Love in The Time of Cholera

Smore by: Madison Dobberstine, Dasia Carballo, Aoife Choice

Before you head to college, you must read Love in The Time of Cholera! Guys, it is not just a sappy romance novel, but a novel that speaks truth about the conflicts associated with love and in depth, explores the differences between each character and the type of love each one gives (so don't let "love" in the title deter you from reading it). Each detail Gabriel Garcia Marquez includes allows you to connect and develop different emotions for each of the three characters in the love triangle: Florentino Ariza, Fermina Daza, and Dr. Juvenal Urbino.

When and where does Love in The Time of Cholera take place?

Love in the Time of Cholera took place in the Caribbean. Specifically the author Gabriel Garcia Marquez describes the Caribbean as "unchanging on the edge of time: the same burning dry city of his nocturnal terrors and the solitary pleasures of puberty, where flowers rusted and corroded, where nothing had happened for four centuries except at a slow aging among withered laurels and putrefying swamps (16).” Although Marquez begins the novel in the present, discusses the past, and returns to the present at the end of the novel, Love in the Time of Cholera mainly takes place in the Caribbean, except for the past instances where the main characters travel.

While the novel does not state the time period, Marquez provides many descriptions of the main characters' surroundings that point, the past to present time period presented in the novel, to the 1800s to the 1900s. For example, the telegraph is mentioned frequently in describing how Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza communicated when they were young. Also, Florentino Ariza gets a job associated with the telegraph. At the beginning of the novel, Dr. Urbino, situated in the present time of his old age, states "he used the family landau drawn by two golden chestnuts, but when this was no longer practical he changed it for a Victoria and a single horse" (9). While the rest of the Caribbean moved beyond carriages, Marquez hints to the reader the time period Dr. Urbino has gone through, which provides the time period for the novel since Dr. Urbino is one of the main characters in the love triangle exemplified through the novel.

Social Context

The social context in relation to the Caribbean and the Caribbean's culture is embedded within Love in the Time of Cholera. For example, Fermina Daza smoked, and in the Caribbean and during the time period, in secrecy because "it was thought improper for a woman to smoke in public" (128). By giving evidence as to the social context in the implied time period, Marquez asserts that socially in the mid 1900s in South America, women were still considered to be inferior to their husbands, and were supposed to be lady-like. Even though Fermina "hid" smoking "from her husband and children" Marquez makes sure the reader knows that it was not socially acceptable for women to engage in this habit in public.

In the middle of the novel, as Marquez explains Fermina Daza's life, he discusses Dr. Urbino's obsession with her. Although Dr. Urbino wants to marry Fermina, she shows she does not want to be with him initially. Marquez does not state that Fermina is still in love with Florentino, but the reader infers so. Those in Fermina's community viewed Dr. Urbino as "the most desirable man in the city" (124). Although women flocked to him, Fermina did not. The community in the Caribbean threatened Fermina: "If [she] did not renounce her efforts to move up in the world by means of the most desirable man in the city, she would be exposed to public disgrace” (124). Marquez asserts to the reader that society thought it was important for women to marry a prominent, polite public figure.

Political Context

In Love in The Time of Cholera, the Caribbean dictates the politics the characters associate with. "Independence from Spain and then the abolition of slavery precipitated the conditions of honorable decadence in which Dr. Juvenal Urbino had been born and raised" (17). In the beginning of the novel, Mass is frequently discussed: “...Dr. Urbino realized that he could not get to the Cathedral before the Gospel reading" (7), and “his Sundays were different. He would attend High Mass at the cathedral and then return home to rest and read on the terrace in the patio" (11).

Although independent from Spain, those in the Caribbean continued the discriminatory view of blacks. Marquez reveals the Caribbean's view of blacks as the third person omniscient narrator says "the poor mulattoes" who "until a few years ago...bore the royal slave brand that had been burned onto their chest with flaming irons" (17). Marquez even incorporates that "in the eighteenth century, the commerce of the city had been the most prosperous in the Caribbean, owing in the main to the thankless privilege of its being the largest African slave market in the Americas" (18).

Throughout the novel, Marquez discusses the dominant political parties in the Caribbean: Liberals and Conservatives. Marquez uses Dr. Urbino to talk about political views: "He insisted on staying where he was, laughing madly as he shouted long live the Liberal Party, long live the Liberal Party damn it, a reckless cry that had cost many a carefree drunk his life" (24). In the same quote, Marquez mentions that there are "servant girls, with the help of other maids in the neighborhood, [that] had used all kinds of tricks to lure [Dr. Urbino] down" (24). Marquez shows that in the political context of the Caribbean, while slavery is practically over closer to the end of the 1900s time period revealed in the novel, servants are still used for the wealthy.

