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Literature / One Hundred Years of Solitude

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"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a 1967 novel that won Gabriel García Márquez the Nobel Prize for Literature. It's become a staple of Spanish-speaking high school curricula everywhere, mostly for being awesomely deep and so goddamn hard to understand. Arguably one of the most important pieces of literature written in the 20th century, or to put in context, almost as important as Don Quixote to Spanish speaking literature. Famous, among other things, for using every conceivable trope one could ever hope to fit in 28.8 oz of paper.

The book follows the story of the Buendía family and the town they create, Macondo, from its foundation to its end. Of course, it is told in a non-linear fashion with every generation having the same few names, as well as the same basic attributes (except for a pair of twins whose names are thought to have been accidentally switched at some point). Alongside the story of the Buendía family, there are an abundance of vignettes recounting both the everyday and the supernatural occurrences that shape the lives of the inhabitants of Macondo. The themes range widely, incorporating legendary figures (such as the Wandering Jew), historical events (Sir Francis Drake’s bombing of Rioacha, the Massacre of the Banana growers), and short stories about the love of two minor characters who never get to interfere with the main action.


Netflix has announced that it will be adapting the story into a television series.

One Hundred Years of Solitude contains examples of:

  • Author Avatar: A character only mentioned in passing and one of the few surviving characters, simply named Gabriel García Márquez.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda del Carpio's marriage. At one point, there's a page-long sentence of Fernanda ranting about her awful life, which provokes Aureliano Segundo to trash all of her fancy household equipment.
  • Babies Ever After: Subverted. The last generation's baby that could have brought back the family's glory is eaten by ants.
  • Back from the Dead: Melquíades. Twice.
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  • Badass Mustache: Colonel Aureliano Buendía.
  • Banana Republic: For a while, Macondo is this.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Mauricio is the Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Meme is the Type B Tsundere. It ends in tragedy.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: The Golden Child brothel has a dog who does this to be fed.
  • Big Damn Heroes: José Arcadio saves Colonel Aureliano Buendía from the firing squad.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Several people say this about José Arcadio.
    A gypsy woman with splendid flesh came in a short time after accompanied by a man who was not of the caravan but who was not from the village either, and they began to undress in front of the bed. Without meaning to, the woman looked at José Arcadio and examined his magnificent animal in repose with a kind of pathetic fervor.
    "My boy," she exclaimed, "may God preserve you just as you are."
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Camila "The Elephant" Sagastume.
  • Big Eater:
    • Aureliano Segundo becomes this, to incredible degrees. In an eating contest, he eats (among many other things) a whole pig, and suffers a stroke as a result.
    • Subverted with Rebeca: The Buendías only break her habit of eating dirt and whitewash with a lot of effort, and she'll snap right back whenever overwhelmed or stressed.
  • Big Fancy House: The Buendía household gets remodeled and renovated quite a few times as the family becomes more successful. It doesn't last.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: José Arcadio, post-Walking the Earth. Also, Aureliano Segundo.
  • Boom Town: Macondo. It goes to the Dying Town phase but never becomes quite a ghost one.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When Rebeca first appears, it's mentioned her baggage consists of "a small trunk, a little rocking chair with small hand-painted flowers, and a canvas sack which kept making a cloc-cloc-cloc sound, where she carried her parents' bones."
  • Brick Joke: The last of the 17 sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendi­a being killed.
  • Broken Bird:
    • Amaranta (starting, but not ending, with her rivalry with Rebeca over Pietro Crespi).
    • Rebeca herself becomes this after the death of José Arcadio, shutting herself out from the world.
    • Meme after losing Mauricio Babilonia.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: José Arcadio marries Rebeca, who's been raised by his parents during his long absence in Macondo. It was for this reason that their decision to marry was met with some resistance, until a priest confirmed that they're Not Blood Siblings.
  • Building of Adventure: After the rains, when all the action is centered in or around the now-decrepit Buendía mansion.
  • Buried Alive: A man condemned to death by fire squad survives and it's implied that he'll be alive when they bury him. This traumatizes José Arcadio Segundo to the point where he leaves instrustions for his own head to be cut off before his burial, to make sure he is really dead.
  • Buried Treasure: The gold inside the Don José statue is buried by Úrsula somewhere around the Buendía house. Colonel Aureliano and later Aureliano Segundo try to find it with no success, with Úrsula refusing to tell them anything. The gold is eventually found by Aureliano Segundo's son José Arcadio and one of his young companions.
  • Call-Back: Jose Arcadio Buendía discovers a Spanish galleon during one of his expeditions. It shows up every now and then as the generations pass.
