I just recently had the pleasure of reading Gabriel Garcia Márquez's post-colonial novel Of Love and Other Demons. He gives us a clear image of two people falling in love, but what struck me as odd was the age difference between the characters. In this story, there is a twelve-year-old girl marquise by the name of Sierva Maria who did not live the life of luxury that you would expect her to have, and a priest by the name of Cayetano Delaura who was thirty-six at the time.
The story's setting takes place in Columbian Caribbean Coast (CCC) during the post-colonial period and, at that time, it was not unusual for a couple, like a priest and a younger girl, to exist. The reason for this was many women were prone to many life threatening diseases, so as a result, men began to marry younger women/children so they can have a longer span of time to reproduce with their wife. When Sierva Maria and Dalaura began to understand their feelings towards each other, neither of them were thinking in sexual terms, but merely how to survive in it.
Sierva Maria was bitten by a rabid dog on her twelfth birthday while visiting the market to buy bead necklaces with her African slave. She was the daughter of a marquise that wanted nothing to do with her existence. The girl's mother despised her the moment she was born. In their eyes, this girl was a symbol of a trapped marriage.
Without the love of her parents, she grew to understand the happiness and love when she was raised by the family's slaves. With this, she grew to love the African culture and knew the languages of Africa more than the languages her class was meant to know.
The life she was living was all she has ever known, so when her birth father caught wind that was bit by a rabid dog, it surprised her when he wanted her to live in the main house again. She showed no signs of contracting the disease, but her father came to the realization that he needed to be invested in his daughter's life. Because of this, her father went through anything and everything to save his daughter.
He of course consults the physician, Abranuncio, to see if she contracted the disease. The physician said that there was a chance that she would not die from the rabies because, not only was it a small bite, she did not show any signs of infection. There was also a good chance she wouldn't show any signs this late in time. Her father, still not satisfies with their results, goes to someone that any Christian man would go to, the Bishop. The Bishop tells him that "one of the demon's numerous deceptions is to take on the appearance of a foul disease in order to enter an innocent body," (Márquez, 55). Now alarming her father, the Bishop suggests that he sends his daughter to a convent that would help in exorcising the "demon" out of her instead of treating the rabies. Through this decision we see the influence of colonialism through the dependency of religion over science and medicine even though colonialism has "ended" by the setting of this story.
Sierva Maria practiced many African traditions that, in turn, were mistaken to be the devil inside of her, which further convinced others around her that she was possessed. Delaura was a priest that viewed the Bishop as a father figure, and Bishop viewed him as a son. The Bishop asks Delaura to take on the job, even though Delaura said he did not have experience in exorcism. What made the Bishop come to this decision was the dream Delaura had of Sierva Maria. Delaura had not had the pleasure of meeting Sierva Maria yet, but he was able to see her as clear as day in his dream where she is "sat a window overlooking a snow covered field, eating grapes one by one from a cluster she held in her lap...and was in no hurry to do so because she knew that in the last grape lay death," (Márquez, 75).
It was evident that the cluster of grapes were to represent the girl's life span, so when she said she had the exact same frem, this shocked the priest but it is showed that he was not disturbed. This dream showed their connection even though Sierva Maria did not fall in love with the priest until the very last minute where now he was not to be permitted to exorcise her anymore and she never found out why. She ended up having the dream again where she is sitting at the window waiting for Delaura to come back to her, even though she knew by this time he was not coming back to her anymore. Upon this realization she is now eating not one grape, but two grapes at a time, and when she reached the last grape we are cut to scene where the warder finds her "dead of love in her bed, her eyes radiant and her skin like that of a newborn baby," (Marquez, 147). Their paths would've never met if it wasn't the people's dependency on the Holy Church and rebellious nature towards the science of medicine.