One Hundred Years of Solitude

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Original Title: Cien años de soledad
Written by: Gabriel García Márquez
Central Theme: The subjetivity of reality, the repetition of history, the life on Colombia in particular and latinamerican countries in general
Synopsis: The rise and fall of a large Colombian clan, the Buendías, and the town they founded and live in, Macondo, over a century.
Genre(s): Magic realism
First published: 1967
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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."

—The first line

"What did you expect?" Úrsula sighed. "Time passes."
"That's how it goes," Aureliano admitted, "but not so much."


One Hundred Years of Solitude is a 1967 novel that cemented Gabriel Garcia Marquez's literary fame, and to this day is considered his Magnum Opus. Staple of Spanish-speaking High School curricula everywhere, mostly for being awesomely deep and so goddamned 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, a metaphor for Latin America as a whole, 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, which is why it's so confusing). Alongside the story of the Buendia 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 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. Believe it or not the story takes place in a time span of a hundred years.

Needs More Love.

Tropes used in One Hundred Years of Solitude include:

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 Screwed-Up Family
  • 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.
  • 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). Meme after losing Mauricio Babilonia.
  • Brother-Sister Incest and Parental Incest: Or incest in general. One of the biggest driving plot forces is to keep these from happening. Rebeca and José Arcadio marry, but Rebeca is adopted and a child of distant relatives. Incest happens anyway, in the end, between an aunt and nephew with the same blood. They actually don't know it until the very end, when she's dead and he's the last one standing.
    • There's also Aureliano José, who lusts for years after his aunt Amaranta who raised him in stead of his father. She reciprocates a little until Ursula almost catches them kissing, then goes Oh Crap and refuses to keep up with him.
  • 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 the second.
  • Buried Treasure: The gold inside the Don José statue is buried by Úrsula somewhere around the Buendía house.
  • But You Screw One Goat!: The creepy man who rings the church bell.
  • 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.
  • Chick Magnet: Pietro Crespi.
  • City of Adventure: Macondo, your quiet smallish town somewhere in Colombian Caribbean
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Aureliano Buendía, of course. Arcadio tries to be this, but it doesn't work.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: After becoming successful, Aureliano Segundo parties hard.
  • Control Freak: Fernanda, especially as Úrsula loses her eyesight. This ends up with Mauricio Babilonia getting shot and paralyzed, and Meme going silent and being shunted off to a convent for the rest of her life.
  • 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 also was like this. He creeped the shit out of Ursula 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 sen and somehow he knew that they had it.
  • Dead Guy, Junior: Over and over and over…
  • Death by Childbirth: In a variation, little Remedios dies after a terrible miscarriage. Played straight with Amaranta Úrsula.
  • Death Is Cheap: Melquíades.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: The last Buendía dies of this from an army of ants.
  • 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Prudencio Aguilar insults José Arcadio Buendía over his lack of a sex life with Ursula. José Arcadio Buendía kills him with a spear ten minutes later.
  • The Ditz: Mauricio Babilonia. Pietro Crespi, to a certain extent.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Gerineldo Márquez, to Amaranta.
  • Downer Ending: Amaranta Ursula succumbs to Death by Childbirth. Hers and Aureliano Babilonia's child dies too and his corpse is eaten by ants. Aureliano, who has crossed the Despair Event Horizon already, sees his kid dead and then realizes it's the last clue to decipher Melquiades's scripts. As he's reading them and uncovering all the secrets of Macondo and the Buendias (his true bond with Amaranta Ursula included), Macondo is destroyed by a tornado and everyone dies.
  • Driven to Suicide: Pietro Crespi. Subverted with Colonel Aureliano.
  • Easy Amnesia: The entire town, briefly, and more permanently Rebeca, as a symptom of a plague.
  • Emotionless Older Man: The Colonel.
  • Empathic Environment: Arguably.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Mauricio Babilonia and the yellow butterflies.
  • 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, and loses all of them.
  • 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.
  • Generational Saga
  • Generational Trauma: Every problem in the Buendía clan can be easily traced to founding patriarch José Arcadio Buendía's propensity to violence and inability to actually parent his children and to his wife Úrsula's incest paranoia. Is not just that the traits are repeating and reappearing like their descendant names, is that each new generation is replicating what they had learned from the previous one.
  • Genki Girl: Amaranta Úrsula, and to a lesser extent, her older sister Meme before her.
  • Genre Savvy: Úrsula, to a degree.
  • Ghost Town: Post-deluge Macondo.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Amaranta and Rebeca.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Amaranta's burnt hand is treated as a "good scar" and as a metaphor for her virginity.
  • 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 becoming an apathetic Hikikomori making gold fish.
  • Hikikomori: Various characters shut themselves in rooms, usually the workshop or Melquiades' room. Sometimes it's only temporarily. The most "famous" are Jose Arcadio Segundo and the Colonel
  • Historical In-Joke: Colonel Aureliano Buendía's involvement in war between the Liberals and Conservatives.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Pilar Ternera, Petra Cotes and Nigromanta.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Fernanda del Carpio.
  • Incest Is Relative: After marrying her own cousin, Úrsula spends most of her life desperately trying to prevent this from destroying the family, but it happens anyway. Amaranta provokes this in a few of her nephews and great-nephews, but never follows through with it.
    • Subverted by José Arcadio, who marries his adopted sister Rebeca shortly after meeting her for the first time.
    • Aureliano Babilonia thinks he's safe from this because he thinks he was adopted.