  • Censored Child Death: The last Aureliano's fate. However, we do (along with his father) get to witness the corpse.
  • City of Adventure: Macondo, your quiet smallish town somewhere in Latin Land... AKA Colombian Caribbean.
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Aureliano Buendía, of course. Arcadio tries to be this, but it doesn't work.
  • Control Freak: Fernanda, especially after Úrsula loses her eyesight. Her need for control ends up resulting in Mauricio Babilonia getting shot and paralyzed, and Meme going silent and being shunted off to a convent for the rest of her life.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: After becoming successful, Aureliano Segundo parties hard.
  • Creepy Child:
    • Colonel Aureliano Buendía was one. He cried in his mom's womb, was born with his eyes open, predicted things as a kid and as a youngster...
    • One of the 17 Aurelianos was also like this. He creeped the shit out of Úrsula and Amaranta when he came to meet them, walked around the house as if he had been born there, and asked them for a toy that he had never ever seen (and they didn't even remember) and somehow knew was there.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Over and over and over...
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: The last Buendía dies of this from an army of ants.
  • Death by Childbirth: In a variation, little Remedios dies after a terrible miscarriage. Played straight with Amaranta Úrsula.
  • Death Is Cheap: Melquíades. He returns to life because the land of the dead was too lonely for him.
  • Death Seeker: Played with in the case of Colonel Aureliano. He isn't actively seeking death, just waiting for the right time to die.
  • Determinator: José Arcadio Buendía. His sheer inability to give up on one mad dream after another results in the foundation of Macondo and drives the plot for the first several chapters of the book.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Gerineldo Márquez, to Amaranta.
  • Downer Ending: Amaranta Úrsula succumbs to Death by Childbirth. Hers and Aureliano Babilonia's child is left alone by his father in his grief and is ultimately eaten by ants. Aureliano, who has crossed the Despair Event Horizon already, sees his kid dead and then realizes this is the last clue to decipher Melquíades's scripts. As he's reading them and uncovering all the secrets of Macondo and the Buendías (his true bond with Amaranta Úrsula included), Macondo is destroyed by a tornado and everyone dies.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Prudencio Aguilar insults José Arcadio Buendía over his lack of a sex life with Úrsula. José Arcadio Buendía kills him with a spear ten minutes later.
  • The Dreaded: Colonel Aureliano Buendía becomes this to the entire conservative regime.
  • Driven to Suicide: Pietro Crespi. Subverted with Colonel Aureliano.
  • Dying Town: After Macondo goes through several natural disasters, everybody is taken over by apathy and even the birds leave.
  • Easy Amnesia: The entire town, briefly, and more permanently Rebeca, as a symptom of a plague. Everyone gets cured after Melquíades' reappearance.
  • Exact Words: When Aureliano Segundo searches for gold hidden by Úrsula, he asks Pilar Ternera (a future teller) for help. She can only say that the treasure does indeed exist and is buried somewhere within a 122 meter radius of Úrsula's bed, which happens to be the exact distance to the end of the backyard. This leads Aureliano Segundo to dig up the entire backyard, to no result. After Úrsula dies, the treasure is found buried right under her bed.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The book spans over one hundred years, with one of the main themes being solitude.
  • Explosive Breeder: All of Aureliano Segundo and Petra Cotes' animals (only before the five-year-long rain, that is).
  • Face Death with Dignity: Gregorio Stevenson invokes this to Arcadio when Macondo is raided by the conservative army while he's imprisioned.
    "Don't let me undergo the indignity of dying in the stocks in these women's clothes," he said to him. "If I have to die, let me die fighting."
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Arcadio never knows his true parentage, and is raised believing his grandparents José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula are his parents.
  • Friendly Enemy: Downplayed, Don Apolinar Moscote and Jose Raquel Moncada are not exactly enemies with Colonel Aureliano Buendía, with whom they are good friends, but they are on opposite political sides during the war.
  • Full-Name Basis: José Arcadio Buendía, the family patriarch, and Colonel Aureliano Buendía once he achieves that rank. It helps to differentiate them from their successors.
  • Gag Penis: The first José Arcadio was described as "very gifted" in his manhood, and the discovery of that resulted in him being drafted away from home by a impressed lover. Also, Aureliano Babilonia from the penultimate generation.
  • General Failure: Colonel Aureliano Buendía, although not technically a general. Starts a lot of wars (a total of thirty-two), and loses all of them.
  • Generational Saga
  • Generation Xerox:
    • The Aurelianos and José Arcadios. Lampshaded by Úrsula more than once.
    • Subverted with the Segundos. They each have some traits of their predecessors, but some are switched around, maybe due to the Twin Switch they perpetuated as children.
