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Naming Patterns in one Hundred Years of Solitude

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One Hundred Years of Solitude is a story covering one hundred years and six generations of the Buendia family and the founding of Macondo. Seen from a wider perspective it represents many other things as well - the history of Columbia and of Latin America, even of humanity from Genesis to Apocalypse, "of a world in microcosm, where miracles such as people riding on flying carpets and a dead man returning to life tend to erase the line between the subjective and objective realms. The overall impression of totality is further strengthened by the inclusion of stark tragedy and hilarious, mad cap humor as well as by ingeniously conceived stylistic, technical, and structural devices" says George.R.McMurray.

The book consists of twenty chapters that can be divided into three parts. Chapters one and two narrate the beginning of the Buendia clan: their ancestors' sin of incest, which produces a child with a pig's tail, representing the stain of original sin; the founding of the Edenic Macondo; Jose Arcadio Buendia's awakening to the wonders of science with the aid of the old gypsy Melquiades; and the arrival in Macondo of merchants and artisans, laying the foundation for modern civilisation. The episode of the insomnia plague in chapter three forms a transition between the first and second parts is one of the most perplexing episodes of the novel. Shortly after Rebecca's mysterious arrival people begin to show symptoms of the strange illness that not only prevents sleep but, even worse, causes the loss of memory. In order not to forget the names of objects, Aureliano Buendia conceives the idea of labelling them, and Jose Arcadio Buendia, endeavoring to preserve previously acquired knowledge, builds an ingenious memory machine in the form of a spinning dictionary. When he has completed approximately fourteen thousand entries, Melquiades, the old gypsy, returns to Macondo with a miraculous cure for the illness. This episode involving the destruction of memory and efforts to retain human knowledge via the written word conveys metaphorically the traumatic transformation of a primitive, prehistoric society into a society aware of its past. George R.McMurray notes that "a prehistoric society is characterised by circular time, in which everything is repeated and events are shrouded in myth or reenacted periodically through ritual. Once a society enters irreversible, lineal time, however, its past becomes history, which is difficult to remember and so must be preserved in writing."

Chapters four through fifteen constitute the portion of the novel most obviously anchored to Colombia's historic reality, that is, the episodes treating the civil wars, which occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the banana boom, which took place immediately after World War I. These chapters also depict the radical changes that occur in Macondo as a result of scientific progress, economic prosperity, and the corruption of political and humanistic ideals. In chapter sixteen, which marks a transition between the second and third parts, a rain lasting four years, eleven months, and two days almost destroys the town, uprooting every banana plant and driving away all the original citizens of Macondo. Reminiscent of the Biblical flood, this storm rids Macondo of the gringo imperialists and also brings about a temporary spiritual purification through the eradication of decadent materialism, the revival of innocence, and a regeneration of love and mutual understanding. The last four chapters of the book depict the deterioration and ultimate disappearance of Macondo despite efforts to rekindle the virtues and vitality of the past. The tragic ending would seem to result from the ravages of war, economic depression, and the irrational behavior characteristic of the Buendia clan.

And while reading One Hundred Years of Solitude one is struck by the vast array of recurring names with which Garcia Marquez constructs his narrative. There are five characters named Jose Arcadio (including the morose and short-lived Arcadio). There are three important personages named Aureliano a group further complemented by the marginal Aureliano Jose, the seventeen illegitimate children of the Colonel, and the new born baby Aureliano who is devoured by ants. There are three young women characters christened Remedios (Remedios Moscote, Remedios the Beauty, and Renata Remedios Meme). The very last female Buendia the ultra-modern, europeanised Amaranta Ursula bears the names of her two weightiest women ancestors.

The names can be very confounding and despite this aspect which such an abundance of Jose Arcadios and Aurelianos can present on first (even on second or third) reading, a careful examination reveals that these names present a lucid, rigorously consistent and fairly simple pattern of character traits and biological trajectories. Ursula herself hints partly at this system when, mid way through the novel, she concludes that

"While the Aurelianos were withdrawn, but with lucid minds, the Jose Arcadios were impulsive and enterprising, but they were marked with a tragic sign." (174)

This division between the Aurelianos and the Jose Arcadios is basic to the structure of One Hundred Years of Solitude, in the matter of the male Buendias where we can classify the types of actions associated with their names. For, as we see, the Aurelianos pursue one line of activities, the Jose Arcadios another and never do the twain meet. It must be remembered that, as a result of a childhood prank, the respective identities of the Segundo twins are reversed; Jose Arcadio Segundo is really Aureliano Segundo and vice-versa. This long-standing error is accidentally righted after their simultaneous deaths, when the drunken pallbearers mix up the coffins and put them in the wrong graves. From the very first presentation and description of the two brothers there is an indication of the basic contrast that distinguishes the Jose Arcadios from the Aurelianos

"Jose Arcadio, the older of the children, was fourteen. He had a square head, thick hair, and his father's character. Although he had the same impulse for growth and physical strength, it was early evident that he lacked imagination...Aureliano, the first human being to be born in Macondo, would be six years old in March. He was silent and withdrawn. He had wept in his mother's womb and had been born with his eyes open. As they were cutting the umbilical cord, he moved his head from side to side, taking in the things in the room and examining the faces of the people with a fearless curiosity...Ursula did not remember the intensity of that look again until one day when little Aureliano, at the age of three, went into the kitchen at the moment she was taking a pot of boiling soup from the stove and putting it on the table. ? The child...said,...?

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