Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel tells the story of Sierva Maria de Todos los Angeles, a girl neglected by her parents who finds in the Yoruba faith of the slaves a refuge for her longings. In a South American seaport of the eighteenth-century, Sierva is bitten by a dog while she walked on the streets with Dominga de Adviento—a black woman in charge of taking care of the girl who became a Catholic without renouncing her Yoruban beliefs. Sierva is said to have contracted rabies when she starts behaving strangely.
Sierva’s mother, Bernarda Cabrera, a drug-dependent woman struggling to deal with a life of frustrations, is not capable of offering any assistance when the girl starts giving signs of madness seemingly caused by rabies. Her father, the Marquis of Casalduero, after many years neglecting his own daughter decides to commit himself to the healing of Sierva Maria as a means to bring some comfort to his troubled mind. These are the main characters developed by Mr. Marquez in order to build a complex plot that encompasses religion and moral issues and that is built upon a hidden historical context—the Spanish Colonization of Americas achieved through religious domination.
Garcia Marquez’s works are considered strong examples of magic realism, which is defined as a piece of fiction that brings together fantasy and realistic settings. From this perspective, it is possible to state that Of Love and Other Demons with the surreal struggles experienced by Marquez’s flawed characters shares some similarities with Edgar Alan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher where Roderick’s sister, who is said to suffer from catalepsy, is entombed alive and comes from death in a frightening evening to scary his brother. Therefore, within the genre of fiction, there are resemblances in the way authors play with fantasy and reality.
Of Love and Other Demons’ strength is the carrying of important symbols. The choice of a girl experiencing adolescence may be explained by Mr. Marquez’s attempt to depict the inhabitants of the new lands being discovered through the naivety of a twelve year old. Because Sierva was neglected by her parents, the girl decides to live with the slaves who accept her into their religion. She learns their customs and language, though the girl still lives in her parents’ house. Mr. Marquez deliberately puts together in the same setting two different worlds—that of the slaves where the Sierva finds happiness and that of her parents with whom all she can find is emptiness.
In conclusion, for Mr. Marquez’ background as a Columbian-born, the author is likely to carry with him a particular interest in the topic of the Spanish colonization in Latin America. In the beginning of the book, the author makes clear how tales passed along by relatives played a major role in his digging in that topic. Through his flawed characters and their idiosyncrasies, Mr. Marquez reminds us that forbidden love represents a universal theme in World Literature as the following passage reinforces:
“In the days that followed, they had no more than a few moments of calm while they were together. They never tired of talking about the sorrows of love. They exhausted themselves in kisses, they wept burning tears as they declaimed lovers’ verses, they sang into each other’s ear, they writhed in quicksands of desire to the very limits of their strength: spent, but virgin. For he had resolved to keep his vow until he received the sacrament, and she with it” (Marquez, 127).