The Theme of Life/Liberation

As human beings, we are construed to the concept of life and death. Life happens and death is. While on the surface these two concepts may seem like mirror opposites, life and death can be placed into the same category of liberation.

In “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, an old man with wings is found face down in the sand. He is then taken in by his finder, Payola, and his wife, Elisenda.

During his stay with Payola and Elisenda, no one else seems to take notice of him. He is described as a “stray dying man” (359) and never seems to fit in with the people in Marquez’s fictional world. That is until he flies away.

For the old man, flying away is a form of liberation from the unrecognizable world he had been living in. He was not himself in this world and was virtually no one to the people who lived there. He was a nuisance who would be truly free until his wings would work again.

Another story which shows the power of life is “Barn Burning” by William Faulkner.

“Barn Burning” is the story of Abner Snoppes, man who burns barns as a means of payback, and his family as they go through trial, a move, and a death.

Throughout the story, Snoppes is seen as abusive toward his son, Sarty. Snoppes has strange ideologies of what the father-son relationship is meant to be and that rubs of oddly on Sarty, confusing him as to whether his father to someone to look up to or someone to run away from.

After his father’s death, Sarty decides to run away. “He went on down the hill, toward the dark woods within which the liquid silver voices of the birds called unceasing–the rapid and urgent beating of the urgent and quiring heart of the late spring night. He did not look back” (158), writes Faulkner.

Sarty’s act of running away is liberating for him after all those years of his father’s nonsense.

2 thoughts on “The Theme of Life/Liberation


    I agree with you about the angel flying away from the world he felt he didn’t belong in. Throughout the story, we see that the man with enormous wings is treated with disrespect and us as readers want him to be free from all the bad that comes with the town. I think this creates power in the story because you create sympathy for the man and want him to be away from the townspeople, so when he is doing so, we have a sense of relief but also feel bad that it came to that point.


  2. spaul86

    I like your point of view. I really think that in stories as short as these, I powerful happy ending for a character only occurs when there is some sort of release. I think another example of this release was in Caribou Cafe. The cafe owner feels a release when the illegal immigrants are taken out of his cafe because he doesn’t have to deal with them anymore and he isn’t pressured to think of the painful memory of his son. While I certainly don’t think Caribou Cafe has a happy ending for all of the characters, I believe it does for him.


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