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Life without time would be chaotic. Not only does it serve as a record of mundane affairs but also witnesses generations go by. One Hundred Years of Solitude traces “the rise and fall…of…Macondo”through the eyes and soul of its most prominent family. In spite of the radical transformations that transpire over hundred years, Márquez illustrates that social and political realities and human nature remain forever same. Time is cyclical and nonlinear in One Hundred Years and The House of the Spirits allowing for the study of mystical as well as political themes related to gender roles and social oppression.
Flashback and chronological reversal of events are standard tools that Márquez employs to overlap dimensions of time. The first paradox of time sequencing “many years later”efers to an episode in the future while the narration of the gypsies are events of the past. This leads to a sequential disjunction compounding the sense of muddled time. In One Hundred Years, an example of an epiphany is José Arcadio Buendía who is the first person to grasp the illusion of time:
“'Look at the air… the same as yesterday…today is Monday too.'”
“He spent…hours…trying to find a difference from…the previous day in the hope of discovering something…that would reveal the passage of time.”
After José Arcadio Buendía thinks he has discovered perpetual motion, he keeps intoning that the same day is perpetuating itself. Perpetual motion can occur only in a world devoid of time; which is what time becomes wherein: the past, present and future mingle. The allusion to “prehistoric eggs” raises the dilemma of what came first: the chicken or the egg symbolic of the structure of the novel and bringing to the fore the concept of ouroboros.Márquez could be proposing that it is difficult to pin-point the precise time of an event. This can be seen in the fact that One Hundred Years does not neatly fit into any one time period spanning hundred years.
Similarly, in House of the Spirits when the present is referred to from the past, it becomes the future. This continual transition draws our attention to the cyclical development of the novel. The past and the future are interconnected through a particular incident that comes to pass. While events may be charted in a temporal sequence, the story develops in cycles.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. History and social progress are nonlinear. Social oppression, political power, and patriarchy continue to control characters in both novels just as men dominate women, the white residents of Spanish descent rule the dark-skinned, and the rich govern the poor. This is displayed in Jean de Satigny's forcing the Indians to carry out disgusting sexual acts, Esteban using Pancha as an ‘object' to relieve his sexual frustrations and Esteban making his native American tenants work as slaves.
Left and Right wing politics are explored in both novels and the parallels of two seemingly opposite poles is brought to the fore. Thus, the political spectrum and incessant power struggle between them are emblems of the cyclical nature of time and human history. This is reflected in the outbreak of civil war in both the novels. Liberals have just as much potential for brutality as Conservatives, and both take advantage of authority to oppress the underclass when they come to power. Thus, the social, political, and economic hierarchies embedded within One Hundred Years and House of Spirits perpetuate themselves over time.
Beyond explorations of political and social realities, Márquez and Allende delve into the mystical side of life to reveal the recurrent nature of time. Gypsies are symbolic in the sense that they exist outside typical social and political boundaries that constrain families, enabling them to live outside societal, political and economic cycles. They lead a less acquisitive life than the residents of Spanish descent and because of this I feel they can transcend the trappings of time. The fact that Melquíade's prophecy was fulfilled shows that time is cyclical; for the nature of clairvoyance transcends time. Furthermore, the fact that clairvoyance transcends time is revealed when Clara tells Nicholás that “you can't…inherit these things.”
A comparable theme of extra-sensory perception runs through House of the Spirits. However, it is not gypsies that serve in the role of communicating the nonlinearity of space. Clara herself possesses this gift. With the right powers of perception any human being can read past and future, and then apply that knowledge to present situations or problems. Yet, humans do not learn from the past and hence are condemned to reprise the same mistakes. The non-linearity of time is seen through Melquíades' parchments and Clara's diaries:
“Melquíades had not put events in the order of covenventional time, but had concentrated a century of daily episodes in such a way that they coexisted in one instant.”
Similarly, Clara “salvaged her notebooks…arranging them according to events and not in chronological order,…she had forgotten to record…dates.”The difference in the authors' rendering of this aspect is that while Melquiades had written the events before they occurred, Clara notes down the events in her diaries after their incidence.
Furthermore, premonitions come to play a major role in both novels. In House of Spirits, Clara has visions of the future. On the other hand, in One Hundred Years, both Colonel and Úrsula experience dé ja vu:
“This morning…, I had the impression that I had already been though all that before…
What did you expect?'...‘Time passes.'”
