The Colonel as a Symbol of Dignity against the Injustices of Power

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The juxtaposition between power and oppression is vividly portrayed in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s No One Writes to the Colonel. The novel depicts the life of a former colonel who is burdened by poverty because he never received his pension from the government. He and his wife are also coping with the death of their son, which only adds to their depressive condition. Also, the novel explores the corruption of the political system and the injustices that many war veterans endured during that period. But even though the colonel is poor, he refuses to surrender his dignity even in the face of authority. Essentially, the colonel’s pride and dignity enables him to overcome obstacles, which is a form of opposition against powerful officials.

Throughout the story, the colonel continued to wait for his pension check. For over 15 years, he had been waiting to receive his pay from the government. This shows the oppression that he endured after the war and the control that the political officials had over his life. Also, his wife’s illness and the desolate conditions in which they lived further illustrated the colonel’s impoverishment. His son’s death is representative of the grief that they each suffered as well. Thus, the only remaining memory of their son was the cockfighting rooster, which stood as a symbol of hope for the couple in spite of the political oppression.

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The novel explores the political censorship during that time by describing the different places, which had signs prohibiting political discussion. Thus, the novel revealed the power strain between the political forces and the citizens. According to Ahmad & Afsar, in Marquez’s works, he is “openly hostile to his country’s politics and is critical of the power game going on between the Conservatives and the Liberals, as it is this power game that leads to exploitation and ultimately causes anarchy” (2). Also, the novel like many novels written by Latin writers during the 20th century, illustrated the effects of colonialism and political repression, which “often provoked a decaying sink-hole phenomenon that caused townsfolk to reminisce about the decline of their town and their lost identity” (Mishina 274).

Thus, the novel clearly shows the colonel’s resistance to the power structure. He even refused to acknowledge his own destitute state even in front of his wife. “I’m thinking about the employee that pension depends on,’ the colonel lied. ‘In fifty years, we’ll be peacefully six feet under, while that poor man will be killing himself every Friday waiting for his retirement pension” (Marquez 45). His denial of the harsh reality in which he lived further showed his pride and refusal to accept the oppression in which he lived. Ultimately, the colonel remain dignified by trying to conceal his oppression, and his pride served as a form of political protest.

Thus, the colonel refused to give in to the power structure and this resistance provided him with a sense of unfaltering courage. Also, the prizewinning rooster was a source of value for him. Once belonging to his deceased son, he knew the value of the rooster and used it as a way to show his power and control even though he continued to live in extreme poverty. Thus, the rooster symbolized hope and was also a symbol of the colonel’s pride. His son was killed because of his political resistance, so the rooster represents his son’s bravery and diligence as well. According to McIntyre, “the fighting cock comes to incarnate the spirit of radical resistance to dictatorship: it represents a hope for democracy and freedom and justice” (22). Overall, the rooster reflects the colonel’s opposition to political powers and the value he holds for his own self-worth.

Essentially, Marquez’s novel explores the power battle between the government and citizens. It also reveals the oppression and poverty that many people endured, even war veterans during that period. Thus, the colonel holds onto his dignity by refusing to show how his impoverished condition has affected him and his wife. His initial refusal to sell his valuable prize-winning rooster represents the power that he held onto and his political resistance. Overall, the rooster was a symbol of dignity and the lasting memory of his son, which held significant value to the colonel.

  • Ahmad, Mustonivz & Afsar, Ayaz. “Magical Realism, Social Protest and Anti-Colonial Sentiments in One Years of Solitude: An Instance of Historiographic Metafiction. Asian Journal of Latin American Studies 27.2 (2014): 1-26. Web. EBSCOhost.
  • Marquez, Gabriel G. No One Writes to the Colonel. New York: Penguin Books, 1968.
  • McIntyre, John C. “Nuturing cats, goats and fighting cocks in Wade, Solzhenitsyn and Garcia Marquez. Rusistika: Russian Journal of the Association for Language Learning 31 (2006): 20-24. Web. EBSCOhost.
  • Mishina, Faith N. “The Framework for Expansion: The First Half of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s
    Strategic Postcolonial Thought. International Journal of the Humanities 9.7. (2011): 273-283. Web. EBSCOhost.

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