Ursula Iguaran Analysis Essay
A Note About the Names
One of the themes of One Hundred Years of Solitude is the way history repeats itself in cycles. In this novel, each generation is condemned to repeat the mistakes—and to celebrate the triumphs—of the previous generation. To dramatize this point, García Márquez has given his protagonists, the Buendía family members, a very limited selection of names. One Hundred Years of Solitude spans six generations, and in each generation, the men of the Buendía line are named José Arcadio or Aureliano and the women are named Úrsula, Amaranta, or Remedios. Telling the difference between people who have the same name can sometimes be difficult. To a certain extent, this is to be expected: after all, García Márquez’s point is precisely that human nature does not really change, that the Buendía family is locked into a cycle of repetitions. To preserve a clear notion of the plot progression, however, it is important to pay attention to the full names of the protagonists, which often contain slight distinguishing variations. José Arcadio Buendía, for instance, is a very different character than his son, José Arcadio: although it is true that José Arcadio’s last name is also “Buendía,” he is never referred to, either by García Márquez or in this SparkNote, as anything but “José Arcadio.” And so on.
In cases where two characters are referred to by the exact same name (for instance, Aureliano Segundo’s son is also known as “José Arcadio”), we have added a roman numeral to the character’s name for the sake of clarity, even though that roman numeral does not appear in García Márquez’s book: the second José Arcadio, then, appears as José Arcadio (II). Keep in mind that José Arcadio (II) is not the son of the first José Arcadio; he is merely the second José Arcadio in the book.
The Buendía Family
Read an in-depth analysis of José Arcadio Buendía.
Read an in-depth analysis of Úrsula Iguarán.
Amaranta - The daughter of Úrsula Iguarán and José Arcadio Buendía, Amaranta dies an embittered and lonely virgin. She bears deep jealousy and hatred for Rebeca, whom, she believes, stole Pietro Crespi from her. In many ways her life is characterized by a fear of men; when Pietro Crespi finally falls in love with her, she rejects him, and he kills himself. As penance, she gives herself a bad burn on the hand and wears a black bandage over it for the rest of her life. When she is much older, she finds real love with Colonel Gerineldo Márquez, but she spurns him because of her ancient fear and bitterness. She is also the object of the unconsummated incestuous passion of Aureliano José, whom she helped to raise. Amaranta is the sister of Colonel Aureliano Buendía and José Arcadio.
Read an in-depth analysis of Colonel Aureliano Buendía.
Remedios Moscote - The child-bride of Colonel Aureliano Buendía, Remedios Moscote brings joy to the Buendía household for a short while before she dies suddenly, possibly of a miscarriage.
Read an in-depth analysis of José Arcadio.
Aureliano José - The son of Colonel Aureliano Buendía and Pilar Ternera. Aureliano José becomes obsessed with his aunt, Amaranta, and joins his father’s army when she ends the affair. He deserts the army to return to her, however, but she rejects him, horrified. He is killed by Conservative soldiers.
Read an in-depth analysis of Arcadio.
Santa Sofía de la Piedad - The quiet woman, almost invisible in this novel, who marries Arcadio and continues to live in the Buendía house for many years after his death, impassively tending to the family. She is the mother of Remedios the Beauty, Aureliano Segundo, and José Arcadio Segundo. She does not quite seem to exist in the real world, and when she grows old and tired, she simply walks out of the house, never to be heard from again.
Remedios the Beauty - The daughter of Santa Sofía de la Piedad and Arcadio, Remedios the Beauty becomes the most beautiful woman in the world: desire for her drives men to their deaths. Not comprehending her power over men, she remains innocent and childlike. One day, she floats to heaven, leaving Macondo and the novel abruptly.
