Chronicle of a Death Foretold
The Social Surrounding in Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Chronicle of a Death Foretold is amusing to its name in light of the fact that the historical backdrop of the occasions that prompted the murder of Santiago Nasar and furthermore chronicles the social surroundings where the occasion occurred. In the novel, the author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, reports through the depravity of the events that prevailed in Colombia during that time. Marquez utilizes the social foundation and morals as a clarification for the murder of Santiago Nasar. Along these lines, it is similarly critical to comprehend the ethics of the social surrounding to understand the murder of Santiago Nasar.
The title of the novel itself proposes that Nasar’s demise was inescapable and pre-arranged, viewed as a matter of the Latino social code of respect to be ‘honor killing’. It is generally trusted that the reason behind why respect is viewed as a driving force in an individual’s life is on the grounds that it decides how the remainder of the general public judges that individual’s trustworthiness, earnestness and uprightness. This demonstration of pre-marriage sex was viewed as a disfavor to the Vicario family and her siblings Pedro and Pablo Vicario felt that the best way to recover their family’s respect and pride was Nasar’s demise. Subsequently, in a way Marquez illustrates Colombian culture where societal values were viewed as more essential than the natural integrity of man.
Marquez has depicted that the whole town knew about what the Vicario siblings were doing. This demonstrates it was a general public where individuals were ardent to gossip about the homicide to one another, yet nobody conversed with or stopped the killers. The people comforted themselves with the excuse that matters of honors are inviolable dominance. They decide not to take any responsibility on the happening and left it to be settled by the people who were directly engaged with it. There were various occasions when the right activity could’ve prevented the murder. In a way, Marquez in an indirect way accuses every single character that was reluctant to make any move. This delineates how honor executions were permitted and adequate. Marquez likewise shows an absence of independence and closely-held convictions of individuals, rather than the ethical directions that prompted the chain of occasions.
The murder of Santiago Nasar prompted by the Vicario siblings and the outrageous annoyance appeared at Angela by her mom on finding reality about her girl’s abnormality shows how Angela had an obligation towards her family to stay untouched till she was married. Angela was requested to wed Bayardo on the grounds that he was well off and not on the grounds that she loved him and was least worried about what Angela needed.
Marquez depicts ladies as vulnerable animals inside Colombian culture who had no state or opportunity to express their supposition. Ladies were viewed as helpless and their goals were viewed as unimportant and paltry. Ladies did not appreciate any individual worth nor would they be able to direction a state in their own lives, subsequently they were compelled to pursue the dictations of the men in their parental home and later the spouse, when hitched. Marquez has depicted ladies as completely trained animals who have been instructed to live inside the limits of their homes and never to exceed the limits of their thin societal convictions.
Marquez additionally underlines on male pride and the sexuality of their characters in the novel. Besides, It is adequate for men to regard ladies as dispensable pleasures as opposed to important interests they feel glad for visiting Maria Cervantes’ brothel. They didn’t feel embarrassed about their activities as the general public supported male sexuality. It was good for men to visit whores to fulfill their wants yet it was terrible for a lady to take a sweetheart before marriage. At the point when Bayardo discovered that Angela wasn’t a virgin, she is rejected and sent back to her home on her wedding night.
The Latin American social order of the town was bound together with its basic establishments stemmed some place down in religion and certainty, which in like manner explains why the possibility of virginity was seen as one of such essential importance. The town’s close-by association with the Catholic religion explains why the conviction of a woman staying ‘virgin’ until marriage was considered so noteworthy. The norms of Catholicism did not pursue with what Angela did and without investigating her case, extraordinary moves were made against Santiago Nasar for the ‘bad behavior’ that he had submitted. The importance of the Church is altogether stressed upon by Marquez’s depiction of the overall population, in any case ironically regardless of the way that the story occurs in a town that is religious, religions seems to have lost a great deal of its regard. In the novel and this can be seen by the rich courses of action that the all-inclusive community of the town made upon the section of the Bishop. It seems like the Bishop does not regard religion, he doesn’t take the name of god or do anything remotely close supernatural or passionate, rather he keeps waving his hand forward and in reverse in an obliging way. In like manner through this event, Marquez finally reveals an overall population wherein moral frameworks, for instance, the law and religion radiate an impression of being unable to manage and confirm the citizens.
Marquez’s portrayal of Colombian culture is one in which he has depicted an outstandingly orthodox social structure where brutality wins and social conventions which have been gone down through ages are allowed to win. The story of Nasar must be sensibly attractive in an overall population, for instance, the Colombian culture. In any open-minded society, such a record of viciousness would not be sufficient or dependable. Hereafter, Marquez has had the alternative to get the epitome of the story similarly as the Colombian culture in the aggregate of its stilted detail in order to make the novel record the events that he has portrayed.
Different Chances in Chronicle of a Death Foretold and The Assault
Explore the ways in which chance or coincidence is used in
Chronicle of a Death Foretold and The Assault
Plato once said: “In their misfortune, people tend to blame fate, the gods, and everything else, but not themselves” (Plato). This notion is proven true both in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 1981 novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold (CDF), which entails an investigative depiction of the events leading to a citizen’s death in a small-town in Columbia, and Harry Mulisch’s 1982 novel, The Assault, which revolves around the journey of a young man coming to terms with the death of his family during the liberation of Amsterdam. Chance is often defined as the occurrence of events without any distinguishable intention or cause and is a vital element in both novels. Mulisch and Marquez both incorporate chance in their novels in order to portray the causation of these violent incidents and their aftermaths. However, the methods and role chance plays in their novels differ.
Marquez instrumentalizes chance as the scapegoat for Santiago Nasar’s violent death, even though the true cause is traced back to miscommunication and a flawed value system. All citizens of the town believed Santiago’s death to be a result of fate and claim that “there had never been a death more foretold” (Garcia Marquez 50). Even the town priest, Father Amador, blames coincidence for the murder because it took place the same day as the bishop’s visit. Father Amador forgot to warn Santiago’s mother because “the bishop was coming” (71) and he became distracted. The irony that the priest was not alarmed by a possible murder that contravenes multiple religious precepts enforces Marquez’ criticism of the flawed views of the community and their inability to accept blame for their actions. Although the priest blames Santiago’s death on chance, he still suffers from “despair and [is] so disgusted with himself” (71). Thus, Marquez illustrates how, although chance is blamed by those complicit in the crime, this does not allay their guilt. Moreover, the Vicario twins’ dialogue, and their constant voicing of their intentions, portrays their desire to be prevented from murdering Santiago. Their reluctance is further substantiated as they “looked at [Santiago] more with pity” (15) than with rage or hatred, and easily abided by Clotilde’s request that they “leave him for later” (14). This indicates that even though the Vicario twins were victims of the societal values, they still had a choice in whether or not they would murder Santiago. Although they blame chance and believe it was “[destined] by God” (49), they made a conscious choice to murder Santiago, thus, eliminating chance as a justification for their actions. However, some events that indirectly lead to Santiago’s death were coincidental. For example, when Bayardo awoke just as Angela “crossed the square” (28) and decided it was she he had to marry. This could be considered happenstance, and it was due to their relationship that the Vicario’s honor was tarnished and had to be restored. Thus, if they had not met by chance, and Bayardo had courted a different woman, Santiago’s death may have never occurred. Nevertheless, Santiago’s name translates to St. James, who was the first apostle to suffer martyrdom due to false accusations made against him. The symbolic meaning of Santiago’s name implies that his death was an intentional sacrifice made by the town and the murderers, supposedly for the greater good. The town deliberately did not prevent his death because Santiago’s sacrifice “was a matter of honor” (49). Therefore, although some indirectly related events leading up to Santiago’s murder may have occurred by chance, the multiple opportunities to prevent the crime indicate that the underlying cause of Santiago’s death was not chance. Rather it was used as a justification by those complicit in the crime.
