Chronicle of a Death Foretold – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

By | July 3, 2017

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born In Columbia in 1928. He is a writer who has attracted a huge amount of critical attention. The journalistic techniques that he used as well as the use of magical realism which was the casual incorporation of elements of fantasy or myth into fiction found many followers all around the world. In Columbia, many rejected this kind of writing because of the conservative attitudes that people had. After marriage, he lived in Mexico till his death. Marquez was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. He died in 2014 at the age of 87.

Relevance of the Title

In Marquez’s writing, incidents do not happen in an orderly way and titles can also be misleading. The word ‘chronicle’ would suggest a written report of an actual incident but here it is fiction. Everyone knows that Santiago will be killed by the Vicario brothers. They have been announcing that to anyone who will listen to them. What happens after the death is what the reader does not know.

Main Themes

Rituals

Latin Americans believed in rituals. Their marriages ceremonies and religious functions were ritualistic in nature. The killing of Santiago appears like a ritual of revenge: the Vicario brothers believe that he was responsible for their sister’s ruin and this is how he has to expiate his sin. Angela’s letter writing is also like a ritual. Bayardo does not read any of the two thousand letters she writes him but that does not matter; she has to write. The foretelling of the killing by several characters is also like a ritual.

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Honor

The story is set in Columbia where honor was one of the dominant concerns of the people. It was not unusual for people to kill in the name of honor. The Vicario brothers feel that they need to avenge the loss of their sister’s virginity by killing the man responsible for it. Bayardo sends Angela back home as he considers it a slight to his honor to take a girl who is not a virgin as his wife. Most of the townspeople do not consider the killing of Santiago a crime.

Characters

Santiago Nasar

Though the story is all about the killing of Santiago and its aftermath, he is something of a mystery. There is nothing to link him with Angela save her words. Even those are spoken in an obscure way. They are never seen together. If Angela willingly slept with him, why should punishment be meted out only to him? It is his relationship with his girlfriend Divina Flor that seems to indicate that he was intemperate and in haste to consummate the relationship prematurely. The narrator is not convinced of Santiago’s guilt. Most of the townspeople are. Santiago is a not a well defined character. He was handsome and rich and he appreciated valor and firearms.

Angela Vicario

It is not wrong to say that Angela holds the key to the mystery in the story. Only she can be sure whether Santiago is guilty of robbing her honor as Santiago himself is dead. Many characters doubt whether he was guilty; some swear he was innocent. Angela is herself ambiguous in her statements. If the relationship was consensual, she too should have been punished, naturally. She seems dull in the story; it is only when Bayardo rejects her that she shows some positive action. She wears down his opposition by writing to him every week for seventeen years. A normal person would have given up especially since Bayardo does not read those letters.

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Summary

The book does not follow a linear narrative but weaves in and out. The action begins with the killing of Santiago Nasar. As we go along we get to know the background of the dead man. Much later do we come to know why Santiago was killed. Angela Vicario is a young woman who has just got married to Bayardo San Roman. She is not particularly excited about marrying him. But she does not have a choice as she comes from a poor family and Bayardo is rich. On the wedding night, he discovers that she is not a virgin.  When her twin brothers come back from the wedding night revelry, they find that their sister has been returned to her home by her husband who considers the marriage a dishonor to him and his family. When they question her, she replies that it was Santiago Nasar who had robbed her virginity.

Believing that to be the truth, the twins plan to kill Santiago in revenge. They talk openly of it; police officers and the colonel dismiss it as mere boasting. A few of the residents think that the twins mean to do what they are planning but the whole town is agog with the arrival of the bishop. Immediately after the murder, the Vicario family leaves the town; the disgrace brought about by the two events is too much to bear for them. The Vicario twins are imprisoned for three years. When they come out, Pedro goes back to his military career and Pablo settles down with Prudencia whom he marries after the prison term.

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Strangely, Angela who did not love Bayardo when he was wooing her falls in love with him when he abandons her after marriage. For seventeen years, she sends him weekly letters which he does not read. One day, he returns to her.

For years, the townspeople talk of the killing and the events that led up to it. The murder could easily have been prevented, but not many took the threats seriously. Santiago was one of the last to hear of the threat to his life but before he could run away, he was struck down. Even after many years, no one is sure of Santiago’s guilt. The only thing they can say is that Santiago seemed to desire Divina Flor though he was engaged to Flora Miguel.

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