Gabriel García Márquez. (1988). Love in the Time of Cholera. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
“When Florentino Ariza learned that Fermina Daza was going to marry a physician with family and fortune, educated in Europe and with an extraordinary reputation for a man of his years, there was no power on earth that could raise him from his prostation" (p. 137). In reading Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera (1988) to find a different perspective on love and its effect on lovers, I have seen the germination of love into human beings who often keep it in secret from public or express it through letters. García Márquez, a reporter for the Colombian newspaper El Espectador and a foreign correspondent in Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Caracas, and New York elucidates what “young love” entails. The setting of his novel brings his audience back into the turn of the twentieth century when women wore “iron corsets, bound waists, and bustles that exaggerated buttocks” (p.26). He brings his reader into the past to unfold stories of love in which the characters become so familiar to us. While he takes us into the past, he highlights the beginning of first love. He describes, Florentino Ariza, one of the lovers as persistent and loyal to his one and only love, Fermina Daza. The author’s genius inclusion of family dynamics, character flaws, and individual mistakes draws his audience to resonate with the characters in the book. He refers to the different lifestyle between the rich and the poor and he brings to our attention the need to maintain the status or rise above it. The emphasis on love as a potion that captures anyone who is willing to be engrossed by it is present in each section of the book. His goal to entice his readers to fall for lovesickness or to draw wisdom from it depends upon one’s discretion.
Although each course has its strengths and weaknesses, drawing wisdom from the naiveté of young love stands out as an option in understanding family dynamics, character flaws, and individual mistakes in a way is supportive of my understanding of young people falling in love. Today’s society defines love among teenagers as naïve and lacking foundation and experience. Teenagers are infatuated and blinded by young love. This book critique summarizes García Márquez and dialogues with him in the area of my understanding of young love.
Young Love between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza
García Márquez focuses on Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza’s young love. Fermina Daza was a student at the Academy of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin where upper middle class families send their daughters to learn “the art and technique of being diligent and submissive wives” (p. 56). Florentino Ariza came across Fermina Daza when he delivered a telegraph to her father at her house. Fermina Daza was with her Aunt Escolástica, a spinster who fulfilled a vow to wear a penitent’s rope around her waist in honor of St. Francis (p. 55). She was teaching her how to read in the sewing room. When Florentino Ariza saw her, he was blown away by her charm, so he began his “solitary hunter” life (p. 56), sitting on a bench in the park, pretending to read a book. Aunt Escolástica could not contain her vivacious desire to pursue what she never had; she helped and advised her niece in the matters of love which she never experienced. Nevertheless, her niece, Fermina Daza, took her aunt’s advice and considered Florentino Ariza’s interest in her. The exchange of letters began when Fermina Daza’s aunt went inside the house and left her alone under the almond tree. After Florentino Ariza consulted with his mother about his desire to pursue a girl from the Academy and dissuaded by her not to continue with his intentions, he was impertinent to hand her an abridge expression of his feelings handwritten on a half page letter. Fermina Daza did not accept his letter but took some time to think it over. Upon her aunt’s persuasion to give the lad a chance to express his love, Fermina Daza changed her mind, accepted the letter, and wrote back to him; he diligently answered her letters, hiding them in places where no one knew. When he felt the time has come to propose to her, he wrote his thoughts and sent them to her; she answered him with a note. They kept their engagement in secret until the schoolmaster caught Fermina Daza writing a love letter and expelled her from school. Fermina Daza was brought to another city where her relatives from her mother’s side of the family lived. Her father confided with his in-laws about her forbidden love in the same way they confided among themselves when they could not accept Fermina Daza’s father as their son-in-law. Her father had hoped that Fermina Daza would forget about her young love while she stayed with her relatives far from Florentino Ariza. However, Florentino Ariza found where Fermina Daza was staying. Letters continued to arrive where Fermina Daza lived for two years. Her love was curtailed upon her return to her hometown when she denounced any relationship with Florentino Ariza.
I agree with García Márquez that love changes its course as people mature and grow. This is exactly what I see among teenagers today and among some young adults. Teenagers fall in love for many reasons. One reason for falling in love is receiving attention they never had. The overflowing attention poured onto the recipient creates a feeling of exceptionality. The recipient accepts the attention and flutters by the gesture. The giver of attention focuses on the recipient, exerting full force energy, sea of emotions, and pile of finances. The giver concentrates on the recipient, exhausts, and drains him of his potential and capability to love. The problem arises when the recipient is not capable of reciprocating the bestowed intensity of attention. If the recipient is not mature to handle a romantic relationship, problems can slowly creep in between lovers and shake the stability of their relationship or the lack thereof. Young people can be inward-focused, seeing only the good for the self. If the giver cares for two people in the relationship, he is functioning for two people. If the giver is the only person who looks after the well-being of the relationship, he is consuming his strength. If the giver wears out his capability to care for the recipient, then the relationship is in danger. Teenagers can be oblivious of their behavior and can loose track of maintaining the health of a romantic relationship. The recipient may not be aware of the effects of one’s inward-focused behavior, depleting the giver of attention of energy and desire to love. Another problem stems from the lack of ability to distinguish between feelings and facts. The recipient feels special for the undivided attention received from the giver who may shower the recipient not only with attention but also with material gifts. If the recipient has not been showered with expensive gifts by her parents, her first feelings may be of appreciation; then she may feel special and accepted. Feelings and facts are indistinguishable when she confuses material gifts with love. She begins to think material gifts are equivalent to love. Feelings of love should not be equated with material giving although often love can be expressed through a tangible manifestation of material gifts. Love can take many forms; gifts can be one form. But to distinguish real love from young love, one requires wisdom, maturity, and experience. The fact is teenagers are young and inexperienced, so they are likely to make mistakes. Some teenagers mistake attention for love.
Having said all of these, let us look at García Márquez’s description of young love again. He portrays Florentino Ariza as a lad who courted Fermina Daza to be his wedded wife under secrecy through exchange of letters. He expresses the love between two teenagers as forbidden, not only by their parents but also by class society that builds an indomitable wall between them. Love, not supported by a social network, changes its course, usually yielding to majority opinion. Lovers go on their separate ways, torn by parental pressures and succumbed by societal demands. Teenagers are often not conscientious of their self-focused attitude, neglecting to reciprocate love to the other person. They mix their feelings with the facts of love and therefore unable to distinguish between emotions and reality. I agree with García Márquez young lovers need parental guidance and societal support to cultivate and develop love that resembles the symptoms of cholera.
In saying that young love cannot exist without the supervision of parents and a social network, García Márquez is describing love at its most vulnerable form. However, there is no handbook for young lovers, we can only caution young people in exerting full force energy to give, love, and care for the other person and the other for staying oblivious of attention, interest, and thoughtful actions.
Conclusion: What is my position with regard to young love?
García Márquez gives us an example of two lovers caught in the traps of young love with parental pressures and societal demands. One thing I have observed with teenagers in love is that for many they yield to the demands of their parents. They acknowledge that independence is foreign to them. They realize that they want to live a comfortable life like the one provided by their parents. They cannot trust their partner for financial support. They want financial stability, not just attention. They are looking for someone to give them a comfortable lifestyle, not just words written with love. My duty is to caution young people falling in love at a tender age. I am reminded to advice them to wait for graduation, a good job, stable income, savings, a car, a house, and most of all maturity to accept and to reciprocate love.
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