Love in the Time of Cholera

Setting (Time, Place, Influence)

Love in the Time of Cholera takes place over about a span of 50 years from the end of the 19th Century to the 20th Century. Though the plot transcends several cities, our characters spend the majority of their time in a run-down Columbian town nearby the sea. The time period during which this story takes place, the social situation in Columbia, and the local economy are all factors in the reason why there is straight-up sewage in the streets and everyone is dying of disease. What a shit-hole! (Lol) This story was originally entitled "El amor en los tiempos del cólera", written by Gabo in Spanish, and was translated into English…this explains why the meaning behind certain phrases and can seem awkward and "no good"…also the fact that this is Magical Realism (oooooh) and that means Gabo can say whatever he wants and get away with it. And he does. (WHolt)


Section 1-

The book begins as Dr. Urbino must deal with the corpse of his friend, and chess competitor, Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, after he kills himself with cyanide so that he does not grow old. Dr. Urbino finds out his friend also had a secret lover for half his life in a letter and goes to see her. When Dr. Urbino returns home he finds servants trying coax his cherished, and very intelligent, parrot out of a tree and the fire department is called. We learn about Fermina and Urbino's daily routine and the huge fight they had over soap after celebrating their 50th anniversary. The couple returns home after the silver anniversary luncheon to see the firemen made a mess of the house. Urbino almost forgot about his bird until he heard it squawk. He tries to climb the ladder to catch it, but falls to his death. Urbino's death causes morning for large numbers of people because he was so well-respected in town. Florentino appears at the funeral and confesses fifty years of love to Fermina, who kicks him out. (LL)

Section 2

Section 2 is where it all hits the fan as far as Florentino and Fermina's youthful love affair. Beginning with Florentino's delivery of the telegram to Lorenzo Daza, Florentino and Fermina fall into a "devastating love" (68) and are passionately in love through their letters. Florentino is consumed by his love for Fermina, and the magical realism that is evident throughout the book appears when Florentino gets drunk off of a bottle of cologne and eats roses out of his love. We also meet Lotario Thugut, Florentino's musical instructor and mentor in business who likes to frequent the brothel. Fermina is also kicked out of school in this section for writing Florentino letters in class, which prompts Lorenzo to have a talk with Florentino to tell him to get out of the Daza's way. Lorenzo then takes Fermina on a trip to separate her from Florentino, which doesn't work until they return and Fermina realizes the unimportance of her relationship with Florentino and dismisses him from her life upon seeing him. Poor Florentino…(RLucas)

Section 3

After Fermina’s rejection of Florentino, a new man (Dr. Urbino) pursues her love with the encouragement of her father, Lorenzo Daza. A well renowned doctor, Juvenal Urbino contrasts the bland, unimportant man that is Florentino Ariza and eventually, after much time and effort, succeeds in gaining Fermina’s hand in marriage. Meanwhile, Florentino struggles to overcome his loss of Fermina and, after losing his virginity, decides that this can only be achieved by getting with lots and lots of other women. This is the kickoff to his overwhelming creepiness. Fermina too loses her virginity in this section after several weeks of illness on her honeymoon with Dr. Urbino. Though the couple did not marry for love, they seem to get along quite well by the end of the section. (RLovejoy)

Section 4
Section 5
Section 6

Fermina and Florentino reconnect. Florentino attends Dr. Urbino's memorial and begins writing Fermina multiple letters a week, eventually leading to weekly Tuesday afternoons together in Fermina's home. Although Florentino does hang out with America at times, Marquez shows Florentino abandoning his old, promiscuous ways through America's suicide. Throughout the section we watch them grow closer, and it ends with Florentino fulfilling his dreams through the Pleasure Cruise; in which, they kick all other passengers off of the boat, claiming they have cholera, and fly the cholera flag so that they can spend the rest of their lives together, without judgement, on the river. (awan)