José Arcadio Segundo - The son of Arcadio and Santa Sofía de la Piedad, José Arcadio Segundo may have been switched at birth with his twin brother, Aureliano Segundo. Appalled by witnessing an execution at an early age, José Arcadio Segundo becomes thin, bony, solitary, and increasingly scholarly, like his great-uncle Colonel Aureliano Buendía. A cockfighter and a drifter, he finds purpose in leading the strikers against the banana company. He is the lone survivor of the massacre of the strikers, and when he finds that nobody believes the massacre occurred, he secludes himself in Melquíades’ old study, trying to decipher the old prophecies and preserving the memory of the massacre.
Aureliano Segundo - The son of Arcadio and Santa Sofía de la Piedad, Aureliano Segundo may have been switched at birth with his twin brother, José Arcadio Segundo. Despite an early interest in solitary study—characteristic of his great-uncle, Colonel Aureliano Buendía—Aureliano Segundo begins to show all the characteristics of the family’s José Arcadios: he is immense, boisterous, impulsive, and hedonistic. Although he loves the concubine Petra Cotes, he is married to the cold beauty Fernanda del Carpio, with whom he has three children: Meme, José Arcadio (II) and Amaranta Úrsula.
Fernanda del Carpio - The wife of Aureliano Segundo and the mother of Meme, José Arcadio (II), and Amaranta Úrsula. Fernanda del Carpio was raised by a family of impoverished aristocrats; she is very haughty and very religious. Her hedonistic husband does not love her and maintains his relationship with his concubine, Petra Cotes. Fernanda del Carpio, meanwhile, tries unsuccessfully to impress her sterile religion and aristocratic manners on the Buendía house.
José Arcadio (II) - The eldest child of Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda del Carpio, Úrsula decides that José Arcadio (II) is supposed to become the Pope, but he in fact slides into dissolution and solitude. On his return from his unsuccessful trip to seminary in Italy, José Arcadio (II) leads a life of debauchery with local adolescents who eventually murder him and steal his money.
Amaranta Úrsula - The daughter of Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda del Carpio, Amaranta Úrsula returns from her trip to Europe with a Belgian husband, Gaston. She wants to revitalize Macondo and the Buendía household, but it is too late: both are headed for inevitable ruin. She falls in love with her nephew, Aureliano (II), and gives birth to his child, whom they also name Aureliano (III) and who proves the last in the Buendía line. Born of incest, he has the tail of a pig. Amaranta dies in childbirth.
Gaston - The Belgian husband of Amaranta Úrsula, Gaston is loving and cultured but feels isolated in the now-desolate Macondo. He travels to Belgium to start an airmail company, and, when he hears of the relationship between his wife and Aureliano (II), he never returns.
Meme - The daughter of Fernanda del Carpio and Aureliano Segundo, Meme’s real name is Renata Remedios. She feigns studiousness and docility to please her mother, but she is actually a hedonist like her father. When her mother discovers her illicit affair with Mauricio Babilonia, she posts a guard in front of the house; the guard ends up shooting Mauricio. He ends up paralyzed, and Meme is imprisoned in a convent where she spends the rest of her life. The product of her affair with Babilonia is Aureliano (II).
Read an in-depth analysis of Aureliano (II).
Characters who are not members of the Buendía Family
Melquíades - The gypsy who brings technological marvels to Macondo and befriends the Buendía clan. Melquíades is the first person to die in Macondo. Melquíades serves as José Arcadio Buendía’s guide in his quest for knowledge and, even after dying, returns to guide other generations of Buendías. Melquíades’ mysterious and undecipherable prophecies, which torment generations of Buendías, are finally translated by Aureliano (II) at the end of the novel—they contain the entire history of Macondo, foretold.
Pilar Ternera - A local whore and madam. With José Arcadio, Pilar is the mother of Arcadio; with Colonel Aureliano Buendía, she is the mother of Aureliano José. She is also a fortune-teller whose quiet wisdom helps guide the Buendía family. She survives until the very last days of Macondo.
Petra Cotes - Aureliano Segundo’s concubine. Petra Cotes and Aureliano Segundo become extremely rich—their own love seems to inspire their animals to procreate unnaturally quickly. Even after the poverty caused by the flood, she stays with Aureliano Segundo; their deepened love is one of the purest emotions in the novel.
