If the old man were a beautiful woman or a young man, then maybe the people would have treated him better and with respect. In the story, the old man was dragged by Pelayo and locked with the hens in the chicken coop. The old man was abused. The neighbors had regarded him like a circus animal and not like a supernatural creature that he was. They had fun with him and tossed him things to eat. Elisenda had started charging people 5 cents to see the old man.
People did not try to find whether the old man really was an angle. Apparently, he did not have supernatural powers. They flung stones at him and granted him no mercy. They also burned his side. If it were a beautiful woman, then people would have been kinder and more sympathetic. Maybe Pelayo and Elisenda would have let the beautiful woman stay in their house instead of the chicken coop. On the other hand, if it were a young man, then people would have been afraid of him. As young men are less vulnerable as compared to older men.
People in the story were religious, but their faiths were questionable. When an angel falls to the earth, Christians get delighted. However, the old man in the story did not match the preconceived ideas of people regarding what an angel looked like. Therefore, he was not treated with kindness. He was treated like an animal by the townspeople. Even, the priest, Father Gonzaga, did not do anything to help the angle. In this story, religion has been criticized. The author has tried conveying that genuine faith can be perverted. The characters of the story lacked actual faith and were superficially religious. The townspeople did not respect the old man as an angel or a simple human being. They were cruel and unkind. They did not follow the religion. The author has criticized the church’s teaching. The church did not help in developing genuine faith in people.