Love in the Time of Cholera

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Love in the Time of Cholera
First edition (Colombia)
Author Gabriel García Márquez
Original title El amor en los tiempos del cólera
Translator Edith Grossman
Country Colombia
Language Spanish
Publisher Editorial Oveja Negra (Colombia)
Alfred A. Knopf (US)
Publication date
Published in English
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 348 pp (First English hardback edition)

Love in the Time of Cholera (Spanish: El amor en los tiempos del cólera) is a novel by Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez first published in Spanish in 1985. Alfred A. Knopf published an English translation in 1988, and an English-language movie adaptation was released in 2007.

Plot summary[edit]

The main characters of the novel are Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. Both Florentino and Fermina fell in love with each other in their youth. A secret relationship blossomed between the two with the help of Fermina's Aunt Escolástica. They exchanged several love letters. However, once her father, Lorenzo Daza, finds out about the two, he forced his daughter to stop seeing him immediately. When she refuses, he and his daughter move in with his deceased wife's family in another city. Regardless of the distance, the two continue to communicate via telegraph. However, upon her return, she suddenly loses interest in Florentino. Dr. Juvenal Urbino meets Fermina and begins to court her. With her father's persuasion and the security and wealth marrying Urbino offered, they wed. Urbino is a medical doctor devoted to science, modernity, and "order and progress". He is committed to the eradication of cholera and to the promotion of public works. He is a rational man whose life is organized precisely and who greatly values his importance and reputation in society. He is a herald of progress and modernization.[1] Even after their engagement and marriage, Florentino swore to stay faithful and wait for Fermina. However, his promiscuity got the better of him. Even with all the women he was with, he made sure that Fermina would never find out. In their elderly age, Urbino attempts to get his pet parrot out of his mango tree, only to fall off the ladder he was standing on and die. After the funeral, Florentino re-proclaims his love for Fermina and how he has stayed faithful to her. Hesitant at first because of the advancements he made to a newly-made widow, Fermina eventually remembers her love for him.

Urbino's function in the novel is to contrast with Florentino Ariza and his archaic and boldly romantic love. Urbino proves in the end not to have been an entirely faithful husband, confessing one affair to Fermina many years into their marriage. Though the novel seems to suggest that Urbino's love for Fermina was never as spiritually chaste as Florentino Ariza's was, it also complicates Florentino's devotion by cataloging his many trysts and a few possibly genuine loves. By the end of the book, Fermina comes to recognize Ariza's wisdom and maturity and their love is allowed to blossom during their old age. For most of their adult lives, however, their communication is limited to occasional public niceties.

Other characters[edit]

  • Lorenzo Daza – Fermina Daza's father, a mule driver; he despised Florentino and forced him to stop meeting Fermina.
  • Jeremiah de Saint-Amour – The man whose suicide is introduced as the opening to the novel; a photographer and chess-player.
  • Aunt Escolástica – The woman who attempts to aid Fermina in her early romance with Florentino by delivering their letters for them. She is ultimately sent away by Lorenzo Daza for this.
  • Tránsito Ariza – Florentino's mother.
  • Hildebranda Sánchez – Fermina's cousin.
  • Miss Barbara Lynch – The woman with whom Urbino confesses having an affair.
  • Diego Samaritano – The captain of the riverboat on which Fermina and Florentino ride at the end of the novel.
  • Leona Cassiani – She starts out as the "personal assistant" to Uncle Leo XII at the R.C.C., the company which Florentino eventually controls. At one point, it is revealed that the two share a deep respect, possibly even love, for each other, but will never actually be together. She has a maternal love for him as a result of his "charity" in rescuing her from the streets and giving her a job.
  • América Vicuña – The fourteen-year-old girl who towards the end of the novel is sent to live with Florentino; he is her guardian while she is in school. They have a sexual relationship, and after failing her exams and being rejected by Florentino, she kills herself. Her suicide illustrates the selfish nature of Florentino's love for Fermina.


