1. Describe the novel’s opening scene. Who are the characters? Where is the action taking place? What is happening? a. The novel opens in the residence of Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, who had committed suicide because he feared growing old. The characters are Dr. Juvenal Urbino, the deceased, a police inspector, and a medical student. The scene begins with Dr. Urbino making observations about the room in which they found the body and then briefly observing the body as well.
He quickly decides that there will be no need for an autopsy because cyanide leaves behind an unmistakable smell and Saint-Amour was too knowledgeable to have done this accidently. The medical student is disappointed with this conclusion because he wanted to study how cyanide affected the body. 2. How does Love enter the opening scene? What is it associated with? a. Love is first mentioned in the novel by Dr. Urbino when he makes the comment that “‘There is bound to be someone driven mad by love who will give you the chance one of these days” (5).
This comment is made when the medical student expresses disappointment after learning that there is no need to perform an autopsy on the body because the cause of death is evident. Love and the inflictions caused by it are associated with cyanide poisonings. 3. How does the theme of religion appear in the first chapter? a. The first reference to religion is when Dr. Urbino hears bells tolling and realizes he is going to miss Pentecost Mass. There are also references to first Communion and Dr. Urbino comments that he’s only missed three Sunday Masses.
4. Describe Dr. Juvenal Urbino. What does his name mean? What is he like? What does he do? What is his house like? What was he famous for? a. My best guess is that Dr. Urbino’s name is a reference to youth because it has the same root as the word “juvenile. ” Dr. Urbino is 80 or possibly 81 and his age is starting to take its toll, so the connection to youth could be that he wishes he could relive his earlier days. He is a well-respected individual and is quite religious. He seems stubborn and sure of himself as well. As his title would suggest, he is a medical doctor, but he also enjoys chess and reading.
He lives in a large, expensively furnished home with his wife, a parrot, and a tortoise. His house also contained an enormous library. He was known for being able to “tell what was wrong with a patient just by looking at him” (9-10). His was famous for his contributions to his city, such as reorganizing the fire department to be more efficient and encouraging them to learn how to respond to emergency situations other than fires. He was also famous for organizing “the construction of the first aqueduct, the first sewer system, and the covered public market that permitted filth to be cleaned out of Las Animas Bay” (43).
5. Describe how Latin America, its history, culture, socio-political construction and backdrop enter into this chapter. a. Religion seems to be an important part of Latin American culture and it is mentioned a few times very early in the novel. There is an obvious divide between the upper and lower classes, as seen in the difference in the houses in which Dr. Urbino and the unnamed mistress of de Saint-Amour live. A brief history of Colombia is hinted at with the mentions of their independence from Spain, that its citizens used to own slaves, and that it had been very wealthy because of the slave trade.
The chapter also mentions the sinking of a ship, the San Jose, in 1708. There are unspoken rules of social etiquette among the upper class. For example, when the celebration from Dr. Olivella gets moved indoors, no of the men want to be the first to remove their jacket despite the unbearable heat. As for politics, there are mentions of a Liberal and a Conservative Party. Lineage is very important in the upper class.
6. Who is Fermina Daza? Describe her. What does her name mean? What is she like? a. Fermina Daza grew up in a lower class family, but rose up the ladder of social status when she married Dr. Juvenal Urbino. Based off of Google-assisted analysis of the name Fermina, I came up with a possibility for its meaning. The name Fermina is related to the Latin name Firminus, meaning firm. This could be a representation of her stubbornness early on in her marriage whenever she had a disagreement with her husband. It could also symbolize the determined manner in which she cared for her husband when his age left him mostly unable to care for himself.
Despite their many fights, Fermina was loyal and loving toward her husband. When she rushed to her husband’s side after he fell, her greatest hope was that “he would not go without knowing how much she had loved him” (47). . Describe the parrot and its role in this chapter. a. The parrot began living with Dr. Urbino and his wife after he declared that “Nothing that does not speak will come into this house” and his wife found the one loophole that would let her have an animal. Over time Dr. Urbino came to like the parrot and taught him to speak French, Spanish, and Latin. The parrot was the cause of Dr. Urbino’s death toward the end of the chapter. He flew up into a tree and refused to come down and Dr. Urbino fell from a ladder trying to recapture him.
8. Who was Jeremiah de Saint-Amour? a. De Saint-Amour was a man who led a double-life that came to light after his suicide. Dr. Urbino believed him to be a Caribbean refuge and war veteran. He was an avid chess player and was well-known for his photographs of children. After de Saint-Amour’s death, Dr. Urbino discovered that his friend was actually a fugitive with a secret mistress and had even eaten human flesh” (32). 9. Describe how Europe and euro centered style, ideas, fashion, architecture, etc. enter this chapter. a. The first reference to Europe is the books that Dr. Urbino reads from sellers in Paris and Barcelona.
There is also a mention of Dr. Urbino traveling to Europe. The open sewers located in the area where de Saint-Amour’s mistress lives are said to have been “inherited from the Spaniards” (12). The house of Dr. Urbino contains some European architecture and furnishing, such as Doric columns and rocking chairs from Vienna. Dr. Urbino and his wife also adopted “the Roman strategy against heat” (19) in order to keep their house cool in the summer. Some of the changes to the fire department that Dr. Urbino suggested were based off of things that he witnessed in the cities of Hamburg and Naples. The home of Dr. Olivella was designed by an architect from Florence.
10. Who is Florentino Ariza? Describe him. a. Florentino Ariza is a man from Fermina’s past, perhaps her first love. He is described as being 73 years of age and cleanshaven except for a mustache. He appears for the first time at the funeral of Dr. Urbino and helps run smoothly from an unnoticed position behind the scenes. When everyone else has left and Fermina finally notices him standing there, he declares that he has waited more than 50 years to remind her of his love and fidelity to her.
11. This chapter is framed between two deaths. Describe its purpose. a. I think this can be interpreted one of two ways. The first is that when a major event happens in a person’s life, people often say that it is the start of a new chapter. This is happening literally in this novel. The death of Dr. Urbino represents one chapter of Fermina’s life coming to a close and a new chapter beginning, perhaps by rekindling her romance with Florentino. A second way to interpret this is that it provides symmetry for the chapter. The chapter opens with the death of de Saint-Amour and Dr. Urbino discovering that de Saint-Amour was hiding another life from him. The chapter closes with the death of Dr. Urbino and maybe his wife will discover that he had secrets as well.