Love in the Time of Cholera

Introduction Love in the Time of Cholera

This Columbian classic literature, Love in the Time of Cholera was first published under its Spanish title, El amor en los tiempos del colera in 1985 written by Gabriel García Márquez. It became a favorite very soon in the literary world. Seeing its popularity in Columbia and other Spanish-speaking countries and regions, Alfred Knopf decided to translate the book into English which was released in 1988, winning more popularity as well as the Nobel Prize for Garcia Marquez. Later, it was adapted into a film in 2007. The novel tells the story of three characters, Fermina Daza, Juvenal Urbino, and Florentino Ariza spread over a period of 50 years until 1930.

Summary Love in the Time of Cholera

The story begins with the autopsy of Jeremiah Saint-Amour, photographer of children, a renowned chess player and friend of Dr. Urbino commits suicide at the age of sixty to escape becoming old using cyanide. The first suicide that Dr. Urbino has witnessed was caused not because of the sufferings of love. During the investigation of the suicide, he discovers the secret lover of Saint-Armour referred to as ‘mulatta’ in the novel.

The novel depicts the flashback of Florentino Ariza as the sick lover of Fermina Daza, a young, innocently attractive girl. Soon Ariza succeeds in creating a secret link to the girl through her spinster aunt, Escolastica through whom they start writing letters to each other. This secret love affair continues for some time when Lorenzo Daza, the strict father of the girl, comes to know about this love affair, making him furious at his daughter and forcing her to stop it immediately. However, the headstrong girl does not pay attention to him. She rather refuses to stop it until the father has decided to move to the city of his deceased wife.

The distance, though, did little to stop their love, for Ariza and Daza, they communicate through telegraphs they used to send to each other with the help of Fermina’s older cousin Hildebranda Sánchez. When after some time she gets matured and returns to the city, she realizes that after all this relationship with Ariza is just an illusion. As soon as she realizes this, she snaps it with advice to her paramour to stop writing her. The relationship comes to an end. Even though Florentino swears to celibacy and fidelity until he reconciles with her, he later begins affairs with numerous women albeit there’s a rumor spread that he is homosexual.

Meanwhile, she comes into contact with a heroic figure of Juvenal Urbino, a doctor by profession, who also starts courting her. Despite her initial rejections, Urbino persists to which Lorenzo Daza also encourages by seeing security and the good life in the future. Finally, she agrees to marry him without any preconditions. The doctor stays busy in his science and the medical profession, while she commits herself to her domestic life.

Outwardly, the couple’s marriage seems perfect but the doctor does little to satisfy her emotional hunger; rather he pays more attention to his upkeep, his profession, epidemics, and his popularity. Their marriage was lifeless and unhappy. Also, in the due course of their marriage, Dr. Urbino was unfaithful to his wife by having a four-month affair with Barbara Lynch and ends it after Fermina confronts him. On the other hand, Florentino Ariza stays mysteriously faithful and vows to wait for her arrival, though, his promiscuity makes him dig deeper into life, its mysteries, and enjoy it. He ensures that Fermina never knows about his romantic escapades. Fermina and Urbino, on their side, enjoy their conjugal life, passing through bad and good patches of life when one day the doctor falls from the ladder he has set to bring his pet parrot from the tree which has flown from its cage and dies from falling.

When Florentino comes to know about her being a widow, he reaches her to announce his love at which she becomes aghast. Finally, she surrenders to his advances, thinking it would be good to live with her former paramour after five decades. They begin to spend time at her home with him. Once, he invites her to go on his ship on a voyage. She quickly agrees to it and they make love for the first time in fifty years. When the ship reaches the last port, she sees that there are people who are acquaintances of her late husband. She gets worried that her affair will be out and become scandalous ruining her reputation. Florentino orders the captain to raise the ‘yellow flag of Cholera’ meaning they wouldn’t be allowed to stop at any port and forever on expatriation in the water.

