Years of Solitude One Hundred Years Solitude EssaysSolitude, Solidarity, and Sexuality in One Hundred Years of Solitude
Soledad in Spanish means more than our word “solitude,” although it means that too.
It suggests loneliness, the sense of being apart from others. Although ultimately each human being is alone, because there are parts of our experience we cannot share, some people are more solitary than others. The really solitary figures in this novel are those who deliberately cut themselves off from other humans. They are contrasted with characters who combat their solitude, by making strenuous efforts to reach out to others.
The founder of Macondo, Jose Arcadio Buendia, is the first great solitary. He becomes so obsessed with his own search for truth that he neglects his family and ultimately loses all touch with outer reality. His wife, Ursula, is perhaps the greatest of the antisolitary figures, the person who more than anyone else holds the family and the house together. She takes in a foster child and later insists on rearing the bastard children of her sons and grandsons.
Her whole life is devoted to strengthening social bonds.
Pilar Ternera, the fortuneteller, is also an antisolitary. Her role is to comfort the Buendia men and, in her younger years, to go to bed with them and bear their children. At the end of the book and of her own very long life (she has stopped counting birthdays after one-hundred forty-five), she is the madame of a wonderful zoological brothel, which in this context stands for a generous, bountiful sexuality.
There is a lot of sex in the novel, most of it celebrating the size and potency of the Buendia men’s phalluses or the lubricity of the women. Sex can be used to combat solitude, because of its power to connect one person to another. Even the two rapes in the novel result in close bonding: Jose Arcadio Buendia rapes his bride Ursula to begin the family line (second chapter), and the last Aureliano rapes Amaranta Ursula (who is not, however, very resistant), who will bring forth the last of the line. However, for sex to really work against solitude, it must be joyful, loving sex.
The colonel, after all, has had lots of women, but he doesn’t remember any of them (except perhaps his deceased child bride) and shows no affection toward his bastard sons. He is never depicted as cruel sexually, simply indifferent. And thus he is condemned to loneliness.