Writing Response 3

Anthony Bianco

Professor Alvarez

ENGL 363

18 October 2011

Torn Existence: The Transition of Time in Gabriel García Márquez’s “Nabo: The Black Man Who Made the Angels Wait”

Gabriel García Márquez’s “Nabo: The Black Man Who Made the Angels Wait,” contains two different sets of time lapses. The first set is human years in which Nabo’s supposed slave owners keep him locked up in a delirious state while he is holding on to his life by a thread. The second involves more of an abstract approach, in which the “man who patted his knees,” who is supposedly a metaphor for the angel, has been waiting for an “eternity” for Nabo to awake and join the choir. García Márquez writes:

Nabo couldn’t feel anything. It was as if he’d gone to sleep with the last blow of the horseshoe on his forehead and now that was the only feeling he had. He opened his eyes. He closed them again and then was quiet, stretched out, stiff, as he had been all afternoon, feeling himself growing without time, until someone behind him said: “Come on, Nabo. You’ve slept enough already.” He turned over and didn’t see the horses; the door was closed. (73)

Several phrases throughout this short story indicate passages of time, yet under a different context each time. For example, in the quote above, “…feeling himself growing without time,” is Nabo experiencing the fifteen human years passing in a mild conscious state. Although he is relatable to a senile old man, or homeless people muttering random nonsense on public transportation, Nabo is capable of feeling pain, hence making him slightly conscious. Yet, he is stuck in between two worlds at the same time when the “man who patted his knees” is asking Nabo to wake up from his eternal sleep. Some may argue that this man is merely a hallucination of Nabo’s, undermining his significance in the story. What they fail to realize is that the man is actually the angel that is mentioned in the title. He is the supernatural aspect of this particular García Márquez story and proves to be quite patient and tranquil when dealing with Nabo’s awakening. It is mentioned that Nabo was very keen to singing while he curried the horses. This is reflected in the angel’s consistent dialogue in which he presses Nabo to wake up in order to join the choir. It’s as if the angel is waiting for Nabo to die so that he can take him away to his ideal heaven: an angel choir where Nabo can happily sing forever in peace. The choir is a metaphor for death and the mute girl yelling out Nabo’s name at the end of the story is a metaphor for life and consciousness. Nabo is torn between two different realms, life and death.

Manfred Jahn explains the reasoning behind these time lapses through the function of an ellipsis:

A stretch of story time which is not textually represented at all. “The discourse halts, though time continues to pass in the story” (Chatman 1978: 70). Some critics consider ellipsis a special case of speed-up. Genette (1980 [1972]: 93, 95, 106-109); Rimmon-Kenan (1983: 53); Toolan (1988: 56). (Jahn N5.2.3)

Every time Nabo seems to transition from one stage of his life to the next, an ellipsis is silently placed into the text. For example, “…feeling himself growing without time,” indicates a large passage of time with minimal wording. This eventually builds up to the conclusion of the story in which Nabo has fully grown from a young boy to a fully-grown adult. Turns out the kick to his face didn’t impede on Nabo’s growth spurt when his slave owners fed him three meals a day. Nabo’s refusal to die is expressed when he is set on finding the comb that he used to tend the horses’ tails with. Nabo is stuck in limbo, torn between two different worlds.

Works Cited

Jahn, Manfred. “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative.” Poems, Plays, and Prose: A Guide to the Theory of Literary Genres. Cologne: U of Cologne Press, 2002. http://www.uni-koeln.de/~ame02/pppn.htm October 18, 2011.

Garcia Márquez, Gabriel. “Nabo: The Black Man Who Made the Angels Wait.”             Collected Stories Trans. Gregory Rabassa and J.S. Bernstein. New York, NY:                     HarperCollins, 1984. 73-82. Print.

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6 thoughts on “Writing Response 3

  1. I think you did a good job with showing your topic of time and how it plays a role in Nabo. Time is definitely something we encounter in many of the stories this semester. I like the way you talk about the different kinds of time lapses and show where you got them from within the story, try to get rid of some to be verbs , I seem to also be having problems with the to be verbs. Other than that i think its pretty much to the point that you are trying to get across of how time plays out in Nabo and how there are different notions of it. Good Luck with finals.

