Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Insomnia Plague

Before today I hadn't really thought about how distorted memory plays such a major role in One Hundred Years of Solitude. By distorted I mean that the memory is modified by a specific person in order for it to evoke the reaction one would hope for. Hearing actual history through different perspectives (various people's memories) really helps the reader to understand what was going on at the time in Latin America. Off the top of my head I can recall three times the theme of memory really stood out to me in the novel--the insomnia plague, the banana company massacre, and the very end of the novel when Aureliano finally finishes translating Melquiades's documents. When I first read about the insomnia plague, I probably took it too literally. I wondered how forgetfulness could be an infectious disease because of the way Marquez makes it sound so real. Marquez also mentions how people go weeks and months without sleeping because of the "disease," which in reality is impossible. This may be a stretch, but I now think that the insomnia plague is a representation of the beginning of Macondo. The inhabitants aren't necessarily forgetful. Rather, it is the beginning of a civilization and the people must practically re-learn the ways of life. They even have to label things in order to remember what to call them. This relates to the very first part of the novel when Marquez describes how the people of Macondo had to point to things in order to communicate. Also, the lack of sleep relates to the entire community's enthusiasm and motivation to finish establishing their new home. They did not give up, were relentless, and hardly took breaks until they were somewhat satisfied. This motivation specifically relates to Jose Arcadio Buendia. He was sort of the leading factor in deciding the ways of Macondo. However, when Melquiades arrives, Jose Arcadio Buendia looses interest in the village and becomes focused on modern inventions and life outside of Macando's reach. In a way, Melquiades halts the founding of Macondo just as he stops the plague by bringing a potion to the town. This episode (the plague) involving memory is very important to understanding the actual history of the founding of Macondo. Although Macondo was not a real civilization, I think this is a good example of how Marquez uses aspects of memory to portray greater concepts.


Madison Cummings said...

That is an interesting point. I had never though about the insomnia plague in that way before! Those three instances also stood out to me in relation to the reoccurring theme of memory. But I must admit that the ending of the book stood out to me the most, as it was extremely interesting, and also extremely bizarre. The fact that the coded parchments predicted the entire history of Buendia family, but Aureliano was unable to translate them until the end of the novel, was both intriguing and frustrating. The family had possessed these documents that held the key to their futures throughout the entire book, and through multiple generations, but they were not decoded until the last moments of Aureliano’s life (whom was the last living heir of the Buendia family). As soon as Aureliano translates the parchments, Macondo disappears! And it takes the parchments and any proof that the Buendia family existed with it. In a way the ending of the book left me feeling disappointed, because, as I read the book I become invested in not only the future of the Buendia family, but Macondo as well. When all of this abruptly disappeared, it was disheartening. I have been trying to figure out why Marquez ended this book so suddenly, but I am not sure. Was it merely because he had to create a stopping point? I would like to believe that that is not the case, and that there is a greater reason behind it.

madison kahn said...

Maybe a reason he decides to stop it here is because this ending kind of gets across the whole idea about history repeating itself. I agree that it is a completely bizzare and unexpected ending, but alsp really cool. I wonder if someone before Aureliano had translated the parchments, the Buendias could then change their future. If they knew the mistakes they were bound to make, could they have prevented them? Back to the idea of repeating history though, these mistakes will happen again and again, so maybe it wouldn't have even made a difference to know.