Major Themes in Love in the Time of Cholera

  1. Time: The theme of time is prevalent in the novel in that it occurs in the title and in the storyline. The marriage vows that Ariza and Daza conform to after more than fifty years or half a century point to this time frame in which the story takes place. Although they strongly love each other when they are teenagers, the sudden transformation in Fermina Daza quells the very anxiety in her that Florentino Ariza and also accepts without any fuss. However, when he comes to know about the accidental death of Dr. Juvenal Urbino, he instantly comes to the point with her who little demurs before testifying to his vows. The time is also significant in that the city does not change during this half a century. Therefore, time plays an important role in the lives of the characters as the readers understand.
  2. Love: The theme of love occurs in the title along with the storyline as both Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza stays in touch with each other in the name of love. However, this is not the only love; there is love between Urbino and Barbara Lynch and between Fermina Daza and Dr. Urbino, also between Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza. However, the love of Ariza and Daza breaks all taboos as well as existing conventions, for both again revert to each other when they are octogenarian and that both respond to each other’s love with the same intensity as they did when parting.
  3. Illness of Epidemic: The epidemic of cholera is significant in the storyline as Dr. Urbino and his father are associated with the medical profession. Both have earned a name through their professional skills in controlling the disease. They are also well-known in the city in that Dr. Urbino has always to take care of his upkeep in order to stay alert and formal. When it occurs to him that the epidemic takes life on a wholesale basis, he feels that epidemic is actually a chance for him to make a name. This epidemic keeps the whole social fabric busy, leaving Fermina and Florentino to love each other, yet she falls for the doctor.
  4. Aging: The theme of age is also significant in the novel as it takes its toll on all the characters involved in the love triangle. Although Ariza and Daza start loving each other in their early teens, they meet when they are quite old. Age seems to have eliminated their passions, yet it proves an incentive for their marriage vows. Both realize that age has not diminished their love. Age also appears to impact Dr. Urbino as well as Ofelia who considers love at this age ridiculous.
  5. Morality: The novel shows the existing morality of that time through Florentino Ariza along with Fermina Daza and Dr. Urbino. On the other hand, Ofelia, too, shows the same morality that runs deep into the lower social strata of life. When Fermina Daza sees that her suitor is a person of the elite class, she easily moves away from her marriage vows and marries Dr. Urbino. On other hand, Ariza is involved in secret love, and the morality of that time demands that it should not be disclosed.
  6. Class Consciousness: The novel shows the thematic strand of class consciousness through Lorenzo Daza who is so much haughty that he does not permit any suitor to meet his daughter. His spinster sister, too, shows that Lorenzo Daza is very much conscious about his class and class of the lovers and suiters of his sister as well as the daughter. That is why he does not approve of Fermina’s love with Florentino Ariza and moves to his ancestral city instead of living there so that he could not have to suffer the stigma of marrying his daughter in the lower class.
  7. Social Norms: The theme of social norms is evident from the unfulfilled love of Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza in that both of them shun each other when it comes to the actual marriage. Whereas Fermina Daza has come to understand the pressure of social norms in her adulthood, Florentino Ariza, too, is conscious that he cannot fulfill his personal desire without the consent of his would-be wife. However, when they know that now they are strong enough to break the barriers, they go for it even though it is half a century delay in the consummation of their love.
  8. Loyalty to Love: Although Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza love each other very much and they are aware that their love may stay unfulfilled, both stay loyal to each other until the end when there comes a time for the consummation of their love. Despite his promiscuity, Ariza stays loyal to his love.
  9. Marriage: Although the novel is originally about love, marriage peeps through its pages in the shape of the marriage of Dr. Urbino and Fermina Daza that is based on common sense instead of love. The late marriage of Florentino and Fermina shows the same approach of common sense.

