No One Writes to the Colonel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Suppression of Pride

In a state of martial law one individual does not have much
to say. This statement holds true in the novel, "No One Writes to the
Colonel," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The author discusses the political
climate of one man, the Colonel, who after fighting to create the
government in power is being controlled by the bureaucracy. A corrupt
government can ruin a man, sap his will, and drive him mindless with
hunger; although times are hard the Colonel keeps his dignity and pride.

The government, through the use of martial law, controls the people
quite readily. The government maintains itself through "Big-Brother"
tactics that include the use of censors, secret police, and ordinances like
"TALKING POLITICS FORBIDDEN." The sweeping control that is present under
this martial law is evident in the every day life of the Colonel and the
people of his town. The first example of the nature of their lives is shown
through the funeral. A poor musician has died of natural causes; the first
in a long period of time. The government in attempt to avoid a
demonstration and possibly a riot, reroutes his funeral procession to avoid
the police barracks. Since the musician is a first to have died of natural
causes, we can assume that martial law has resulted in the untimely death
of many people. Another example is the death of the Colonel's son, Agustin,
Whom after his death has become the embodiment of the underground. It is
rightly so, being that he was the writer of the "clandestine" papers.

"'Agustin wrote.'
The Colonel observed the deserted street.
'What does he say?'
'The same as always.'
They gave him the clandestine sheet of paper" (p.32)

Martial law has restricted the free flow of ideas; therefore, they have had
to become accustomed to using secrecy. The doctor is part of the
information transfer by passing uncensored news articles to the Colonel.
The government is undoubtedly aware of these happenings, nevertheless it
allows the people some sanctity in them. This fact is evident in the
instance where a soldier that stops the Colonel, does not search him.

Although the oppression is difficult, the Colonel's dignity and pride
helps him to not give up on the pension claim he made to Congress 15 years
ago. He shows impressive perseverance through his patient wait for the
letter recognizing his request. The Colonel's dignity is important to him;
he would much rather write a letter requesting the change of lawyer by hand
than ask someone to type the letter as a favor to him. This dignity and
pride has caused much hardship in his family's life. They have had to
literally scrape by to survive. The novel begins with the Colonel preparing
his wife a last cup of coffee by scraping a coffee can with a knife, mixing
"bits of rust" with "the last scrapings of ground coffee." (p.1) Themes of
oppression are counter-balanced by tenacity shown in the Colonel's long

Every Friday the Colonel waits for the postmaster at the launch and
follows him to the post office. When he receives nothing the Colonel feels
ashamed. The Colonel knows that the state of affairs is not in order and
most likely there will never be anything for him, and yet year after year,
hoping that the day will come, he waits for the letter. "Fifteen years of
waiting had sharpened his intuition. The rooster had sharpened his
anxiety." (p.20) He lies to the doctor in his claim that he "wasn't
expecting anything" (p.21); and with an innocent childlike look he says "no
one writes to me." (p.21) This attempt at covering up his actual reason for
being at the post office is an example of his self pride. The Colonel does
not want to broadcast the depth of his predicament even though almost
everyone is aware. His wife tells him to go sell their clock with firm
reproach that they might eat. The Colonel ends up getting an overnight loan
in the belief that the letter would come the next day.

Hunger is a powerful force, and it drives the Colonel and his wife to
contemplate selling the rooster or making stew with it. Somehow they always
find just a little bit of money to buy more coffee and sometimes cheese.
These people can never succumb to charity and have always tried to sell
something when times became increasingly difficult. His wife even boils
stones so the neighbors will not notice that they go hungry.