lady Macbeth as they helplessly attempt to remove Duncan’s blood from themselves. Therefore, Garcia highlights the insensitivity and carelessness in this society, as everyone chose to only silently observe rather than preventing the crime. 
An effect of Garcia protesting racism is that it subsequently demonstrates “a class de-limited concept of honor” (Gal. 2003, 368). The irony in a world where males from allegedly superior races are free to torment in any way possible the females of lesser classes and races, yet the society they are in supposedly will not tolerate “sexual unions between white females of the elite class and non-white males” (Williams. 2010, 201), is a satire attempt to protest magical realism. The effect being that there is a corrupt theory surrounding honor as it allows the advantaged male gender to act in whatever way they deem necessary. One such way is how the rape of black female is considered normal, however, when a black male rapes a white female or especially when a black male is raped by a woman it is considered a direct attack of honor. This is because honor changes based on gender, for a female, she is required for her virginity to be upheld and maintained, while for males, the theory of honor determines him responsible for protecting the virginity of his female relatives as demonstrated by the Vicario twins act of revenge. (Graham. 2000, 200). These differences in the expectations of honor, as dictated by a person’s gender and race is an example of racism and gender inequality. 
Garcia also explains the women’s purpose in Latin-America’s narrow-minded society. He develops that a woman will be suspect to punishing life, as they only do housework, look beautiful and raise the sons and daughters to the men they call their husband, yet who treat them back like slaves rather than a wife. The slave and master interaction is in regards to all aspects of her life: the better the woman is at doing these chores, the better her future husband will be. One example of Garcia’s protest is when “Angela Vicario only dared hint at the inconvenience of a lack of love” her resent was removed by her mother when she says: “Love can be learned too” (25) The provincial setting and her wedding that prioritised her husband’s ease over herself, leads to the realisation that Bayardo was “too much of a man for [her]” (25), since “he hadn’t even tried to court her but had bewitched the family with his charm” (25) and so she understands how irrational her decision was. In the end, she’s “softly pushed into the house without saying a word” (41)
In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the use of magical realism illustrates the complex nature of moral dilemmas. Through Gabriel’s use of magical realism, the novelist shows that slavery, racism, and honor are just meaningless standards that the characters swear/live by to protect a “supposed” prestige. 
 
 
SOURCES

Ahmad, M. (2015). Elements of Social Protest in Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Pakistan: Hazara University. [Accessed 20 Oct. 2019].
Dale, J. (2008). Chronicle of a Death Foretold. New writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, 5(1), pp.16-45. [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].
Garcia Marquez. (1983). Chronicle of a Death Foretold. 1st ed. La Oveja Negra. [Accessed 2 Nov. 2019].
Graham, Sandra Lauderdale. (1998). Honor among Slaves. 1st ed. in L. Johnson and S. Lipsett-Rivera, The Faces of Honor, Sex, Shame and Violence in Colonial Latin America, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico. [Accessed 2 Nov. 2019].
Whitehead, H. and Ortner, S. (1981). Sexual Meanings: The Cultural Construction of Gender and Sexuality. 1st ed. Social Science. [Accessed 7 Nov. 2019].
Seed, Patricia. (1988). Marriage Promises and the Value of a Woman’s Testimony in Colonial Mexico. Vol. 13, 2nd ed. Signs [Accessed 9 Nov. 2019].
Stone, Bruce. (2013). A Problem of Precipitation: Finding Gatsby in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Vol. 11, 1st ed. The F. Scott Fitzgerald Review. [Accessed 11 Nov. 2019].

 

Overview of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Writing Style

Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a style of writing that depicts events taking place around him in a surreal way. In the short story “A Very Old man with Enormous Wings,” Garcia introduces a man with feathered wings that may be considered an angel by characters in the story. Garcia have seen his homeland, Colombia, put through violent uprisings and political struggles and this makes him no stranger to tactics, ploys and violence that is usually associated with political strife, therefore he uses this background as plots in some of his stories. In this story, human behavior is analyzed by character’s violent tendencies as well as demonstration of how authority can damage freedom of expression. It appears that his views are political, with characters displaying inhumane behavior and very strong magical realism in his literary element, especially in the story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.”

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In this story, a villager by the name of Pelayo finds an old man with large wings on his property after he went to dispose of some crabs that had overran his yard. He and his wife involve other village members in their quest to find out who or what this old man really is. After it was established that the old man was an angel by the village, the village priest tried to use various tactics at his disposal to authenticate this while curious people from all around came to see the winged old man. Pelayo and his wife Elisenda became rich after charging people to see the winged old man who they kept in a chicken coop. People expected miracles of which the old man seems to perform some, though indirectly. Eventually the curiosity wanes when a carnival comes to the village. In this carnival was a woman who was turned into a large spider because she went to a dance against her parent’s wishes. Years passed before the old man with wings, who lived with Pelayo and his wife in their new house, gained enough strength and altitude to just simply fly off in the distance one day.
In many literary circles, Garcia’s knack for structure in the life of the characters in his stories helps readers to understand the true essence of ‘magical realism.’ As a child growing up in Aracataca, Colombia, his grandmother and aunts told him many stories of local myths that seemed to take the young Garcia to different levels of human endeavors. His grandfather also told him stories of the Colombian Civil War which Garcia grew to love, especially when it appears the young Garcia seemed to believe fantasy elements and reality can intertwine. In the very title of the story, “An Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” (319) readers are introduced and quite intrigued as to what this could possibly be. This is where Garcia means to introduce an entity that as a man, readers can connect with, but the addition of ‘Enormous Wings,’ seems to indicate many aspects of what this man is, namely an angel. Angels in some religions are known to have wings, the wings are usually proportionate to their bodies – here Garcia uses “Enormous” which may indicate this ‘angel’ has great importance, or may have a profound effect on characters in the story. This story is set in a village and since Garcia grew up in a village, most of the story’s setting is patterned after village life (no hustling and bustling of big city life) which contributes to readers’ connection with the central characters, the old man, Pelayo and Elisa. This connection with the characters and the setting is first established here:

He had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face
down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn’t get up, im-
peded by his enormous wings. (320)

Garcia brings readers into a world that as the story unfolds; the ‘fantasy element’ becomes realistic when the story’s pictures are reinforced with logical actions and emotions. A man lying face down in mud is not one of angelic grace, but usually signifies a derelict or someone who may me hurt, yet the old man has wings! In Genevieve Slomski’s article analysis, she indicates: “In the final analysis, the text offers no rational explanation for the enigmatic man.” Garcia did not specify the old man was an actual angel, but by using characters such as the neighbor who Pelayo and his wife first called to find out what the old man was all about: ‘”He’s an angel,” she told them.’ (320), readers are led to believe the protagonist is an angel.
Garcia became influenced by literary greats like William Faulkner, Franz Kafka, Joseph Conrad, and Ernest Hemingway, but by the time he wrote the story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” in 1968, he was already an established writer in the Latin American communities of the world. His style of writing led to him being known in literary circles as one of the founders of the ‘Magical Realism.’ The way he mixes imagination and reality in this particular story suggests a man whose mind at least knows no human boundaries. Most of his literary contributions to the world are not like this, ironically. His works mostly included political issues, social commentaries, unraveling nasty political plots and tactics and as mentioned before inhumane behavior society sometimes show towards each other that he has lived through. This may lead some readers to wonder why he changed to the magical realism that is portrayed in this particular story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.” According to an essay in Magill’s Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition that was written by Jean C. Fulton on Garcia’s biography, Garcia was quoted as saying “Style is determined by subject, by the mood of the times.” Does this emphasize that he may go in a different direction with each story he writes, because his mood may swing? This statement certainly does indicate that, and based on other stories by Garcia that may not encompass magical realism, e.g. political undertones, raw and grittiness, as portrayed in stories like “This Town of Shit,” and “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” it can be assessed that Garcia’s mind was in a surreal world at the time he wrote “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.” Garcia was well known to be intrigued with William Faulkner’s style of creating his childhood into mythical past. This may have led to Garcia writing this particular story, but the two styles do not share a lot in common. Garcia also has a knack for shedding light on people who seemed to have more misfortunes than success in their existence:

The most unfortunate invalids on earth came in search of health: a poor woman
who since childbirth had been counting her heartbeats and had ran out of num-
bers. (322)

Could this be the result of some of the atrocities he saw the banana workers experienced when he was very young? While it may be hard to answer, readers can speculate that Garcia style of writing in relation to “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” may ” cause readers to think in terms of symbolic narrative, parable, and allegory,” according to Ronald E. McFarland in his work in Studies in Short Fiction; Fall 92, Vol. 29, p 551. It would appear that Garcia had more in common with characters like these than people of higher status. The neighbor woman that was one of the first after Pelayo and Elisandro found the old man with wings momentarily took attention away from the protagonist “Against the judgment of the wise neighbor woman, for whom angels in those times were fugitive survivors of a celestial conspiracy…” (320-21) here is a character that would that had no ‘official’ post (other than being a neighbor) but advises the couple to do harm to the old man. Why? The passage indicates she believes he may be a Fallen Angel and they probably deserve no human pity. Father Gonzaga, the village priest, quite possibly shared the same sentiments as the neighbor woman for the old man. This is the introduction by Garcia of a person of status, one who represented religion, but doubted the belief of the people that the old man was an angel. The old man was being treated inhumanely, yet the priest did nothing much to alleviate his situation “He was lying in a corner drying his open wings in the sunlight among the fruit peels and breakfast leftovers that the early risers had thrown him.” (321) Garcia’s commonality here was when he was in college in his younger years, he wandered the streets of Bogota hanging with some social misfits, even though they belonged to some sort of literary circle. Garcia is attempting to bring to light in “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” that individuals who are different are not treated the same as one would treat a neighbor, an associate or another fellow human being from the same environment. The characters that were considered different like the old man- the acrobat with wings that looked more like a sidereal bat, the carnival woman that had the form of a spider, etc., were meant quite possibly by Garcia to divert readers inquisitiveness as to what the old man really was and his real purpose.
Reading the story for the first time may bring incomprehensiveness to readers because of the characters and the roles they seem to play in the theme of the story. Is Garcia trying to send a message to readers with this fable? It was already established that magical realism in the mid 60’s was becoming a norm in literary circles, so Garcia’s intent when he wrote and had the story published was to alert readers to pay close attention to rules and regulations when they are applied to occurrences that may seem unnatural, despite his reasoning that his stories reflect the moods he was in when he was writing them.