Major Characters Love in the Time of Cholera

  1. Florentino Ariza: A serious and charming person, Florentino Ariza is the main character the protagonist of the novel, who presides over the River Company as its executive. Despite rejection in his love with Fermina Daza after initial advances and then constant contact through letter-writing, he does not lose heart and stays loyal in his love. The persistence in his love can be gauged from the fact that he outlives Urbino merely through his determination to have a chance to marry Fermina.
  2. Fermina Daza: Fermina Daza is the charming female character as well as the female protagonist of the novel, having a central role in the love triangle. When she comes to know about the devotion of Florentino Ariza with her, she instantly responds to his love but vacillates in her determination to come openly or stay behind the shroud of secrecy. She stays in contact with him even after the migration of his father, Lorenzo Daza, who moves to Riohacha when he comes to know about her love. However, she decides in the favor of class consciousness when she comes to know about Dr. Urbino’s love and forgets him but again accepts his advances when Dr. Urbino leaves the world.
  3. Dr. Juvenal Urbino: Dr. Urbino is not a bad character but appears as an intervention in the love of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. He belongs to an aristocratic class of the city, having gone to France for education. The son of Dr. Marco Urbino, the famous city professional, he is obsessed with the idea of getting rid of the epidemic to improve his social standing further like his father. When he comes back to the city, he marries Fermina Daza who prefers him to Florentino Ariza, considering her devotion to Ariza merely an illusion.
  4. Lorenzo Daza: Lorenzo Daza is the symbol of the dominating patriarchy and a relic of the effete aristocracy who is hellbent on preserving it. That is why he makes every effort to keep his daughter safe and protected from the advancing suiters of the lower social strata. As the father of Fermina Daza, he does everything to get the best education for his daughter but simultaneously he is involved in suspicious activities. His final blow comes in the shape of migrating from the city after seeing his daughter’s infatuation with Florentino Ariza.
  5. Escolástica Daza: She is Lorenzo’s sister and the aunt of her only niece, Fermina Daza, as she has brought her up like her daughter. She helps his brother and supervises education as well as the life of the girl. However, when it comes to Fermina’s love, she becomes a bit lenient and provides her full opportunity to flirt with Florentino Ariza.
  6. Hildebranda Sánchez: Sanchez is the cousin of Fermina and a close friend as they both confide in each other on matters of love and hatred. Despite her successful conjugal life, she desires to have a peek into her secret love affairs and leads Fermina to meet Dr. Urbino with whom Fermina finally marries to settle.
  7. Tránsito Ariza: Mother of Florentino, Transito’s character is significant as she comes to know about her son’s unrequited love and plans with him to hook the girl. When she sees failure staring in her son’s face, she again helps him make a start in the job to lead a good life.
  8. Lotario Thugut: He is the telegraphic operator with whom Florentino Ariza often confides in some of his secrets and works with him. Both of them enjoy a good life in a room in the office and have friendly relations with each other.
  9. Leona Cassiani: The character of Cassiani is important because she enters Florentino’s life when he needs her the most after his failure love attempts. She works with him in the company but does not win a promotion to keep herself subservient to Florentino on whom she has very strong influence when she becomes “lionlady” of his soul.
  10. Rosalba: Rosalba travels on the ship on which Florentino happens to travel where he thinks that she has had sex with him and about whom he thinks that he can lead his life to forget Fermina Daza.

Writing Style of Love in the Time of Cholera

The writing style of Love in The Time of Cholera is circular that is also called a cyclical narrative style in which the story is presented in a cycle. One part ends and the next part starts from the same point. It means that the thread of the narrative is never broken. The sentence structure and style are not only catchy but also highly persuasive as the sentences take the readers to the logical end of the story. The diction used in the novel suits the circular narrative style of the novel, while the flashbacks have added to the backtracking in the character development such as in the case of Florentino Ariza.

