Love in the Time of Magical Realism Essay

Gabriel García Márquez wrote Love in the Time of Cholera the same way his grandmother would tell him stories. Márquez is a Colombian author raised by his grandparents. His writings were originally written in Spanish, and they first gained popularity throughout Latin America. Márquez claims everything he writes about has either happened to him or someone he knows, but some scenes in the book appear unrealistic. The main character, Florentino, is in love with Fermina, but she is already married to another man. Florentino’s life revolves around the chase of Fermina. The author uses his Latin American background to portray an emotional understanding of the characters, which could not be obtained without magical realism. 

What Is Magical Realism

Magical Realism is a narrative technique that mixes fantasy with reality. Márquez incorporates unordinary events into his writing without addressing their peculiarities. For example, In the beginning of the novel, Fermina wants a pet, but her husband, Dr. Urbino, will not let her get one. He says that he does not want something in his house that cannot speak, so Fermina decides to get a talking parrot. The parrot not only speaks English, but he “learned to speak French like an academician” (20). Parrots are known for speaking single words or syllables, but this parrot could speak French and English fluently. Dr. Urbino and Fermina are not surprised by the bird's ability to speak, only by its ability to speak a second language.

Márquez used the talking parrot to introduce the normality of the unnormal in the novel. The term ‘magical realism’ originated in Spanish as “the marvelous real, [which] gives a good impression of the nature of the style” (Martin). The term was first used to describe art, but is now a genre of literature. Garcia Marquez claims that he writes the way his grandmother told stories, so to call Love in the Time of Cholera magical realism takes away from how his grandmother fully saw things. Marquez was raised by his grandparents, so he grew up in heavy Latin American culture, which shaped his view of reality.

Another example of magical realism in the book is a year after Dr. Urbino dies. Fermina has finally adjusted to being alone but, when she really needed someone, “she would see him, not as an apparition but as flesh and blood” (199). An apparition is a ghostlike figure, which is not what Fermina sees. She sees Dr. Urbino in the flesh. This is not possible in everyday life, but Marquez makes it possible to emphasize the emotions of Fermina. Fermina has been a widow for a year, but she now understands Dr. Urbino better than when he was alive. The novel is set in Cartagena, Columbia. Columbia is known for the magical Amazon rainforest, beautiful emeralds, and their freestyle and contemporary art. The climate of Cartagena is warm and tropical, which embodies the culture. In cartagena, "surrealism runs through the streets. Surrealism comes from the reality of Latin America” (Fetters). Marquez  uses magical realism for the qualities of the characters and their actions, but how he portrays love is far from magical realism. Marquez uses magical realism to enable the portrayal of emotion to go deeper than everyday realities.

Marquez’ Biography

Marquez was raised by his Columbia grandparents, which instilled columbian traditions on him. At a young age his grandmother told him fantastic stories of magical events, relating them as if they were fact¨ ( The fantastic stories were the culture of Latin America. Since everything Marquez writes about he claims has happened, then creativity would not be the source of his writing. His emotional ties to his own experiences are expressed throughout the novel by Florentino’s love for Fermina. There are no boundaries set on emotion or love in Love in The Time of Cholera.

Florentino waits 50 years 9 months and 4 days for Fermina. In everyday life, this long of a wait would seem unattainable for most people. Florentino and Fermina´s love however persists throughout the 50 years. When Florentino sees Fermina for the first time, “he lost his voice and his appetite and spent the entire night tossing and turning in his bed” (61). Florentino is head over heels in love with Fermina that he cannot function once he finally sees her. His love is compared to a disease, hince Love in the Time of Cholera. The magic of Florentino and Fermina love, persisting 50 years, is combined with the reality of Florentino’s physical weakness he experiences after seeing Fermina. Gabriel Garcia Marquez lived for 87 years before passing away in 2014. In his farewell letter he wrote ,¨I would give merit to things not for what they are worth, but for what they mean to express” if he were to be granted a longer life (Parziale).

Gabriel Garcia Marquez expresses emotion throughout the book by implying the quality of emotion, instead of directly stating it.  The term magical realism is a fairly new term.  It describes works that cannot be classified under traditional categories. Garcia Marquez denies that his style of writing was magical realism. But, if the book was detached from the author’s beliefs and experiences, it could be classified as magical realism. The last example of magical realism in Love in The Time of Cholera happens to Fermina in the middle of the night. Upon waking from her sleep, she discovered “that the doll was growing” (125). Dolls are inanimate objects so it would be impossible for the doll to grow. The doll terrifies Fermina and the thought of the doll continues to scare her throughout her life. Fermina originally believed that Dr. Urbino gave her the doll, but decided that his little love that he once had for her would not allow him to do it. The source of the doll remains a mystery. 

In Love in The Time of Cholera, the Latin American roots of Gabriel Garcia Marquez establish the use of magical realism throughout the novel. Although Marquez denies writing magical realism work, his depiction of reality suggests otherwise. Florentino and Fermina have an undeniable love, which withstands 50 years of minimal communication. They write many letters, but tone often can be lost in writing. The expression of emotion in the novel, however, is made clear by the details of their relationships. 

Works Cited

 Fetters, Ashley. “The Origins of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Magic Realism.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 17 Apr. 2014,

“Gabriel Garcia Marquez Is Born.”, A&E Television Networks, 13 Nov. 2009,

Martin, Gary. “'Magical Realism' - the Meaning and Origin of This Phrase.” Phrasefinder,

Parziale, Dan. “Farewell Letter, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Revised).” Aid Still Required, 12 Sept. 2014,



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