Mulisch portrays the death of Anton Steenwijk’s family as coincidental, however, in contrast to CDF, this is actually the case in The Assault. Firstly, the Steenwijk’s house was invaded by the Krauts because Fake Ploeg was shot on their street by the communist Resistance. Takes, who was partially responsible for Ploeg’s death admits that he knew this event would have repercussions, but did not intend on harming Anton’s family. Takes believes it was simply chance, that Anton was affected, because if the Steenwijks had “rented another house in another street” (Mulisch 113) they would still be alive, and Takes could not predict “which house […] would get it” (113). However, similar to Father Amador’s dilemma in CDF, Takes believes Anton’s misfortune came about by chance, yet he still feels the need to “justify [himself] to Anton” (112). Likewise, Anton, who is aware that his family’s death was a result of chance, still blames himself for being left alive, because since his family was executed, he expected “[he] would have been killed too” (58). This indicates how even in cases where chance can be blamed for an unexpected result, it does not alleviate the feeling of guilt. Moreover, the symbol of Anton finding a dice in his pocket after the murder of his family and his relocation to his uncle’s house, illuminates how Anton was a victim of fate. Throughout the novel, Mulisch associates the dice with the symbol of fate, and during the first episode, Anton is compared to a pawn “being moved across the board” (16). Thus, the incident that caused Anton’s misery, was a result of chance and fate, since there was no evident intent for his misfortune. Although characters in both novels blame the violent incidents on chance, this is only the case in The Assault. However, both authors emphasize that blaming chance for an unfortunate outcome, does not reprieve one’s guilt.
Furthermore, Marquez illustrates how the townspeople in CDF took very deliberate actions to come to terms with the death of Santiago and their role in his misfortune. In particular, Angela Vicario, who initially incriminated Santiago and gave the Vicario twins the responsibility of killing him, resorted to “writing letters with no future” (Garcia Marquez 94) to Bayardo San Roman, possibly in the hopes of becoming a “virgin again just for him” (94) so that he would take her back. Consequently, after seventeen years, Bayardo showed up at Angela’s house to get back together with her. Both of these choices were deliberately made, possibly to give Santiago’s death purpose, since through Santiago’s death, Angela “was in possession of her honor once more” (84). Despite their insistence that Santiago’s death was subject to fate, both are fundamentally aware of their consequential role in his murder, and therefore take these steps to justify their actions. Similarly, Colonel Aponte, who did the bare minimum to prevent Santiago’s death, as he did not take the threat seriously, decided to become a “vegetarian as well as a spiritualist” (77) in hopes of receiving clemency. Moreover, “for years [the entire town] couldn’t talk about anything else” (97) because “none of [them] could go on living” (97) with the knowledge that they were responsible for Santiago’s death. Marquez portrays the irony of the town blaming chance, since the citizens truly are responsible for Santiago’s death and in reality are unable to convince themselves otherwise. Chance acts as a scapegoat for Santiago’s death, in order to preserve the town’s pious exterior. However, since conscious choices caused Santiago’s death, taking deliberate action is the only way to reprieve the town’s guilt and pardon their sins.
Contrastingly, the events after the incident in The Assault, were all subject to fate. These events gradually allowed Anton to face his past and move on with his life. Firstly, as an adult, Anton coincidentally encountered Fake Ploeg Junior and Cor Takes and recognized that they could empathize with his anguish. Moreover, Anton realized that Fake suffered a worse fortune, as Fake was only qualified to “[work] in an appliance store” (Mulisch 87), and is characterized as an “aggressive” and “threatening” man. Similarly, Takes is characterized as a “sloppy, unhappy drunk [living] in a basement” (141), whereas Anton has a family and a stable job. Anton’s realization that he is not suffering alone is the key to his recovery from the incident. Additionally, after avoiding all events related to politics, Anton suffered from an unbearable toothache, which unexpectedly lead to his participation in the demonstration against nuclear arms. Anton’s experience is depicted as “dreamlike” (169), “peaceful” (172) and a “euphoria” (169). Through the diction used to illustrate Anton’s experience, Mulisch portrays how this demonstration allows Anton to face his past. Thus, Anton’s acceptance of his past is a result of a series of coincidences. This is a direct contrast to CDF, where after the violent incident, the only way to cope with the violent incident is to take deliberate steps to justify one’s actions. However, similar to Marquez, Mulisch illustrates how the causation is significant for the resolution. In this case chance was the cause of the incident and thus, chance was also critical for the resolution for those affected by the incident.
Throughout CDF and The Assault, chance plays an important role in the events leading up to and resulting from the violent incident. Marquez depicts chance as a scapegoat for the incident, which the inhabitants readily accept, even though it is not the true cause for Santiago’s death. On the other hand, Mulisch uses chance as the actual cause and resolution of the assault, even though many of those affected by the repercussions have difficulties accepting this. This enigma around whether chance can be used as a legitimate reason for misfortune, is something people face in everyday-life. This is often referred to as the “blame game”, in which humans blame unexpected results on coincidence or fate, because they cannot gather the courage to take responsibility for the consequences of their choices.
The use of diction to show how traditions have lost meaning as illustrated in Chronicle of a death foretold
In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Marquez uses diction to show how traditions have gradually lost their meaning in Colombian society, leading the readers to question their own motives for following customs. Wrong motives could often hurt human relationships, so people should not value tradition before individuals’ well-beings. The characters in this book are contrasted with each other to show the changes in the meanings of traditions. The Vicario twins represent the change of honor and Pura Vicario and Colonel Lazaro Aponte represent the forgotten responsibilities of their parts in society. These show the reader Marquez’s criticism on the current immoral system of following traditions in the community.
One way traditions have gradually lost its meaning is shown through the use of diction of two characters, as one represents tradition back when it was a way of life and the other represents tradition that has become an excuse for wrongdoings. Pedro represents the tradition back when it was a way of life. When his sister, Angela, is returned, the tradition of maintaining honor determines Pedro to kill Santiago. When the townspeople ask him why he’s looking for Santiago, he replies “spontaneous[ly]”(54) that Santiago knows why. The use of the word “spontaneous” shows how he is used to it. He has lived through his life with traditions, so they have become a way of life for him. This is important because Pedro emphasizes that Santiago knows what he has done and has to accept his fate just like he is accepting his fate to go after Santiago. Because Pedro choses to live by traditions, his fate is foretold. Pedro fulfills this duty of killing Santiago by killing him with words. Even though he acquires physical weapons, he tells everyone about his plan. It seems almost as if he wants someone to stop him. When Colonel Lazaro Aponte later takes away his knives, he believes that his duty is over. This is significant because if Pedro wanted to kill him physically, he would have not told anyone, because if the town knew, someone might have tried to stop him. But the fact that he did shows how he was willing to kill him by just his words. He kills Santiago by the repetition of his answer, “He knows why”(54). Pedro kills Santiago with words by spreading word of Santiago’s sin. When everyone in town knows what Santiago has done, their views of him changes; people respect Santiago less than they did before. Pedro kills Santiago without damaging others’ well-beings and still gains honor for his sister. He anticipated what his actions could result in. On the other hand, Pablo believes that the only way for him to fulfill his duties is by physically killing Santiago. Pablo decides to kill Santiago and uses tradition as an excuse to justify his immoral action. Pablo convinces his brother that they have to kill him and sharpens the second pair of knives. Pablo claims that “before men” the killing was a “matter of honor”(49). The fact that he states “before men” shows how he did it for himself. He is using the fact that the killing is a matter of honor to reason it. This is significant because honor has lost its meaning. Instead of preserving honor by killing, he reasons the killing by honor. In the end, both brothers kill Santiago. However, one does it because it is his way of life while the other does it without any justification. This leads the readers to question what we truly do when we follow traditions, as some require us to hurt other people. And if we have the wrong motives, we may kill someone, whether it is by words or weapons, the way we do not intend to.
