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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Úrsula states that there are conclusions to be made from the repetition of names in the family: "While the Aurelianos were withdrawn, but with lucid minds, the José Arcadios were impulsive and enterprising, but they were marked with a tragic sign." The only two who do not fit this pattern are José Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo, who seem to share each other’s being. They switch roles, know each others thoughts, and share dreams.
Aureliano Segundo separates himself from his brother in his interest in Melquides’ papers. He becomes interested in the Sanskrit text, and notices Melquiades sitting in the room. Aureliano Segundo asks Melquiades to translate the text, but he answers that no one must know there meaning until he is one hundred years old.
Aureliano Segundo and José Arcadio Segundo both take up with the same prostitute, Petra Cotes, but she ends up with Aureliano, even after he marries Fernanda del Carpio, whom he rescues from a carnival. Petra is a fertility instigator: all she must do is walk over a pasture and all the animals reproduce in unprecedented numbers. This makes him immensely wealthy.
Colonel Aureliano Buendía shuts himself up in his room making little golden fishes.
Úrsula’s comment about the names is telling, but not wholly accurate. The Aurelianos may be withdrawn, but they are no less tragic than the José Arcadios. Aureliano suffers the tragedy of having to live with failure. Similarly, José Arcadio is lucid in this earlier years and is later tied to a chestnut tree and forgotten; that itself is a form of being withdrawn. Furthermore, each of the descendents of these two is dually marked as well, and the twins, while they do share each other’s being for a while, they also fall into patterns. I think it is useful to look at the naming of the sons not as separating their particular characters, but as representing together a better sense of Macondo.
Aureliano Segundo becomes the next person to investigate Melquiades’ parchments and while he is working he sees Melquiades’. This indicates either that Melquiades did indeed discover the key to immortality, or that he is part or the house itself or part of the inner mind of the Buendía family.
Petra is a prostitute who has no children and yet is a symbol of fertility. Like most things in Macondo, Petra is self-contradictory. She helps one of her lovers make lots of money off of the fertility of animals and crops, and that lover is part of a line doomed to self-destruct.
The fishes that Aureliano makes function at once like Sisyphus’ punishment and like Penelope’s tapestry: they are a task that is done and undone or redone. It never has an end, but we do not know if Aureliano continues making fish to put off a conclusion (like Penelope) or as a type of punishment (Sisyphus). He becomes a version of the mad-woman in the attic. He is the mad uncle in the back room.