Florentino Ariza

This man is something else. Is he a bro, is he a pedophile, is he creepy, is he romantic, is he weird, or he just like all of us? I can't tell you a decisive answer on that one, but this is all I can say definitively: he has a passion, Fermina Daza, and despite the odds and obvious rejections of his love, he pursues this passion as one should, fervently, delicately, and consistently. In that I regard, I respect the man that is Florentino Arize. His means can sure be creepy; his love wildly inappropriate. But in the end, I am able to look past these offenses and enjoy the pure love of life shown by Mr. Ariza. If passion only existed in the quantities known to Florentino…well, life would be much more passionate and potentially more fun. (BMITT)

Florentino is a consistently creepy and odd character. He adoration for Fermina stems from a youthful romance that was grounded in almost nothing. He has always thought passionately about Fermina from the time she was thirteen, but as a child she did not return his affection with the same fervor and thus his relationship with her is primarily one sided. After Fermina rejects Florentino, he slips into his obsessive, stalker like, behavior which drives his actions for the majority of the book. Florintino finds that having sex with MANY women is the only way he can live with out Fermina and so he lives through the next 50 years having sex with hundred of women and watching and pining Fermina from afar. Florintino's character really only recovers in the last chapter, when is unrequited love for Fermina finally turns into a real relationship between two people in their 70's. (Molly)

Fermina Daza

The plot of the story centers around the beautiful Fermina Daza. Both Florentino and Juevenal Urbino pursue the daughter of the shady character, Lorenzo. In Florintino’s pursuit of her, Fermina coyly accepts his letters but is fickle in her decision to “break up” with him. Florentino’s romantic wiles are lost on Fermina. Fermina evades an engagement to the man of humble beginnings and instead, influenced by her care-free cousin Hildebranda, slowly succumbs to the heavy pursuit of Dr. Urbino. In her long marriage to Urbino, Fermina loses some sense of herself, instead submitting to the demands of her husband and hanging in limbo between love or “not love.” In Urbino’s death Fermina gains independence as she gradually begins to see and build a relationship with her old creeper, or lover, Florentino. (AG-Tagoe)

Juvenal Urbino

Our boy Juvenal is a successful doctor who is well respected and generally appreciated around town for his medical skill. He goes to medical school in Paris and comes back with some lofty expectations to cure the cholera epidemic that is festering in the decaying corners of Colombia. An up and coming star in the professional world, he is the perfect man for Fermina Daza to fall for. Unlike with Florentino, she does not have to take any risks with Dr. Urbino. Overall Juvenal seems like a pretty good guy until he cheats on Fermina in the later part of their marriage. His life comes to a tragic end when he falls off some kind of step-ladder trying to retrieve a pet parrot. He blew it! (HW)

Leona Cassiani:

Leona Cassiani is “the true woman in [Florento’s] life although neither of them ever knew it and they never made love” (182). Florentino rescues Leona from the streets and gives her a job as his personal assistant in his uncles company, the RCC. However, Leona proves to be a capable and diligent woman who earns the respect of both Florentino and his uncle Leo XII, which enables her to move up the ranks, but she refuses to take the position above Florentino as a gesture of gratitude. Florentino often calls her “lion lady of my soul” as a sign of affection and respect (291). Moreover, Leona feels a maternal love for Florentino; once when Florentino tries to make a move, she says no to him because “[she] would feel as if [she] were going to bed with a son [she] never had” (188). Leona and Florentino’s relationship is warm and long-lasting because during his days of waiting for Fermina, Leona keeps him company and takes care of him when he is ill. Florentino, being so close to Leona, also has to try very hard to stop himself from telling Leona his hopes about Fermina (Tai)

America Vicuña
America Vicuña entered the life of Florentino Ariza at the age of fourteen from the fishing village of Puerto Padre. Florentino was legally entrusted to be her legal guardian; however, he abused this trust and sense of comfort to take advantage of the young girl. Continuing their relationship for an extended amount of time (complete with disgusting references to the sex between a fourteen year old girl and man over sixty…ewww), Florentino utilizes a small room attached to his offices for their "Sunday siestas." As Florentino finally begins a friendship with Fermina Daza after fifty one years of pursuing her and watching her from afar, he tells America that he is going to marry. After this admission, America has a difficult time in reconciling Florentino's rejection of her, becoming depressed and falling from first in her class to dead last. America is unable to come to terms with her rejection, committing suicide while Florentino is on the riverboat with Fermina. (CarolineKelly)

