Chronicle of a Death Foretold
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
Where Not to Be: Concepts of Home in ‘The Cherry Orchard’ and ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’
In Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, both protagonists face difficult, if not deadly, circumstances. Liubóv Andréyevna Ranyévskaya, a self-indulgent member of the declining Russian landed gentry from The Cherry Orchard, is facing the auctioning away of her home. Santiago Nasar, a philandering member of the Columbian upper class from Chronicle of a Death Foretold, is accused of sleeping with Angela Vicario and is in danger of being murdered by her brothers. In trying to escape their circumstances, the two characters retreat to their homes for safety, but their homes end up being where they face and succumb to their troubles. Chekhov and García Márquez’s utilization of their protagonists’ homes as the setting of their ruin calls into question whether or not the home is a safe haven from individual strife. Chekhov uses stage directions in Act III to describe Liubóv’s home as a lively and warm location and then a lonely, empty room to juxtapose her family’s losing of their estate due to their poor financial state. At the beginning of the act, Liubóv is hosting a dance to purchasing her estate back. The sitting room where Act III occurs is described as being “separated from the ballroom in the back by an archway. The chandeliers are lit. From the entrance hall comes the sound of an orchestra” (Chekhov 362). Chandeliers at the time would have been lit by candles, which would emanate a warm glow into the room so, by describing the chandeliers as lit, Chekhov creates a welcoming mood in the room for his audience. Chekhov writes in an orchestra playing so the audience would hear lively music, continuing the jubilant mood. It would seem as if no harm could penetrate this celebration and that Liubóv is protected from her troubles. However, by the end of the act, Liubóv has been told that her estate has been auctioned away. Chekhov describes the scene then with “The sitting room … empty except for Liubóv … The orchestra [playing] softly” (Chekhov 374). Minutes earlier, the room was filled with cheeriness due to the party that was occurring. The room is now empty, paralleling the emptiness overcoming Liubóv. Chekhov has the orchestra shift to “soft” music in order to reflect Liubóv’s depressed state due to losing everything. Liubóv tried to use her home as a mental escape from the realization that the orchard would be sold but failed, and her hardships came to her instead. Similarly, García Márquez establishes the Nasar home as an unsafe location for Santiago to go to protect himself, despite the general belief that a person’s home is the safest place to be. García Márquez initially describes the Nasar home as “a former warehouse, with … walls of rough planks, and a peaked tin roof where the buzzards kept watch over the garbage on the docks” (Márquez 10). García Márquez’s use of diction with “rough planks” and “tin roof” creates the feeling of instability and insecurity in the home. Instead of using words that have a sturdy connotation, García Márquez effectively uses words that depict Santiago’s home as not being very safe to begin with. In addition, the description of buzzards resting on the home gives the sense of them waiting to watch his death. García Márquez goes on to say that “The front door, except for festive occasions, remained closed and barred” (Márquez 12). The words “closed” and “barred” create a sense of security that the rest of the home does not provide. García Márquez also does this to single out the door as an important structure due to its uniquely solid design in relation to the rest of the house. When Santiago is trying to escape the murderous Vicario brothers, believing that her son is already inside the house, “[Plácida Linero] ran to the door and slammed it shut. She was putting up the bar when she heard Santiago Nasar’s shouts, and … the terrified pounding on the door” (Márquez 117). García Márquez creates irony in this passage as the barred door, which was supposed to protect Santiago, contributed to his death as he could not enter his home. What was meant to protect Santiago and his family, instead led to Santiago’s murder. The irony of the situation is extended to the fact that Santiago’s mother, Plácida Linero, is the one who locked the door. Traditionally, mothers are considered the most protective of their children and protect them at all costs. Plácida’s actions are as much at fault for Santiago’s death as the Vicario twins. In his final moments of life, “Santiago Nasar turned frontward again and leaned his back against his mother’s door” (Márquez 118). Even in Santiago’s death, his using the door for support represents his looking to his home for safety, despite the lack thereof. García Márquez ‘s decision to write that it is Santiago’s “mother’s door” is a play on words to the fact the door is part of his mother’s house, but that his mother closed the door and prevented him from entering to safety. García Márquez never establishes Santiago’s home as a safe location to find refuge, and the events of Santiago’s murder reaffirm this idea. Both Chekhov and García Márquez use their protagonist’s homes as the locations of the climaxes of their individual struggles. However, the nature of the characters’ refuge in their homes is different. While Liubóv is in her home, trying to keep out the problems in her life through parties and distractions, Santiago is fighting to enter his home in order to save his life. Chekhov’s use of stage directions provides a clear direction in how to stage Liubóv’s heartbreak, but misses the mark in fully capturing the role of the house due to the setting’s stagnant nature. Meanwhile, García Márquez creates a deeper meaning behind the faith in security people place in their homes, and portrays this fault more harshly and intensely than Chekhov does in his work. Both authors effectively use setting in their climaxes, but García Márquez uses setting as a character in the story in a way that surpasses Chekhov’s usage of setting in the background of the plot.
