“One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez and “Beloved” by Toni Morrison are magical realist novels that exemplify the concerns of critical literary theory. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” tells the story of a fictional Colombian town, Macondo, and the rise and fall of its founders, the Buendía family, whose matriarch is Úrsula. Úrsula is the wife of José Arcadio Buendía and the mother of José Arcadio, Colonel Aureliano Buendía, and Amaranta. She has lived for over one hundred years, continuing with her desire to preserve the family. The pillar of Buendías, Ursula, comes from an early South American family living in a coastal village. The Iguaráns and the Buendías have been intimate for centuries despite rumors concerning genetic mutations that may lead babies with pigs’ tails. Ursula is a central part of Macondo’s history. When Colonel Aureliano Buendía is captured during the first rebellion, she smuggles a revolver to help him escape. However, the strategy fails, colonel is finally rescued by his brother.
On the other hand, the novel “Beloved” was written by Toni Morrison after the end of the civil war when indiscriminating brutality meted on the blacks was let loose as the enslaved people were freed by liberation of buying their freedom. Morrison’s epigraph is brilliant for a novel about grace, love, and forgiveness. It sets the tone of a willful ghost destroying the peace of Sethe’s home, free from slavery but still laden with servitude’s emotional freight. In the novel, a matriarch, Baby Suggs, a self-proclaimed preacher, acts as a mother figure and stabilizing force for Sethe and Denver. The two characters share similarities and differences as they act in their respective novels. As a result, this paper aims to compare and contrast the two matriarchs, Ursula from “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and Baby Suggs from “Beloved,”; how they impact their families, how they love, and how they die.
The two characters impact their families differently. In most stories by García Márquez, women have long lives. They are mostly more able to make the best of life than men and finally accept the inevitable solitude of aging in chronological time. In “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” when Buendía dies, one feels the sorrow of the death of a single being, but when Ursula is buried, one thinks that life itself can be worn down to nothing. One can feel that the female Buendías put up with suffering and ended up becoming insensitive to self-degradation. Ursula impacts her family so much that many people feel the loss when she dies. For example, she oversees the Buendia household for six of the seven generations documented in the novel. She is so mindful of the welfare of her family to the extent that, at times, she disagrees with her husband. “Instead of going around thinking about your crazy inventions, you should be worrying about your sons,” she replied. “Look at the state they’re in, running wild just like donkeys” (Marquez 15). She starts a business of making candy animals and pastries, which she continues until the arrival of Fernanda. She exhibits a strong character and triumphs where the men of her family fail. Secondly, when she decides to enlarge the house, she makes them build her husband a special room next to Aureliano’s workshop, far from the noise and bustle of the house.
Like Ursula in “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” in “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, Baby Suggs is an influential and positive character in the entire story. She is a healer who brings hope and goodness and serves as a conscience for people in her family. She cares not only for the family but shows compassion for the community. She hosts events at her house and leaves tremendous positive impacts on Sethe, her daughter-in-law, and Denver, Sethe’s fourth child, long after she dies. The impact is such significant that her granddaughter, Denver, is related to Baby Suggs because she is equally an outstanding individual. The two characters are similar in that they succeed even in cases where their male counterparts fail. They are hardworking and compassionate about their families. They differ; Ursula is consistent in her pursuit, while Baby Suggs loses her faith in people and withdraws from the community into an inner world of introspection.
Love is arguably the most powerful emotion possessed by humanity, and it allows individuals to connect. Pure love is related to divinity such that without pure love, prosperity becomes a mirage. In “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” love involving persons afflicted by solitude is not a happy experience in the novel. Similarly, love and lust are intractably tangled since familial love is often confused with sexual love. Partners have little feelings for one another that they must satisfy their sexual urges with partners out of wedlock, to the extent that the parentage of many characters is kept secret, increasing the frequency of incest. The patriarch, Jose Buendia, and the family’s matriarch, Ursula, are the first to commit incest by marrying each other despite being first cousins. Despite warning from the family to stop the marriage, the patriarch says he does not care if a child is born with a deformity. Their love makes Jose Buendia kill Prudencio for mocking him, and they flee to Macondo, where they will not be judged. In terms of familial love, Ursula loves and cares for the family so much that she does not want them to leave Macondo so as not to break the family ties. She is ready to die for the family; thus, “if I have to die for the rest of you to stay here, I will die” (Marquez 15).
