Opening Lines: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

This is the blog where we dissect the opening sentences of popular works of fiction. Few people outside of the writing community know how much blood, sweat, and tears go into crafting the perfect Opening Line; and for that reason, I want to bring attention to the incredible work that a writer puts into these first few words. Today we will examine Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

 

First, let’s look at his blurb:

One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women — brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul — this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.

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Now, let’s examine the Opening Line:

“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.”

Let’s break this down because this is interesting, and it’s a perfect example of a great opening line.

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia…”

This puts us right in the middle of the action. We have Colonel Aureliano Buenida facing a firing squad.

To be executed by a firing squad is more common in the military or during times of war, but it is a source of capital punishment in some parts of the world.

Many years later implies that what we will be reading is what lead up to this offense, but there are some immediate questions.

Who is Colonel Aureliano Buenida?

Why is he facing the firing squad? Was it a military crime? Is he a prisoner of war? Or does it have to do with the civilian world? Perhaps he’s a murderer receiving a death sentence.

“…was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

And then we have this memory, moments before his execution. I have no idea what might come to mind if I were facing a firing squad, but I think it would also be my family. In this case, he’s remembering an innocent moment he shared with his father.

Is this the author’s way of foreshadowing? Is this memory of innocence in contrast to the guilty act that placed him in front of the firing squad?

What was so special about that day, when he discovered ice with his father?

If you want to find out, click the Barnes & Noble link.

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