Another way traditions have lost its meaning is shown by Pura Vicario and Colonel Lazaro Aponte. They forget their true roles in society and worry about their appearances. Pura Vicario forgets the meaning of mourning when she mourns for her deceased child. Her mourning is described to be “relaxed inside the house but rigorous on the street”(31). A natural instinct of mourning is crying no matter the situation. However, Pura Vicario does not cry inside her house. Pura is putting on a show because she wants the public to see that she is mourning but does not cry inside the house. Also, the word “relaxed” means free from anxiety. Pura does not care about her child inside the house and follows a set of rules, which is to mourn in public. People worry about their outside images more than their genuine beliefs, but this should not be the case. Colonel Lazaro Aponte also only fulfills the most apparent deeds of his job as a mayor. Similar to Pura Vicario, he does not care about what happens in the town when he is supposed to. For example, he does not question the brothers about their intentions when he sees them with knives(56). This is important because he is supposed to stop any killings, but he does not even warn Santiago. If he truly is the mayor, he could have done so much more because he is the most powerful person in town but he does not. His action on the day of Santiago’s death is described to be the “final proof of his silliness”(57). The word silly shows how the people will not rely on him. People are supposed to go to the mayor for help and advice, but they view him to be silly, a man with no common sense, because he has failed to execute his tasks. Also, the words “final proof” show two things: he has always been this way and people no longer consider him as a mayor. These two characters fail to carry out their proper roles in society. However, Marquez is not saying that they are the only guilty people who valued appearance over responsibility. Even now, people tend to, but should not, forget the true meaning of their part in society.
Through the use of diction, Marquez portrays the defects of following traditions in the Colombian society. Traditions were so ingrained in their brains that they used them as excuses for our wrongdoings and forgot our roles in their community. But this is not to claim that they are simply the only ones guilty. Nowadays, everyone is so accustomed to certain beliefs that we do anticipate the outcome of our actions. We often fight and argue, which damage our relations. We should fix our traditions to make sure every one of us support the prosperity of all.
The Roles of Gender as Depicted in Chronicles of a Death Foretold
In Garcia Marquez’s novella Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the different roles of men and women in this 1950’s Latin American society are prominently displayed by various characters. The named perpetrator of a young bride is murdered to save the honor of the woman and her family. Apparently, in Colombia during the 1950’s, men were expected to take care of the family and protect family dignity, while women were brought up to marry and maintain the household. In this novel, Garcia Marquez uses his characters as tools to display the cultural gender roles within the Chronicle.
The men depicted by Garcia Marquez are expected to uphold the honor of the family no matter what the cost. With this premise in mind, Garcia Marquez created the Vicario twins, the brothers of Angela. Garcia Marquez stresses the theme of “twins” with the Vicario brothers to convey a duality motif. This double-sided sense deals with the fact that there are two brothers (twins), yet also has a deeper meaning; the boys have two ways of thinking about the murder. On the one hand, they believe killing Santiago is necessary to redeem their family’s honor. On the other, the Vicario brothers don’t really want to murder Santiago; the gravity of the situation (determined by their cultural norms) practically forces them to. Clotilde remarks, “She was certain that the Vicario brothers were not as eager to carry out the sentence as to find someone who would do them the favor of stopping them” (Marquez 57). The boys attempt to avoid killing Santiago on numerous occasions, first announcing at the market that they were actually going to perform the murder (a ploy that could lead to the murder’s prevention). They also conveniently tell twenty two people about their plan. Despite their struggle, upholding their sister’s honor is more important than going to jail for murder. The Vicarios are mainly concerned with matters of family reputation, while Pablo’s girlfriend and the other members of society are concerned with being associated with them. Pedro Vicario, “the more forceful of the brothers” (28), almost refuses to go through with the plan to kill Santiago. Pablo, surprisingly, steps up to the plate and convinces his brother to go along with the plan: “So he put the knife in his hand and dragged him off almost by force to search for their sister’s lost honour” (49). This shows that cultural norms come even before the emotional welfare of the twins. In precisely this manner, Garcia Marquez uses the Vicario brothers to exemplify the expectation of men to uphold honor in this society.
Garcia Marquez also employs various other male characters to put into effect the theme of men being dominant over women. One of the most relevant characters here is Santiago Nasar, the protagonist of the story. Though we never truly discover whether of not Santiago is guilty of deflowering Angela, his reputation doesn’t do much to help his case. Santiago is known for his pushy passes at the young women of the village, including Divina Flor. Divina’s name is symbolic for her purity, which can be juxtaposed sharply against Santiago’s aggressive sexuality. In fact, Santiago’s sexual advances towards the women demonstrate the normality of men using women as objects in this society. Another important character in light of this theme is Bayardo San Roman. Bayardo practically forces Angela to marry him when the two don’t even know each other. He buys her love with expensive things, but doesn’t take the time to actually get to appreciate her; he thinks that his money and good looks will be enough. This maneuvering shows how men expected women to only want to marry them because of wealth and looks, once again demonstrating a woman’s expectation of marriage.
There are other respects in which Garcia Marquez draws on the Vicario family as the primary example of gender roles. Angela Vicario is possibly the character in Chronicle of a Death Foretold who most clearly demonstrates the expectations on women in the community. Angela’s name literally means “angel”, a fact which is extremely ironic in light of her situation. However, Angela’s name isn’t simply a contradiction of her real self; it also reflects on the expectations of the people around her. The villagers assume that Angela is pure and angelic; one of the most important values in this society is virginity. Women were expected to remain chaste until marriage, and this sacred idea held a crucial place in this town. The prime example of the importance of virginity was Angela’s discretion. Angela Vicario’s name symbolizes the expected gender role placed on young women in the society of the Chronicle. Garcia Marquez also uses Pura Vicario to develop this theme. Pura has a social obligation to look after her daughter, and make sure that her household follows the rules of society. Her name is symbolic as well, and means “pure.” Naturally, Pura’s frustration and anger towards Angela could be based on the importance of purity to her.
Garcia Marquez utilizes various other, somewhat more minor female characters to exemplify the theme of female virtue and its social importance. One other character of interest here is Prudencia Cotes. Prudencia’s name means cautious, a quality which can definitely be applicable in her situation. Prudencia declares during the narrator’s interview: “I never would have married him if he hadn’t done what a man should do” (62). Prudencia’s very name suggests that her belief is considered wise, shrewd, and good judgement by the people of the town. This further emphasizes this society’s muddled value of upholding honor. It also further demonstrates the expectation of men to uphold honor. A final woman character who exemplifies cultural gender roles is Clotilde Armenta. Clotilde shares ownership of a milk shop with her husband. By day, milk is the main product of the shop. Garcia Marquez uses milk to symbolize female nurturing; Clotilde watches over the twins in a way, telling them not to kill Santiago in front of the bishop, and confiding in the Colonel that neither of the boys really wants to commit the murder. By night, the milk shop turns into a bar, with alcohol being the main product. Alcohol generally symbolizes violence and turmoil, and is known as a “man’s drink”. Clotilde’s shop symbolizes the contrast between men and women in this society. A third female character employed is Divina Flor, whose name actually means “Divine Flower”. Divina is another example of the expectations of society upon women; she is pure and chaste and rejects Santiago Nasar’s aggressive advances. Through the use of female characters, Garcia Marquez demonstrates the cultural gender roles placed on women.
In almost every culture, a series of basic gender roles have influenced the lives of everyday people since youth; in some cultures, these rules are as concrete as law. Garcia Marquez’s depicted culture exemplifies traditional roles of cooking, cleaning, and child-raising that have been carried out by women in similar societies in the past. In this society and time, a woman’s main role is to become a wife; “Women were reared to be married” (27). Women also have other traditional roles in the Chronicle. The narrator describes these roles when speaking of Angela and her sisters: “They knew how to do screen embroidery, sew by machine, weave bone lace, wash and iron, make artificial flowers and fancy candy, and write engagement announcements” (27). Despite the traditional gender roles in this novel, there is also an example of a more interesting role that isn’t as prevalent in this society. Angela and her sisters belong to the “Cult of Death”, which involves “sitting up with the ill, comforting the dying, and enshrouding the dead” (28). It is said that none of the other girls in the village participate in this so called cult. This demonstrates Angela’s deviation from the cultural traditions, foreshadowing how she breaks the sacred rule of remaining a virgin later on in the novel.
Garcia Marquez utilizes the characters of his book to portray traditional and cultural gender roles in this Colombian society. He uses the Vicario twins to display the role of men to uphold honor, Angela and Pura to demonstrate the expectations placed on women, Santiago and Bayardo to describe male dominance, and Clotilde, Prudencia, and Divina to put to use the theme of females in this society. Through his use of name symbolism and motifs, Garcia Marquez is also able to employ the gender role theme (duality motif, milk symbolizing female nurturing). Thus, Garcia Marquez meshes together characters and symbolism to create a society in which the most important value is the distinguished gender roles of males and females.
