Since the beginning of time, man has clung to the notion that there exists some external force that determines his destiny.
In Grecian times, the epic poet Hesiod wrote of a triumvirate of mythological Fates that supposedly gave “to men at birth evil and good to have”. In other words, these three granted man his destiny. Clotho “spun the thread of life,” Lachesis distributed the lots, and Atropos with his “abhorred shears” would “cut the thread at death” (Hamilton-43). All efforts to avoid the Fates were in vain.
In every case, their sentence would eventually be delivered. And it appears that once the Fates’ ballot had been cast, the characters in Greek myths had no chance for redemption. One must wonder if man, like the Greeks portrayed, has any real choice in determining how he lives. That issue of choice arises when comparing Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Yasunari Kawabata’s Thousand Cranes. The men in Yasunari Kawabata’s Thousand Cranes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude forever seem to be repeating the lives of their male ancestors.
These cycles reveal that man as a being, just like the mythological heroes, has no true choice in the ultimate course his life will take. The male characters’ personal development is overshadowed by the identity of their ancestors. Clotho, it appears, has recycled some of her spinning thread. The new male generations, superficially, are perceived to be woven of like design. Kikuji Mitani and the male Buendia’s face communities that remember their ancestors. As a result, their unique communities inadvertently compare the actions of the sons to their respective fathers’, having recognized the apparent similarities.
Eclipsed by his father’s aura, within his village, Kikuji’s identity has no separate definition. To most townsfolk, like those at Chikako’s tea ceremony, Kikuji exists as “Old Mr. Mitani’s son” (16). He and his father are therefore viewed as essentially the same person. Kikuji can take no action to change the village’s preformed perception. In contrast, the Aurelianos and Jose Arcadios have been set into a self that their name, not their upbringing, dictates.
Ursula, after many years, drew some conclusions about “the insistent repetition of names” (106) within the Buendia family. While the eldest Jose Arcadio Buendia was slightly crazy, his raw maleness is transferred to all the Jose Arcadios that follow. They tended to be “impulsive and enterprising” though “marked with a tragic sign” (186). On the other hand, the Aurelianos, corresponding to the open-eyed Colonel, seem to be “indifferent” (15) and “withdrawn” (186) yet sparked with “fearless curiosity” (15). The Aurelianos’ tendency towards solitude that shut the Colonel away in his later years would, generations later, give his distant descendant Aureliano Babilonia the stamina to decipher Melquiades’ scriptures (422).
Together, this perfunctory family tradition seemed to influence the course these men’s lives would take in the same way that Kikuji’s perception by his community lopped him into the path of his father. And just as Kikuji could not change the village’s preformed opinions, the named Buendia males can have no hand in changing their given characters. The men’s selection of lovers, in turn, continues to perpetuate their cycle of behavior shared with their relatives. Despite warnings, Kikuji Mitani and the Buendia men engage in hazardous sexual activity that harbors grave consequences. Lacheis’ lots, in this case, are inevitable.
Choice and independent action are impossible for these men since Lacheis has distributed the familial key to their female attractions. There is an eerie twist in Kikuji’s Mitani’s love affairs with his father’s mistress and her daughter. His first encounter with Mrs. Ota leaves Kikuji suspicious of the affair where, age-wise, “Mrs. Ota was at least forty-five, some twenty years older than Kikuji” (28). However, despite the generation gap, during their encounter, Kikuji had felt that he “had a woman younger than he in his arms” (28). Mrs. Ota had substituted Kikuji as his father, thus forcing Kikuji to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Kikuji is not oblivious to the strange path his love life seems to be taking, yet he does nothing to resist. Instead, a defiant Kikuji, asserting that he had not been seduced, determines it was something else that had drawn him to her. The “something else” was generational fate stepping in to turn the cycle, overriding Kikuji’s notion to choose. Later, when Kikuji takes Fumiko, this patterned love affair cycles once again. He is doing the same thing as his father had done before him but with the next generation. Though Kikuji does not feel guilt about the association (93), he cannot explain why he chose Fumiko over a near-perfect Inamura girl.
