Love in the Time of Cholera

Published:  10:20 PM, 01 April 2021 Last Update: 12:30 AM, 02 April 2021

Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez
"There is no greater glory than to die for love."

Love in the Time of Cholera is a classic work of literary fiction by the Colombian Nobel prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez. It was published in Spanish in 1985 and translated into English in 1988 by Edith Grossman. The novel was adapted into a film in 2007, which was nominated for several awards including an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

Love in the Time of Choleratakes place in a port city by the Caribbean Sea (resembling Cartagena) and in the transition of 19th to 20th century (1880-1930). Some ugly aspects of the environment are mentioned in the novel - the city's "steamy and sleepy streets, rat-infested sewers, old slave quarter, decaying colonial architecture, and a multitude of inhabitants". The plot follows three main characters: Fermina Daza and her two lovers, Florentino Ariza and Dr. Juvenal Urbino. Florentino Ariza does Fermina Daza unrequitedly for more than 50 years, waiting until she is widowed to declare himself, when he is 76 and she 72.

Love is one of the themes of the novel, the everlasting and obsessive love of Florentino for Fermina. Love is shown both in an ideal and depraved perspective. Love for Fermina remains a constant in Florentino's life in spite of the multiple sex affairs he maintains throughout his life. A depraved relationship of Florentino towards her protégé, the adolescent America Vicuna, is carried out during her school years, which turns, later on, into her suicide. Old age is another theme, the effects of time over the physical looks of the characters, the physical decay. Class and social status are very present in the novel, a daughter of a mule trader entering the upper class to which Dr. Urbino belongs. Illness and cholera is present throughout the time and the poor sanitary conditions of the city. Urbino's father had died from it and Urbino has also to struggle with the epidemic. Corpses appear floating in the river and finally the flag of cholera is put in the ship to carry on the love affair of old Fermina and Florentino. It is estimated that about 200.000 people died of cholera epidemic by the mid of 19th century in the Caribbean islands.

The protagonists are Florentino and Fermina, as young and old age lovers, but Urbino, Fernima's husband, also plays an important role. Fermina Daza is headstrong, prideful, passionate and often angry. She is also extremely well-respected in the city for her beauty, grace, and decency, even in the closed ranks of the upper-class into which she marries. After Urbino's death she realizes that the majority of her life has been defined by being his wife. The ideal life of Urbino and Fermina turns out to be not so ideal. Florentino Ariza is a man obsessed by love his whole life, obsessed with Fermina over fifty-one years. He is Fermina's first love, but she rejects him after a secret engagement and correspondence over her teenage years, and he spends his life waiting for her husband to die--while carrying on many love affairs. He is a poet, the president of the River Company of the Caribbean, and lover of all sentimental literature about love. Dr. Juvenal Urbino is a great patron of his Caribbean city, is a renowned doctor and famous member of a noble family. He is an extremely meticulous man who loves music and hates animals, who expects a perfectly run household, and who does not retire before his death at 81, which occurs when he falls from a ladder while trying to retrieve his parrot from a tree.

Other secondary characters are: Lorenzo Daza - Fermina Daza's father, a mule trader with a reputation for horse theft, later on exposed for his many immoral and illegal business dealings; he opposes Florentino pretention to marry his daughter. At a certain point he leaves the town, with Urbino's cover up influence. Jeremiah de Saint-Amour - The man whose suicide is introduced as the opening to the novel, a friend of Urbino; a photographer and chess-player. Aunt Escolástica - the spinster aunt of Fermina who raises her after her mother's death and who became an accomplice of the romance between Fermina and Florentino. She is expelled by her brother and disappears in a dark destiny. Fermina never forgets her and barely forgives his father. Tránsito Ariza - Florentino's mother, a caring character. Hildebranda Sánchez - Fermina's cousin, a trustworthy friend. Barbara Lynch - Urbino's great love affair with a creole, daughter of a black protestant preacher. Leona Cassiani - She starts out as the "personal assistant" to Uncle Leo XII, at the company which Florentino will control later on, Leona being responsible for pushing Florentino to the top of his company. They keep a strong relationship throughout their lives, but never get in bed. She acts out of gratitude for Florentino getting her the job. Diego Samaritano - The captain of the riverboat on which Fermina and Florentino ride at the end of the novel. América Vicuña - The fourteen-year-old girl who towards the end of the novel is sent to live with Florentino; he is her guardian while she is in school. They have a sexual relationship, and after being rejected by Florentino and failing her exams, she kills herself. Her suicide illustrates the selfish nature of Florentino's love for Fermina. Dona Blanca Urbino, Fermina's mother in law, a bitter and cruel widow.

Florentino's lovesickness is like the epidemic cholera. The novel starts with the death of Urbino's friend Saint Amour, a photographer who commits suicide. Animals have a negative karma, Fermina's zoo is destroyed by raging dogs, Urbino's parrot causes his death. At home, Urbino's prized parrot hides in a mango tree; when Urbino tries to capture the bird, he falls off a ladder and dies. Rain is usually associated with dramatic events, it rains heavily at Urbino's funeral. The novel takes place at a city on the banks of the Magdalena River on the Caribbean coast, resembling to Cartagena in Colombia. The time of the novel lasts from the youth till old age of the protagonists. The plot is not a linear chronology, but we have descriptions of the protagonists' lives from youth till old age. The protagonists love in youth, the conflict when Fermina realizes she doesn't want to marry Florentino and decides to marry Urbino, choosing a better material position. Florentino gets on with his life but always obsessed with Fermina, in spite of the many love affairs he holds. Florentino hopes for Urbino's death. The climax happens with Fermina's husband death. At her husband's wake, Florentino Ariza appears and declares his undying love of more than fifty years to the newly widowed Fermina Dazaand a reconciliation with Florentino that becomes again a great friend. At the end of the novel, despite the warnings of her children, Fermina Daza accept the proposal of Florentino Ariza and takes a long river cruise with him in which they finally consummate their fifty-year love and Florentino Ariza asks the captain to fly the cholera flag aboard the ship to avoid all human contact so that they can sail up and down the river, alone in their love, forever.

Ref:Garcia, M. G., & Grossman, E. (1988). Love in the time of cholera.

Writer: Md Alamgir Kabir Razzaki

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