…but what does it all mean?

“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

This short story is titled as being for children. Write a thoughtful response to the short story that includes an assertion about whether you believe this to be true, and explain what you believe to be the most striking theme in the piece. Post your response as a reply to this post. You do this by clicking on the # comments title under the post.



89 comments ↓

  • #   imeijering22 on 11.16.12 at 11:00 am     

    I think that this story really tells us something about humanity. It also shows us how we try to mess with fate. In order for the couple to know their baby will be ok try decide to lock up a creature and take his strength. The angel never was angry or did anything bad. He just sat there and never rebelled or tried to get out. Sometimes we just have to accept the plans of something greater than us.


  • #   jerdow on 11.16.12 at 11:06 am     

    This story may be “for children”, but the themes and meaning in the story are extremely mature. Xenophobia and exploitation are generally topics that kids don’t delve deeply into and they were two of the main focuses of this story. The people in the story treat the “winged man” differently because he is different. They exploited him for his strangeness, and they looked at him as subhuman. This story is about how people will treat aliens differently because they don’t understand them.


  • #   tseiner on 11.16.12 at 11:08 am     

    The story doesn’t seem geared towards children as it seems too graphic. but the overwhelming theme of chasing the new fad or attraction leaves a lesson to not let something, such as a Man with wings, make you mistreat it for greed.


  • #   brigidludwig on 11.16.12 at 11:15 am     

    I think keeping in mind that it wasn’t written in modern times, the story is written for children to convey a moral or message, but not directly. Most of the recurring realistic imagery like parasites, sickness, and torture, doesn’t seem particulary characteristic of childrens stories, but I think they contribute to a strange sense of realism that credits the story for more than children, but as a satire for society that children can benefit most from. I think the most striking theme in the piece is that that even the most supopsedly holy of creatures cannot escape the greed, curiosity and cruelty of Human nature.


  • #   Sierra Salmi on 11.16.12 at 11:22 am     

    This story is only a children’s story on the surface. As you begin to analyze the story, the cruel acts and malice are very deep for a child to comprehend. As soon as Elisenda and Pelayo realize there is profit to be made off of the suffering “angel”, they neglect him and put him in the chicken coop for others to observe. This illustrates how cruel people can be to others that are different from them, a theme in the story. The hosts’ actions also highlight another theme of greed controlling people’s actions. The complex themes in this story highlight the flaws in humanity and sure seem very dark and difficult for this to be considered a children’s story.


  • #   morganmbr on 11.16.12 at 1:32 pm     

    With the dark twist to angels and complex plot of the short story, I would not recommend this piece as being appropriate for children. Although some kids may be able to handle the story, others may get frightened and not be able to comprehend what is going on with the story or the themes within it. One of the themes in the story is that humans are insensitive and uncaring creatures when faced with anything unknown to them. This could cause unnecessary fear in children that if you are different or unique in character you will not be accepted in society and that they have to mold exactly to their culture.

    Morgan Reiner 2nd period


  • #   laurennd on 11.16.12 at 5:20 pm     

    I think that it is a children’s story even though there is deeper meaning and themes than a child would be able to comprehend, but when you are older you can comprehend it. It’s kind of like watching old Disney movies when you are a child and then again when you are older, you are able to understand more things and analyze it better later in life when, obviously, you know more.
    The story has many themes such as appearances/ stereotypes and how people perceive them which can make one appear more favorable. This is apparent when people expect the angel to not look like this old man with ugly wings so they feel as if he isn’t an angel, but the spider woman is very different and she talks to them to tell her story. There are other themes such as the fickleness of people, how people will do anything and use people to get rich, and the distinction between the natural and supernatural.


  • #   Sungkeun Kim on 11.16.12 at 7:45 pm     

    I believe this story has taught me many moral values such as always treat strangers as guests, and don’t rely on fame and fortune. This story contains many symbolic references such as the man with wings being an angel, death and abomination. I personally love this story because it has a feeling feeling of imagination and mystery by having the one strange creature existing in the world. If this story was real, i would be wondering what other mysterious and hidden secrets will be awaiting for discovery.