The Effect of Animal Imagery and the Fate of Santiago Nasar
In his novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez has the impressive skill of characterizing and foreshadowing Santiago Nasar’s character and eventual death. Santiago Nasar’s murder by Pedro and Pablo Vicario was caused by an accusation that Nasar was having premarital relations with the Angela Vicario. However, at that time Angela Vicario was engaged to Bayardo San Roman. When San Roman learns about the new news that Angela was never a virgin before they were engaged, San Roman was enraged and decided that he no longer wanted to marry her. This has caused Angela Vicario’s brothers, Pedro and Pablo Vicario, to plan a murder for Nasar and throughout the novel, Garcia Marquez uses motifs such as birds and pigs as animal imagery to foreshadow and characterize Santiago Nasar’s eventual death and character.
Garcia Marquez begins the novel with the morning on Nasar’s death. The morning of the day Santiago Nasar was murdered by Pablo and Pedro Vicario, Nasar had an odd dream. His dream involved birds. That morning, Santiago Nasar “dreamed he was going through a grove of timber trees where a gentle drizzle was falling, and for an instant he was happy in his dream, but when he awoke he felt completely spattered with bird shit” (3). Because there are many parallels that can be drawn from Nasar’s dream to Nasar’s life, the essence of his dream obviously resembles Nasar’s life story. Garcia Marquez uses symbolism and animal imagery when describing the eventful dream. The timber trees symbolized the townspeople who knew about the Pedro and Pablo Vicarios’ plan, but had done nothing to prevent it, his brief happiness points to his oblivious nature, and the bird excrement symbolizes his eventual death. His purpose of these techniques are to foreshadow Santiago Nasar’s eventual demise. The events of his dream corresponded to the events that will happen in his life, therefore the animal imagery of the birds foreshadows the fate of Nasar.
The bird imagery continues throughout the novel, as Garcia Marquez continues to describe Nasar after he spoke about Angela Vicario and her accusation that she and Nasar had premarital relations. He has described Nasar as “a sparrow hawk. He went about alone, just like his father, nipping the bud of any wayward virgin who began showing up in those woods” (90). Nasar is being known for having premarital relations with virgins. Garcia Marquez uses a metaphor of comparing Nasar to not only his father, but he is being compared to a hawk. A hawk is a bird predator that survives off of helpless prey. He uses this metaphor to characterize Nasar as the ideal Columbian machismo. He has the ability to do what he wants with women because that is one of a machismo man’s role. Like a hawk, Nasar goes around and survives off of vulnerable prey. The prey is the women who Nasar had premarital relations with.
