Analysis of Cultural Flaw in Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Humanity has built grand and wondrous cultures and societies, for the better of mankind people have devoted themselves to a functional structured society. But have these creations become merely fabrications that hinder one’s true beliefs? Throughout the novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold, author Gabriel Garcia Marquez gives insight into Colombian society. As the story of a murder unravels Marquez projects the themes of honor and fate cautiously, using the town’s hesitation to prevent Santiago’s murder despite “foretold” warnings to portray how they flaw Columbian culture.
By doing so Marquez effectively creates a fictional situation that highlights how the deeply rooted philosophies of these two themes can danger society. Marquez portrays the theme of honor as a fundamental value in Columbia which everyone must respect, such that it leads to a situation that binds the characters, restraining them from doing the right thing – or anything at all – to prevent the murder of Santiago Nasar. This respect can be clearly seen in the town’s reaction to the murder, where they turn away from their actual morals and beliefs in the face of the unspoken law of another’s honor.
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The way they see it, “affairs of honor are sacred monopolies giving access only to those who are part of the drama,” (97) effectively showing that even with a life on the line, honor prevents intervention, leaving the town powerless to act and showing the extent of honor’s control. The wife of Pablo Vicario, one of the murderers, “wouldn’t have married him if he hadn’t done what a man should do. ” (62) This example shows the culturally accepted mindset and expectation, depicting why the town cannot act out, and that those who cannot uphold the value of honor become outcasts.
This quote also reveals another theme within honor as it shows certain socially expected qualities in males, building upon the idea of male dominance and power or “machismo” through the reinforcement of “what a man should do”. Marquez builds emphasis on this idea of machismo as the ability to uphold honor or credibility within Colombia’s strictly structured society. This cultural theme can be seen as one of the most dangerous, leading men like the Vicario twins to act violently, a man like Bayardo to flaunt his power, nd a man like Santiago Nasar to freely take advantage of women. Because of machismo, even in the situation of Santiago’s possible innocence, his reputation among the town overpowers their reason and no one saves him. The Vicario twins reflect prime examples of “machismo” as they express Marquez’s true opinion on such ideals. The twins describe themselves as “innocent” (49), while others actually sympathize for the “poor boys [with a] horrible duty” (57), one woman even says that “they looked like two children” (55) on the day of the murder.
The nature of this reoccurring diction seems morally backwards, tempting the reader to further analyze why the town sympathizes for the murderers. Despite the connotation of these remarks, the twins become ruthless killers in the murder of Santiago, a man who they once considered a good friend. This contradiction reflects the flaw that Marquez wishes to express at the hands of societal expectation and machismo, it also shows that the townspeople, too, realize a flaw, but are restricted from interfering.
Marques shows these boys are no killers but are dutifully bound to the crime at the hands of the empty concept of honor and masculinity. They are only trying to protect what little dignity their family has left, no matter how futile it may seem. The reason appears simple to them, in their eyes, they carry the pressure of the town and their whole bloodline to somehow revive their family name. Despite this immense pressure the twins at one point actually do try to find “just the right person to stop the crime without bringing any shame upon them. (102) The twins may come off as determined and cold blooded but Marquez makes his readers aware that behind the front of ruthlessness and machismo these two know just as well as anyone that this murder is not about Santiago, or their personal vendetta, but in fear of judgment. Honor may have hindered the characters to stop the murder but even after the murder another theme seems to torture the characters. Fate plays a large role as a theme within Chronicle of a Death Foretold as Marquez toys with the idea of destiny and the plot is tossed between random occurrence and the idea of inescapable fate.
Marquez seems to infect the whole town with distress and confusion as they try to understand how such an event could have happened, despite all the forewarning and ways of prevention. The town falls into a “common anxiety [as they try to] give order to the chain of many chance events that made absurdity possible” (96). Marquez creates for his readers a situation where the whole town knew that the twins were going to murder Santiago, making it so widely known, in fact, that the people thought it impossible not to be prevented.
But despite all odds, and all the attempts of prevention, it is carried out, leaving the town with one impossible question, how? Marquez depicts the nature of these obsessions with an emphasis of frightening control over the characters. One character, “Hortensia Baute, whose only participation was having seen two bloody knives that weren’t bloody yet, felt so affected by the hallucination that she fell into a penitential crisis, she ran naked into the street. ” (97) The powerful obsession within the characters effectively makes the reader question Marquez’s intentions.
By doing so he tempts the readers to decide for themselves what role fate plays, in and outside of this text, bringing the obsession to the readers themselves. Expanding upon this theme, Marquez allows even the narrator to fall into the unanswerable question of what truly happened, revealing the extent of obsession that fate can create. The journalistic style of Marquez’s novel ultimately leads to the development of one main character, the narrator, who plays a large role in the theme of fate.
The structure of the novel can be seen not only through Marquez’s standpoint but through the storytelling of how the event occurred in the eyes of the narrator, a man uninvolved in the plot itself, who researches this puzzling murder through the interpretation of multiple accounts in a seeming attempt to come to larger truth behind the catastrophe. The non-linear format of the story as told by the narrator starts “on the day they were going to kill him,” (3) seemingly skipping to the end of the plot with the first words in the novel.
Time within the telling of the plot constantly moves around, revealing past and future information. Furthermore, instead of ending the book with the real question that the book leaves the reader with, the question of Santiago’s innocence, it ends with the information that the reader knows right from the start, that Santiago dies. This unconventional structure can be seen by itself as a reflection of the narrator’s distorted view of the murder, pointlessly leading to no solid answer or outcome from the extensive and obsessive research the narrator has done.
As the story unfolds in this complicated manner, it develops the true nature of the narrator’s character, revealing his complete obsession with the events of the murder. This obsession can be seen in his determined focus and detail in retrieving and describing each and every aspect of the death, he even describes that “After five years of rummaging around [in a flooded Palace of Justice in Riohaca] only chance let [him] rescue 332 pages filched from the more than 500 that the brief must have contained. (99) Despite the lack of answers he finds the narrators reflects his obsession in his willingness to spend “five years” just to find some pointless documents. In this way Marquez gives the reader a sense of caution, warning his readers that to step into the realm of questioning fate will only lead to an unsatisfactory and endless search, leaving you with more questions than answers. Garcia Marquez had much to say, he has riddled his ideals and opinions throughout this novel.
By placing these messages hidden among the deeply rooted cultural themes and concepts, readers who analyze the book’s meaning discover a deeper understanding of the story through what Marquez truly wished to express. His messages were not only opinions but also cautions, advising his readers on the things he saw that flawed the society he lived in. Marquez warns his readers to question the trivial acts that follow such emphasized cultural expectations, and learn for themselves to recognize what they truly believe and what society has forced them to.