The spider woman represents the fickleness with which many self-interested people approach their own faith. After hearing of the “angel,” hundreds of villagers flock to Pelayo’s house, motivated partly by faith but also to see him perform miracles—physical evidence that their faith is justified. Not surprisingly, the old man’s reputation wanes when he proves capable of performing only minor “consolation miracles.” Instead, the spectators flock to the spider woman, who tells a heart-wrenching story with a clear, easy-to-digest lesson in morality that contrasts sharply with the obscurity of the old man’s existence and purpose. Although no less strange than the winged old man, the spider woman is easier to understand and even pity. The old man, barely conscious in his filthy chicken coop, can’t match her appeal, even though some suspect that he came from the heavens. García Márquez strongly suggests that the pilgrims’ result-oriented faith isn’t really faith at all.
Being heroic and manly are not merely qualities of character which one possesses or does not. One must constantly demonstrate one's heroism and manliness through actions conducted with dignity. Interestingly, worthiness cannot be conferred upon oneself. Santiago is obsessed with proving his worthiness to those around him. He had to prove himself to the boy: "the thousand times he had proved it mean nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it" (66). And he had to prove himself to the marlin: "I'll kill him....in all his greatness and glory. Although it is unjust. But I will show him what a man can do and what a man endures" (66). A heroic and manly life is not, then, one of inner peace and self-sufficiency; it requires constant demonstration of one's worthiness through noble action.