Irony, Symbolism, and Imagery Reveal the Emptiness of War in One Hundred Years of Solitude
While most scholars have agreed that war is a real and significant part of human history, these same scholars have yet not reached a consensus on the characteristics of war. History books often lean toward glorifying war with stories of soldiers dying for their honor and homeland; novels, on the other hand, tend to point out the emptiness of war with stories of soldiers losing their youth and contact with the world. The selected passage from Gabriel Garcia Marquez' novel One Hundred Years of Solitude adds to the debate over war's characteristics. Through the literary techniques of irony, symbolism, and imagery, this text reveals the major theme that, in reality, war is not glorious but empty.
By having Colonel Gerineldo Marquez conclude his telegraph with the slogan "Long Live the Liberal party," the author successfully creates a sense of irony in the reader at the end of the second paragraph. While the first two sentences of the passage present Colonel Marquez as the civil and military leader of Macondo who has realized the emptiness of war, this party slogan presents words that carry no weight when written by a man who believes his commanding officer to be a total stranger. Positioned high on the military chain of command, Colonel Marquez received the opportunity to witness the war's progression from an isolated conflict of clear definition and predictable course, to a widespread conflict of augmenting intensity and uncertainty. Therefore, his words "I understand, Aureliano,...Long Live the Liberal party" become ironic. Colonel Aureliano Buendia will consider these words to be a patriotic affirmation of orders, when they are, in fact, a sad realization that war is empty. By observing the war and noticing an increase in bloodshed and a decrease in direction, Colonel Marquez came to the conclusion that it is a pointless conflict. Ironically, he did not explicitly impart this knowledge upon Colonel Buendia; he simply pretended to understand his orders and exclaim his support for the party.
Furthermore, Colonel Marquez's irony is extended by the use of a prayerbook as a symbol for the conservatives. In their eternal fight for power in Macondo, the crux of the conflict had always been religion. The conservatives believe in spreading religion and having priests in every town to monitor the unholy and sinful actions of the inhabitants; the liberals believe in the separation of church and state and freedom for people to do what they please, sinful or not. When Colonel Marquez, a declared liberal, returns from the war he gifts Amaranta with a prayerbook. An indisputable symbol of his enemy, the prayerbook draws a puzzled response from Amaranta: "How strange men are...They spend their lives fighting the priests and then give prayerbooks as gifts." In...