One Hundred Years of Solitude: Summary, Characters & Themes

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  • 0:02 ''One Hundred Years of…
  • 0:26 Summary of the Novel
  • 5:24 Major Characters
  • 7:53 Themes
  • 8:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

'One Hundred Years of Solitude' follows the Buendia family through generations. Everyone in this ultra-dysfunctional family is incestuous and a bit insane, and they make even the wackiest American family seem normal. Continue to learn more...

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude in nine months. Though Marquez was a successful journalist, this was his first novel. He won the Nobel Prize for literature for his story of the incestuous Buendia family. This lesson will cover the summary, characters, and theme of that novel.

Summary of the Novel

Though the novel skips around in time, the easiest way to understand the story is to tell it in order: not the order it appears in the book, but in the order the events happen in time.

Jose Arcadio Buendia falls in love with his cousin Ursula. The two marry, though their families are stressed out. Worried about incest and having a baby with a pig's tail, Ursula wants the marriage to remain purely non-sexual. For a while, Jose Arcadio agrees, but eventually they do consummate the marriage. Soon after, they decide to move and found a new city, which they name Macondo. Though they want to set their city by the sea, they are unable to reach it.

In Macondo, Ursula gives birth to two boys, Jose Arcadio II and Aureliano. Gypsies, led by a man named Melquiades, bring inventions and news to Macondo, their only link to the outside world. Jose Arcadio and some men from Macondo try to find a route to the ocean, but wind up in the jungle instead. Jose Arcadio II gets a local girl, Pilar Ternera, pregnant, but runs away with a gypsy girl instead. Ursula leaves to try to find her son and instead finds a route to another town, ending Macondo's isolation from the world. New settlers arrive, and the government sets up Don Apolinar Moscote as the ruler of Macondo. Pilar's baby is a boy, and he is named Arcadio and raised by the Buendia family. Rebeca, an orphan, joins the family, and Ursula has a baby girl, Amaranta. Meanwhile, Aureliano falls in loves with Remedios, the nine-year-old daughter of Don Apolinar.

Years pass. Plague strikes Macondo, but Melquiades the gypsy brings a cure. He also promises to teach Aureliano to be a goldsmith. Jose Arcadio goes insane, and the family ties him to a tree to keep him safe. Aureliano, trying to forget his sexual feelings for Remedios, sleeps with Pilar. Pilar ends up pregnant, but Aureliano marries Remedios as soon as she is physically mature. They are happy.

A man named Pietro Crespi shows up in town. Both Rebeca and Amaranta fall in love with Pietro, but he prefers Rebeca. Amaranta begins to plot Rebeca's death. Remedios dies from complications of pregnancy, leaving Aureliano distraught. Jose Arcadio II returns from his time with the gypsies and falls in love with Rebeca. The two marry, and the distraught Pietro commits suicide. Aureliano, to forget his wife's death, becomes involved in politics. He becomes a leader in a civil war between the Conservatives and Liberals, loses every battle, and manages to escape several assassination attempts. He fathers seventeen sons, all named Aureliano.

Arcadio, the son of Pilar and Jose Arcadio II, marries Sofia de la Piedad and becomes the leader of Macondo. He has three children, Remedios II, and twins Jose Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo. The civil war finally ends, and Aureliano comes home. He spends his days making tiny gold figures of fish.

More time passes. An American company sets up a banana plantation in Macondo. The workers strike over terrible working conditions, and the company leaders kill 3,000 of them. One of the only survivors is Jose Arcadio Segundo, who wakes up on a train of corpses. He escapes and returns to Macondo, but no one believes him about the massacre. The banana company shuts down.

Jose Arcadio's twin brother Aureliano Segundo is in love with Petra Cotes but married to Fernanda, with whom he has two children, Meme and Jose Arcadio III. He spends his time between the two women and becomes wealthy. His daughter Meme falls in love with Mauricio, a mechanic, but her mother has him shot. Meme is sent to a convent. A year later, a nun arrives with Meme's baby, named Aureliano II, who is raised with Fernanda's last child, Amaranta Ursula.

It begins to rain and does not stop for five years. The town is destroyed and most of the Buendias die, leaving Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano II alone. The house and town fall to disrepair, and Amaranta Ursula dies bearing their son, Aureliano III, who has the tail of a pig and is deformed due to generations of incest. Aureliano II falls into a deep depression, and when he remembers to look for his son, he finds the child has been eaten by ants. Aureliano II finds some scrolls that Melquiades the gypsy left in Macondo, and he translates them. They tell the entire history of the Buendia family. As Aureliano II finishes reading the story, a hurricane erases the town and the house. Nothing remains.

Major Characters

Jose Arcadio Buendia I is the patriarch of the Buendia family, and he founds the town of Macondo. He's a hard worker. Unfortunately, he's also insane and he marries his cousin, seeding the incest that will plague the family for generations.

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