Mauricio Babilonia - The sallow, solemn lover of Meme. Fernanda del Carpio disapproves of their affair, and she sets up a guard who shoots Mauricio Babilonia when he attempts to climb into the house for a tryst with Meme. As a result, Mauricio lives the rest of his life completely paralyzed. He fathers Meme’s child, Aureliano (II).
Pietro Crespi - The gentle, delicate Italian musician who is loved by both Amaranta and Rebeca. Rebeca, however, chooses to marry the more manly José Arcadio. After Amaranta leads on Pietro and rejects him, Pietro commits suicide.
Colonel Gerineldo Márquez - The comrade-in-arms of Colonel Aureliano Buendía. Colonel Gerineldo is the first to become tired of the civil war. He falls in love with Amaranta, who spurns him.
Don Apolinar Moscote - Father of Remedios Moscote and government-appointed magistrate of Macondo. Don Apolinar Moscote is a Conservative and helps rig the election so that his party will win. His dishonesty is partly why Colonel Aureliano Buendía first joins the Liberals.
Every March during the earliest years after the founding of Macondo, a small, isolated village, gypsies arrive with marvelous new inventions: magnets, telescopes, and magnifying glasses. The much-respected village founder, Jose Arcadia Buendia, seizes on these inventions as ways to make money and scientific progress. Over the pleadings of his level-headed wife, Ursula Iguaran, he throws himself into countless schemes and plots involving the new inventions. When he becomes friends with Melquiades, the gypsy leader, Jose Arcadia Buendia is inspired to dedicate himself to knowledge and scientific study. He flirts with alchemy and astronomy and becomes increasingly withdrawn from his family and community. His great discovery, that the world is round, causes the whole village to become concerned about his sanity.
Jose Arcadia Buendia was the founder of Macondo and remains its most important citizenhe oversaw the village's creation and decided how life would be lived there. It was a dreamy, magical place where no one was over the age of thirty and no one died. Therefore Jose Arcadio Buendia's obsession with progress affects the whole village. He decides that Macondo must establish contact with the outside world and leads an expedition to find a path to the sea. The men of the village chop through marshes and swamps and discover, among other things, a rusted fifteenth-century suit of armor and a ruined Spanish galleon. But they do not discover the sea, and Jose Arcadio Buendia leads them back home and announces that Macondo is surrounded by water on all sides. Then he decides to move the village to a less isolated place, but Ursula plants opposition among the women of the village and he is forced to abandon that plan.
So he takes an interest in his two sons: Jose Arcadio, the eldest, who has his father's strength but lacks imagination, and the mysterious Aureliano, whose adult name is Colonel Aureliano Buendia. Their father educates them and takes them to the gypsies' fair in March, where the three of them see ice for the first time.
The second chapter opens by telling the story of Macondo's founding. Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula were cousins in a prosperous village. When they got married, Ursula was fearful that their children would be horribly deformed, as the children of incestuous unions sometimes are. She was particularly afraid because her aunt, married to Jose Arcadio Buendia's uncle, had given birth to a miserable son with a pig's tail. So she wore a chastity belt and refused to consummate her marriage while people in the village laughed at Jose Arcadio Buendia. One of these villagers, Prudencio Aguilar, insulted Jose Arcadio Buendia after losing a cock fight. Buendia challenged him to a duel and killed him. Then he went home and told Ursula to remove her chastity belt. After several happy months, Ursula began to see the ghost of Prudencio Aguilar, and soon it became clear that his ghost was haunting them. Overcome with guilt and determined to put Prudencio's ghost to rest, Jose Arcadio Buendia decided to leave the village. A small band of hardy souls elected to go with him, and after fourteen months of wandering, they founded Macondo.