The Theme of Religion as Depicted in Chronicle of a Death Foretold
The novel “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” takes place in the 1950s in a small Colombian village near the sea. The narrator is investigating the murder of Santiago Nasar, a rich Arab. He was murdered by the Vicario brothers, who believed took away the virginity of their sister, however there is not enough evidence of this. The book is written in journalistic style, as the narrator always mentions the full name of each person he is interviewing and always offers as many points of view as possible. An emerging theme in the novel is the theme of religion and specifically the Catholic religion.
The first encounter the reader has with religion is in the first chapter, where the villagers are awaiting for the bishop’s arrival. They made numerous preparations to honor the bishop, hoping he would get off the boat this year. Their hopes were crushed, as once again he did not get off to greet them and appreciate the gifts. The bishop’s moves while on the boat are described as “mechanic”, showing his indifference towards the small town. This goes against the beliefs of love and forgiveness of the Catholic religion. Moreover, Marquez foreshadows the fate of Santiago, as he mentions, “the people were too excited with the bishop’s visit to worry about any other news”, meaning that even though most of the villagers knew about the Vicario brother’s intentions, they were too busy preparing for the bishop’s arrival, hoping that he would prevent this murder from happening. The second religious figure in the novel is Father Carmen Amador, whose role is very ironic. He choses not to intervene and stop the two brothers, even though he was aware of the entire plan. Later on, he even forgets to warn Santiago, because he was distracted by the bishop’s arrival. Father Amador even says that the Vicario brothers are “innocent…before God”. His name is ironic, as in Spanish it means lover, however his name is very contradictory, as when he is performing the autopsy on Santiago’s dead body, he does it with no love at all, in a very violent way. Since his name means lover, he could have been the one who took Angela’s virginity. This could be why he welcomed the Vicario brothers and forgave them in the name of God after the murder. Moreover, being Angela’s lover could have been the reason why he did not warn Santiago or why he performed such a violent autopsy on his body.
One of the most striking portrayals of religion in the novel is the similarity of Santiago to Jesus Christ. Firstly, Marquez has chosen Santiago’s name very thoughtfully, as in Spanish Santo can be translated to “Saint”, immediately making the first connection of his death to Christ. Moreover, Nasar sounds similar to Nazareth, the birthplace of Jesus. Santiago being an Arab was seen as an outsider to the Colombian society around him, like Jesus. Some parts of the novel seem similar to Christ’s story according to the Bible, for example, the cocks that began to crow in their baskets. This is similar to the cocks that crowed three times before Jesus death. According to the title, Santiago’s death was foretold, which is similar to Jesus’ prediction of his own death. Another way that makes Santiago comparable to Jesus, is through his death, as it resembles the crucifixion of Christ. Pedro Vicario mentions “we killed him openly”, this is a similarity between the two, as Jesus was also killed openly. Even though Santiago’s murder did not take place in front of everyone, it can still correspond to Jesus, as the whole town was aware of the murder, they were all spectators, but nobody was willing to act to defend Santiago. The most direct connection to Jesus is where it is mentioned that “He had a deep stab in the right hand, it looked like a stigma of the crucified Christ”. Another similarity between Christ’s crucifixion and Nasar’s death is where Marquez mentions: “the knife went through the palm of his right hand and then sank into his side up to the hilt. Everybody heard his cry of pain”, this is very similar to the moment where the Roman soldiers are nailing Jesus on the cross. Moreover, when the two brothers were attacking Santiago, it is mentioned that the knife he was being attacked with kept coming out clean, which is an example of magic realism that shows Santiago’s magical talents. Santiago was “mortally wounded three times”, the number three can be linked to religion as it could symbolize the three times Jesus was denied by Saint Peter. In this case, Saint Peter would be the people who refused to stop the Vicario brothers. Another interpretation of the symbolism behind the number three and religion is that the devil tempted Jesus three times. Angela could be the devil, as she might have tempted Santiago to take away her virginity, indicating that maybe he is guilty in the end. During the murder, Santiago seemed like he was being nailed to the wooden door, this relates closely to Christ’s nailing on the wooden cross. Many people heard Jesus’ last words on the cross, and realized their wrong doings, similarly many people heard Santiago’s screams and realized their mistake of being impassive. Moreover, both Christ and Santiago showed no resistance during their death. Pedro Vicario also mentions that Santiago knew why they were going to kill him, which makes his death parallel to Jesus, as He also knew why He was going to be killed. Additionally, Marquez points out that Santiago had a magical talent, which is similar to Jesus’ talents. Another similarity of the two is that they both wore white at the day of their death. This symbolizes purity and may suggest that Santiago, similar to Jesus, was not guilty in the end and was simply paying for other people’s sins. Santiago died for Angela’s sin and Christ for the people’s sins. This is a criticism for the decision of the two brothers, as they refused to investigate Angela’s claim further and only cared about the honor carried by their family’s name.
In the novel it is ironic how all the townspeople are very respectful towards religion and that it plays a big role in their lives. Firstly, Angela’s name means angelic, which is ironic as she was no angel. She was the reason for Santiago’s murder. Most of her qualities, mainly the fact that she had pre-marital sex, show that she was the opposite. This links to the Bible’s interpretation for the creation of the world, where Eve gets tempted by the snake, in this case Angela may have been tempted by Santiago to have pre-marital sex. Moreover, it is ironic how the Vicario brothers’ way of restoring their honor is through murder, as they are breaking one of The Ten Commandments that states, “Thou shalt not murder.” Right after the murder the two brothers run to the church to confess, justifying their act as a matter of honor and the Church accepts this, thus it fails to see that one of the Ten Commandments that they live by is broken. This shows that honor is so important in their society that they fail to act morally and according to God.
To conclude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez uses various examples of religion throughout the novel, to criticize the society’s acts. In the novel Santiago Nasar is seen as a figure with characteristics similar to Jesus. This indicates that maybe he was innocent in the end and he had to die for Angela’s sins, just like Jesus died for the people’s sins. Moreover, the fact that the Catholic Church may pardon murder if it is a matter of honor is very ironic and judgmental, as it is a breakage of the Ten Commandments, thus it should not be justified. The bishop acts as a symbol showing how biased the church is and that it does not want to concern itself with unimportant matters, like the small Colombian town, even though it accepts all the gifts and preparations. Lastly, similar to the bishop, Father Amador could be a biased religious figure, as he could potentially be Angela’s lover and he was the one to justify and accept a murder as a matter of honor.
Dry September as Depicted in Chronicles of a Death Foretold
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold and William Faulkner’s “Dry September” are very similar to each other structurally and thematically, despite being separated by fifty years and a regional and linguistic barrier. They both use nonlinear story-telling to unravel tales of a wrongful murder. However, beyond this surface similarity, further analyses of the stories show that there are striking similarities between their characters that reveal a harsh reality of their societies. Both Chronicle of a Death Foretold and Dry September have “villains”, represented by Angela Vicario and Minnie Cooper, respectively, whose words of accusations influenced by societal pressures led to brutal measures to be taken against the named men. In addition, they both have “heroes”, represented by Clotilde Armenta and Henry Hawkshaw, whose cowardice to confront the societal pressure prevented both from truly being heroic in averting the tragedy that would ensue in their respected tales. Overall, the narratives illustrate how powerful the status quo can be in a society, not only because it justifies brutal action in order for it to be maintained but also because its pressure allows for the brutal action to be supported by those who may not explicitly have ill will.