Additionally, Garcia Marquez continues the animal imagery through another motif in the novel. Garcia Marquez used the motif of pigs when speaking about the Vicario brothers murdering Nasar. Garcia Marquez illustrates how the Vicario brothers gorily murdered Santiago Nasar for having premarital relations with their sister, Angela Vicario. When Nasar is being stabbed over and over, “trying to finish it off once and for all, Pedro Vicario sought his heart, but he looked for it in the armpit, where pigs have it” (118). Animal imagery is shown when Garcia Marquez describes that Santiago Nasar was killed the same way that the Vicario brothers would have butchered a pig. Because Pedro Vicario sought Nasar’s heart in his armpit, Nasar is being compared to a pig that will become butchered. Garcia Marquez’s purpose of the pig imagery is to characterize Santiago Nasar. This reveals how other townspeople have viewed Nasar after they had heard that he had premarital relations with Angela Vicario. Nasar was dehumanized to an animal by the way he was murdered. When Pedro Vicario was looking for Nasar’s heart in his armpit, Nasar was technically being treated as if he was going to be butchered like a pig. He is characterized with negative attributes because his accused actions with Angela Vicario has gone against cultural norms between males and females, where premarital relationans are looked down upon. When being compared to a pig, Nasar is then being associated with negative attributes that a pig would have. In the Colombian culture, pigs are typically associated with dirt and vulgarity.
Garcia Marquez uses animal imagery throughout Chronicles of a Death Foretold in many ways and with many purposes, the most memorable of which is to indicate the ultimate fate of Santiago Nasar. The novel begins with Santiago Nasar’s dream. Nasar has an off dream that consisted of birds the day before his death; the purpose of this was to foreshadow Nasar’s unfortunate fate. Then, the novel continues to describe and characterize Nasar using animal imagery. Nasar was known for being a sparrow hawk in the small town. The animal imagery of the the sparrow hawk, another type of bird, is used to characterize Nasar and to provide how most of the village viewed him. Garcia Marquez then continues to use animal imagery to further develop Nasar’s character. Animal imagery is used when Garcia Marquez compares Nasar’s murder scene to butchering pigs. The purpose of pig imagery is to characterize and create a deeper understanding of Santiago Nasar.
Fate the Hero and Santiago the Victim
There are a copious of characters that play some vital role in Chronicle of a Death Foretold – minor or major – that individually pose as an example or symbol for a theme or idea. Consider the bishop, who only appears momentarily in the beginning of the story to cross himself from a distance. His behavior is befitting that of a religious figure, who neither shows passion nor concern for his duty to the masses as a representative of God. Observe Bayardo San Roman’s sisters who cry excessively to hide their shame of his failed marriage; highlighting the importance of keeping up appearances for the public eye. The colonel as well, plays a significant role in his meek attempt at stopping the twins from killing Santiago. In spite of his position of authority, the colonel evidently places society and tradition first before his duty to the law, thus exemplifying the corruption prevalent in the society’s jurisdiction.
With all of these examples, it is manifest that the novella is rich with meaning, as even the smallest of roles contribute to illustrate a concept or subject matter present in the story. However, the question used to instigate this analysis is, among all of these characters, are there any winners in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold? Is it Angela, for having successfully placed the blame on Santiago, whom she clearly shows no particular attachment to? Is it the Vicario twins for restoring honor to their family name despite their obvious reluctance to do so? Is it the respectable Cristo Bedoya, who runs all over town at the end of the story in a futile attempt to warn Santiago of the planned murder? Or perhaps it is all of society, who have, in their collective unconscious, permitted the murder to happen out of their honor-killing ideology.
Based upon scrutiny and assessment, the answer would have to fate. Fate is the only winner of the story; the only one who appears to have had everything go according to her plan. From the very beginning readers are given a glimpse of fate at work. An example of which is how, on the morning of his death, Santiago leaves the house through the front door, which, “except for festive occasions, remained closed and barred.” Ironically, this is the door Santiago chose to exit from, which happens to be where the Vicario twins were waiting with their knives to kill him. It is even more bizarre because Santiago left to receive the bishop who would be at the docks at the rear end of his house, so it would have been more efficient and convenient for him to have left through the commonly used rear door that “opened onto the street to the new docks.” Yet, “in spite of the fact that he would have to walk completely around the house in order to reach the docks,” it was the front door, the door which would later be named “The Fatal Door” because of this incident, that Santiago chose to go through.