    • Ultimately comes to full circle in the end, because like the other Amaranta before her, Amaranta Úrsula has an affair with her own nephew. The difference with her is that she didn't know her familial connection to her lover and that said affair went on long enough for her to bear a child from it.
  • Genki Girl: Amaranta Úrsula, and to a lesser extent, her older sister Meme before her.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Amaranta and Rebeca.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Amaranta's burnt hand.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Latin during a conversation with the priest, and the bookshop owner sometimes says phrases in Catalan.
  • Happily Adopted: Aureliano Babilonia thinks he's this. This is what leads him to have relations with Amaranta Úrsula, setting off the events that culminate in the end of Macondo and the Buendía family.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Subverted by Colonel Aureliano Buendía. Through the war's course he becomes increasingly cold and cruel, and one of his subordinates and personal friend even lampshades it, but he ends up an apathetic Hikikomori making gold fish until his death.
  • Hikikomori: Various characters shut themselves in rooms, usually the workshop or Melquíades' room, sometimes only temporarily. The most "famous" are José Arcadio Segundo and the Colonel.
  • Historical In-Joke:
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Pilar Ternera, Petra Cotes and Nigromanta.
  • Hope Spot: The last Buendía seems to have all the good qualities of both José Arcadios and Aurelianos, and is thus expected to achieve balance of the Sibling Yin-Yang and overcome the tragedy that seems to chase the family, he's eaten by ants the next day shortly before his father dies in the tornado that destroys their house and the whole town.
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: The mermaids: "The great swamp in the west mingled with a boundless extension of water where there were soft-skinned cetaceans that had the head and torso of a woman, causing the ruination of sailors with the charm of their extraordinary breasts."
  • I Wished You Were Dead: Amaranta. Twice.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Fernanda del Carpio.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: José Arcadio Buendía kickstarts the plot via giving one of these to his rival Prudencio Aguilar in Riohacha. Since Prudencio's ghost starts hanging around their home shortly afterwards, he and Úrsula (along with a group of other young people from the town) decide to leave so he can rest in peace.
  • In the Blood: Several traits are repeated through the generations, some could be considered to be in the name, such as the reflexivenesss and stoicism of the Aurelianos and the mad enterprising nature of the José Arcadios (switched with the twins). The whole family shares being prone to obsession and incest, as well as sabotaging their own work so as to have more work to do later, and, of course, every single family member is doomed to have a lonely life with a tragic ending.
  • Incest Is Relative: A recurring theme throughout the story, as it's a fear of Úrsula due to the fact that inbreeding in the family can result in pig-tailed children and in severe cases (as with an uncle of hers), the birth of not human children but animals.
    • Kissing Cousins: José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula Iguarán, who are also the first Buendías, were cousins. However, Úrsula spends most of her life desperately trying to prevent incest from continuing on to other generations and destroying the family (by originating the birth of a pig-tailed child). In the end, it happens anyway.
    • Parental Incest: Arcadio tries to seduce his own mother, Pilar Ternera (though he's unaware of his true parentage), but she bribes another girl to sleep with him in her stead.
    • Amaranta provokes this in her nephew and great-great-nephew, but never follows through with it.
    • Not Blood Siblings: José Arcadio, who marries his adopted sister Rebeca shortly after meeting her for the first time. Though this decision was met with some revulsion from Úrsula. But Rebeca is mentioned as being a relative of Úrsula, which would make her a cousin to her husband.
    • Aureliano Babilonia thinks he's safe from this because he thinks he was adopted. Unfortunately, Amaranta Úrsula is actually his aunt.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Remedios the Beauty, who loves going around naked. She even lampshades this by saying it's the best way to go around.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mauricio Babilonia is a fan of Brutal Honesty, but can be somewhat sweeter when with Meme. It's mentioned that Meme starts falling more genuinely for him ones she deduces that his brusqueness towards her is, to a degree, his way to show tenderness.
  • Karma Houdini:
  • The four punks who kill José Arcadio, steal all the gold coins, and are never heard from again.
  • The banana company never faces any consequences for the massacre of thousands of people.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The twins swap identities and drive everyone around them mad, Úrsula is convinced she is dead by her infant descendants playing a prank which causes her to die for real, and one Buendía is murdered by a group of adolescent punks he befriended.
  • Kissing Cousins: José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula, doubling as Childhood Friend Romance. The same was true of two of their older relatives.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The English version of the book comes with an invaluable family tree. Everyone born into or marrying into the family has A Day in the Limelight. Some characters get more love than others, but there isn't a single character that can be considered the protagonist of the story.