Text-To-World Connections

“Life would have been quite another matter for them both if they had learned in time that it was easier to avoid great matrimonial catastrophes than trivial everyday miseries” (26). Throughout Love in The Time of Cholera, the title explains a great struggle progressing throughout the story. Setting the stage for the time, Marquez effectively explains the context of the story. Throughout the novel, the aspect of disease, cholera, plaguing the city and turmoil resulting from trouble with plantations and their servants is not underplayed. The title is fitting as love springs in a time of great strife, both for characters such as Fermina, as her husband dies, and for the country itself. The concept of love, peace, or finding the calming feeling in such an environment may relate to others in similar situations. There is no doubt that any unusual situation- a husband's funeral, a captors basement, war zones- may breed such feelings.

The role of social classes at the time in the Caribbean in the story is plays an integral role as Dr. Urbino follows the wagon of disapproving behavior of the lower social classes, attesting, "During the weekend they danced without mercy, drank themselves blind on home-brewed alcohol, made wild love among the icaco plants, and on Sunday at midnight they broke up their own party with bloody free-for-alls" (17). Throughout the 18-1900's the concept of gaining freedom among slaves and servants grew, also accounting for the turmoil alluded to as these social classes began uprising against their employers. Like Marquez asserts, social classes continue to exist today and society correlates certain behaviors with each respective class.

Text-To-Self Connections

Marquez creates a classic novel about the true passion of love and the undying connection one could feel for another. The “intrepid love” Florentino feels for Ferminia is a unique unwavering love that can only be felt by those who are in love with the thought of love (225). It is easy to assume one would never love someone so passionately as Florentino loved Fermina, but as high school relationships have shown it is a possibility. Florentino is struck with love at first sight which is the same process high schoolers go through to determine their relationships. The belief that “[t]here is no greater glory than to die for love” is one that many teenagers live by (56). Relationships consume young adults and cloud all of their judgment. Much like Florentino believes in forever, many teenagers also believe in the ambiguity of falling in love forever.

Florentino is an extremely dedicated man to Fermina in the sense that he never stops loving her. Florentino’s “vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love” is much like a vow many students make to something important to them, such as their vow to a sport or excelling in grades (70). Although Florentino's devotion seems a bit ridiculous considering he is in love with a married woman, he continues to love her unconditionally. The same level of commitment is put towards breaking personal records and dedicating time to scoring well on an exam.

Text-To-Text Connections

Gabriel Garcia Marquez uses the Foster lenses. In the middle of the novel, Florentino Ariza decides to leave his cabin and go on a metaphorical quest. Since Fermina is with Dr. Urbino, Florentino's travel along the river symbolizes his need to try to break away from her. As Florentino travels along the river, it "turn[s] muddy and grew narrower and narrower" representing his clouded sexuality and passion as he moves away from Fermina (140). Also, nature, "a tangled jungle of colossal trees" engulfs Florentino and his raging love on his quest (140).

Since Fermina Daza's hometown Cartagena de Indias was taken over by cholera, she could not go visit. So, Dr. Urbino took her on a hot air balloon to see her town. They flew over the town and saw "the dark ocean of the banana plantations," "the lake dwellings of the Trojas in Cataca," and the "hot beach whose surface, cracked with niter, burned like fire" (226-227). Bodies of water, according to Foster, symbolize sexuality. In this case, Fermina was raised in this city, making her roots; the bodies of water represent Fermina's darkened or muted passion. While Marquez does not directly state to his readers that Fermina is losing her sexuality, unknowingly and possibly for Dr. Urbino, he hints to the reader that a piece of her is missing: Florentino Ariza. The cracked surface of the beach simply shows the destruction of the town and how Fermina is starting to lose her passion.

When Florentino and Dr. Urbino were together, two men who both love Fermina Daza, Marquez discusses the weather: a cyclone. The cyclone "in fifteen minutes [with] its gusting northwest winds had devastated the neighborhoods by the swamps and caused severe damage in half the city" (192). The cyclone symbolizes the love triangle and the destructive nature conflicted love causes. The conflict of the novel, while there is no physical fighting, is the two sets of heart strings, Florentino's and Dr. Urbino's, attatched to Fermina's heart. When these two men are together, they may not know they are clashing because of their shared love for Fermina, but Marquez shows his reader with the depicition of the storm when the two men are together.