  • #   danielchin on 11.16.12 at 10:44 pm     

    Fantastic elements in this piece support the assertion that this is a children’s story. It also has elements that might be considered not kid appropriate by American film raters, as does “Hansel and Gretel” with the cannibal in the forest and “Cinderella” with the stepsisters cutting up their feet to fit into the slipper. Both are considered kid’s stories, yet usually leave such things out when children are the target audience. The element that makes it not a children’s story, however, is the ambiguity of theme. The author gets to the point, I think, with the Catholic Church, but other themes are more elusive. Children’s stories in my mind have more straightforward themes, generally, as Aesop’s Fables do.
    I found striking the general cruelty shown to the old man by everyone, and the resulting cynicism I’m getting from that. The people in the story are more selfish and greedy than they are compassionate. Only the angel, the spider lady, and maybe the priest/religious official who may or may not be a priest are the exceptions that come to mind. The priest is narrow-minded though, and the spider lady isn’t human. The angel/old man doesn’t quite show compassion for the people, but is patient with their treatment of him, and doesn’t try to kill them all or leave (until the end, after he stayed for a while). Of course, he too could be self-serving in getting somewhat free room and board, however bad, from the people. The author seems to be saying that people as a whole are selfish and impatient, shown by their treatment of the angel/old man and their flocking to the spider lady in contrast to the old man’s patience.


  • #   ntariq on 11.16.12 at 11:21 pm     

    At first reading this story I was really confused. I honestly didnt understand the moral or the theme or pretty much the point of reading this story!! But there are several themes that i have extracted from this story from reading it back twice. But after reading most of the comments I realize that most of you guys have found them, so reading it a 3rd time i came a across a smaller theme, which was Dont go with the Flow. It has to reflect a bit off the selfishness of the villagers. Becuase of the way everyone had mistreated the angel on the first day it had caused even the family to selfishly use him to make profit and mistreaet him. Even the priest of the village, who somewhat acknowledged the fact that this creature may be an angel, ignored it and let everyone continue with the mistreatment. Only once did the man treat the angel with kindness later on which was in secrecy by moving the creature from the coop to the shed, but even then locked him up and gave him no food nor water. In the begining we saw that there was atleast a decent amount of kindness from the husband and wife that they didnt immeadiatley kill the creature but even so, afterwards as the news spread of the creature, they began to follow everyone else and mistreat him. So..this is what i got from it. :D


  • #   xsofiatx on 11.17.12 at 3:52 pm     

    This short story is by no means a children’s tale in my opinion. Although there are multiple themes throughout the story, non of these really teach the fundamentals which young children need. I’m pretty sure even a small child would be disturbed by this story, as I myself was. The most striking theme that I found when reading this creepy tale was that Human beings by nature, have a very fickle attention span when it comes to entertainment. Throughout the story, the old man was tortured and treated cruelly just for the public’s amusement. When the public was introduced to the spider lady, they believed she was much more interesting than the bird man, since she actually talked to them and didn’t just lie around. The spider lady became the center of attention, and the old man just withered away up until his departure from his captor’s home. In short, humans by nature are amused by something for a short moment, and when that something is no longer deemed “amusing” are drawn to another, more interesting form of entertainment.


  • #   Michelle Bresnahan on 11.18.12 at 6:16 pm     

    Definitely forgot to do this earlier…

    I think like all good children’s stories the moral/theme can be applied to adults as well. Everyone needs a reminder every now and then. After reading this story I was reminded of the Golden Rule. It seemed that even though the Angel made the families circumstances better, they still continued to treat him like a circus animal. I also feel that is speaks volume that despite the cruel treatment imposed on the Angel, he didn’t react to anything. I find one of the themes to be sacrificing oneself for the greater good of others.


  • #   haleygwen on 11.19.12 at 8:33 am     

    I don’t believe this is a tale for children. Although it contains many themes, such as greed and the need to show kindness to others, I think many would go over the kids heads. Not to mention that they would probably get nightmares from the creepiness. The story has a fairy tale like potential, but I feel it is a little too eerie for kids. I think I would just stick to The Three Little Pigs.


  • #   mrscounts on 11.25.12 at 12:34 pm     

    Good insight not only into one of the primary themes of the story, but into humanity in general – which is, after all, the point of thinking about what we read :)


  • #   mmougridis on 11.25.12 at 3:39 pm     

    I believe this story is trying to tell people something but might not necessarily be for children. In class we really analyzed what the story was trying to tell us but a child wouldn’t do that and probably wouldn’t really understand what the story was about. I think the theme is that you need to treat others with respect and kindness. Although the Angle gave the family lots of gifts they never really returned the favor by helping the Angle.


  • #   ramsha2013 on 11.25.12 at 9:01 pm     

    Hi.. I’m so sorry I haven’t been able to do this yet.. I totally forgot and when I remembered I couldn’t find the story.. totally unorganized.. sorry.