  • Lonely at the Top: Colonel Aureliano Buendía. Granted, he isn't exactly social before he achieves his high rank.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Most characters are loners in their own way, and freaky in their own way. The ones that are more obviously loners, such as the Hikikomoris, are also more obviously freaky (José Arcadio Buendía, Colonel Aureliano Buendía, et al.)
  • Mad Dreamer: José Arcadio Buendía, who devolves into a Cloudcuckoolander in his old age.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Amaranta Úrsula likes doing this with her husband, Gastón, and later, with Aureliano Babilonia.
  • May–December Romance: Amaranta Úrsula and her first husband, Gastón.
  • Magic Realism: This is a Gabriel García Márquez novel, after all. It is the book that helped bring the genre to wider attention.
  • Marked to Die: All of the sons Colonel Aureliano Buendía has during the war are eventually given cross-shaped ash marks on their foreheads. It makes them easy assassination targets.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Aureliano José has seventeen half-brothers from his father Colonel Aureliano Buendía's numerous affairs during his civil war campaigns.
  • Mind Screw: The novel has a reputation for being particularly time-disorienting. In one page, events happen at such rate that they could have easily taken a month or a year to take place, and the book is littered with instances where the amount of events either condensate or expand, with no particular time frame to place them even with linearity. The only semblance of a time frame comes from the generations of the Buendía family, which of course, have years in between. When one is done reading it, it does feel like a century in events.
  • Miniature Senior Citizens: The matriarch of the family, Úrsula Iguarán, lives until she is over 120 years old… and by that time has shrunk to the size of a fetus. She becomes so small that her descendants Aureliano and Amaranta Úrsula use her as their doll.
  • Multigenerational Household
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Coupled with Unusually Uninteresting Sight. Nobody in the town is especially surprised when Remedios the Beauty ascends into heaven, because, of course she does. But when the railway comes to Macondo they think it's a huge iron monster.
  • Nice Hat: Melquíades has one with a brim "like the wings of a crow".
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Near the end, Aureliano Babilonia is unable to cope with his attraction to Amaranta Úrsula, who is his aunt and who he believes to be his sister, and rapes her while her husband is in the other room. She tries to fight him off at first, but ends up enjoying it so much that her feelings of love are transferred from her husband over to him.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Inverted with Aureliano Babilonia, since he thinks he's adopted and not actually related to the Buendías, therefore making it okay to have an affair with Amaranta Úrsula. But boy, is he wrong.
  • Old Retainer: Several, but the most notable is Santa Sofía de la Piedad, who, despite actually being the mother of Remedios the Beauty, Aureliano Segundo and José Arcadio Segundo, is treated as another servant. She seems to be content that way.
  • One Steve Limit:
    • Averted. Male names are passed down through family lines in every conceivable combination. If you don't have a superhuman short-term memory, you will need the family tree kindly provided by the publishers at the start of the book. It's part of a larger theme of history's cyclical nature.
    • Notably, during the war Colonel Aureliano Buendía sires 17 sons… who are all named Aureliano. People resort to calling them by both their names and maternal surnames: Aureliano Triste, Aureliano Amador, et alii. The Colonel also had a child before, with Pilar Ternera. His name? Aureliano José.
  • Only Sane Man: For most of the book, Úrsula is the most (and sometimes only) sane voice in the house. Lampshaded now and then.
  • Pair the Spares: Subverted. After José Arcadio and Rebeca hook up, Pietro Crespi proposes to Amaranta, but she rejects him harshly.
  • Planet of Steves
  • Princess in Rags: Fernanda. Lampshaded when she goes on a two-sentence rant that lasts more than two pages about how she was raised to be a queen, only to be treated like a servant by her in-laws, who have no respect for her or her golden chamberpot.
  • Proper Lady: Little Remedios, and later Santa Sofía de la Piedad. Subverted with Úrsula, who is very devoted to her family, but also extremely stubborn and more than capable of standing up to her husband and children.
  • Precision F-Strike: Several. And they are glorious.
    José Arcadio Buendía: [showing his son a yellowish mass of gold in a crucible] What does it look like to you?
    José Arcadio: Dog shit.
  • Questionable Consent: Aureliano and Amaranta Úrsula's first sexual encounter has this, since the former came onto the latter forcefully and it was initially met with resistance. Amaranta does eventually give in, but the fact it has a "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization just blurs things. There's also the fact that Amaranta still loved her husband when Aureliano pretty much sexually assaulted her.
  • Really Gets Around: Colonel Aureliano Buendía, having 17 sons with different women and one with Pilár Ternera; José Arcadio also does this after coming back to Macondo and before settling down with Rebeca.
