AP English Literature
17 November 2018
Common Sense & Productivity in 100 Years of Solitude: How Much Work is Too Much, and Why?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez utilises multiple recurring motifs to lead to a common overarching theme in 100 Years of Solitude. The most prevalent one that is represented in the town of Macondo is productivity. This leads to an errant view on output and work rate by the citizens, as there is a frequent belief of doing everything to the extreme. It seems that the inhabitants are either working themselves to utter insanity, Three such examples of this are the insomnia plague, mentioned in the early stages of Macondo, the 17 Aurelianos produced by Colonel Aureliano Buendia, and the founding of Macondo itself, by José Arcadio Buendia. Marquez places an inordinate value on productivity that supersedes the intrinsic value of common sense.
The insomnia plague is a central occurrence that begins to outline Macondo’s life and beliefs. For the most part, any city or town usually has a prevailing sentiment which is extended through the people in it. Macondo is no different - as it combines the “blue collar” mentality of real cities such as Cleveland or Pittsburgh with the artistic element of cities such as Seattle and San Francisco. In this particular case, Macondo’s proclivity to work until you physically cannot work any longer is exemplified in the insomnia plague. “If we don’t ever sleep again, so much the better,” José Arcadio Buendía said in good humor. “That way we can get more out of life” (Marquez, 28). However, considering how great it is to work all the time, there must be a balance to be truly successful. Eventually, the townspeople come to realize that fact, as events such as this started to happen: “Children and adults sucked with delight on the delicious little green roosters of insomnia...so that dawn on Monday found the whole town awake. No one was alarmed at first. On the contrary, they were happy at not sleeping because there was so much to do in Macondo. They worked so hard that soon they had nothing else to do and they could be found at three o’clock in the morning with their arms crossed, counting the notes in the waltz of the clock” (Marquez, 28). The sheer proceeding of this incident points to a complete and utter lack of common sense, as an inordinate value on productivity again takes priority.
In this novel, however, there are multiple bizarre moments. Mostly, the acts themselves are perceived to be insane, as in today’s society, they would never happen. One such affair is in regards to the inordinate amount of children the people of Macondo have. For example, “Colonel Aureliano Buendia organized thirty-two armed uprisings and he lost them all. He had seventeen male children by seventeen different women and they were exterminated one after the other on a single night before the oldest one had reached the age of thirty-five” (Marquez, 56). The number itself is hardly feasible, but it is the way that the novel treats this incredible amount with such normalcy. When they all returned to Macondo, the Colonel is not phased by their attendance as a group. “Then Colonel Aureliano Buendía took down the bar and saw at the door seventeen men of the most varied appearance, of all types and colors, but all with a solitary air that would have been enough to identify them anywhere on earth. They were his sons” (Marquez, 108). Seeing that he had been a part of their birth separately, but had never seen them all together before, it was surprising to see his his complete and utter acceptance of the fact that he had 17 kids. This again points to the lack of common sense and oblivious sense of skewed beliefs.
The same perceptions and lack of are shown in the first foundations of the town itself. The introduction of the place itself states that “Within a few years Macondo was a village that was more orderly and hard working than any known until then by its three hundred inhabitants” (Marquez, 11). A fantastic start, but by the cyclical nature of the town itself did not end well. Like the insomnia plague, negative side effects such as ignorance became to be prevalent as many essential elements are life were cast by the wayside through imprudent productivity. This is shown through the construction of José Arcadio Buendia and Ursula’s house, as “The primitive building of the founders became filled with tools and materials, of workmen exhausted by sweat, who asked everybody please not to molest them, exasperated by the sack of bones that followed them everywhere with its dull rattle. In that discomfort, breathing quicklime and tar, no one could see very well how from the bowels of the earth there was rising not only the largest house is the town, but the most hospitable and cool house that had ever existed in the region of the swamp.” (Marquez, 33). With their heads down, the inhabitants had no idea that the actual entity they were constructing was the largest and most beautiful in the town. A crucial part of common sense is awareness, which is shown as lacking in the Macondoans’ work.
In the construction and founding of Macondo, a precedent was set that was followed throughout the novel, as a “heads down” approach to work without a real baseline of common sense beliefs prevailed multiple times. Even when faced with adversity and challenges that resulted from this ideology, Macondoans did not falter, only relying on outside influences to fix their problem. This was exemplified in the insomnia plague, as the only person that could save them from their own vice was Melquiades, bringing the potion to create an end to no sleep. Finally, in the birth and existence of the 17 Aurelianos, a lack of understanding and normalcy again exemplified the ideology of the colony.
In our society today, the view on productivity and counterbalance with common sense are viewed in a variety of ways. As a whole, humans enjoy being productive but also realize that there must be time set aside to appreciate the work accomplished. In Macondo, this was neglected, and could have possibly led to the destruction of the town. The results of productivity, such as the satisfaction for accomplishing a job, must occur in order to reap the rewards of your work. By placing an inordinate value on productivity that supersedes the intrinsic value of common sense, Gabriel Garcia Marquez effectively dooms the colony to fail.
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