One Hundred Years of Solitude Summary

The events of the novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Garcia Marquez begin with the relationship between José Arcadio Buendia and his cousin Ursula. They grow up together in the old village and fall in love with each other. But Ursula knows that the incestual relationships may result into deformed children, she heard a story of their uncle who was born with a pig tail because of it. But José reassures her that everything will be fine and if villagers talk about it too much they will take their closest friends, go away and found a new settlement. Ursula agrees and they get married even without their families’ permission.

José has hair-triggered temper and love for adventures. He always clings to new ideas but never brings them to the end because of other interesting things appearing nearby and his enthusiasm switched to them. Ursula is much more reserved but not less courageous: several times she herself takes command and fixes whatever was broken by men.

Ursula agrees to marriage but, still afraid of pig tails, refuses to consummate it. Every night she turns José down. But once, when José goes to the cockfight with his fighting cock and wins it, his rival, Prudencio Aguilar, mocks him because his wife is still a virgin. Enraged, José kills Prudencio at the spot, then rushes home and rapes Ursula.

After killing another villager they have no choice than to leave. Moreover, the ghost of Prudencio starts to haunt José. Trying to escape him, José kills all his fighter cocks like a weird sacrifice and departs with Ursula and some of the most devoted friends. They decide to settle down near the sea but can’t find it and finally stay in the nearest suitable place, naming it Macondo. Ursula gives birth to the boy named José Arcadio after his father (the first one in the long line of other José Arcadios each of whom shared his father’s traits: stubbornness, courage and aggression). The second son is named Aureliano (also the first of many Aurelianos, reserved and intelligent like Ursula herself).

The live goes on. The settlement is so far away from every other towns that the only visitors are travelling Gypsies led by mysterious Melquiades - a magician and a scientist, who brings to Macondo everything from telescopes and ice to flying carpets and magic potions. José Arcadio Sr. gathers his friends to go find a path to the sea or to other settlements, but they get lost in the jungle, nearly go mad and finally, exhausted and sick, return to the village.

José Arcadio Jr. grows up and becomes interested in women. He sleeps with one of the locals, Pilar Ternera but suddenly impregnates her. Terrified with responsibility and not willing to marry an older woman he makes a proposal to a very young Gypsy girl and immediately leaves with the Gypsies. When Ursula understands that her son is lost, she immediately runs to find him, but loses the tracks and gets lost herself. She returns only after six months (yes, that badass lady survived in the jungle for half of a year, unlike her husband and the bravest men of Macondo!) having found the way to other towns instead of her son.

Pilar Ternera gives birth to her son, José Arcadio (later he is known just as Arcadio to distinguish him from the others) but she is not interested in being a single mother, so she just gives it away to Buendia family. Another adopted child is eleven-year-old named Rebecca, who just comes to their door holding a bag with her belongings and the bones of her ancestors. Ursula insisted on adopting her too, but soon a mysterious disease curses the village and it seems Rebecca is the zero patient. No one can sleep anymore. Because of the insomnia people start to lose their memory. José tries to do something like putting labels on everything and making endless notes, but the disease progresses and the condition of the villagers gets worse. His last effort - to make memory machine with his son Aurelianos - is also unsuccessful. They are saved by Melquiades who arrives just in time to cure all the villagers with the memory potion he has. Grateful, the Buendias present Melquiades a separate room in their house.

Aureliano, in the meanwhile, despite his intelligence and scientific spree is not popular among the village girls. He is shy and unable to compete with others. The only girl who returns his feelings is little Remedios, the daughter of the town mayor, Don Apolinar Moscote, but she is only eight years old. She is ready to marry Aureliano when she grows up but he has to wait until she has her period.

Ursula gives birth to another child, now it’s a girl called Amarant. Amarant also grows up. Once, Ursula decides to host a celebration and invites an italian piano player named Pietro Crespi to perform. Both stepsisters, Rebecca and Amarant fall in love with him and their warm relationship immediately turns to rivalry and hatred. Pietro himself can’t choose between the two beautiful girls but finally decides to marry Rebecca. José Arcadio agrees to their wedding, leaving Amarant heartbroken. In despair and fury the rejected girl promised her sister to kill her.

The ghost of Prudencio finally finds his way to Macondo and his murderer, José Arcadio Sr. The ghost comes to the man and spends the night in his room. In the morning Jose is completely insane. The only place he stops panicking and calms down is near the tree in the house garden. Ursula has no options than to tie her husband to that tree. José doesn’t object.