Upon seeing the gypsies' ice, Jose Arcadio Buendia is inspired to discover the meaning of mirrors, and he delves into study once more, this time with the help of his younger son Aureliano. Meanwhile his oldest son, Jose Arcadio, has turned into an exceptionally well-endowed young man. Pilar Ternera, a local woman astounded by his size, seduces him. They become lovers and, to his horror, she becomes pregnant. But before the child comes, the gypsies return. Jose Arcadio goes to the fair and seduces a young gypsy girl, then runs off with her. Distraught, Ursula tries to follow and winds up abandoning her newborn daughter, Amaranta. It is up to Jose Arcadio Buendia and Aureliano to look after Amaranta and the house until she returnswhich she does, five months later. She has not found her son or the gypsies, but she has discovered the two-day route through the swamp that leads to the outside world.
There are many different ways to read One Hundred Years of Solitude and Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote the novel with an eye to multiple interpretations. In this first section, it is important to recognize one of those interpretationsthe Biblical interpretationand to make careful note of the narrative strategy Marquez employs towards this end.
Critics have pointed out that Solitude mimics the first books of the Bible, with a particular emphasis on the Book of Genesis. Note that in the first breath of the first chapter, the narrator remarks that "the world was so recent that many things lacked names," an obvious reference to the "In the Beginning" opening of Genesis, wherein the Lord creates first the world, and then the objects that fill it. Similarily, Macondo is described as an Eden-like village where no one grows old and no one dies. The founders of this village, Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula Iguaran are obviously meant to stand in for Adam and Eve. The parallels between the founding couple and Adam and Eve are drawn more sharply in the second chapter when the narrator goes back in time. Like Adam and Eve, Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula Iguaran are driven from their homes, to wander in the cruel landscape because of a crime they have committedin their case, it was the murder of Prudencio Aguilar. Indeed, the similarities between Genesis and the first chapters of Solitude are so great that they have driven at least one critic, Harold Bloom, to bestow a second title on the novel: the Book of Macondo. Also note that Jose Arcadio Buendia has an obsession with "knowledge" and "progress," the very same desires that caused Adam and Eve to be expelled from Eden. As we will see, they bring about the destruction of Jose Arcadio Buendia as well.
Finally, to finish out the Biblical interpretation of the first chapters of the book, a note on the title. Many critics have pulled their hair out attempting to make the one hundred years of the title conform to the events in the book, but critic Regina James has accurately noted that no matter what types of dating are used, the book does not fit neatly into one hundred years. Part of the reason for this, Marquez's purposeful use of hyperbole regarding dates and times, will be discussed later. But one of the most outstanding reasons is that Marquez intends for the one hundred years of the title to stand as a cycle, a numerical symbol in the tradition of the Bible. Just as the Bible uses specific numbers to stand in for concepts and periods of time (the numbers 3 and 7 represent perfection, for example, and many of the numerical figures are not meant to suggest actual, but symbolic periods of time), the "one hundred years" of the title stands for the ever-repeating cycle of time.
To contain this vast and epic universe, Marquez employs a rather novel chronology and an interesting type of narration. There is no central "event" in this novel and no central charactera big risk for a novelist. In order to pull it off, Marquez makes the narrator a character in this novel with very little dialogue. Moving the plot (which basically follows the rise, maturity, and decline of the Buendia family and their village of Macondo) forward with a brisk tone, the Narrator treats all eventsfrom the most fantastic to the most mundanewith a droll, dispassionate tone. This allows Marquez to get away with the hyperbole and fantasy which mark this narrative. It also allows the reader to understand and accept why Jose Arcadio Buendia and his sons might be moved by ice in the gypsy fair, rather than flying carpets.
Likewise, the chronology of Solitude is a purposeful jumble. The progression of time is less straightforward in this novel than it is in others. From the first sentence, which begins the actual story years in the future but then jumps back to start it in the past, the reader is aware that time will not move with regularity in the Macondo universe. This allows Marquez to retain the feeling of folklore, of oral narration, which is a very important theme in this book.