    I find this story a bit unusual for a children’s book, I wouldn’t read something like this to my kids.. It’s sorta odd, I mean yes, it can teach good morals but on the other hand I feel it can be scarring to some.
    I think that this story teaches you to be nice to all and accept them as they are while putting your greed aside, but it also puts weird things in your head making you wonder from angels to demons. This story started from the couple finding an ‘Angel’ and suddenly the story took a twist into making their child feel better and them believing he’s an actual Angel. A bit outrageous and ridiculous, maybe it’s just me but, honestly this story gave me the chills.. This short story (wasn’t all that short actually) was well written but, I feel like it was a bit clustered like everything happened so suddenly that I kept losing myself. I would say that humanity and acceptance would be good morals or themes for this story, I liked it.. but it scared me a bit.. maybe I’m just weird like that..

    Well I hope you feel better Mrs.Counts :D <3


  • #   halliethompson94 on 11.25.12 at 9:50 pm     

    This short story did have many underlining themes and messages throughout it. However, I do not believe it should be a childrens story because I believe most children would not enjoy it and not be able to understand the meaning. This story does expresses many characteristics about humans, most were rather negative than positive. Many adults could learn valuable lessons from this story but I would keep it from children until they are able to true grasp and understand the messages conveyed by the author.


  • #   jenjen14 on 11.25.12 at 10:26 pm     

    So, I completely forgot to do this until today.
    The story is set up like a children’s story. It has a theme and teaches us about humanity. There is greed and selfishness in it that we see everyday. I, personally, do not think this should be a children’s story. It is mature and a little bit scary. If my mom or sister read this to me when I was little, I think I would have had nightmares.


  • #   Natalia Gomez on 11.26.12 at 5:31 pm     

    The underlying themes in this short story seemed to try to appeal less to kids, and more to adults. The depth in which Gabriel Garcia Marquez (who actually happens be one of my favorite authors after reading Love in the Time in Cholera) writes about the treatment of the angel from the poor family conveys the theme of man’s greedy nature, especially when one is in immediate need. A more insensitive theme than maybe most children can understand. I believe this story to not be true to a joyful spirited children’s story, but nevertheless a very interesting read.


  • #   nicmccutchan on 11.26.12 at 6:07 pm     

    Wish i had done this sooner…. But better late than never I hope. I liked this story but i have quite the feeling that this story was not at all made for children specifically. I think it has the life lessons children need to learn to succeed but that is seen in hindsight. Children would not quite be able to comprehend this story fully they would see it as a joke but with correct guidance they can receive the fruits the story bears. Such as the theme of mindless human greed illustrated by the family’s mistreatment of the angel profiting of of him with no remorse for what they were doing to him. Now children would sum this up to the family is just really mean but that’s an understatement by far. I believe this story was written for more developed minds so that they can read this and see how mush this story applies to human nature.


  • #   Ryan A. on 11.26.12 at 6:44 pm     

    I believe that this story isn’t specifically for children. I’m not saying they shouldn’t read it, but it is not a children’s story. In the story we can see the cruelty and selfishness that human beings can have. The people did not think of the angels feelings but only wished to be amused. They held him captive as if he was a circus animal instead of treating him with respect and dignity as the supernatural being that he was. I believe that the most striking theme that is presented in this story is ” the curious come from far away”. This is an interesting theme that we see in the story, with many people of all kinds of backgrounds and from various walks of life making journeys, long, and short to gawk at the supernatural being. This goes to show us that curiosity is present in the masses and by no means discriminates.


  • #   alexayala94 on 11.26.12 at 8:01 pm     

    This short story is a children’s story on the surface however, when you take a deeper look at the meaning of the work as a whole, it is definitely more complex. For example, the coexistence of cruelty and compassion is evident in this story. Although onlookers are cruel to the angel, he is patient and and stays. By staying, more onlookers come thus making more money for the family. The family shows compassion towards the angel by not kicking him out even after people stop coming to see him. There are other themes such as the frivolous nature of people and the distinction between the supernatural and natural.


