I finished reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez five months ago. To this day, I can’t get Florentina Ariza out of my mind. He is the most despicable character I have ever come across with (at least, among the books I’ve read).
Of course, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a highly-esteemed writer but why do I have the temerity to call his character “despicable”? My own prejudices considered, I could not bring myself to be convinced with Ariza’s love for Fermina Daza. I am sure there are so many reviews about this book and about Ariza’s character and there are many theories as there are many reviews. Admitting my own prejudice, I am in no way attacking the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez (who might come out with another love story by the end of the year). I am deeply affected by the character of Florentino Ariza. If love would be defined by how he professes and lives with it, this world would abound with lustful men lurking in the shadows of the night waiting for preys (he got one of his helper pregnant after raping her but silenced her by giving her a house) who will fulfill their libidinal drives and justifying these despicable acts as a way to heal or temporarily forget their unrequited love.
How could a man sustain his love for a woman he grew to love from a distance (Floretino and Fermina Daza didn’t have the chance to spend time with each other as lovers, all they had were letters surreptitioisly sent to one another) after 622 affairs, in a span of fifty-one years, nine months and four days? In the entirety of my reading I was not convinced of the purity of his love nor did I allow myself to be romantically swayed and be sympathetic to his half-a-century “suffering”. Fermina Daza could only think of him as a “poor man” after she realized, and was appalled, at how he nurtured such an illusion.
The gall of Ariza’s character is best summarized by these circumstances when he (re)declared his love to/for Fermina Daza:
- He purposely declared hislove for Fermina on the night of the funeral of her husband. Isn’t that madness? Isn’t that the height of insensitivity? That’s a madman’s obsession for fifty-one years, nine months and four days.
- On the night of Fermina’s husband’s death, Florentino’s 622nd affair was with a fourteen-year old blood relative who was entrusted to him as her guardian. He was over 70 years old. Need I say more?
I felt that the great author had to create a justification for Fermina to entertain Florentino at the end of the novel. I think it was unnecessary to tarnish Urbino’s (the dead husband) image to Fermina unless it was to make the softening of Fermina’s character and the love story more credible. A newspaper published the affair of Urbino with his best friend complete with the details of the relationship. Not a line of it was true but it wasn’t corrected to Fermina.
Florentino Ariza was the one who cut out and sent the news item to Fermina. I think I am being carried away by my own biases. I feel so strongly about Florentino Ariza’s charater. It doesn’t help that he isn’t a handsome man.
On a positive note, my most admirable female character is Ursula Iguaran, who happens to be another Gabriel Garcia Mazrquez creation. She is the matriarch in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Not much is written about her in the novel. In fact, she is the silent character who is always present but occasionally described and discussed. In my case, I only realized at the end of the novel that her presence is the one who holds the family together.
The male character I love the most is Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean. Is there another character more (okay, at least equally) pure-hearted than he is? I’ll find another time to write why I feel for this character amongst all the other literary characters I have read. Anyway, Florentina Ariza has drained my energy.