Review of Love in The Time of Cholera

“Fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights”

-Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in The Time of Cholera

Pursuing Fermina was Florentino’s passion in Love in The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Each detail within the novel accompanies a love triangle, speaking of each of the three main characters, their lives, their love, and their conflicts. The setting of the Caribbean, the progression through time, the different adventures, and the social and political context contributes to the character’s personalities and their winding paths that ultimately cross. Although Fermina Daza took Dr. Urbino’s hand in marriage after Florentino Ariza confessed his love for Fermina, Florentino reconnected with Fermina and re-confessed his love for her “fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights” later (Marquez 348). Through vivid descriptions of Dr. Juvenal Urbino, Fermina Daza, and Florentino Ariza’s own lives, separate and intertwined, Gabriel Garcia Marquez creates a timeless novel that reveals the struggles of relentless passion.

When Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza were young, Florentino would sit on a bench across from Fermina’s house and intently gaze upon her as she conversed with her aunt. As Fermina pushed Florentino away as they went into their adulthood, Florentino adored countless other women, or just simply slept with them. The common denominator throughout Florentino’s life was Fermina Daza on his mind and in his heart. Florentino Ariza spent his life attempting to release Fermina from his heart, but the truth was she had taken his heart with her everywhere she went. Even after Fermina married Dr. Urbino, Florentino’s heart still belonged to her. It took “fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights” for Florentino to be with his love once more as he will always continue “coming and going...forever” for Fermina (348).

Love in The Time of Cholera is not just a novel that makes you as the reader exclaim "aww, love!" The multitude of details Gabriel Garcia Marquez includes in the novel about each main character reveals their flaws concerning the love each possesses. The characters' flaws and actions create conflict in the novel that makes you want to see what will happen next. For example, Florentino Ariza goes through most of his life seeking sexual love because his emotional, passionate, and true love for Fermina was rejected. Although, Florentino always had his deep, emotional love for Fermina in his heart when the sexual passion took over. Dr. Urbino exhibits an emotional love for Fermina when he first visits her as her doctor. Once Fermina and Urbino get married, his decision to have an affair while staying married to Fermina shows his love has turned into a routine, it is forced and not emotional. Fermina exhibits both deep, emotional love, and mechanical/routine love, but never lust. Fermina shows her deep love for Florentino when they were younger, but ultimately pushes him away and marries Urbino because it seemed in the social context that she was forced to. Fermina marrying Urbino does not seem like true love to the reader, but something she was required to do: this makes her love mechanical. When Fermina is reunited with Florentino in her old age, the reader can see she is still stuck in the mindset of living a routine love, but Florentino seems to uncover the deep love she has been concealing because she was (as the reader sees it through Marquez's view) married to the wrong person.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez also wants the reader to understand the power and trouble different types of love create. For Florentino, his realization of his true love for Fermina made him fearless as he watched her every move and was not afraid to admit how he felt for her. When Fermina crushed his spirit as he hoped they would marry, his deep love for her caused him to go on a sexual adventure. Once the woman in the cabin took Florentino's virginity he was saving for Fermina, his inncocence and true love became tainted. Thus, Florentino sought satisfaction in other women because he could not have it from the one he truly lived for. In the end of the novel, Florentino's true love for Fermina is reinstated. Dr. Urbino's deep love switching to routine love, and Fermina's (from the beginning of marriage) untrue, nonemotional love for Urbino created a dull marriage aside from the birth of their children. Dr. Urbino's affair even signifies that a mechanical relationship will not work, but only a true, deep love will remain a lifetime.

Love in The Time of Cholera is not your typical romance novel. Marquez does not establish love between two characters, but three; this results in the conflict between the characters and within themselves. The relationships between Dr. Urbino and Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza both contain conflict, but only Florentino and Fermina's emotional, passionate, true love proves undying no matter the space, time, and conflicts between the connected hearts. Marquez defines real passion for his readers: problems, time, and people will pass but you will continue to follow what is in your heart, whether it is for a relationship or a life goal, even if it takes “Fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights" (348).

Love In The Time of Cholera

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Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. Love in The Time of Cholera. Trans. Edith Grossman. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988. Print.

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Following our Hearts; A Tribute to Florentino

Three girls who strive for success and who want to appeal to their classmates to read this amazing book, Love in The Time of Cholera!