One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the chronicle of the exploits of the Buendia family and their town, Macondo. Oddly for his time, Marquez punctuates his novel with strong female characters who frequently have a large amount of control over the men in the story. These women have many different talents and affect the town in diverse ways, from inspiring extreme passion to causing death. It is through their control over his male characters, sexually, financially and morally, that Marquez displays the often subtle but ever-present, unwavering power of women. Throughout One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez uses his dynamic female characters to illustrate many different facets of the power of women, one of the themes of his novel.
One of the most inherent aspects of feminine power is sexuality; Marquez uses diction to illustrate his female characters’ sexual power. Pilar Ternera and Remedios the Beauty are the characters with the most sexual power in One Hundred Years of Solitude and they are both characterized as being irresistible; that is, men have no choice whether or not to be attracted to them, which gives that sexual power over to Pilar and Remedios. Even early in his relationship with Pilar, Jose Arcadio “understood that he had to go see her, even if he were not capable” (26). Merely days after they meet each other Pilar has captivated Jose Arcadio to the point that he suffers from exhaustion during the day in order to be with her each night. Remedios unknowingly takes this powerful, obsessive attraction to a fatal level. When the commander of Macondo’s guard confesses his love for her, saying that “he’s dying because of [her],” she rejects him and they later “[find] him dead beside her window” (197). Her allure is so potent that she inspires men to disregard their own safety in order to see her, like the man who climbs onto her bathroom roof “[begging] her […] to marry him” and ultimately falls through the rotten tiles to his death (232). Marquez elevates her magnetism to a mythological level with his description of her scent that “kept on torturing men beyond death” and the “amber-colored oil that was impregnated with that secret perfume” and poured from the man’s skull instead of blood (233). Marquez also uses his female characters to demonstrate women’s political power. Ursula Iguaran Buendia, wife of Jose Arcadio Buendia and matriarch of the Buendia family, is the most politically and economically powerful woman in One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is Ursula who “[predisposes] the women of the village against the flightiness of their husbands” when the plan to relocate Macondo becomes more than a distant possibility; Jose Arcadio Buendia, founder of the town and mastermind of the plan to move it, is completely unaware of the “adverse forces” put in place by his wife until the rest of the men no longer want to transplant Macondo (13). “His wife’s will was firm” and because of Ursula’s political power within the town Macondo remained at its original location. Ursula even had the ability to control her town during one of the most chaotic times in its history; when Colonel Aureliano Buendia charges the protection of Macondo to his nephew, Arcadio, in order to go fight in the war, the power goes to Arcadio’s head (104). At the peak of his rule he had become “the cruelest ruler that Macondo had ever known,” but his attempted execution of Don Apolinar Moscote was the last cruelty Ursula could stand from her grandson. She prevented Don Moscote’s death by whipping Arcadio “without mercy” until he “curled up like a snail in its shell,” and her outburst saw Arcadio’s squad members fleeing “fearful that Ursula would go after them too” (105). This violent restoration of sanity and a modicum of peace to Macondo “from that time on [made Ursula] the one who ruled in the town” (105). Marquez uses this