The identical dialog takes place later between José Arcadio Segundo and Úrsula. The latter, “realized that she was giving the same reply that Colonel… had given.”However, it the subsequent part of Úrsula's reflection that is noteworthy: “she shuddered with the evidence that time was not passing…but was turning in circles.”This recalls the conversation between Esteban and Pedro Tercero in House of the Spirits:
“‘I've come to get you out of here,' Pedro Tercero said.
‘…Blanca asked me…'
…‘Go to hell,' Truebasaid…
‘Fine. That's where we're going.' ”
Later in the novel, Allende reverses the roles of these two characters, with Esteban helping Pedro Tercero flee the country. By using the same words,Allende forces the reader to acknowledge that history has repeated itself.
By focusing on multiple generations within the same family the authors illustrate the cyclical nature of time. The Buendía and del Valle family become huge, yet retain key traits that unify generations. This holds true for both the novels and is made overt through the repetition of names in One Hundred Years:
“the insistent repetition of names had made her draw some conclusions…While the Aurelianos were withdrawn,..., the José Arcadios were impulsive…”
Úrsula confirms this when reflecting about the twin José Arcadio Segundo, “Just like Aureliano(Colonel)…It's like the world were repeating itself.”
The study of the repetition of names is fascinating. For instance, José Arcadio Buendía is shortened to is José Arcadio in the next generation which is further shortened to Arcadio. The seventeen sons of the Colonel are symbolic as the number seventeen stands for immortality in the sense that the person's name will live on after his death. This is
In House of the Spirits, Clara refuses to repeat names as this “caused confusion in her notebooks that bore witness to life.”The author chooses instead to pass character traits down genetically exemplified in Blanca who “had inherited his (Esteban's) own stubbornness”. Mother and daughter, right form Nivea to Alba, experience a bond with story-telling and recalling family anecdotes forming the cornerstone of their relationship. Likewise, climbing the poplar tree in the garden of the del Valles' was “a tradition…when any of the young men wanted to wear long pants, he had to climb it to prove his valour.”The tree is symbolic of the sprawling del Valle family. The initials all over it are marks of the del Valle family with its heritage being passed down from one generation to another. In House of Spirits, Esteban and Alba recognize themselves in the mirror of Clara's journal, illuminating the cyclical nature of family traits.
Moreover, The House of the Spirits brings to the fore the concept of karma which One Hundred Years does not explore.
“The day my grandfather tumbled his grandmother,…he added another link to chain of events that had to complete itself...,the grandson of the woman who was raped repeats the gesture with the granddaughter of the rapist,…and so on…”
Karma is always bound by time, because every action has a limited reaction. Esteban García continually faces the slights of society for being a bastard, something which he had no control over, which is why he seeks revenge. Esteban by helping Pedro Tercero escape is reciprocating the good gesture. True to the cyclical nature of time, Transito and Esteban meet over and over again because each time before they part after making love, they have the following ritual:
“‘We'll see each other again, Tansito'…‘That's what I said before, patron.'"
Since Transito is enjoying the benefits of the fifty pesos today lent by Esteban, Transito helps Esteban by securing the release of Alaba. Thus, karma follows the principal that as you sow, so shall you reap. Alba, through her experiences in the torture chambers, has come to an understanding of this. By letting go of her hatred for Esteban García she is trying to break this vicious cycle that has plagued generations of the Trueba family.
At the end of the House of the Spirits, Alba makes explicit references to the cyclic nature of time: “we believe in the fiction of past, present, and future, but it may also be true that everything happens simultaneously.”In One Hundred Years Melquíades' writing on his parchments ensures that the inhabitants of Macondo have simply been living a preordained cycle. While the last line of this novel breaks the cycle of life, death and incestuous relationships “because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth” the concluding sentence of House of the Spirits, ties up with the opening of the book, “Barrabas came to us by sea”signalling the completion of one cycle.
The cyclical nature of time and its supernatural nonlinear features are explored through multi-faceted dimensions in One Hundred Years and House of the Spirits. These novels explore many layers of Latin American history, culture, and society and show that families end up repeating similar patterns of behaviour despite generational changes. However, the present can be viewed through the lens of the past and the crystal balls of the future. Extra sensory perception, prophecy, and clairvoyance are integral to both One Hundred Years of Solitude and The House of the Spirits. The gift of clairvoyance given to the characters in the novels validates the essentially cyclical nature of time. The ability to see through time demonstrates the capacity to transcend it. Marquez and Allende both show that only when the wisdom retrieved from this remarkable power is applied to daily life does it become meaningful.