Marquez illustrates the exploitive nature of humankind as it uses the decrepit characters of Big Mama and the Old Man. Both stories allude to the prior greatness and glory of Big Mama and the angel characters. Though we're never given any examples of their glory we're led to believe that no one could have possibly exploited these characters in their prime. People will press their advantage when they see an opportunity to do so. Marquez exposes this ugly facet of human nature through family members, leaders and the community at large. .
Big Mama's heirs, like circling vultures, surrounded her waiting to feed on her financial carcass. Marquez gives us a glimpse of this when he says, "nine nieces and nephews, her sole heirs standing around her bed."" Clearly Big Mama knew the true nature of her attendant family when she refers to them as, "Highway robbers- and when she warns Nicanor to, "Keep everything of value under lock and key, because many people come to wakes only to steal."" Just as vultures tear scraps off a rotting carcass, so too the nieces and nephews scavenged for bits and pieces of Big Mama's property, evidenced by, "dismantled the doors, pulled the nails out of the planks and dug up the foundations to divide up the house."" This last act shows the exploitive nature of Big Mama's family.
Just as Big Mama's family exploited her, Pelayo and Elisenda take advantage of the angel. The root of the exploitation begins with the weakness and easy control of the old angel. Their first clue that the angel might be a curiosity is when, "they found the whole neighborhood in front of the chicken coop having fun with the angel."" The angel's popularity builds to the point of a carnival atmosphere and troops with bayonets had to be brought in. Elisenda is the first to realize that they could profit off of the angels popularity, "then got the idea of fencing in the yard and charging five cents admission to see the angel.