Themes/Meanings of the Work

Love: For obvious reasons, love is the most important theme of the novel; however, Gabo challenges the reader to carefully consider all the different manifestations and facets of love through the wayward and, at times, unsettling journey of Florentino. One aspect of love that Gabo explores is its relationship to rationality. Through Floreninto the reader is made privy to the irrationality of love in the way that Floreninto becomes ridiculous infatuated with Fermina, a female he barley talks to but passed passionate letters with in their youth. One the other side of the issue, Urbino and Fermina's relationship presents that best example of "rational" love. Urbino marries Fermina knowing that he does not love her but more out of convenience. Overtime, although their relationship may lack fiery passion they grow to appreciate, according to Urbino, the "stability" of their relationship, and some form of love and devotion undoubtedly emerges. In addition to exploring the rational/irrational components of love, Gabo also comments on the physical and emotional aspects of love. Interestingly, while Gabo certainly does not suggest that these aspects of love are mutual exclusively, he definitely does not imply they always occur together. For example, Florentino has countless physical relationships (622 to be exact) with a variety of women. Some of these women, Florentino feels like he loves, and some he does not love at all; however, he gains something from these encounters, which one could argue merely attempts to fill the emotional void left by the legacy of Fermina. (W. Almquist)

Death, because of its omnipresent, hovering nature upon the Colombian village and its citizens, is a pervasive theme throughout the book, as it opens with the death of Jeremiah de Saint Amour, whose apparent motivation for death sets the tone as each main character balances in a gray space between life and death at some point. Above all, the village life schedule is centered on the tolling of the bells and rushing to mass when a person of high stature perishes, therefore the people are constantly reminded of mortality and build lives upon constant mourning. The absurd death of Dr. J. Urbino points out the ephemeral nature of life and human impotence against larger, incomprehensible forces. Furthermore, Florentino lives under the creeping shadow of death by trying to delay baldness and utilizing fake teeth to avoid accepting the aging process and by measuring the extent of his relationship with the young America Vicuna by acknowledging that he will die before she is out of school. The scattered outbursts of cholera and civil war serve as morbid reminders of powerlessness and violence that plague the surroundings, almost suppressing the will to live. Additionally, the death of love, as seen in the abrupt snuffing out of whatever passion existed between Dr. Urbino and Fermina, even earlier between Fermina and Florentino’s innocent attraction, and in every relation Florentino carries on with women, illustrates the near impossibility of finding happiness among the gloomy landscape of war, disease, and social hierarchical obligations.
On the final page, Floretino expresses his existential view on the world, since despite the death of his mother and the extended separation from the love of his life, he reveals that “life, more than death,…has no limits,” showing a, perhaps renewed, vitality and “invincible power” within that carry him still further in the quest for attaining love and meaning in life (348). (C.Chiaroni)


Cholera Flag: One symbol arises towards the closing of the novel as Florentino and Fermina escape aboard a cruise ship. A commonly flown yellow “cholera” flag is hoisted by the captain in order to ward off any potential newcomers which could impede on the apparent love-ship’s privacy. While simple in its literal meaning, the flag also holds significance in symbolically reflecting both Florentino and Fermina’s surrender to each other after much protracted sexual tensions. Additionally, one could see a parallel structure between the flag’s significance as an indication that a person has been defeated by cholera, and extend the comparison to a more general defeat over withstanding sexual temptations. (TMott)