The story occurs mainly in an unnamed port city somewhere near the Caribbean Sea and the Magdalena River. While the city remains unnamed throughout the novel, descriptions of it imply that it may be Cartagena, Colombia, where García Márquez lived during his early years. The city is divided into such sections as "The District of the Viceroys" and "The Arcade of the Scribes." The novel takes place approximately during half century between 1880 and 1930.[2] The city’s "steamy and sleepy streets, rat-infested sewers, old slave quarter, decaying colonial architecture, and multifarious inhabitants" are mentioned variously in the text and mingle amid the lives of the characters.[3] Locations within the story include:

  • The house Fermina shares with her husband, Dr. Juvenal Urbino.
  • The "transient hotel" where Florentino Ariza stays for a brief time.
  • Ariza’s office at the river company.
  • The Arcade of the Scribes.
  • The Magdalena River.

Major themes[edit]

Narrative as seduction[edit]

Some critics choose to consider Love in the Time of Cholera as a sentimental story about the enduring power of true love. Others criticize this opinion as being too simple. García Márquez himself said in an interview, "you have to be careful not to fall into my trap."[4]

This is manifested by Ariza’s excessively romantic attitude toward life, and his gullibility in trying to retrieve the sunken treasure of a shipwreck. It is also made evident by the fact that society in the story believes that Fermina and Juvenal Urbino are perfectly happy in their marriage, while the reality of the situation is not so ideal. Critic Keith Booker compares Ariza’s position to that of Humbert Humbert in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, saying that just as Humbert is able to charm the reader into sympathizing with his situation, even though he is a "pervert, a rapist, and a murderer", Ariza is able to garner the reader’s sympathy, even though the reader is reminded repeatedly of his more sinister exploits.[4]

Narrative as deconstruction[edit]

The novel examines romantic love in myriad forms, both "ideal" and "depraved", and continually forces the reader to question such ready-made characterizations by introducing elements antithetical to these facile judgments.

Love as an emotional and physical disease[edit]

García Márquez's main notion is that lovesickness is literally an illness, a disease comparable to cholera. Ariza suffers from this just as he might suffer from any malady. At one point, he conflates his physical pain with his amorous pain when he vomits after eating flowers in order to imbibe Fermina's scent. In the final chapter, the Captain's declaration of metaphorical plague is another manifestation of this. The term cholera as it is used in Spanish, cólera, can also denote human rage and ire. (The English adjective choleric has the same meaning.) It is this second meaning to the title that manifests itself in Ariza's hatred for Urbino's marriage to Fermina, as well as in the social strife and warfare that serves as a backdrop to the entire story.

Aging and death[edit]

Jeremiah Saint-Amour's death inspires Urbino to meditate on his own death, and especially on the infirmities that precede it. It is necessary for Fermina and Florentino to transcend not only the difficulties of love, but also the societal opinion that love is a young person's prerogative (not to mention the physical difficulties of love when one is older).

Film adaptation[edit]

Stone Village Pictures bought the movie rights from the author for US$3 million, and Mike Newell was chosen to direct it, with Ronald Harwood writing the script. Filming started in Cartagena, Colombia, during September 2006.[5]

The $50 million film, the first major foreign production filmed in the scenic walled city in twenty years,[5] was released on November 16, 2007, by New Line Cinema. On his own initiative, García Márquez convinced singer Shakira, who is from the nearby city of Barranquilla, to provide two songs for the film.

Publication details[edit]


  1. ^ Morana, Mabel (winter, 1990). "Modernity and Marginality in Love in the Time of Cholera". Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 14:27–43
  2. ^ Simpson, Mona (September 1, 1988) "Love Letters". London Review of Books 10:22–24
  3. ^ Taylor, Anna-Marie (1995). Reference Guide to World Literature, 2nd ed. St. James Press. 
  4. ^ a b Booker, M. Keith (summer, 1993) “The Dangers of Gullible Reading: Narrative as Seduction in García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera". Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 17:181-95
  5. ^ a b A.R. Lakshmanan, Indira. "Love in the Time of Cholera: On location, out on a limb". December 11, 2006. Accessed May 26, 2007.

External links[edit]