In the meantime Melquiades gets older and older and finally dies. It is the first funeral in the village of Macondo. His room in the house is left locked. Aureliano and Remedios finally marry, but before that, unable to wait, Aureliano lost his virginity with the same woman his brother slept with: Pilar Ternera. He also gets her pregnant, and she again gives birth to a boy she named Aureliano José and gives him to the Buendias. Pregnant Remedios dies - she was accidentally poisoned by Amarant. Amarant, still obsessed with her unrequited love, tried to poison her stepsister Rebecca, but Remedios drank from Rebecca’s cup. Trying to redeem herself, Amarant adopts Aureliano José.

Suddenly, José Arcadio Jr. (the one who fled with the Gypsies) returns to the village. He is now a big, strong man, covered with tattoos, a former sailor and womanizer. Rebecca, who is still married, falls in love with him while José Arcadio Jr. is just sleeping around. Finally she divorces and marries him, despite everyone thinks of them as of brother and sister (not everyone knows that Rebecca was adopted). Ursula is against the marriage: she remembers her own unhappy story. But José Arcadio Jr. is as stubborn as his father, so he marries Rebecca anyway and goes to live separately.

Pietro is heartbroken. He slowly recovers from Rebecca’s infidelity and their divorce and finally makes a proposal to Amarant. But Amarant’s vanity doesn’t allow her to be the “second chance”, so she refuses. Later she changes her mind but it’s too late - Pietro commits suicide unable to handle being rejected. Ursula learns about all Amarant’s deeds and now she deeply hates her daughter for all she’s done.

The settlement slowly grows to a small town with political parties. Soon the war begins and Macondo, as any other city in the country, is divided into two camps: Liberals and Conservatives. Aureliano (Ursula’s son) dedicated himself to Macondo after Remedios’ death. At first he was Conservative as the previous mayor and his father-in-law, but now Aureliano is the leader of the Liberal party and the new mayor of Macondo. But his duty calls him to the war and he leaves the town, leaving Arcadio (son of José Arcadio Jr. and Pilar Ternera) instead. 

Arcadio marries a woman named Santa Sofia de Piedad. He has three kids with her: Remedios, who will later be named Remedios the Beautiful, and twin sons - Aureliano Segundo and José Aureliano Segundo. Gradually, Arcadio becomes the most cruel and ruthless mayor Macondo has ever known. Ursula has to step in again, relieve her grandson of his duty, have him executed and head the town herself. A nice job for the fragile old lady, who literally introduced the settlement to the world after six month of jungle survival.

Not knowing about the events in his hometown, Aureliano becomes Colonel and leads the Liberal forces through the country. Once shy and quiet, now he is a national hero (though he loses one battle after another) and lots of beautiful girl come to him to have sex. He fathers seventeen sons each of which is named Aureliano (like we don’t have enough characters with the same name in the story). Aureliano has the gift of clairvoyance, so he evades the pursuit every time but finally he is caught, brought back to Macondo and condemned. His brother José Arcadio Jr. rescues him right from the hands of firing squad.

José Arcadio Sr., the mad husband of Ursula and the patriarch of Macondo, dies under his tree. Later, José Arcadio Jr. is also found dead in his house. Rumors are that Rebecca poisoned him. For her own reasons she never left the house after his death. Aureliano himself almost gets poisoned after drinking from his brother’s cup of coffee. But Rebecca, as Amarant before, is left unpunished and soon all the town pretends that nothing happened. Amarant, by the way, falls in love again, this time with Aureliano’s friend from the war named Colonel Gerineldo Marquez. But again, when Gerineldo makes her a proposal, Amarant refuses. Colonel isn’t as sensitive as  the Italian piano player was, so he decides to wait, not to commit suicide.

Using the pause in their relationship, Aureliano José (the second son of Pilar Ternera who was raised by Amarant) also wants his stepmother to marry him. Amarant, obviously, refuses again. Then Aureliano Sr. takes him to the war again. Colonel Marquez never received the consent from Amarant. Aureliano Sr. grows tired of fruitless and endless war and signs a peace treaty. But he is a military man to the bone and, after twenty years of fights, the peaceful life causes a heavy PTSD. Aureliano shoots himself in the heart but somehow he manages to stay alive. After that he secludes himself in his home, making tiny gold fishes, melting them and making again (he was taught the job of goldsmith by the Gypsies in his childhood).

