The story “A Very Old Man” has several themes revolving around it. Among the themes is people’s perception of the supernatural. The girl that was turned into a spider and the old man with wings are an ideal representation of supernatural aspects. People seem to have different views regarding what the old man with wings is all about. There are many people that believe the old man with wings to be an angel. However, other people like the town priest call for further testing. Father Gongzaga does not think that the old man represents an angel since he lacks splendor and dignity. This sentiment is questionable since the people locking him in the chicken cage should be the ones being viewed with the lack of dignity. The old man shows patience in light of this treatment. This theme tries to explore the reactions that people have when they come into contact with things that they cannot explain. It is more of trying to solve a mystery. Everyone has their opinion regarding the situation. The people might be reading from the same script, but end up having different interpretations.
Another prevalent theme is that of suffering. The theme is demonstrated through the old man with wings. He undergoes through various atrocities in the hands of the people. His situation seems to get worse with time. To begin with, the old man crash-lands in the storm. If this is not enough, Pelayo and his wife imprison him outside in a chicken coop. While in the coop, he is prodded and poked by people. The kind of treatment he receives is that of an unwanted pet. His sufferings just seem to multiply. People say that “what does not kill you makes you stronger”, but that does not seem to be the case here. The old man only appears to be weaker as the suffering continues. The forms of suffering that he is experiencing seem to graduate with time. There is even no sign of things getting better.
The themes of uncertainty, doubt and ambiguity are also prevalent in the story. The author uses different ways to achieve these effects. For example, he uses a changing narrative voice with the attempt of complicating both the events and setting in question. Initially, he uses the third-person omniscient viewpoint. With this, he reveals opinions of various points gradually, while condemning some characters and supporting others. It is not easy for the reader to comprehend the situation clearly. Another aspect is how the story leaves some facts unresolved. As a result, readers tend to have different possible interpretations for these events. In this case, the reader is not permitted to doubt whether the old man with wings is “real” just like other things in the story. At the same time, the reader is not sure whether he is just a sad person with wings, a heavenly angel or any other possibility that is not explained. The deliberate uncertainty might make readers feel as if they have been cheated more so in what appears like a fairy tale.
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