In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, a pure woman is lauded in the small, fictional town where Angela Vicario grows up. Furthermore, Angela was raised by Purisima del Carmen, who held an exceptionally high standard of purity for her. Angela knew how important this standard was in her family and in her community, so she knew that there would be severe consequences to her and anyone involved if it were to come out that she had gone against this standard by losing her virginity before marriage. This may explain why when she was questioned by her brothers on who the other man was, she “nailed it to the wall with her well-aimed dart” by falsely naming Santiago Nasar (Marquez, 47). She anticipated that her brothers would be expected to avenge her honor by going after whoever her scapegoat was, and by giving them Santiago she gave them a person whose womanizing history not only made him all the more believable, but also removed her from blame by making Santiago out to be a perpetrator. Santiago was an easy pawn she used to directly protect her honor within the family, and indirectly protect her family’s honor in the community
Just as Santiago was a pawn for Angela to protect her status, Will Mayes was a pawn for Minnie Cooper in Dry September. The society Minnie lives in is also unfair to women, scorning those who are of a certain age and still not settled down – those like Minnie. The unfairness toward women is especially shown in how Minnie is “relegated into adultery by the public” when she begins dating a widowed banker (Faulkner, 4). Minnie, who held the town in the palm of her hand in her prime younger years, may then be attempting to reclaim her relevancy by starting a rumor that something happened between her and Will Mayes. Because Will Mayes is a black man, she knows that he is the perfect man to use in order to attach attention to her rumor and therefore attention to herself. Furthermore, her use of Will Mayes would stigmatize her less because her position as a white woman automatically turns her into the victim of the story. Both Minnie and Angela, then, use their knowledge of their society’s standards to their own advantage, even if it comes with deadly side effects.
Clotilde Armenta and Henry Hawkshaw are both perhaps the most morally right people in their respected towns, which is why they might be considered heroes. In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Clotilde is the proprietress of a local milk shop, and on the morning that Santiago is killed she alerts several people to warn the soon to be murder victim, including Father Amador and Cristo Bedoya. In addition to this, she attempts to get the twins drunk while they are in her shop so that they will be unable to carry out the gruesome deed. In Dry September, Hawkshaw is a local barber, and when news comes in about the cruel rumors about Will Mayes, he defends Will against the accusation, and chases after McLendon’s mob on their way to lynch the man. Both of the actions taken by these characters suggest that they do care about the well-being of the victim. However, in both books the “heroes” remove themselves just enough from the situation to prevent any heroism from actually being done. Clotilde never makes any direct attempts to interfere with the twins’ murder plans, even though she had ample opportunity to. For example, when they first come into her shop and see Santiago, she tells them “Leave him for later, if only out of respect for his grace the bishop” (Marquez, 16). In this moment, she could have told them to not follow through with their plans. Instead, she only delayed them, and even entertained the notion of them killing Santiago. Her lack of appropriate action is an indicator of the fallibility of human nature. She is clearly well-intentioned and does not want to enable the twins to do any wrong, however the importance that the town places on upholding honor seems to somehow justify the actions enough to make it incredibly difficult to come outright against it.
Hawkshaw faces a similar dilemma: the general consensus in his town seems to be that it is wrong for a black man to ever associate with a white woman, and if he were to ever do so he ought to be punished. So, while Hawkshaw was able to speak in favor of Will Mayes and get in the car with the lynch mob, he jumped out of the car right before the killing actually took place. If he were to stay involved in this very moment, he would permanently brand himself as a “nigger-lover” as McLendon suggests – a stigma that would take a great strength of will to hold (Faulkner, 6). Hawkshaw simply does not have this strength of will. His intentions are good, but all in all not enough to overcome the expectations that are bound up with his racist society.
Novel Review: the Townspeople
In chapter one, many of the townspeople agree “the weather is funereal” (4). In addition, Santiago has a dream about “going through a grove of timber trees where a gentle drizzle was falling” (3) and when he dies, the villagers say that there is a “cloudy, low sky and the thick smell of still waters, and that at the moment of the misfortune a thin drizzle is falling like the one Santiago Nasar had seen in his dream grove” (4). It is also strange that on the day the Vicario twins kill Santiago, the bishop is coming to visit their village.
If it was any other day, Santiago would have come and gone from his house using the back door but since the day is such a special event, Santiago decides to go to and from his house from the front door, which allowes his on-looking killers to see that he is in his house. Additionally, there is a note left under the front door of Santiago’s house warning him that he is going to get murdered by Pablo and Pedro Vicario, yet no one finds the note until after the crime. The Nasar family’s maid states that Santiago “already looked like a ghost” (15) when he comes down to the kitchen for coffee on the morning of his death.
Finally, the last ironic thing Santiago stated in chapter one is “That’s what my wedding’s going to be like. Life will be too short for people to tell about it” (18). Not only is life too short for people to talk about his wedding, but life is too short for Santiago, himself, to even have a wedding, let alone another day to live.In chapter two, the reader is informed that the Vicario brothers are extremely protective of their younger sister, Angela.
Angela marries Bayardo San Román, who returns her back to her family after discovering that his new bride is not a virgin. Angela then tells her brothers that she has lost her virginity to Santiago Nasar and then the two men go off and search for him. The reader also discovers that if Santiago has in fact slept with Angela, he would have told his friends. As stated by the narrator, who is also Santiago’s friend, “I was with him all the time, in the church and at the festival, and none of us caught a glimpse of any change in his manner” (41). Santiago showes no guilt during Angela and Bayardo’s wedding. Another ironic fact in chapter two is when Santiago says at the wedding party, “I don’t want any flowers at my funeral” (42). He has no idea that the next day, his friend would see to it that there would be no flowers at the funeral.
The name of the novel ties in to an important sentence in chapter 3, “There had never been a death more foretold” (50). There has never been a more predicted death than Santiago Nasar’s because the Vicario brothers tell everyone they see that they are going to kill Santiago. In comparison to the short story, “The Lottery”, where none of the villagers try to stop a horrible tradition from occurring even though they know the outcome of the event, the people who know the twins are going to kill Santiago do not do anything about it. Many of the villagers believe that the Vicario twins are pretending, because they think the two boys wearere drunk and know them as well-respected men. In addition, when people ask Pablo and Pedro why they are going to kill Santiago, all the two say are “Santiago Nasar knows why” (53).
One of the only people who try to stop the twins is Clotilde Armenta, the storekeepers wife that lives across the street from Santiago. While the two boys are waiting for Santiago in the shop, Clotilde ruthlessly tries to stop them from carrying out their plan. Although she tells her husband and many others about the impending murder, no one believes her because it is such an unbelievable tale. As said on page 59, “They came to sharpen their knives a second time and once more they shouted for people to hear that they were going to cut Santiago Nasars guts out, so I believed they were kidding around”. The fact that Pablo and Pedro walk around the town with butcher knives in their hands, as well as sharpening their tools twice, indicates that they are going to do something dangerous, yet no one sees the signs and ignores the evidence.
The townspeople are ignorant to believe that the twins re joking even though they have all the signals right in front of them. I think that the Vicario brothers know that killing Santiago is wrong, but they think that they need to commit the crime in order to rid their sister’s dishonor. In addition, I believe that the twins are waiting for someone to stop them, that way they can say they try to kill Santiago but are stopped. Pablo recalls that on the day of the murder “it hadn’t been easy for him to convince his brother of their final resolve” (60). The two know that murdering a good friend is ultimately wrong, but they remind each other that their goal is to restore the honor back to their family.On the first page of Chapter 4, Father Carmen states, “It was as if we killed him all over again after he was dead.” (72). Not only does Santiago get murdered, but in a way, his corpse is dually murdered because his guts are falling out and his body is mutilated.
The priest that does the autopsy on Santiago thinks that it is humiliating for Santiago, even after he is dead, because of his awful condition. On page 75, Santiago is compared to Christ on the crucifix. This comparison is accurate because both Christ and Santiago are murdered without trial, and like Jesus, who was murdered on a wooden cross, Santiago is murdered and held up on a wooden door with knives. Ironically, even though the Vicario brothers follow through with their plan in the end, they both experienc guilt and sickness while in jail. In addition, what seems so right and necessary to the Vicario brothers in terms of killing Santiago, in the end, is so wrong for them. They become ill and cannot rid themselves or their conscious of the awful smell of Santiago’s dead corpse.The act of killing Santiago ultimately scars this town for life.
As stated on page 97, “Hortensia Baute, whose only participation was having seen two bloody knives, that weren’t bloody yet, felt so affected by the hallucination that she fell into a penitential crisis, in one day, unable to stand it any longer, she ran out naked into the street.” Hortensia Baute, in addition to many others, such a Flora Miguel, Aura Villeros, Don Rogerlio de la Flor, and Placida Linero , all have been affected by this murder. The act of this murder leaves an open wound for these people.