Moreover, there are multiple traces of magical realism within the novella that hint at Fate’s influence, such as Clotilde Armenta’s impression of Santiago when he exited the door of his house at dawn, remembering him to have “already looked like a ghost,” thereby symbolizing the idea that death is already upon him – there is no escaping it. Another prominent example is how Divina Flor thought she had seen Santiago enter the house and go upstairs to his room, and so believing that Santiago had safely escaped the Vicario twins. This was unfortunately only her imagination, a trick of the mind’s eye. If she had not mistakenly “seen” this, Santiago could possibly have had a chance to seek refuge in his house when the twins began to come after him. It is inexplicable as to why or how Divina Flor had this misleading vision. Its incomprehensibility can only be explained with the notion of the influence of an external force such as fate.
To summarize, all of the events that lead up to Santiago’s death prove to be preordained. Cristo Bedoya, for example, searched frantically for Santiago to warn him of his imminent death, but was always at the wrong place at the wrong time. Furthermore, he even grabbed Santiago’s gun from the Nasar house in order to aid Santiago in protecting himself. However, he had not known that the gun was unloaded, and so his efforts were to no avail. The Vicario twins as well, waited for Santiago outside the rarely used front door because they expected him not to come out from there, but for whatever “fatal coincidence,” he did. Finally, Santiago could have been able to save himself in his own home, but by some horrible fate, his own mother locks the front door on him, for she had believed that her son was safely in his room. Thus, by Fate’s hand, Santiago’s mother as well had had a role in his murder.
In conclusion, the characters of the story – in particular the main characters – are all victims of fate. Although Santiago is considered a tragic hero, fate can also be regarded as the true hero; the winner of the story. From Santiago’s ominous dream, to having missed and overlooked crucial warnings of his death until the very end, Santiago Nasar is trapped in a web woven by Fate. He is her greatest victim.
The Metaphorical Martyr: An Analytical Exploration of the role of Symbolism in the Novella Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
If the world were a desert, art would be its oasis. Within the realm of art and literature is the craft of symbolism, by which artists invest their characters or other such depictions with deeper meanings. What is most likely the most common symbol of all time is the cross for Christ and the homage it pays to the Christian faith. Said symbol is prevalent in literature, as seen for example in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold. In the Novella, Gabriel Marquez is able to bring across a deeper meaning for his readers by incorporating the symbol of Jesus Christ by linking Santiago Nasar to him through his name. Santiago Nasar’s fate informs his fate by dint of its’ of etymology, explicit references, and implicit allusions. Through the employment of these literary aspects, Garcia Marquez is able to write the faith of Santiago Nasar in the stars.
The primary measure by which Marquez is able to foretell the fate of Santiago Nasar using his name is by way of its underlying meaning. Etymology is the study of names and their history, and by employing this academia, Marquez is able to craft a destiny for his characters before the plot even begins. Santiago or James is the Patron Saint of Spain, which is the first link that Santiago Nasar has to the Christian Faith. Secondly, Nasar or Nazarus is the Latin word denoting someone as Christian. Other characters in the Novella also have names that tie them to their fates, such as Divina Flor who is deflowered. Therefore, if one’s name writes one’s fate, then Santiago Nasar by virtue of his name is destined to die as a martyr as Jesus Christ did before him.