In “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, love is a central theme. A critical look at the motivations behind the characters inside the text helps one see that love is central to what guides each person’s actions. One sees love in each relationship held by the central characters; maternal love between a mother and her children, romantic love between a man and a woman, and platonic love between two women. This love manifests itself in many unique ways throughout the novel. For example, Baby Suggs loves and is loved by family members, especially the daughter-in-law. “…When Sethe finally arrived at Grandma Baby Suggs’ house, they embraced. Grandma Baby Suggs soaked Sethe’s feet and tended to the wounds on her back. Grandma Baby Suggs had made a life for herself as a preacher who spoke about black people loving themselves after slavery….” (Morrison 105). Similarly, Baby Suggs also brings out the theme of love in other characters. She loves Halle so much that she is willing to accept that he is gone. However, it is worth noting that “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” portrays pure love, while “Beloved,” has a mixture of impure love, lies, and secrets.
Mortality is a prevalent theme in Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” as death occurs throughout the book; in the form of murder, natural death, massacre, and possible suicide. Death is therefore described in the book as a solitary state but one from which it is possible to return. At the age of hundred years, before she dies, Ursula goes blind and metamorphoses into a plaything for Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano. She is taken advantage of in the profound change of her mental abilities. She then shrinks to the size of a newborn baby into a timeless state, confusing the past for the present. Later she is found dead on Good Friday morning while no one is certain of her age- with doubt whether she is one hundred and fifteen or one hundred and twenty-two. During her death, the plague of dead birds begins. However, when she dies, the living does not respect Ursula’s death compared to the death of her husband earlier in the novel. “…very few people were at the funeral, partly because there were not many left who remembered her…” (Marquez 328). Almost everyone misses attending her funeral; the deep meaning of death is shuttering as Macondo falls apart. It can mean that women are not revered in Macondo compared to men.
On the other hand, in Morrison’s “Beloved,” Baby Suggs is an exceptional woman before her death. When Sethe arrives at her way station, she takes her in with loving arms and preaches to her to lay down her past and give up her weapons of hate. However, after the arrival of Sethe, something terrible happens that breaks the strong spirit of Baby Suggs. She then succumbs to her weak heart and dies shortly after the brothers, Howard and Burglar, leave, with no interest in their leave-taking or hers. “Those white things have taken all I had or dreamed,’ she said, ‘and broke my heartstrings too…” (Morrison 89). Sethe admits that she has always felt that she caused her death, which always makes her feel guilty. Her death, however, has many casualties. When Sethe calls the name her baby’s “chastising ghost,” she indicates her feeling of guilt over the baby’s death. She then decides that she is tired of having a ghost run her life and takes action to show that death is not essential. However, one can easily understand that the death of Baby Suggs has had a significant impact on the family. Therefore, comparing the deaths of Ursula and Baby Suggs, one can point out death in old age when both have lived a bonus life for quite some time. While Ursula’s death may have been due to old age, and she dies peacefully, Baby Suggs’s death is partly to blame on Sethe and Suggs’s two brothers, that make her die by breaking her otherwise strong spirits. Another difference is that Ursula’s funeral is poorly attended, with almost everyone missing to attend it.
In conclusion, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez and “Beloved” by Toni Morrison are literary novels that center on different themes and contain two characters that can be compared and contrasted. The two matriarchs in each novel exhibit similarities and differences as they act. While “One Hundred Years of Solitude” tells the story of a town in Colombia called Macondo and the rise and fall of the Buendía family, whose matriarch is Ursula, Morrison’s “Beloved” is written after the end of the civil war when blacks are discriminated against. In the two literary pieces, the two matriarchs are vital as they are courageous and unrelenting and even succeed where their male family members fail. They influence their respective families even a long way after they die. The paper has compared and contrasted Ursula and Baby Suggs in terms of how they influence their families, how they love, and even how they die. For example, while Ursula dies due to old age, over one hundred years, Baby Suggs’s death may have been forced by other factors, as Sethe feels.
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. “One Hundred Years of Solitude, trans. Gregory Rabassa.” New York: Harper & Row 1 (1970): 18. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.1201/9781315375670-16/one-hundred-years-solitude-gabriel-garc%C3%ADa-m%C3%A1rquez
Morrison, Toni. “Beloved. 1987.” New York: Plume 252 (1988).