  2. Anthony, if you really want to focus on the time transition within this short story you may want to talk about the stream of conciousness that we see in Nabo’s character. You can also include Jahn’s term “anachrony” (deviation in story line). I liked how you incorporated the non textual story line, I think that’s a really good point and you can also relate that to story time vs. discourse time. I think you have a really good start to your final paper with this topic. I believe all the stories we read in this class had some kinds of anachronies so you may just want to skim through all the novels again just to gain an “I” section really describing what a deviation in time is and how it may help or not help the novel to advance.

  3. Anthony,
    Your claims about Marquez’s intent on interpretation for his short story are very interesting. I feel like this response is very strong, however you asked for comments on it so here they are:
    I feel like you use mixed language in this reponse, you use ‘some may argue’, ‘ supposed’ and ‘ supposedly’, I was always taught that when you write in a scholarly manner the reader knows that writers express their own opinions, so I feel that the some may argue is not neccessary because you’re arguing, not some. Also supposedly and supposed minimize your position of authority. Another voice you use I could call a joking voice or a playful voice when you say ” relatable to a senile old man or homeless people muttering random nonsense”, I think this is funny but I’m not sure if funny expressess your authority or thoughts well.
    Another criticism i had was that after the explaination of the quote from Nabo it feels like the response should be over. You went through the entire story and I feel little reason to keep reading. Maybe you should move up your Jahn interpreation and interpret text in a linear manner and end with the passage before the Jahn quote because that ending seems strongest.
    Just some thoughts
    Caitlin Machicote

  4. Hi Anthony,
    For starters thanks for pointing out my typo w/ “sacrifice” (that’s so embarrassing- I have to remember to correct it after I type out this comment. I really appreciate it). I am going to respect your request and give some comments for this response. If you are interested in time in Garcia Marquez’s short stories, I think it would be worthwhile to check out that extremely long ending paragraph in the story, you know the one the runs on without a period in site for like a page. Well, it would be cool to compare discourse and story time (I forgot where that is in the Jahn article, but it’s there) and how these two different types of time can collapse. Also, I think you should look closely at grammar, syntax, and sentence structure and merge that with concepts about time. I thought it was interesting how you refer to Nabo being stuck in between worlds; this made me this of the separation between the body and mind because he is there physically, but his mind is somewhere else. What about weaving in the earthly versus the spiritual (because he is a man and there are numerous references to an angel…hey what about that other story about the man with enormous wings. Maybe you could pull that into your paper as well?) I also think it would be cool to see how you will overlap Garcia Marquez’s stories and time to Latin American Literary Theory.

  5. Anthony, nice job with the response especially liked the title. I personally think you should add the terminology before going into Garcia Marquez’s quote. You can also add more of Jahn’s ideas like the two main types of anachrony which are flashbacks and flashforwards. Take a look at Jahn N5.2.1. You can also go into how the events that happened 15 years ago are being told in the present as if they occurred now. To include more from the short story you can add the quote where it states Nabo was asleep for almost 2 years. (I would have looked up the quote but I don’t have the book on me anymore).

  6. Anthony, nice job using the information generated in class to write this response. I think you have a strong analysis here with time, but now the next question you have to ask is–just like your classmate Rehana asked–why? Why write a story like this? Why make this experiment? What does it accomplish? How does playing with time affect telling a story? is another question related to that.

    I like the title. One suggestions, maybe the “Transitions” of time since you’re dealing with pluralities of time.

    I see in this response a possible outline for reading time and magic in this short story. It would need some more development, but I see you doing three things: 1. analyzing time phrases 2. making a case for divine time and 3. bringing in the idea of ellipses. This looks good, but you would need probably two PIE paragraphs for each of those numbered points. Once you did that, you would have a solid section to an article.

    Make sure you cut ellipses you add when you quote, like, “. . . quote . . .” if you add them, use [. . .] if they are in the quote, you leave them, but don’t add them if you don’t need to.

    The MLA works cited needs to be in alphabetical order. Also the Jahn is not correct. Check the Purdue OWL for citing electronic sources from the web.

    Finally, you need to get rid of some “to be” verbs because I’ll take off points for those in all the responses from here on out, as well as for your final essay.

    4.5 out of 5 possible points

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