The etymology of Santiago Nasar’s name leads to further symbols linking him to Jesus Christ. This can be explicitly seen when he is being murdered in the final chapter of the Novella. Whilst being slaughtered Nasar does not bleed after the first blow of the Vicario’s knife slices through his hand and pins him to the wood of the door behind him. The lack of blood is a symbol of divinity and immortality. Furthermore, the knife that pierces his hand pins him to the wood of the door in the same way that the nails that pierced Christ’s hands pinned him to the wood of the cross. Furthermore, as the knives continue to bombard him, Nasar lets out a cry of pain akin to that of an innocent calf, which is another illusion to divinity and purity. Subsequently, in the middle of the novella, while Santiago Nasar’s body is going through the autopsy and the hole in his hand is found, Garcia Marquez directly states that his body resembled that of a fallen Christ. The image of the crucifix and the calf are but more examples of Garcia Marquez adding depth to depth to his exploration of Santiago Nasar as being a symbol of Jesus. On that account, Marquez is able to use Santiago Nasar’s name to explicitly reference him to Christ.
The last implication of Santiago Nasar’s name for the purposes of determining his fate is the implicit allusion that Marquez builds in the last few pages of the Novella. Chronicle of a Death Foretold is set in what seems to be early 20th century Latin America. The setting is not specified as it serves as a metaphor for the entire continent. Marquez uses the novella to comment on the cults of honour and image that he himself witnessed while growing up. Through the Vicario brothers, these cults are brought to light. After Angela Vicario dishonours her family, her brothers are dictated by the cults of honour and image to restore dignity to their name by dint of an honour killing. After the deed is done, the brothers claim that it was “an act before God” thought the Bible directly states that “thou shalt not kill” as it is the 6th of the holy 10 commandments. This portrays how in the society depicted, the cults of image and honour have superseded the religion under whose authorities individuals claim to act. Because of this loss of priorities, the entire town in which the story is set is in a whirlpool of sin. Santiago Nasar is murdered because the cults of honour and image demanded his death, and the sin of this demand is the reason for which he dies. Just as Jesus Christ died for the sins of others, Santiago Nasar dies as a Martyr for the sins of his entire town. Marquez is able to create this allusion and convey this deeper meaning of the novella on principles purely established on the basis of Nasar’s name and his connection to Christ.
By way of his use of etymology, references and allusions, Marquez is able to dictate the fate of Santiago Nasar based solely on the premise of the name that was given to him. The complex metaphor comparing him to Jesus Christ helps expose a society that has succumbed to a world of sin. Just as symbolism aided Marquez in the depiction of his characters and their fates, it has helped countless others. A world without symbols is one that is black and white in the sense that everything is what it is, and the grayscale that is similies and metaphors does not exist, however, is one blurred shade of grey if no deeper meaning can ever be gleaned from the world.
Tensions and Contrasts in Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Countless acclaimed novels attain prestige through their esteemed authors’ tendency to critique their culture and time period; among these belongs Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Garcia Marquez. Garcia Marquez critiques the Colombian culture through an investigative depiction of the events leading to a fellow citizen’s death in a small town in Colombia. Marquez incorporates tensions and contrasts in the first chapter with the purpose of illustrating the flaws in the Colombian culture, specifically through the relationship between Santiago and his servants, the role of the Vicario twins, and the community’s relationship with the bishop.
Firstly, Marquez generates tension between Santiago Nasar, the protagonist who is brutally murdered, and his servant, Victoria Guzman. On the morning of Santiago’s death, an altercation between Victoria Guzman and Santiago ensued because Santiago believed he was entitled to “having” Victoria’s daughter, Divina Flor. Santiago “grabbed [Divina] by the wrist” (Marquez, 8) and concluded that the “time [had] come for [her] to be tamed” (8). This presumption was commonplace during that age in Colombia due to the adamant machismo, which is the masculine pride of men. However, Victoria thwarted Santiago’s demand, “showed him the bloody knife” (8), and asserted that he would never have Divina “as long as [she was] alive” (8). The tension between them is clearly discernable, and since Santiago is a male and her employer, Victoria’s actions are very alarming. “In spite of her age” (7) and gender, Victoria is the only female in this novel characterized as obstinate and resolute. Additionally, Victoria is the only citizen who confronts the prevailing social norms and does not accept the illusion of machismo or the corresponding values of their culture and traditions. Victoria attempts to break the cycle in which “she’d been seduced by Ibrahim Nasar” (8), Santiago’s father, so that Divina need not be “destined for Santiago Nasar’s furtive bed” (8). Marquez criticizes this society’s blind acceptance of traditions and cultures through Victoria’s disparate perspective and prowess. Moreover, Victoria’s ability to stand up against the “inevitable cycle” indicates that Santiago’s death may not have been inevitable, which further incriminates this town. Similarly, Victoria is the only citizen whose reason for not warning Santiago is unambiguous, because “in the depths of her heart she wanted them to kill him” (11). Victoria’s distaste and lack of “affection” (7) for Santiago may have indirectly caused his death, since she could have easily warned him and prevented his brutal death. Nevertheless, Victoria is neither the antagonist of this novel, nor is she blamed for her decision not to warn him, since she hated him for his machismo. The tension created between Victoria and Santiago is a vital element used by Marquez to criticize machismo and the entitlement and superiority of men.