  • Redemption in the Rain: The whole town. Not that it helps, anyway. Macondo enters into decline due to the flooding and never recovers.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: In one fell swoop, Macondo is eventually destroyed.
  • Romani:
    • Several. Melquíades eventually becomes a permanent fixture in the house after he comes Back from the Dead. Then he dies again, but still survives as a sort of interactive memory passed down through José Arcadio's bloodline.
    • It's all but stated that Mauricio Babilonia has Roma blood in his veins.
  • Scars Are Forever: Amaranta, who burns her own hand as self-punishment for Pietro Crespi's suicide.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To some earlier stories by Márquez, such as Big Mama's Funeral.
    • Also to Julio Cortázar's Rayuela by mentioning Rocamadour towards the end of the book.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang / Red Oni, Blue Oni: Any pair of brothers named José Arcadio and Aureliano. Reversed with the Segundos.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Remedios The Beauty, albeit the curse part is less for her and more for the people around her.
  • Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass: The gypsies put a pile of dry hay in the middle of the street and set it on fire with a gigantic magnifying glass. This makes José Arcadio Buendía think that it can be used as as a weapon of war.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Santa Sofía de la Piedad gives birth to twins José Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo five months after Arcadio's execution via firing squad.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers:
    • Meme and Mauricio Babilonia.
    • Later on, Meme's son Aureliano becomes this with his own aunt. It's their love that results in the birth of a child with the dreaded pig tail, which pretty much dooms the Buendía family
  • Strawman Has a Point: In-universe example: when conservative Apolinar Moscote explains politics to Aureliano, he makes strawmen out of liberals' positions on many topics. The only topic he's not apathetic about, legal acceptance of illegitimate children, is something in which he agrees with the liberals. What makes Aureliano become a liberal, however, is watching the conservatives commit electoral fraud right afterwards.
  • The Stoic: Colonel Aureliano Buendía becomes this at some point during the war. Úrsula comes to believe that he was actually like this from the very beginning.
  • Tarot Motifs: Mentioned occasionally during Pilar Tenera's fortune tellings.
  • Tempting Fate: After seeing a kid and his grandpa get killed by cops with machetes, Aureliano threatens to arm all his sons and "get rid of these shitty gringos". Not too much later, almost all of the 17 Aurelianos end up being assassinated.
  • Theme Naming:
    • Lampshaded thoroughly, the characters themselves being aware of this. The José Arcadios are outgoing, stout and subject to a cruel, final fate. Aurelianos are more laid back, lonely and inquisitive.
    • Played with in the third and fourth generations of the Buendía family. While Arcadio and Aureliano José each take after their fathers (José Arcadio and Aureliano, respectively), Arcadio's sons Aureliano Segundo and José Arcadio Segundo take on the opposite personalities from what their names indicate. See Twin Switch.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: After captain Aquiles Ricardo fatally shoots Aureliano José, he's shot to death and more than four hundred men unload their guns on his corpse while the latter bleeds out.
  • Title Drop: During the ending.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Little Remedios and Remedios the Beauty.
  • Tsundere: Meme is a Type B. Normally a rebellious and somewhat vain Genki Girl, she goes all tsuntsun when Mauricio appears.
  • Twin Switch: José Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo, so much that the family traits associated with their names are swapped. Lampshaded when their coffins are accidentally switched at the last minute.
  • The Voiceless: Meme becomes this after losing Mauricio Babilonia.
  • Walking the Earth: José Arcadio, although he returns after going around the world sixty-five times. Melquíades and his band of Roma also do this (they've been just about everywhere, too).
  • What Beautiful Eyes!:
    • Aureliano Amador, one of the 17 Aurelianos, had deep green eyes contrasting with his dark skin.
    • Mauricio Babilonia. Fernanda was surprised when he saw him for the first and only time and looked into his deep brown eyes...and then she kicked him out of the Buendía house.
    • Little Remedios was also noted as having beautiful green eyes.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: All the major characters (members of the Buendía family, Love Interests, friends) get some ending to their stories, whether it is death or leaving Macondo not to be heard from again. The sole exception is Petra Cotes. The last we hear of her is that she survived Fernanda.
  • Wife Husbandry: Little Remedios and Aureliano, who's old enough to be her father. Well, she was smarter and more mature than the average girl, but still, he proposes marriage when she's just nine...
    Pilar Ternera: You'll have to raise her first.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: As mentioned, Little Remedios matured very quickly after marrying Aureliano, becoming a competent and cheerful homemaker loved by everyone. Hence, why her early death hit everyone so hard.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Remedios the Beauty.
  • Write Who You Know: Colonel Aureliano Buendía is based on Márquez's grandfather.


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