In the Buendia family, too, sexual relationships provide evidence for a continuing predestined cycle. Only in One Hundred Years of Solitude do these relations exist in the form of incest. From the beginning of the novel, the Buendia family is aware of the dangers of interbreeding. A preoccupied Ursula is apprehensive about consummating her love with Jose Arcadio Buendia because of the family legend of an incestuous Pig’s tail (20). Nevertheless, she abandons her fears of a mutant offspring under the heavy persuasion of Jose Arcadio Buendia and succumbs to the marriage. In the years to follow, the pattern of incest continues when Jose Arcadio sleeps with Pilar Ternera (30-31).
Jose and Pilar are not related through blood, but Jose Arcadio had come to look at Pilar as a comforting mother. In that scope, the phenomenon becomes based on a sense of safety that rests in the family, not just on lust. Once again, their relationship becomes incestuous. With nearly every incestuous love affair that comes to the front among the Buendias thereafter, the woman warns of the curse, but the man presses on.
And for one hundred years, though time and time again characters commit the sin of incest, the Buendia curse is not fulfilled. In the end, however, when Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano unknowingly unite, they reenact the fated Buendia curse of years before. Born to them is a child with “the tail of a pig” (417). The pattern of the Buendias’ incestuous choice is so uncanny and so repetitive that, like Kikuji’s reliving of his father’s life, it becomes evident that the phenomenon is far more than a simple coincidence. Kawabata and Marquez are distributing the males these lots to show how small the individual’s role is in determining his fate. Though the men make various attempts to stray from fate’s path, their efforts prove futile as their struggles always bring them back to where they began.
When Atropos decides to snip away at their livelihoods, their valiant efforts to outwit and avoid are no match for their chosen fate. Nevertheless, at one point or another, both Kikuji and the Buendia men naively attempt to override their fate. While not always a conscious effort, their futile divergence always results in failure, reaffirming the strength of their predestination. Being an inert character, Kikuji often fails to take action. Thus, his rebellion is manifested in thoughts of disagreement.
Chikako is a constant source of unpleasantness for Kikuji. He is disgusted with himself for having let her take some control of his life. Yet Kikuji, like his father, cannot seem to rid himself of the intrusive Chikako. In response to the neuter’s meddling, Kikuji takes slanderous shots behind her back. He complains to Mrs.
Ota of Chikako’s “Poison” (30), but he refuses to confront her. Thus, he cannot get her out of his life, and his fated oppression continues. Kikuji’s thoughts of divergence take hold again when he realizes that something is wrong with becoming involved with Fumiko. With her, he is tormented, “conscious of Fumiko’s mother, Mrs. Ota,” (132) but through his inaction, Kikuji lets himself be pulled into another devastating relationship that ultimately ends in the suicide of his newfound love.
His thoughts symbolized his divergence, yet his inert tendencies keep him on the course life had laid. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano went beyond assuming tradition by investigating if they were in any way related. In doing this, they made a conscious effort far superior to any Buendia before them to examine their relationship and prevent incest. Indeed, they knew the danger associated with incest, so they tried to avoid it. Their efforts, of course, proved in vain. Their inquiry remained superficial as they “accepted the version of the basket” (415).
Aureliano Babilonia was trying to “spare themselves” one “terror” (415) but ultimately exchanged it for the true destruction that fate would bring. The couple had the chance to further probe but stopped short and took the easy route of fate’s guidance. This comfortable path led them to the final deliverance. Their fate is fulfilled when a child with a tale of a pig is born unto them. Their horror is comparable to Kikuji when he learns of Fumiko’s suicide and finds himself left only with the despised Chikako.
The quest for the most meaningful life had been swiftly cut for these males despite their ardent objections. The modern world may not believe in the Grecian Fates, but that doesn’t destroy the value of their underlying theme. The Fates were an attempt by men to explain the unexplainable, the coincidences in the odd. In One Hundred Years of Solitude and Thousand Cranes, there are many events that can’t be explained rationally, specifically why the male characters continue to repeat actions that promise condemnation. Thus, the character’s efforts to shape his destiny ultimately become futile in the face of the desires of some unknown manipulator – characterized by the theme of Fate.