Since there is no hard evidence that Santiago had been with Angela, he is an innocent victim who is brutally murdered. As stated on page 100, “The victim’s varied behavior during his last hours was overwhelming proof of his innocence…So the murdered man’s refusal to worry could have been suicide.” If Angela lost her virginity to Santiago, then he would have showed signs of worry because he knew that her brothers were coming for him, but because Santiago acts normal and innocent on the day of his death, one realizes that he has no idea that Angela told her brothers about Santiago and that they are going to kill him.
He Loves Me…He Loves Me Not
At the crux of Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a love story. The story itself is quite simple but in reality is dominated by the elusiveness of love and filled with cultural customs, clashes, illusions, and ambivalence. The conception of love in the novel is bleak; Santiago’s parents marry out of convenience “without a single moment of happiness” (García Márquez 6), and her mother must “console herself for her solitude” (10-11). Indeed, the thin line between love and duty and love and matrimony becomes completely blurred. Considering the lack of love in the novel coupled with its superficiality and manipulation, love is negatively and pessimistically presented. García Márquez’s choice to preface the novel with “the pursuit of love / is like falconry” (Preface), immediately establishes the connection between love and sport, with a winner and a loser, powerful and weak. This aspect is culturally related. Boys are brought up to be “men” while girls are brought up to be suitable for marriage. The fact that women must be virgins upon marriage whereas the men can engage in premarital sex immediately places women and men at different standings in society and in relationships. If fidelity has anything to do with love, then an entire generation of young men have already been corrupted to believe that flesh takes the place of love as a permanent entity. In addition, the marriages in the novel are not consummated out of love but because of accompanied benefits. The entire courting process reeks of familial agreements and the sharing of reputation, affluence, power, and honor. Love does not play a role at any point. Angela’s mother mentions, in fact, that “love can be learned too” (38). Already love fails be a human emotion; it becomes, rather, a lesson, much like the process of learning how to make artificial flowers and candy.There is a conception in the novel of the perfect “package” of a woman as servile and sacrificial, but nowhere is love inserted into the prototypical woman nor the marriage. The matter of “training” or “taming” the woman is a consequence of women’s worthlessness in Colombian society outside marital realm. The manner in which Angela’s mother “trains” her daughters, preparing them for the sole purpose of winning a reputable marriage by learning screen embroidery, sewing, weaving, washing, and ironing, manifests this point. The notion of love is so taboo that Angela “only dared hint at the inconvenience of a lack of love” (38), as if the word “love” itself fails to exists and carries no meaning in the society.Furthermore, San Román’s pursuit of Angela drives the beginning action of the book, without the slightest indication of love. Having noticed Angela once in the street, he is able to judge that she will be his wife, almost implying a random choice of prey amongst a town of strangers. He is so nonchalant about his pick that he tells the landlady to remind him after he awakes from his nap that “I’m going to marry her” (31), not because of her personality or her character, but because of her stature and because “she’s well-named” (31). The courting that follows is really a negotiation between San Román and Angela’s family and does not involve her at all. No love nor even infatuation is seen; the couple barely speaks to one another. Likewise, Angela’s family views the marriage with San Román as a good financial “catch,” mentioning that “a family dignified by modest means had no right to disdain that prize of destiny” (38). Yet by paralleling matrimony with “destiny,” García Márquez immediately casts a shadow on love: just as fate destroys Santiago, matrimony ruled by destiny and not love brings disaster to the couple. Akin to the perilous game of falconry performed out of training and habit, love brings its own dangers, anguish, and battles when the prey is chosen unwisely. From the beginning, the reader is prepared for a tale of romantic chase, along with a chronicle of human sentiments of power, pride, and desire that accompany the game. Santiago, a falconry expert, is interestingly depicted as a “butcher hawk” (14), and a “sparrow hawk” (104), who tames not only falcons but also women. Interestingly, his pursuit of women is like that of prey–he handles them roughly and chases them randomly with no deep emotional connection, much less love. Just as he exploits his birds, he exploits his sexual power as a wealthy man among these girls. He views women the same way he views the training of his falcons. Grabbing Divina Flor by the wrist, he says to her, “The time has come for you to be tamed” (8). Already, he has debased the girl to that of the animal, and the usual equal footing between a man and woman in love is lost.Falconry can be viewed in four stages: first the training process, then the pursuit, third the battle, and finally the return. Similarly, the love story runs like the game: first Angela is trained for the “pursuit” of a good marriage, estrangement occurs, and, when San Román returns to Angela in the end of the novel, the return is reconciled. Yet, when the couple is reunited at the end of the novel, the supposed love between the couple arises not from affection but from time and ritual. Angela’s two thousand letters are nothing but symbols of commitment. It is hard to believe she truly loves a man whom she has been “married” to for less than six hours. Besides, San Román never ventures to open any of the letters, demonstrating that he does not care about the content of the amorous messages, only their number and frequency. The closest thing to love in the novel, strangely enough, is this commitment, and even it is viewed pessimistically and as difficult to come by; it takes Angela and San Román seventeen years to find each other.García Márquez’s message regarding love is stark and lucid. Santiago dies an excruciating death, butchered like an animal. Yet he has come full circle, for his unwise choice of preywomenhas come back to haunt him. This twist of fate occurs in the middle of the book, when the narrator warns, “ ‘A falcon who chases a warlike crane can only hope for a life of pain’ ”(74-75), and, because of his falconry, Santiago is predestined to suffer the ultimate pain in the form of a young death. The quote itself reveals another facet of love: it is full of conflict and woe, and again Marquez’s bleak view of love seeps through. As viewed by the narrator’s mother, “Honor is love” (114), and since the Vicario brothers performed their deed to uphold honor, they possess at least the supposed equivalent of love. Despite Santiago’s power as a falcon, his relentless pursuit of “prey” without love or an equivalent destroys him. Works CitedGarcía Márquez, Gabriel. Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Trans. Gregory Rabassa. New York: Ballantine Books, 1982.
Honor Codes and Ritual Contrition
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a relatively small book, yet it is open to countless interpretations as to the book’s overall purpose. Here I will discuss two such interpretations: Isabel Alvarez-Borland’s analysis sees the novella as asking why a senseless murder was allowed to occur; Carlos J. Alonso focuses on the point of the text being a ritual means for redemption. Both analyses are strongly argued and very conceivable, offering valuable insights into the text and developing meaningful interpretations.Isabel Alvarez-Borland’s “From Mystery to Parody: (Re)Readings of Garcia Marquez’s Cronica de una muerte anunciada” asks why the town allowed the murder to transpire when there was ample opportunity to stop it. The analysis blames the town’s hypocritical honor codes for Santiago Nasar’s death and indicts the townspeople for their complicity. In this society, the women must remain virgins until marriage or else they are considered defiled and damaged. The men, on the other hand, seem to do as they please with no social repercussions. They even solicit whores before and even after marriage. For example, the narrator declares of Maria Alejandrina Cervantes, the town whore, “It was she who did away with my generation’s virginity” (Garcia Marquez 74).Indeed, in this view, the townspeople’s mentality is to blame. This social code is a blatant double standard, strictly censoring the women’s sexuality while the men go out and have promiscuous sex. In reality, Santiago is himself quite the womanizer, going around “nipping the bud of any wayward virgin who began showing up in those woods” (104). The town is so entrenched in these antiquated beliefs that the Vicario brothers are eventually absolved of the murder. The court accepts the argument that the murder was a necessary defense of honor, and after three years in prison, they are free men.The murder plot is known to almost everyone because the Vicario brothers make no secret of their plan. The town’s knowledge of the murder plot is illustrated by the narrator’s ironic comment, “There had never been a death more foretold” (57). The death is foretold to practically everyone except for Santiago himself. It seems absurd to think that the murder is allowed to take place, or that Santiago is not warned sooner, with such an abundance of foreknowledge.Pablo and Pedro Vicario feel so strongly bound by their society’s honor codes that they kill a man. In fact, the reader gets the sense that the Vicario