Additionally, Marquez criticizes the society’s unwavering faith in their traditions and religion, even though they have failed them on multiple occasions, through the contrasts within the town’s relationship with the bishop. The town had prepared dozens of “gifts for the bishop” (15), roared in “jubilation” (12), woken up early, and accumulated at the docks to wait for the bishop. Juxtaposed to the town’s enthusiasm are the bishop’s “mechanical” movements, “without […] inspiration” (16). This contrast illustrates how rituals and traditions are embedded in the community’s nature, since the town repeatedly bestows faith in the bishop, even though he never even “get[s] off his boat” (15). Marquez conveys how delusional the town behaves, since they follow their traditions and beliefs so rigorously, even though their faith has continuously failed them. For example, even the bishop, who embodies their religion, has failed them because he is not passionate about his role in Catholicism and executes his obligations “mechanically”. However, the town continues to follow their traditions and beliefs without hesitation to the point that an innocent man is murdered. Moreover, Marquez conveys how preposterous the town’s conduct and attitude is through the irony that Santiago died because of the town was too preoccupied with their religious beliefs and “the bishop’s visit to worry about any other news” (20). Similarly, the contrast between the towns infatuation of the bishop and the bishops “hat[red] [of their] town” (6) highlights how nonsensical this community is. Additionally, the bishop’s hatred of the town could be construed as an abhorrence of its immoral and corrupt nature. Through the contrast between the town’s reaction to the bishop and the bishop’s reaction to the town, Marquez criticizes the town’s faith in rituals and traditions and lack of consideration for the dire consequences these traditions bring about.
Furthermore, Marquez critiques the contradictory and unethical expectations of society through the role of the Vicario twins and the contrasting claims that describe them. Firstly, Pablo and Pedro Vicario are depicted as “hard-looking but of a good sort” (14), symbolizing their internal conflict on whether or not to murder Santiago for their family’s honor. Being described as “hard-looking” illustrates the expectations for men to be tough and masculine due to machismo, indicating that they are obligated to restore their family’s honor. However, the juxtaposition of the previous description with “of a good sort”, highlights that they did not reach their decision based on malicious intent, but truly believe their actions were justified. Similarly, they are firstly described as “devastated by so many hours of bad living” (14), which implies their internal conflict on whether or not they should kill Santiago, and in contrast, described as diligent and still executing “their duty and shav[ing]” (14), which suggests their acceptance of their obligation to kill Santiago. Marquez criticizes the expectations and beliefs that arise in this society due to machismo by equating murder and shaving, since they are both expectations of the community. The contradicting descriptions portray the Vicario twins’ dilemma and create ambiguity around whether or not they are immoral. 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). Moreover, Marquez’s choice of twins as the murderers is significant because they act similar to a person with a split personality, since they never arrive at a definite decision, which epitomizes their internal struggle. This illuminates the flaws of a patriarchal community, since their machismo forced them to commit this crime. The twins are conflicted between what the community and the church expects of them, to such an extent, that their internal sense of right and wrong is blurred. Indeed, the twins embody the entire town, because everyone in the town is complicit in this crime since they were aware of the twins’ motives and decided not to warn Santiago. More specifically, the twin’s internal conflict is mirrored in the town, as they were all aware of the wrongdoing of the twins, and yet did not want to be responsible for preventing the Vicario’s form regaining their honor. Marquez introduces this ambiguity around the morality of the decision to murder very early on in the novel through the contrasting descriptions of the twins, which illustrate their–and the town’s–internal conflicts.
