Solitude is defined as remoteness from society or the state of being remote from others. In Marquez’ OHYOS, solitude is what ultimately brings the village of Macondo to its tragic end. Throughout the novel we explore the interesting theme of the various forms and reasons behind solitude and its consequences. Psychological studies show that, on the individual level, various needs are assumed to promote growth and self-actualization.
For instance, John Burton’s Deviance, Terrorism and War specifies eight basic human necessities: the need for others’ response (and consistency thereof); stimulation; security (for instance, freedom from everyday preoccupation with death fears); recognition (through which individuals receive social confirmations that their reactions to social stimulations are relevant and approved); distributive justice (not merely a consistency in response but a response or reward deemed appropriate in terms of individuals’ experiences and expectations); the need to appear rational (which follows from the need for consistency of response– rationality calls attention to the fact that there is a need for consistent behavior in others); need for meaning to be deduced from consistent response; and the need for a sense of control. From this list are various “camps” promoting the centrality of their distinctive need systems.
These include, for instance, the need to belong, to bond or connect with others; the need for meaningfulness and the need for transcendence. As put by Richard Nixon, “Unless a person has a reason to live for other than himself, he will die–first mentally, then emotionally, then physically. ” Studies of terminally ill individuals reveal the need for assurance that they have a legacy, that their lives made a difference, and that others are who they are because of oneself and that these others will carry one’s memory with them. The mere fact that isolation is commonly known as a form of torture demonstrates that too much solitude leads to destructive consequences.
These studies are relative to my topic because throughout the novel we encounter situations in which characters are driven to insanity as a result of their solitude, even if it is a self-selected decision. To quote Francis Bacon, “Whosoever is delighted with solitude is either a wild beast or god. ” One is the example of Jose Arcadio Buendia, the first great solitary of the novel. He becomes so obsessed in his pursuit for truth and knowledge that he neglects his family and ultimately loses all touch with outer reality. Another is the example of Colonel Aureliano Buendia, who retreats into the solitude of his sadness and becomes incapable of expressing emotion other than sorrow and resignation.
Aureliano Buendia is an interesting character because, in the novel, he first expresses his clear preference for solitude after his encounter with a girl who is forced to sleep with other men in order to pay her debt to her grandmother. Because he feels uncomfortable in society, he retreats into the comfort of his own solitude, which brings me to introduce psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy of needs is a sequential, graduating set of needs that a person must satisfy to reach one’s full potential or self-actualization. The needs are ranked bottom from top as physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, self-esteem needs, and self actualization.
These needs must be satisfied in order to get to the top, but one may go backward as well as forward, which relates to the theme of time as a cycle, and the Buendia’s inability to progress. Because they are unwilling to communicate outside of themselves, the Buendia family is never able to move forward but moves instead in cycles, or a downward spiral, collapsing in on itself. According to Marlow, when one is unable to achieve the needs of love and belonging, it is assumed they regress back to the stage of securing their safety needs, which is most clearly demonstrated in Aureliano Buendias case. The solitary characters are often contrasted to the antisolitary characters of the novel such as Ursula Buendias and Pilar Ternera, and other characters who combat their solitude.
Ursula Buendias and Pilar Ternera both live very long lives and devote their lives to strengthening social bonds. In her younger years, Pilar Ternera comforts the Buendia men with her sex and bear many of their children. She is extremely prosperous as the madame of a nunnery, which stands for a bountiful sexuality. Many other instances in the novel indicate that sex and love is used to combat solitude, especially the notion of free love. The most obvious example for this is perhaps the cold, barren relationship of Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda del Carpio in contrast with his relationship with Petra Cotes, in which his farm animals begin to proliferate and bring him great prosperity.
This instance conveys the message that sexual liberation leads to progress and prosperity. Incest is a secondary theme of solitude. Essentially, incest is the practice of keeping family members within the family, which demonstrates the Buendias’ habit of isolating themselves from the rest of the community and their inability to reach out to others. The incest that occurs throughout the novel only perpetuates the Buendias’ solitude, and reflects the eventual destruction of the town. From the very beginning of the novel, Ursula warns of deformity as a result of incestuous relationships, and ironically, the last of the Buendias is born with the tail of a pig, and ends the family line.
The novel ends with an interesting passage, in which the narrator explains, “He had already understood that he would never leave… races condemned to 100 years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth. ” Here solitude can be seen very differently, portraying the solitude of Latin America forced upon their race by the West, who denies their access to the opportunities of the developed world, in comparison to the Buendias inability to join the moving world. “The opposite of solitude is solidarity,” says Marquez. Solidarity is defined as a union of interests, purposes or sympathies among members of a group, or a fellowship of responsibilities and interests, an obvious lacking quality in the town of Macondo.
Psychological studies show that social systems have various “needs” to function successfully. There is, for instance, the social need for a collectively shared sense of order and that rules for a society’s game board of life are understood and respected by all social actors. An ordered world is a predictable world and the essence of society is the predictability of its members’ actions. There are the needs for solidarity between social members (including, as anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn observed, “a set of common values that give meaning and purpose to group life”), their willingness to accept their social duties and to make personal sacrifices for the welfare of others, and their cooperation with each other.
Further, if we perceive social systems to be analogous to organisms struggling to survive in potentially hostile environments, there are such individual needs as defense, coordinated action toward collective goals, and the ability to adapt to challenging new internal and external conditions. The Buendias are obviously lacking in this cooperative quality and often struggle with their meaning in life, which is reflected in the destruction of the town. In quoting HG Wells, “A downtrodden class.. will never be able to make an effective protest until it achieves solidarity. ” In order for the Buendias to leave their solitude, solidarity must first be achieved. From this it can be concluded that Marquez is promoting the same message for the solitude of Latin America, having been so long controlled by the West, before they must suffer the consequences of Macondo and the Buendia family.
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