  • #   wilsonmack on 11.26.12 at 9:16 pm     

    I find this story to be rather a discouragement to children rather then a gently guiding tale. Most Children Stories are written to teach children a lesson, the only applicable lesson I can find is that we should ostracize strangers. Not exactly a lesson we should teach our children. “Oh Johnny Dear, that little boy who looks different…. you should lock him in a cage with the chickens and point and laugh at him. ” Sound advice for our youth? I think not. However it is quite possible that this is not actually the lesson intended from the story. In which case I only wish we could share with the author the lack of clarity toward the moral of the story.
    To quote a semblance of Mrs. Counts, Some stories are merely for entertainment. Such as Twilight and A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings. However that said, I did enjoy the story it was refreshing that it didn’t portray inhumanly perfect and accepting characters. It was nice that the characters reacted in a more average human character. Although I must add that not many people I know would lock a man in a Chicken Coop no matter how strange.


  • #   samihac on 11.26.12 at 10:34 pm     

    Well, The first time I read this short story, I initially though that this story was extremely strange, weird, and even somewhat mystical. At first, it seemed hard to believe that this would be written for children because of the depth and complexity of the plot. However, the supernatural side of the story, like how the angel always followed the child’s actions, can be possibly entertaining for children. Many children are fascinated and lured in by fantasies and supernatural effects. A striking theme I found in this piece is that courage and perseverance can lead to hope and success. I find that even though this is a very common theme, it was very interesting of how Marquez crafted this in a very unique and unusual way. It is a common and central theme used in many children’s stories, but it is the way this theme is portrayed through the strange behavior of this angel that makes it almost seem as if it wasn’t meant for children


  • #   mchampion13 on 11.26.12 at 11:15 pm     

    I don’t know if I can saw this is a story written for children. It contains deep meaning that most children wouldn’t understand, and it has an almost dark storyline as the author describes how the people treat the man wih wings that is supposedly an angel. This could be an insight to how people treat religion, stowing it away in thier “chicken coop” to be used seldom and only when it benefits the person. It could be an insight on how humanity reacts to those that are different from them, first fear, then curiosity, then exploitation, then condencending indifference. The erader can take it how they like. Anyway, to answer the question, I don’t think this is a story written for children, but I do think that this is a story all children should someday read and think about.


  • #   shahkhan53 on 11.27.12 at 8:24 am     

    Although the story has been labeled as for children, it has much deeper and a mature meaning than children could easily interpret. The over all theme I understood from the story was a commentary on society, on how our greed will fuel us to seek a financial benefit from every situation. It also makes a comment about how people lose interest too quickly if they do not see the results they expect.


  • #   mwarren594 on 11.27.12 at 4:08 pm     

    While the lesson of “don’t treat others bad just because they are different” can be easily explained to children I think the adult crowd could find much more to explore in this story. All the Angel wanted was a chance to recover in peace, not to be exploited for money and entertainment. Those feelings of exploitation would be very hard to explain to a child. At the end even the family that prospered from the Angel’s presence was happy to see him go. They got what they wanted from him and didn’t want him anymore. A cautionary tale of how it’s never a good idea to take advantage of others.


  • #   mikeyparky on 11.27.12 at 4:51 pm     

    This story is definitely not for children. It includes themes that we should learn during high school not elementary. Stories for children should be happy and uplifting instead of displaying death and greed.

    Michael Park


  • #   franam on 11.27.12 at 7:38 pm     

    This is considered a children’s tale, however, it is loaded with dark imagery and a complex story that may be too sophisticated for a child to understand. This is a tale of an angel who is dehumanized because the townspeople do not understand what or who he is. People fear what they do not understand. When people don’t understand something, they dehumanize others. For instance, a lot of times women are dehumanized through objectification by setting them up as sex symbols, calling them names that I will not say here, or when men don’t see women as human they abuse them. This is not only with females, but also with race, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities or culture. Perhaps a reminder of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” would fit this tale nicely.


  • #   hinderisthebest on 11.27.12 at 11:20 pm     

    Well the story obviously wasn’t meant for children despite the title. Children’s stories sometimes make little sense, but they don’t have words that make 12th graders stop and think. Books for children are generally simple with an easily followed plot, so the child doesn’t lose interest..the story is extremely hard to follow and has symbolism that would only occur to people from the region. It is also way to graphic for a child, the description of the parasite infested rotting wings is not something a parent would read to a child. It has a nice message, at least I think it does. Honestly it wouldn’t suprise me if the author had written it to mess with people. Childrens book, no. Literature for a senior..NO! College professor that sits and analyzes stuff..maybe. Bet they get lost too, hopefully that was intentional on the authors part. The Author should stick to drawing, at least the picture is easily depicted and could be given/ shown to a child.


