Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Chronicle of a Death ForetoldWhat I found remarkable about Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold is its style. The novella does not follow the formula present in Garcia Marquez’s other more magical realist books and stories. The flights from reality and the all too dense and flowery sentences that extend to several paragraphs that one finds in Autumn of the Patriarch or sometimes in One Hundred Years of Solitude, the two long novels he wrote before Chronicle of a Death Foretold, are missing. Instead, what we have are short, precise sentences. The prose is written in a clear manner which I found more powerful than the florid prose of his two earlier works (I haven’t read any of Garcia Marquez’s later works yet apart from his short stories in Strange Pilgrims).

The whole plot is encapsulated in the opening sentence

On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.

as in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

When Grigory Samsa awoke from troubled dreams one morning, he found that he had been transformed in his bed into an enormous vermin.

or his longer The Trial:

Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K, for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.

However, the narrative is arranged in such a manner that one is kept in suspense all throughout the book in spite of knowing what happened from the very beginning.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold is told in a fragmented, non-chronological, and repetitive manner which looks at the death from one vantage point at a time. It works like an inverted detective story where the standard unmasking of who did the crime and why they did it, unraveling the events that led to the crime along the way, is missing.

In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, we already know who did it and know their reasons from the start. Instead, the narrative focuses on unraveling the circumstances surrounding the killing and its aftereffects on the inhabitants of the unnamed Colombian town in which it is set. Why, for example, was the murder allowed to happen in spite of the fact that everyone in town already knew about the Vicario brothers’ plan to kill Nasar beforehand?

I found Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the story of Santiago Nasar’s murder by the two Vicario brothers to protect their sister’s honor, a pleasure to read. At the same time it was devastating. Like every good piece of literature, it forced me to rethink certain things. In this case, I had to rethink the elements of something which I’ve been trying to do for some months already. ■

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8 thoughts on “Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold

  1. Can you analyze this passage? (literary elements, or just some insight) Thanks :)

    hurry. Pura Vicario had fallen into a deep sleep, when
    there was knocking on the door. “They were three very
    slow knocks,” she told my mother, “but they had that
    strange touch of bad news about them.” She told her that
    she’d opened the door without turning on the light so as
    not to awaken anybody and saw Bayardo San Roman in
    the glow of the street light, his silk shirt unbuttoned and
    his fancy pants held up by elastic suspenders. “He had
    that green color of dreams,” Pura Vicario told my mother.
    Angela Vicario was in the shadows, so she saw only her
    when Bayardo San Roman grabbed her by the arm and
    brought her into the light. Her satin dress was in shreds
    and she was wrapped in a towel up to the waist. Pura
    Vicario thought they’d gone off the road in the car and
    were lying dead at the bottom of the ravine.
    “Holy Mother of God,” she said in terror. “Answer
    me if you’re still of this world.”
    Bayardo San Roman didn’t enter, but softly pushed
    his wife into the house without speaking a word. Then he
    kissed Pura Vicario on the cheek and spoke to her in a
    very deep, dejected voice, but with great tenderness.
    “Thank you for everything, Mother,” he told her.
    “You’re a saint.”
    Only Pura Vicario knew what she did during the next
    two hours, and she went to her grave with her secret,
    “The only thing I can remember is that she was holding
    me by the hair with one hand and beating me with the
    other with such rage that I thought she was going to kill
    me,” Angela Vicario told me. But even that she did with
    such stealth that her husband and her older daughter,
    asleep in the other rooms, didn’t find out about anything
    until dawn, when the disaster had already been consum-
    mated.
    The twins returned home a short time before three,
    urgently summoned by their mother. They found Angela
    Vicario lying face down on the dining room couch, her
    lace all bruised, but she’d stopped crying. “I was no longer
    frightened,” she told me. “On the contrary: I felt as if
    l lie drowsiness of death had finally been lifted from me,
    and the only thing I wanted was for it all to be over quickly
    so I could flop down and go to sleep.” Pedro Vicario,
    the more forceful of the brothers, picked her up by the
    waist and sat her on the dining room table.
    “All right, girl,” he said to her, trembling with rage,
    “tell us who it was.”
    She only took the time necessary to say the name. She
    looked for it in the shadows, she found it at first sight
    among the many, many easily confused ‘names from this
    world and the other, and she nailed it to the wall with her
    well-aimed dart, like a butterfly with no will whose sen-
    tence has always been written.
    “Santiago Nasar,” she said.

    • hi, suha. thanks for posting this passage from the novella. but i’m not sure if i’m the right person to ask to “analyzing” it for literary elements or insights. :) as soon as i say something about this passage, you would find out that i really don’t know what i’m talking about. of course, the passage does not exist in a vacuum and can be read better by not losing sight of the context provided by the whole narrative. from the vantage point of the plot, the passage establishes the motive for Nasar’s murder by the Vicario brothers. in this passage, Nasar is named by Angela as the one who dishonored her family. but at the same time, we are given clues that it may not have been Nasar, that it may just be one name among many others: that she found convenient to utter at that time in order to protect the name of her real lover. meanwhile, all this gives us a glimpse of the intertwining of patriarchal relations and overdetermination of class that enmesh the world of Marquez and his constructed world in the novella (marriage falls because of woman’s lack of virginity; Angela succumbs to the familial pressure of marry San Roman because of the family’s hopes of overcoming their disadvantaged class status).

  2. Pingback: “Chronicles of a Death Foretold” by Gabriel Garcia Marques | Random Musings

  3. Pingback: Some Thoughts on the Death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez | Hello.Lenin!

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