brothers do not even want to kill Santiago; they are just doing it because they feel duty bound to do so. They believe that their family’s honor can only be redeemed through the public murder of Santiago. They cannot back down because the honor code binds them to a course of action. The amount of social pressure that is upon the boys can be seen in Prudencia Cotes’s startling statement, “I knew what they were up to…and I didn’t only agree, I never would have married [Pablo] if he hadn’t done what a man should do” (72). The only way they can be stopped is by the people around them, but the townspeople fail to prevent the murder. The town accepts and lives by this honor code which allows murder to regain respect. By failing to stop the murder, every person has, to some extent, been an accomplice to the crime.Alvarez-Borland’s analysis goes on to state that the last two sections of the story can be viewed as the author’s condemnation of the townspeople. In the second to last section, the narrator describes the autopsy as a massacre, a murder after the murder. This coupled with the grisly depiction of the actual murder “can thus be viewed as a motivation for the reader to realize, with the implied author, the dire consequences of hypocritical honor codes” (Alvarez-Borland 221). Also, as the analysis points out, the point of view changes from “I” to “we” in the fifth section, which “can be taken as further evidence of the condemnation by the author of the narrator and the townspeople, thus presenting a scathing comment on the corruption of their moral values as well as their institutions” (221). The book reveals the town as it really is: ugly and dirty.In fact, after the crime that these antiquated honor codes have led to takes place, the entire town seems to fall apart. Filled with a collective guilt, the town is changed forever, perhaps symbolized by Bayardo San Roman’s house and car: “The house began to crumble. The wedding car was falling apart by the door, and finally nothing remained except its weather-rotted carcass” (Garcia Marquez 100). Don Rogelio de la Flore dies at the shock of seeing how Santiago is murdered. Santiago’s former fiance, Flora Miguel, runs away with a lieutenant who then prostitutes her in a nearby town. Divina Flore, now overweight and faded, sits surrounded by her children from various fathers. Every person suffers a different fate, from death to insanity to that of the narrator, but it seems certain that the town has paid the price for their sins.While Alvarez-Borland’s analysis looks at Chronicle of a Death Foretold as a text that explores why the murder is allowed to happen, Carlos J. Alonso argues that the novella’s purpose is to reenact the murder as an attempt at redemption. In “Writing and Ritual in Chronicle of a Death Foretold” he asserts that the text is merely a means of recreating the crime, not understanding or accounting for it. The ritual reenactment of the offense “is an attempt to endow the crime with the prescribed order of ceremony, thereby overcoming the centrifugal and fortuitous character of the original events” (Alonso 265). The townspeople feel a tension that they try to alleviate by calling the day’s events fate. They find themselves constantly “trying to give order to the chain of many chance events that [have] made absurdity possible, and it [is] obvious that [they aren’t] doing it from an urge to clear up mysteries but because none of [them can] go on living without an exact knowledge of the place and the mission assigned to [them] by fate” (Garcia Marquez 113). Calling it fate makes it easier to accept that a murder that could have and should have been prevented took place. It serves to lessen the guilt felt by the townspeople.The story, Alonso argues, is told simply for the cathartic nature of storytelling. The chronicle’s purpose is the reliving of the murder in an attempt to relieve the town’s and the narrator’s tension and guilt. However, the very fact that the story is a ritual reenactment means that it can never serve as the instrument of redemption. With each reading and rereading of the story, the reader relives the murder. It is an endless cycle of violence that is never cleansed. In fact, Santiago is killed many times throughout the text. There is, of course, the grisly murder that appears at the end of the book, but Santiago Nasar also dies symbolically in his dreams. The night before his murder, for instance, Santiago’s dream contains the unlucky omen of birds. His mother, who is an experienced interpreter of dreams, curiously misreads her son’s warning, something she will never forgive herself for. Victoria Guzman also kills Santiago symbolically in the kitchen as she guts the rabbits, to Santiago’s disgust, thereby foreshadowing his own disembowelment. Also, as mentioned above, the autopsy is a gruesome mess in which Santiago is butchered once more. With the continual act of murder after murder, the book can offer no contrition.The only information that is gained from reading the story is the same limited data that is available to the narrator. He does not uncover any more truly significant facts than the investigating magistrate before him. He does not discover the truth about Santiago Nasar’s guilt or innocence. It is clear that the reader must look beyond this for the true purpose of the story. It may be a condemnation of medieval traditions and beliefs, or it may be a pass at penitence. Perhaps it is a comment on the corollaries of murder or a dissertation on the psychology of mass complicity. The text is open to several different interpretations, and thus should be approached with an open mind.Works CitedAlonso, Carlso J. “Writing and Ritual in Chronicle of a Death Foretold.” Modern Critical Views: Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1989. 257-269.Alvarez-Borland, Isabel. “From Mystery to Parody: (Re)Readings of Garcia Marquez’s Cronica de una muerte anunciada.” Modern Critical Views: Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1989. 219-226.Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. Chronicle of a Death Foretold. New York: Ballantine, 1982.
‘Crónica de una muerte anunciada is a narrative of horrifying ritual and social rigidity.’
The definition of a ‘crónica’ is a factual account of important or historical events in the order of their occurrence. García Márquez’s novel, far from being chronological, involves the chronic repetition and re-enacting of events over and over, pointing to a turning-over in the mind of the events which speaks to collective guilt. While the majority of the townsfolk seem to point to an incomprehensible fate as the cause of the crime, the narrator has returned to the town several decades after the crime was committed, still disturbed by the uncanny chain of coincidences that led to Santiago Nasar’s brutal murder. Key questions are left unanswered in the novel: we never know who deflowered Ángela, or who left the letter of warning under Santiago’s door. However, these questions become less relevant as the culpability of the town as a collective becomes more and more apparent. It is the rigidity of social obligation, the meek acceptance of ‘fate’, and the horrifying practice of scapegoating that stand as the principal causes of the recorded events and the repetitive, neurotic narrative certainly points to a sort of collective neurosis brought on by this guilt.
From the opening sentence of the novel, we are aware of the inevitability of what is going to happen, ‘El día en que lo iban a matar’; the use of the past tense shows us that the events that are being recorded are in the past and cannot be changed. This opening introduces a strong sense of predestination, which is consistent throughout the novel. Only a few pages later, the exact same sentence as the opening one is repeated again, which is the first of a number of repetitions of similar sentences referring to Santiago’s death. The reader cannot help but feel that these repetitions mark the steady beating of the executioner’s drum, and this idea is strengthened by their increased frequency as the novel progresses. Phrases such as, ‘ya tenía cara de muerto’ and other indicators like the fact Santiago’s hand felt like that of a dead man’s to Divina Flor all seem to take on a kind of incantatory nature like that of a ritual re-enactment of the crime. Although the apparent intent of the narrator is to investigate the murder, the text becomes a sort of ritual replication of the events. Earlier in the novel, the narrator distinguishes between ‘ellos’ and ‘yo’, however later on he mentions, ‘Durante años no pudimos hablar de otra cosa. Nuestra conducta diaria, dominada hasta entonces por tantos hábitos lineales, había empezado a girar de golpe en torno de una misma ansiedad común’. Freud’s theory of repetition compulsion; the re-staging of unpleasant events to allow for the possibility of gaining mastery over its horrific consequences, is reflected in this passage and the ritual re-enactment we see in Crónica de una muerte anunciada. By ritually repeating the events in which the townsfolk played an essentially passive part, the narrator is able to internalize the murder of Santiago on a collective level, which he achieves in this passage, and thus can escape from any individual responsibility he feels for the murder. Therefore, the actual process of the narrator returning to the town and writing this account of events is a ritual in itself. It helps absolve the narrator from individual guilt and by repeating the events like a death chant, the crime is presented as predestined by fate. Moreover, the use of the nosostros form of verbs in the passage quoted above points to a the collective effects of the crime on the town as a whole; this union of the townsfolk after the crime points towards the suggestion that Santiago was actually simply a scapegoat for the town’s shortcomings, a sacrificial offering so that the town could become united under this common anxiety.