Marquez is able to underscore his critique on Colombian beliefs and communities through his incorporation of contrasts and tension so early on in the novel. The first chapter introduces the flaws of the society, particularly machismo and the community’s eager acceptance of traditions, which are two of the main reasons Santiago is never warned, and thus, murdered. Machismo is one of the most alarming concepts in the novel, since such behavior nowadays is considered sexism, and is widely disputed. However, machismo is actually more extreme than sexism, since it not only degrades women but also victimizes men, as seen with the Vicario twins’ dilemma.
Setting and character portrayal, not plot, are essential elements of fiction: The Assault and Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Setting and character portrayal play monumental roles in conveying themes as well as the author’s purpose in literature. In The Assault and Chronicle of Death Foretold, Mulisch and Marquez use these techniques to illustrate the dynamic within groups as well as the impact of society on an individual. In these works of literature, setting and character portrayal help the authors critique society and convey major themes, while plot plays a minimal role, thus proving that setting and character portrayal are more essential in literature.
In both works, the setting plays a critical role in shedding light on the society the novels exist within, and through this major themes are developed. For example, The Assault takes place in Holland, and one of the defining characteristics of that society is its violence. The novel details events such as Anton’s “house burning inside and out” (p 28) and it becomes apparent to the reader that war is a constant there. Violence and war are major part of their culture and its effect is nowhere more prevalent than in Anton’s life. The entire novel focuses on how Anton deals with his post-traumatic stress, and the reader watches as he struggles with processing his emotions and accepting his past. This ultimately develops into one of the main themes of the novel- embracing the past. Through Anton’s struggle Mulisch illustrates to the reader that society has a profound effect on an individual’s past and present.
In Chronicle of a Death Foretold the setting revolves around the backwards culture of a town and its effect on the individual lives of the townspeople. Their culture penetrates all aspects of their lives, and the major plot points center around their traditions as set by their society. Bayardo returns Angela to her family because of tradition, and the Vicario brothers feel obligated to commit murder because of the “horrible duty that’s fallen on them” (p 57). Traditions and rituals rule the town, and they shape the lives of the people. The oppression the townspeople is obvious, and through this Marquez critiques their society, forming one of the main themes of the book. In both works the setting revolves less around a physical location and more around the society in which they live. Furthermore, in both novels the setting serves as the inciting incident and propels the plot forward. In The Assault the war torn society is the reason Anton’s family was killed and in Chronicle of a Death Foretold their traditions result in Santiago’s murder. In both of these cases, the setting allows the author to show the reader the darkside of society. Ultimately, setting plays a critical role in literature because it allows an author to delve into a society and provide a commentary on it.
In both novels, character portrayal, particularly of the minor characters, plays an indispensable role in developing the themes and conveying purpose. In The Assault, Mulisch displays the dynamic between groups and society through minor characters in order to show the reader that even when in a group, responsibility to do what is right still falls on the individual. This can be most appropriately seen in the character Schulz. As a member of the Nazi party, he is clearly the “bad buy”, yet he sacrifices his own life to save Anton when he “pulled [him] out from his hiding place under the steering wheel and dragged him to a ditch” (p 48) during an air raid, and this surprises the reader. It is accepted in the novel, at least in the beginning, and in our society in general that the Nazis were evil, yet Schulz, a Nazi, traded his own life for Anton’s. The dichotomy of the reader’s expectation and the characterization provided by Mulisch is striking. Mulisch uses this contrast intentionally to convey his message that an individual exists outside of their group and that they make their own choices. Mulisch conveys to the reader that an individual ultimately must take responsibility for themselves and that their individual choices must still contribute to the greater good.