  • #   brandon142142 on 11.29.12 at 8:53 am     

    I think that this story really gives us an outside lookig in perspective on how society works. I know personally thought to myself when we first read this story, “how can I relate?” After awhile I realized that the answer is right in front of me. All throughout our lives we are constantly putting others down in order to prtect ourselves and what’s ours. It is human nature to defend from harm and most of the time we don’t consider the consequences for our actions. This story helped me to realize to be concious of my decisions and not only how they affect me, but how they affect others as while.

    Sorry for being so late…don’t hurt me!


  • #   madison7725 on 11.30.12 at 12:09 am     

    I find the story to be interesting in a way, because it’s not your typical children’s story that everyone hears. Although, it does speak to you about your morals. This may be considered a story for a child, but in a way it could also be to adults.
    This story reminds me of how I would want to be treated and how I should treat others. They did make the angels situation a little bit better, but they still treated him horribly. Yet, he never really did anything to stand up for himself. He still treated the others with respect and didn’t react to anything. I feel like one of the themes in this story is sacrificing oneself for the goodness of others.


  • #   robbiemay17 on 11.30.12 at 9:32 am     

    I’m a bit late but reading this passage i myself was a little confused because i did not understand the concept either. But as i read on i say tis passage can go both ways for being for children and somewhat not for children. I say yes its for children because it teaches kids great morals and does not shelter them from the harsh reality. But at the same time it doesn’t because you wouldn’t want your kid to be too open to the world at such a young age because some children can take the story in the wrong content an d be the one treating the others wrong. But its quite confusing to understand the difference. it would all depend on the parent and what they are trying to explore there children to and teach them.

    P.s my apologies for the late response. Im glad your surgery went well and your back!!!


  • #   Madison on 12.02.12 at 3:32 pm     

    Better late than never, right Mrs. Counts!?! ;)

    I think this children’s story is not necessarily appropriate for a young audience. The piece demonstrates how corrupt our world can be-which isn’t the average happy jolly children’s story. Reading this story to a young audience could distort a child’s idea of normal. So perhaps the author of this “childrens” story was messed up from the beginning. I think we should protect our young generations from the “real” world for as long as we can. I mean santa still exists-right?? And my mom is still super woman, Right??
    But in all honesty this story is too dark for an audience that isnt that mature. I think adults would learn more from it than children would.


  • #   andreaehlers on 12.03.12 at 9:10 am     

    This short story kind of bothered me. It showed the bad side if humanity; their greed and selfishness. The people kept the man like a show animal and it was like torture. I don’t really think that he was an angel either, if he was I believe that he could have made the situation different. Also there were many references to catholosim. This was supposed to be for children but I barely understood it. I think it was a little to complex to be a children’s story and it showed them poor examples of how people should treat others.


  • #   stephaniedyess on 12.03.12 at 9:10 am     

    I don’t believe this short story is necessarily appropriate for children. It was confusing to me as a reader and I haven’t been considered a child for years now. The writing is deep and dark too. Although the reoccuring theme of cruelty is obvious through out the short story, I think along with the theme of cruelty is the theme of human nature. We, humans, naturally do what will benefit us, regardless of what else occurs around us because of our actions. It’s a selfish act really, but we all do it.

    Sorry it’s so late Mrs.Counts 😳


  • #   audreyhazel on 12.03.12 at 9:38 am     

    As I was reading this story I found myself confused. I don’t think this story’s for children. I also think that as a whole, this piece is left open for interpretation. It’s very complex and I can’t entirely follow the author’s original theme.


  • #   leb60 on 12.18.12 at 9:11 am     

    i liked the story, but as i found out that it was written FOR kids, i thought it may have been t much. As an adutlt short story, sure, not as a childrens story. When the people are mean to the man with wings, it is graphic, to children, and the imagry isnt as pleasent as ” the blue horse flew” it has grusome parts, and sad parts, no happily ever afters are expected in this reading.


  • #   sunena on 12.19.12 at 5:49 am     

    There is of course a lesson to be learned from this story: It is cruel to be mean to people that are different. This is a lesson that children can learn. However, this story is not a children’s story. There are elements in this story that would give children nightmares if they truly understood the story. There are better, less threatening ways to show children the message of this story. For example, in Ella Enchanted we learn how cruel it is to be mean to different people (Ella was different because she had to obey every command anyone gave her) by her trials in being able to love “Prince Charming”. Children do not need to be exposed to the cruel actions (such as locking the angel into the chicken coop) of the poor family when the angel happens upon their lives. This is a great story for adults though, as everyone needs a reminder of the moral lesson that is learned from the actions of the poor family.


Leave a Comment