Individual scapegoating is when feelings of hatred and hostility are concentrated on an individual (in this case, Santiago Nasar) to allow the community to unite, regardless of whether the victim is guilty. This horrific ritual dates back to Ancient Greece and is certainly evident in Crónica de una muerte anunciada. The novel contains all the elements of the traditional scapegoat ritual: the apparent innocence of the victim, his marginalized character and the final unification of the community via the ritual. Santiago is a son of an Arab immigrant, a group which we know is marginalized from various comments referring to the Turkish community. For instance, Polo Carrillo says about Santiago, ‘Creía que su plata lo hacía intocable’, to which his wife comments, ‘como todos los turcos’. The twins also fear that the Arabs will poison them in prison. However, Santiago’s suitability for sacrifice goes further: he straddles social boundaries because his mother is from the landed gentry, and he has no father or brother to avenge his death. He poses a threat to the social order and rigidity of the town and thus he is both an object of envy and a target of accusations, not to mention his reputation for de-flowering non-Arab girls. Perhaps all this information would be irrelevant if it were not for the fact that there seems to be no evidence to prove Santiago’s guilt. The narrator says about the judge that, ‘lo que más le había alarmado al final de su diligencia excesiva fue no haber encontrado un solo indicio, ni siquiera el menos verosímil, de que Santiago Nasar hubiera sido en realidad el causante del agravio’. In fact, the only testimony we have of Santiago’s guilt is Ángela’s, and this denunciation is reported not by the narrator but by an unexpected narrative voice that assumes a privileged perspective, embedding the accusation in a cloud of doubt for the rest of the novel. Therefore, the circumstances are set to create the overwhelming sense that Santiago’s death was, and had always been, ‘anunciada’, because he posed a challenge to the existing social order. Once the slightest cause of grievance appears, in this case Ángela’s de-flowering, his death becomes a foregone conclusion.
The collective passivity demonstrated by the townsfolk during the events is further evidence of the horrifying ritual that seemed to be taking place. The sentence, ‘Vamos a matar a Santiago Nasar’ is repeated by the twins numerous times to various members of the community, and yet the majority fail to take preventative action. They all have their own reasons, of course, such as Indalecio who ‘no se atrevió a prevenirlo’, however their passivity takes on a different, darker character when they all begin to gather, fuelled by the knowledge of what was about to occur. ‘…la gente sabía que Santiago Nasar iba a morir, y no se atrevían a tocarlo’ refers to the traditional rules of ritual and religious sacrifice that the one to be sacrificed must not be touched because of his sacred nature. Indeed, there are a number of parallels drawn between the Santiago and Christ. He was wearing white linen on the day of his death, which also underlines his innocence, while his full name alludes to both St James the apostle and Jesus the Nazarene. Furthermore, the scene where ‘la gente que regresaba del puerto, alertada por los gritos, empezó a tomar posiciones en la plaza para presenciar el crimen’ is actually proof of the collective guilt of the town and of this ritual sacrifice. Although they still continue to deny what is about to happen, their physical eagerness to get close to the scene of the crime and yet their lack of action to prevent it shows their a willingness to conform to this horrific ritual of social obligation and ‘honour’. Although there are certain people to try to protect Santiago, Nahir Miguel, Yamil Shaium and Clotilde Armenta, it is too late and Santiago becomes ‘asustó’ and ‘deslumbrado’. The scene where everyone is shouting at him from all sides is particularly suggestive of ritual where the victim is bombarded by the chants and cries of the people, like an animal running round confused in a pen before being killed. Thus, right up until his death, the practices of ritual and sacrifice are reflected in the novel’s events, and it seems as though the crime was something seen, not only as inevitable, but as something which was a necessity, part of a dark and twisted honour code which must be upheld, even if it means death. It may well be that this practice owes itself to the social rigidity of the society in which the reader is dealing.
Social rigidity is a main theme in Crónica de una muerte anunciada, and is mainly described through a lack of free will on the part of the Vicario brothers but also through Ángela. There are constant references throughout the novel towards the fact that the Vicario twins had no desire to kill Santiago, and indeed they become less and less inclined to follow through with the murder as the novel progresses. After their dispute, it becomes clear how Pedro Vicario saw the murder – ‘Pero también fue él quien pareció por cumplido el compromiso cuando los desarmó el alcalde’. This shows the distinct difference between what he personally feels about killing Santiago, and what social duty, ‘compromiso’, dictates that he should do. However, Pablo is not deterred and believes that his social duty dictates that he must actually carry out the murder, whatever the consequences- he tells the judge that he is innocent ‘Ante Dios y ante los hombres… fue un asunto de honor’. This is key to understanding the extent of society’s rigidity and the extremes that people will go to in order to adhere to tradition and this supposed code of honour. The brothers honestly believe that their crime simply brings justice for Santiago’s supposed de-flowering of Ángela. The aforementioned constant repetition of ‘vamos a matar a Santiago Nasar’ not only shows the community’s complicity and passive acceptance of the act of ‘justice’ that the twins will carry out, but also perhaps the attempt of the brothers to find someone who will prevent the murder from happening. Given that they are bound by tradition and duty to kill Santiago, they are unable to do anything else other than warn everyone in the town so that perhaps someone else could stop the horrific crime from happening. However, it is evident from analysis earlier in this essay that the town views the traumatic events as a ritual in which all concerned should act to social expectations. This meek acceptance of the roles granted by life is something that Ángela later tries and succeeds in breaking out of. All her life she has been trained by her mother to surrender to the patriarchal values of society, including being forced into loveless marriage. However, after the murder she finds new-found strength which begins with the thousands of love letters she writes to San Román and the realization that her mother is not strong and independent but just as trapped in the patriarchal system as she is. The return of Bayardo back into Ángela’s life, which also contains strong hints of Márquez’s magical realism, expresses the victory of Ángela’s non-conformist values over those of the society in which she lives. This stands in stark contrast to her brothers’ conformism to socially rigid values and traditions; this is the same conformism that ultimately allows the murder to occur. After all, the murder seems to be something that happens to the murderers, rather than something in which they play an active part. Pablo said, ‘esto no tiene remedio… es como si ya nos hubiera sucedido’, and arguably it is their unthinking conformity to society’s truly entrenched values that leads to their completion of the crime.
Conclusively, the notion of ritual is evident on all levels of the narrative. It is apparent in the actions (or lack of action) of the characters, who passively allow the murder to occur, and it is also manifest in their willingness to accept Santiago as a scapegoat regardless of true guilt. On a more detached level, the text is a ritual in itself as it allows for the absolution of the narrator through repetition of events and displacement of blame onto the collective. Furthermore, the unwillingness of the twins to commit the murder shows the strength and rigidity of social values to the extent that individuals seem robbed of their free will and driven purely by the superior drive of duty and obligation. Crónica de una muerte anunciada shows a community at its worst, where desire for unity and unthinking faith in tradition leads to a horrific and reprehensible crime that taints the town with guilt for decades.
GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ, G. Crónica de une muerte anunciada (Plaza y Janés Editores, 1998)
PELLÓN, G. Myth, Tragedy and the Scapegoat Ritual in Crónica de una muerte anunciada: Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos, 1988)
ALONSO, C. Writing and Ritual in Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Gabriel García Márquez: New Readings, p156) Cambridge University Press, 1987
McGUIRK, B. Free-play of fore-play: the fiction of non-consummation: speculations on Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Gabriel García Márquez: New Readings, p156) Cambridge University Press, 1987
HART, S. Critical Guide to Spanish Texts: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Grant and Cutler, 1994)
FREUD, S. Beyond the Pleasure Principle (London, Vienna: International Psycho-Analytical, 1922)
 PELLÓN, G. Myth, Tragedy and the Scapegoat Ritual in Crónica de una muerte anunciada: Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos, 1988) p401
 GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ, G. Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Plaza y Janés Editores) p7
 ibid. p12
 ibid. p124
 ibid. p21
 ALONSO, C. Writing and Ritual in Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Gabriel García Márquez: New Readings, p156) Cambridge University Press, 1987
 FREUD, S. Beyond the Pleasure Principle (London, Vienna: International Psycho-Analytical, 1922) p285
 GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ, G. Crónica de una muerte anunciada p115
 PELLÓN, G. Myth, Tragedy and the Scapegoat Ritual in Crónica de una muerte anunciada. p409
GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ, G. Crónica de una muerte anunciada p119
 ibid. p112
 PELLÓN, G. Myth, Tragedy and the Scapegoat Ritual in Crónica de una muerte anunciada. p404
 GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ, G. Crónica de una muerte anunciada p115
 ibid. p116
 HART, S. Critical Guide to Spanish Texts: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Grant and Cutler, 1994) p33
 GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ, G. Crónica de una muerte anunciada p123
 ibid. p129-130
 ibid. p129
 GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ, G. Crónica de una muerte anunciada p70
 ibid. p58
 ibid. p82