Analysis of the Literary Devices in Love in the Time of Cholera

  1. Action: The main action of the novel comprises the love story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, their long wait, and their marriage after fifty years. The rising action is the death of Dr. Juvenal Urbino when he falls down from the ladder on Pentecost Sunday. The falling action occurs when Florentino Ariza proposes and marries Fermina Daza after fifty years of wait.
  2. Allusion: The novel shows good use of different allusions as given in the below examples,
    He was also an avid reader of the latest books that his bookseller in Paris mailed to him or the ones from Barcelona that his local bookseller ordered for him, although he did not follow Spanish literature as closely as
    French. (Chapter-I)
    ii. They saw All Quiet On The Western Front, a film based on a book that had been popular the year before and that Dr. Urbino had read, his heart devastated by the barbarism of war. (Chapter-I)
    iii. short while later, The Commercial Daily published the news that two children had died of cholera in different locations in the city. (Chapter-III)
    iv. They also brought back three indelible memories: the unprecedented opening of The Tales of Hoffmann in Paris, the terrifying blaze that destroyed almost all the gondolas off St. Mark’s Square in Venice, which they witnessed with grieving hearts from the window of their hotel, and their fleeting glimpse of Oscar Wilde during the first snowfall in January. (Chapter-III)
    The first example alludes to places, the second to a book, the third to a newspaper, and the fourth to an author, a place, a book as well as a religious figure.
  3. Antagonist: There is no single character that could be dubbed as the antagonist of the novel. These are obstructions that Florentino Ariza confronts during his entire life to find his love.
  4. Conflict: The novel shows both external and internal conflicts. The external conflict is going on between Florentino Ariza and the people who are hellbent on obstructing his path to love and the internal conflict is going on in the mind of Florentino Ariza about his vows with Fermina Daza.
  5. Characters: The novel shows both static as well as dynamic characters. Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza both are dynamic characters as both show a considerable transformation in their behavior and conduct by the end of the novel. However, all other characters are static as they do not show or witness any transformation such as Dr. Urbino, Aunt Escolastica, and Lorenzo.
  6. Climax: The climax in the novel occurs when Florentino arrives again to demonstrate his love for Fermina Data on the night of the funeral of her husband, Dr. Urbino.
  7. Foreshadowing: The novel shows many instances of foreshadows as given in the examples below,
    It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. (Chapter-1)
    ii. Florentino Ariza, on the other hand, had not stopped thinking of her for a single moment since Fermina Daza had rejected him out of hand after a long and troubled love affair fifty-one years, nine months, and four days ago. (Chapter-II)
    The mention of love in the first and time in the second example shows that something about the love of a long time is going to happen.
  8. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,
    As he passed the sewing room, he saw through the window an older woman and a young girl sitting very close together on two chairs and following the reading in the book that the woman held open on her lap. (Chapter-II)
    ii. But when he stood at the railing of the ship and saw the white promontory of the colonial district again, the motionless buzzards on the roofs, the washing of the poor hung out to dry on the balconies, only then did he understand to what extent he had been an easy victim to the charitable deceptions of nostalgia. (Chapter-III)
    These two examples show images of color, sound, and feelings.
  9. Metaphor: Love in the Time of Cholera shows good use of various metaphors such as,
    He arose at the crack of dawn, when he began to take his secret medicines. (Chapter-I)
    ii. The sky had begun to threaten very early in the day and the weather was cloudy and cool, but there was no chance of rain before noon. (Chapter-II)
    iii. He was right: there is no worse enemy of secret love than a carriage waiting at the door. (Chapter-III)
    These examples show that several things have been compared directly in the novel such as the first shows the comparison of the dawn with the breaking of something, the second sky with an enemy and the third enemy as a carriage.
  10. Mood: The novel shows various moods; it starts with very happy and bubbling mood but soon takes on matter-of-fact and sympathetic style that stays non-judgmental.
  11. Motif: Most important motifs of the novel are epidemic, water, rain, and the parrot.
  12. Narrator: The novel is narrated from the third-person point of view, who happens to be the author himself.
  13. Personification: The novel shows examples of personifications as given in the below examples,
    At one window the splendor of dawn was just beginning to illuminate the stifling, crowded room that served as both bedroom and laboratory, but there was enough light for him to recognize at once the authority of death. (Chapter-I)
    ii. The former palace of the Marquis de Casalduero, historic residence of the Urbino de la Calle family, had not escaped the surrounding wreckage. (Chapter-II)
    These examples show as if the window and the palace have life and emotions of their own.
  14. Protagonist: Florentino Ariza is the protagonist of the novel. The novel starts with his love story and ends when he succeeds in marrying Fermina Daza.
  15. Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions at several places as mentioned in the below examples,
    She would put garlands of flowers on her head, paint her lips, powder her face and arms, and at last she would ask whoever was with her, “Who am I now?” The neighbors knew that she always expected the same reply: “You are Little Roachie Martínez.” This identity, stolen from a character in a children’s story, was the only one that satisfied her. She continued to rock and to fan herself with long pink feathers, until she began all over again: the crown of paper flowers, violet on her eyelids, red on her lips, dead white on her face. And again the question to whoever was nearby: “Who am I now?”. (Chapter-III)
    ii. With sorrowing heart she reprimanded him in what appeared to be a casual
    question in the midst of other trivial remarks: “Why do you insist on talking about what does not exist?” (Chapter-XIV)
    These examples show the use of rhetorical questions posed but different characters not to elicit answers but to stress upon the underlined idea.
  16. Setting: The setting of the novel is a fictional city located somewhere in Columbia, having seven districts among which Marquez has mentioned only two.
  17. Simile: The novel shows good use of various similes as given in the below examples,
    Dr. Urbino’s was the only horse-drawn carriage; it was distinguishable from the handful left in the city because the patent-leather roof was always kept polished, and it had fittings of bronze that would not be corroded by salt, and wheels and poles painted red with gilt trimming like gala nights at the Vienna Opera. (Chapter-I)
    ii. Despite her age, which was no less than forty, she was still a haughty mulatta with cruel golden eyes and hair tight to her skull like a helmet of steel wool. (Chapter-Chapter-1)
    iii. Florentino Ariza wandered like a sleepwalker until dawn, watching the fiesta through his tears, dazed by the hallucination that it was he and not God who had been born that night. (Chapter-II)
    iv. Florentino Ariza was awake most of the night, thinking that he heard the voice of Fermina Daza in the fresh river breeze, ministering to his solitude with her memory, hearing her sing in the respiration of the boat as it moved like a great animal through the darkness, until the first rosy streaks appeared on the horizon and the new day suddenly broke over deserted pastureland and misty swamps. (Chapter-IV)
    These are similes as the use of the word “like” shows the comparison between different things. The first example compares the paint of the wheels with that of the gala nights, the second compares the hair with the steel wool, the third Ariza with a sleepwalker, and the fourth a boat to a great animal.