Aureliano Segundo (one of the twins fathered by the cruel mayor Arcadio) falls in love with beautiful and open-minded Petra Cotes, but marries the prudish woman named Fernanda. They have a son and call him José Arcadio. Their other child is the daughter Renata Remedios (Meme). Aureliano Segundo still can’t choose between the two women, staying with Petra as a lover. Meme grows up and falls in love with neighboring mechanic named Mauricio Babilonia. But when Fernanda learns that her daughter has sex out of wedlock, she arranges Mauricio’s death. Meme stops talking to anyone because of grief and Fernanda immediately sends her to the convent forever. After a while another nun comes to Macondo to give Fernanda her grandson, Aureliano. Fernanda doesn’t want her family to be disgraced, so she keeps poor kid at home, never letting him go out. Aureliano grows with the last Fernanda’s daughter, Amaranta Ursula, without knowing he is related by blood to the rest of the family.

José Arcadio Segundo goes to work on the banana plantation but soon he starts a strike against the inhuman working conditions. The company seems to agree and review the contracts, but instead the company mercenaries slaughter all the strikers with machine guns. José Arcadio Segundo is the only survivor. He returns home not telling anyone what happened and all the Macondo thinks that strike ended peacefully and the company just closed, firing all the workers.

The seventeen sons of Aurelio (the Colonel) decide to gather and visit their father. Some of them stay in Macondo and start improving the town. Soon Macondo grows to a city with the railway, canal and a small port. The older inhabitants of Macondo are amazed - they remember their settlement to be a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. But one day someone killed all the Aureliano’s sons except one.

Remedios the Beautiful grows up. Now she is the most beautiful woman in Macondo. She can afford herself whatever she wants, even walking naked across the town. She breaks hearts, men are fighting and dying for her, but she doesn’t care. Suddenly, while doing laundry, she ascends to heavens in an incomprehensible way and disappears forever.

Ursula (the mayor and matriarch) becomes blind and weak. She tries to hide it as long as it is possible, but when her sickness becomes obvious, Fernanda becomes the head of the enormous family. Colonel Aureliano dies soon, devastated with the loss of his children. Amaranth also dies, not marrying everyone. Her only desire is to see the death of her rival Rebecca, but Rebecca is still alive.

Terrible tropical rains start pouring in Macondo. It rains for years and the city starts to rot from the inside. All the strangers leave the city. Ursula, using her clairvoyance (that’s who Colonel Aureliano inherited it from) says that when the rain stops she will die and Macondo will die soon after. The rain stops after the five years of flood and Ursula indeed dies. Rebecca dies also, still not leaving her house after the poisoning of her husband, José Arcadio Jr.

In the meantime Amaranta Ursula (the last daughter of Fernanda) was sent to Brussels to study. While she is in Europe, her father and uncle die on the same day and buried next to each other. Fernanda also dies soon and Aureliano (Meme’s son) is left alone in the house. Soon his uncle and the first Fernanda’s son, José Arcadio, returns from Rome where he studied in the seminary.

The last son of Colonel Aureliano is shot on the street. José Arcadio tries to live a lavish live with orgies and alcohol, spending the money he brought from Rome, but his newfound “friends” drown him in the bath and steal all the gold he has. Aureliano is alone at home again.

After a while Amaranta Ursula returns from Brussels with her husband, a pilot named Gaston. Aureliano moves to the room where Melquiades once lived and finds that it is filled by mysterious parchments. The young man is fascinated by them and start deciphering the ancient scripts. Gradually, he and Amaranta Ursula become closer (Fernanda didn’t reveal the secret of his origins to Aureliano). When Gaston goes to Europe in business, Aureliano persuades Amaranta Ursula to become his lover. 

Pilar, the woman who slept with the two brothers in the very beginning of the story, finally dies too. She lived more than 140 years. Amaranta Ursula becomes pregnant and, finally, the incest backfires. Her baby is born with a pig tail and Amaranta herself dies from bleeding after giving birth. Aureliano, driven mad by grief, drinks everything he can find. When he comes to his senses, he sees that his firstborn son was eaten alive by yellow ants that plagued the city after the flood. Aureliano closes himself in his room and tries to soothe his pain with deciphering parchments. Now he succeeds. He reads the words of Melquiades: the first of the family will be tied to the tree, the last will be eaten by ants. The destiny of the entire family was written by the old Gypsy more than a hundred years ago. His last prophecy is that when Aureliano deciphers the script, a hurricane will come and destroy all the city and its inhabitants, leaving no one alive and nothing will remain. As he reads these lines, Aureliano hears the howling of approaching hurricane.