In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Marquez makes a similar point, also through a minor character, explaining how an individual can break away from society and make their own choices. In the novel, the town encourages the Vicario brothers to murder Santiago, some actively and some passively through their inaction. Clotilde, however, breaks this tradition by doing everything in her power to prevent the murder. As a woman in a patriarchal society, Clotilde has limited influence, but she still attempts to get them drunk by “selling them of a bottle of cane liquor” (p 54) so that they are too intoxicated to murder Santiago. Ultimately, her plan fails, but Clotilde gains the reader’s respect for trying. The reader finds it maddening that there is no meaningful attempt from the townsfolk to prevent the murder, and Clotilde’s effort, albeit unsuccessful, is refreshing and stands out. This indirect characterization displays Clotilde’s courage, and due to the positive tone through which her actions are conveyed, Marquez encourages the reader to do the same. Marquez is making a similar point to Mulisch and illustrates that while individuals might have limited power, they have control over their decisions, and are responsible for themselves and for contributing to the greater good. In both works, character portrayal plays an indispensable role in developing themes. Through characterization and tone, the reader gains insight into the author’s purpose and helps display to the reader that the responsibility towards the greater good falls onto individuals and that sometimes, they must go again society. This major lesson learned through character portrayal epitomizes how vital of a role it plays in literature and in revealing an author’s intentions.
In both works, the plot is relatively insignificant and serves as little more than a premise through which the authors explore their respective themes. In The Assault, the plot is dull, focusing only on how Anton deals with his post traumatic stress from a singular event in his childhood. The lone plot point with even a hint of excitement is in the very beginning when Anton loses his family, but following this the events are mundane and center around him meeting minor characters such as Fake Ploeg Jr. and Takes. The narrative in The Assault meanders through Anton’s life, bringing the reader’s attention to smaller conversations as opposed to major life events such as his marriages or the birth of his child. Because the plot is dull, emphasis is placed on individual conversations, usually with minor characters, that impacted Anton’s life. As result of the sub par plot, Mulisch focuses on conveying themes through other avenues such as the indirect characterization gained from these conversations.
Similarly to The Assault, Chronicle of a Death Foretold centers around a single event, with the plot rarely deviating from it and focusing on what happened leading up to and after it. The plot is told through a non-linear narrative structure, and this allows Marquez to focuses on various aspects of the before and after from multiple points of view. The emphasis is mainly placed on the before because it provides an explanation for the tragic events and this entices the reader. Furthermore, it also helps convey one of the main messages of the novel. By focusing the events leading up to Santiago’s murder, Marquez stresses the importance of why things happen. Overall, in both works, and in literature in general, authors are rarely interested in the events themselves, but rather the fallout. How the characters deal with conflict and the authors indirect critique of it is where the readers learn the lesson, and this is usually conveyed through character portrayal and incited by setting.
In conclusion, setting and character portrayal are essential elements of literature, while in comparison, plot is not nearly as significant. As can be seen in The Assault and Chronicle of a Death Foretold, setting provides a reason for the major conflicts in a novel. The reader sees Anton harmed by the traumatic events of his childhood as caused by his society, and as well as Santiago murdered in an attempt to up hold archaic traditions. How the characters deal with this conflict and how the author conveys this through character portrayal reveals the author’s intended message. In The Assault, Schulz is viewed favorably by the reader, and through this Mulisch conveys that an individual must hold onto their humanity, even when apart of a group. Chronicle of a Death Foretold conveys a similar message through Clotilde by showing that an individual is still responsible for their own actions and they sometimes must break away from a group for the greater good. Plot, on the other hand, serves as little more than a vessel through which the authors convey their message, and is therefore insignificant in terms of literary importance compared to setting and character portrayal.
Gender Roles in Chronicle 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.