During the time in which Florentino is "saving himself" for Fermina by engaging in sexual activity with nearly 600 women (and girls…ew), he is frequently characterized as a hunter; his sexual bounty, no less, as a collection of helpless "birds." As his hunting become more frequent and his skill and sickening instinct grow, he is able to spot the weakest, most fragile "birds" from large "flocks." He gets the pick of them all, choosing the frail ones whose "bones will crack" just like he likes (bsnbkhcwbinconewi excuse me while I throw up). Clearly, Florentino, as the hunter, holds the true, unchecked power over his kill; he always gets his way with them. HOWEVER, it is important to note that Florentino calls Fermina a "panther" once he is finally able to have her (and his "hunting" habits are finally broken)…it presents an interesting (and, I believe, an open-ended) question: does Florentino see this "panther" as his biggest trophy yet? Or, is her characterization simply a testament to her captivating power that she holds over Florentino? Is he still a hunter? I guess we will never know…(KWatts)

The natural ecosystem of the river can be construed as a symbol for Florentino and his emotional state. Just as “fifty years of uncontrolled deforestation had destroyed the river,” fifty years of unrequited love had almost destroyed Florentino prior to his reunion with Fermina (331). The glorious animals that once frequented the river are for the most part extinct, particularly the manatees that Captain Samaratino sees as “damned by some extravagant love” (331). After Florentino finally receives from Fermina the love he has held for her for half a century, they see a Manatee and the river seems to be restored to its former beauty.(CBerk)

The presence of flowers is a reoccurring motif throughout the novel. Florentino uses flowers to express his love for Fermina during multiple occasions. First he starts associating his love for Fermina through camellias(represent love and/or devotion) and occasionally roses. During some instances in the book when he is overwhelmed by the love that he has for Fermina he starts eating these flowers in order to metaphorically consume his love for Fermina, this serves as a way for him to drown himself with everything Fermina. Initially, when he first meets and “falls in love” with Fermina he gives her a camellia and then later when he meets Fermina after the death of her husband, Juvenal Urbino, he gives her white roses because they symbolically insinuate nothing like camellias do. When his intentions change, so do the flowers he gives away because for him flowers represent a meaning behind his actions. (Elyse)

Significance of Opening Scene

The most significant aspect of the opening scene is the focus on the character Jeremiah de Saint-Amour and his death. Jeremiah took his own life because he feared old age and preferred death. He made a living photographing children, showing his preoccupation with youth. This man serves as an agent of characterization for Urbino. In just a few short pages the opening scene shows Urbino's view of old age and love, both very significant aspects of the book, as compared to Jeremiah's views. When he finds Jeremiah dead Urbino said, "Damn fool… the worst was over" meaning old age was the end of life's struggle (4). And when Urbino met Jeremiah's mistress he could not believe that she "loved him too much" to try and prevent Jeremiah from committing suicide (15). This shows Urbino's opinion of the purpose and role of love as compared to the love between Jeremiah and his mystery lady (SarahB)

Although never mentioned again, Jeremiah de Saint-Armour is an important part of the book. He dies of in the very beginning and Dr. Urbino is sent to help with the corpse. Although his story seems seemingly random, many of Urbino’s life choices mimic the life stories shared about Jeremiah. It sets the stage for the events in Urbino’s life and subtly prepares the readers for shocking events such as Urbino’s affair with Barbra. Jeremiah was unsure about how he felt about growing older, another issue that appears in Urbino’s life. (MMcG)

Significance of Closing Scene

The closing scene concludes "Love in the Time of Cholera" in a fitting manner. It does not elevate Florentino and Fermina's love for each other to a fairy tale-esque impractically, but it solves their quandary rationally. At their age and at Fermina's newly widowed state, they both know that returning to every day life and staying together are not both possible, so they appreciate their companionship and natural love confined to a river boat. "Beyond the pitfalls of passion… the phantoms of disillusion," the two star crossed lovers knew "that love was always love, anytime and anyplace, but it was more solid the closer it came to death" (Márquez 345). Instead of retuning home, they prolong their voyage, flagging the ship with a cholera quarantine, signifying that they, being well aquatinted with their age, do not have any concerns over the future, only the present. While Gabo does not share the final fate of Florentino and Fermina, he does end the novel in typical Florentino/Fermina style, insinuating that they "can keep up this goddamn coming and going," as they have for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days "forever" (348). (gaustin)

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