  • 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.
  • "It's Not Rape If You Enjoyed It": Near the end, Aureliano Babilonia is unable to cope with his attraction to Amaranta Ursula, 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.
  • I Wished You Were Dead: Amaranta. Twice.
  • 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.
  • Kissing Cousins: José Arcadio Buendía and Úrsula. Happened also to some other members of family, with pig-tailed child as final result.
    • Book Ends: A relative of José Arcadio and Úrsula had been born with a pig's tail as a result of incest, which had led Úrsula to refuse to consummate her marriage in the first place.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Fernanda, so damn much.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Many editions 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 I can't think of a single character than can be considered the protagonist of the story.
    • This troper was certain for the first half of the book that it was the Colonel's story, but having read the whole thing if one character can be pointed to and called the protagonist it would have to be Úrsula who is the direct or indirect cause for almost everything that happens in the course of the story and who's yearnings best encapsulate the overarching desires and drives of the Buendía clan. For this troper the story after Úrsula's death felt like it had had its life sucked from it and it was simply tidying up to close shop.
      • Fridge Brilliance: of course you did. Úrsula was the leader of the clan, after she died the Buendias quickly fell into decadence and the last survivors were just ghosts of their former glory.
  • Lolicon: See Wife Husbandry.
  • 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, etc.)
  • Mad Dreamer: José Arcadio Buendía, who devolves into a Cloudcuckoolander in his old age.
  • Magic Realism: This is a Gabriel García Márquez novel, after all.
  • 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.
  • May-December Romance: Amaranta Ursula and her first husband, Gaston.
  • Miniature Senior Citizens: The matriarch of the family, Úrsula Iguarán, lives until she is 120 years old… and by that time has shrunk to the size of a fetus. So much that her descendants Aureliano and Amaranta Úrsula use her as their doll.
  • Multigenerational Household
  • Nice Hat: Melquíades has one with a brim "like the wings of a crow".
  • Nouveau Riche: The family under the direction of Aureliano Segundo
  • Old Maid: Amaranta, who after her pretendant Pietro Crespi commited suicide after being rejected first by her sister Rebeca and then by herself, never got another pretendant. She even died a virgin.
  • Old Retainer: Several, but the most notable is Santa Sofía de la Piedad, who, albeit is the mother of Aureliano Segundo and José Arcadio Segundo, is treated as another servant, and she seems to like it in that way.
  • One Steve Limit: Massively averted. Male names are passed down through family lines in every conceivable combination. 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, i.e: Aureliano Triste, Aureliano Amador, etc.
      • And said dad also had a child before, with Pilar Ternera. His name? Aureliano José.
    • Even the female names get repeated eventually: Remedios, the first woman to marry within the family, has her namesakes in Remedios the Beauty and Meme (Full name: Renata Remedios), while the last Buendia female is Amaranta Ursula, after the family matriarch and her blood daughter.
  • Only Sane Man: For most of the book, Úrsula is the most (and sometimes only) sane voice in the house. Lampshaded now and then. Her senility and death marks the beggining of the end for the family and the town.
  • Planet of Steves: Let's say that the only names that doesn't repeat within the Buendía family are Rebeca and Fernanda, the two main "outsiders" to the family.
  • Princess in Rags: Good Lord, 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 Santa Sofía de la Piedad later. 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.
  • Rape Is Love: When Aureliano Babilonia rapes Amaranta Úrsula. This is also how Pilar Ternera lost her virginity, and which made her join the caravan that founded Macondo in the first place.
  • Redemption in the Rain: The whole town. Not that it helps, anyway.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: In one fell swoop, Macondo is eventually destroyed by a tornado.
  • Roma: Several. Melquíades eventually becomes a permanent fixture in the house after he comes Back From the Dead. Then he dies again, then comes back again, then just sort of vanishes…
  • Scars Are Forever: Amaranta, who burns her own hand as self-punishment for Pietro Crespi's suicide.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Colonel Aureliano Buendía.
  • Shout-Out: To some earlier stories by Márquez, such as Big Mama's Funeral and Nobody Writes to the Colonel.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang / Red Oni, Blue Oni: Any pair of brothers named José Arcadio and Aureliano. Reversed in names (but not in spirit) 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. Girl goes thorough life blissfully ignorant and unconcerned about her own beauty, leaving her relatives trying to protect her one way or another, and still she has a trail of blood behind her made of the unfortunate men who died because of their love/lust for her.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Meme by Aureliano Segundo, who lets her fish money right out of his pocket.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Meme and Mauricio Babilonia.
  • Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism: Meme does get sent to a nunnery to hide her pregnancy. Later, her baby is sent back to her family to rise.
  • The Stoic: Colonel Aureliano Buendía becomes this some time during the war. Ursula comes to believe that he was actually like this from the very beginning.
  • Straw Man 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 him become a liberal, however, is watching the conservative commit electoral fraud right afterwards.
  • Tangled Family Tree: And how.
  • Tarot Motifs: Mentioned occasionally during Pilar Tenera's fortune tellings.
  • Theme Naming: Lampshaded thoroughly and the characters themselves are aware of this. The José Arcadios are outgoing, stout and subject to a cruel, final fate. Aurelianos are more laid back 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.
  • Title Drop: During the ending.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Little Remedios and Remedios the Beauty.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Amaranta's black bandage.
  • Trippy Finale Syndrome.
  • Tsundere: As mentioned, 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.
    • Also, 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 Buendia house.
  • 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.