García Márquez is not shy about exploiting a metaphor; but this cholera trope, unlike the quickly wilted rose metaphor, survives its multiple uses. The reason is that it points to a natural and classic symmetry, that between love and death, Eros and thanatos. So despite the fact that the metaphor is used not only frequently but for multiple purposes—to bring characters together or to highlight their emotional states—it continues to ring true. Love and death dance together in the novel, and it is a close dance.
In fact, García Márquez lets us know that nothing the novel describes, none of its loves, would have happened were it not for cholera. One of the 19th century cholera epidemics, we are told, wiped out a quarter of Cartagena’s population in only three months. And it is right after this particularly deadly cholera outbreak that Lorenzo Daza, a shady, widowed trader, arrives in Cartagena, like an opportunistic buzzard.
08 April 2008
Marcelo Ballvé explores how García Márquez subverts cliché in an essay on Love in the Time of Cholera: