Chronicle to a Death Foretold
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
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Elements in the Novel
Although the title of the novel suggests that the story will be chronological and realistic Garcia Marquez often uses strange, surreal details to accentuate ordinary events. For instance, Marquez describes Maria Alejandrina Cervantes, the town prostitute, as the most loving woman you could ever meet and her house as the most beautiful and elegant place to live. He goes into such lovely details in describing the woman and her home that the reader is confused for a while as to what exactly is Maria Alejandrina’s job. Reading the novel, you get a distinct sense that Marquez is trying to stay real when it comes to how people really think and speak. The novel is realistic because, if we were to really go back in time, in a small Colombian village, we would find all these colorful characters, with all their weird beliefs and traditional ways. For instance, in the beginning of the novel, the author discusses Santiago’s dream and later on he shows Santiago’s mother blaming herself for not interpreting the dream correctly. Some argue that these fantastical elements take away from the purely investigative tone of the novel but I think they add color and make the novel more interesting.
The novel tries to be a detective story and, as the title suggests, its main purpose is to establish a chronological line of events that would explain Santiago Nasar’s murder. Still, the novel is very unconventional. It seems as if the author sets off to carry out an investigation and then he gets caught up in the small, weird village life and customs. From a purely investigative mystery novel he moves on to write a highly original book that deals as much with social issues as with the murder itself. The “Chronicle” doesn’t end up being a chronicle at all because the events are not presented in chronological order but rather goes back and forth presenting the event from different viewpoints. In the first chapter we see the events being recounted by Pedro and Pablo Vicario and later on different versions will be told. The most interesting question – that of whether or not Santiago was in fact guilty – remains unanswered. In the end the chronicle is more of a highly symbolic social novel than a journalistic chronicle or a murder mystery. More attention seems to be given to how people saw, interpreted and felt the events than to the events themselves. For instance, the author keeps coming back and analyzes seemingly unimportant details such as how the weather was in the day of the murder than paying attention to the murder itself.
The idea of a culture dominated by machismo is a recurring theme in this novel. Machismo is a word that – by definition – is related to the Latino cultures of the world and suggests the fact that men have a very strictly defined sense of who they are and what their role is in society. A man who is “macho” is an individual who puts a great price on his masculinity and is very aware of the social differences between genders. He doesn’t agree that men and women are equal in any way, he believes that a man is by definition “tough,” strong, insensitive and probably in some ways “better” than the weaker, more sentimental females. The novel suggests that it was this culture of machismo that pushed the twins into committing the murder. Society and a narrow way of thinking that puts strong, killer men on a pedestal pressured the Vicario brothers to kill Santiago. It was the same machismo that made Bayardo literally buy Angela by paying extreme amounts of money and that made him angry when he didn’t get what he paid for. Bayardo did what was expected of him; what society expected of him: he returned his wife to her parents because he was angry; he paid for something that was “damaged.”
Role of women
One phrase sums up the entire men-women relationship: the boys are growing up to be men while the women grow up to be married. While men are growing up to have a sense of pride and be ready to kill for principles that society imposes on them, women are only gaining status by marriage. Angela doesn’t love Bayardo or wants to get married, but the choice has nothing to do with her; society and her family are the ones who settle the deal by shrewd negotiations. When Bayardo proves to be a good provider, with an honorable family, Angela and her feelings are ignored completely. Society expects Angela to marry Bayardo just as Bayardo expects to get a virgin wife. Of course, Bayardo never took the time to get to know Angela, gain her love or ask about her previous sexual experiences because he expects everything to be according to societal standards. Women have to work on maintaining their beauty and hope that a good man notices them and agrees to marry them. Women like Prudencia Cotes, Pablo Vicario’s fiancé are fitting the social expectations perfectly: she agrees with everything her fiancé is doing and she waits for him until he gets out of prison.
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