Due to the masculine-hierarchy based Columbian society of the 1950s, the community establishes a standard for honor that a man must withhold throughout this life. Marquez shows how honor is not based on an individual’s morals but instead is based on the societal expectations by the community. He makes the reader believe that the death of Santiago was avoidable but also strangely, inevitable. If the people in that society only carried different morals, the fate of a potentially innocent man could have been completely different.
Marquez does not focus on the murder but rather, the demeaning way of life that is present throughout the entirety of the novel. He openly conveys the issues with morality tied in with honor by integrating controversial characters and layered text. In the novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Marquez uses irony and symbolism in association with the characters to ultimately convey that the moral present in the novel is primarily unjustified.
Marquez constantly boasts about Angela and her beauty/ purity throughout the novel. The reader has no reason but to believe this in the beginning of the novel simply due to the biblical symbolism present in her name. In the beginning, he says that“she had a helpless air and a poverty of spirit that augured an uncertain future for her” to characterize Angela’s shallow beauty (Marquez 19). It becomes only fit to the reader’s understanding that Angela is none other than a stereotypical beautiful, oblivious girl that has no purpose but for marriage. Angela’s true essence begin to appear later in the novel, and it becomes clear to the reader that she carries everything but the qualities of an Angel.
Understanding the irony that Marquez so heavily puts onto the name of one of the main characters helps to better understand the purpose of the character as contribution to the moral of the story. Angela is never properly respected throughout the novel due to the gender she represents. Since she is a woman in the marianism culture, it makes it hard for her to express her thoughts, and easy for people to ignore her. Although Angela is not fully utilized in the interrogation aspect of the novel, she does prove to be a powerful resource in the deconstruction of the Santiago’s murder. For example, the accusation made by her about Santiago Nasar stripping her of her virginity. Marquez says that “she only took the time necessary to say the name. and she nailed it to the wall with her well-aimed dart ‘Santiago Nasar,’ she said.” (28).
The simple two words that came from her mouth in her own moment of weakness caused the entire story to shift in development. Not only is the blaming of Santiago an easy task for Angela due to the masculinity he so proudly carries, but it is also a way for her to rid the person who so rightfully thought he has power over all. Marquez symbolizes Angela as an angel, but it becomes hard to accept since she was the cause of a potentially innocent man’s death. In the beginning of the novel, Angela is perceived as an angel, butas the novel unfolds, the reader has no option but to inadvertently agree with the societal norms and look at her as the complete opposite. Marquez shows the reader to be careful about what he/she should claim. Even if the claim carries little doubt, refrain from saying it; for it could be the cause of an innocent man’s death.
In the beginning of the novel, Marquez tries to convince the reader that Santiago Nasar really is nothing but a Saint that has come to seize the day. Through the actions he shows throughout the rest of the novel, it becomes apparent that Santiago does indeed possess many un-saintly qualities. After a long night of drinking and partying, Santiago comes back early in the morning to go visit the bishop. He also wears the same clothes to party as he does to see a religious icon, the Bishop. It may not occur to the reader at first, but one should not fail to question this rather strange series of events. It is heavily ironic of a man to experience drastic changes in ethics over a short period of time. Marquez portrays how contradicting Santiago really proves to be.
He says that “Santiago Nasar went through the shadowy house with long strides, pursued by roars of jubilation from the bishop’s boat”, then just a few lines later says that ‘He grabbed [Divina Flor’s] whole pussy,’ (8). After joyfully claiming his yearn to go see the Bishop, he attempts to sexually harass a woman. It becomes apparent that Santiago’s morals are neither clear to the reader, nor clear to himself. Santiago Nasar’s constant back-and-forth course of action leads one to believe that there might be more Nasar to this Santiago. Santiago once again contradicts his masculine morals when he is “[horrified] when she pulled out the insides of a rabbit by the roots and threw the steaming guts to the dogs.” (6). As a man of high status in a male dominating society, it is difficult to comprehend that Santiago is “horrified” by the gutting of a small rabbit. By combining Santiago’s good actions with his bad, Marquez makes it difficult for the reader to come to a conclusion about the morals Santiago really carries.
By developing Santiago’s character through masculine hierarchy based morals, everyone, including the towns people, are led to believe that he carries the crystal clear qualities of a future dead man. Santiago’s guilt is debatable. Santiago’s innocence is debatable. But Santiago’s death, is most certain. Marquez ultimately teaches us that there might be a saint in all people but the devil is also present. If one happens to give in to the devil at unnecessary/wrong moments, the outcome could potentially be dangerous- even if one is of complete innocence.
Marquez uses symbolism and irony in the names of the townspeople as well. Many of the characters have some kind of reference to a flower. Flowers are often looked at as pure, forgiving, and free. The characters prove to be everything but those qualities. It becomes hard to accept the flowerish qualities of the people if all they ever cease to do is gossip before and after the deed of the death.
Even though flowers are looked at as things that are free, the reader can identify that the death of Santiago does not leave the town for days, and even years. After Santiago’s death, the town continues to smell like him days after the death really happened. The reminicant smell of Santiago’s body and its content was unforgettable. One of the characters, Poncho Lanao, even says that “What I’ll never forget was the terrible smell of shit.”, which proves to be so haunting to the people. (71). After 27 years, the narrator of the story returns to address what happened so long ago. It seems suspicious as to why he has so much interest in a story that he was present for. Oddly enough, the character Marquez rarely every quotes himself during the time of the murder.
It is hard to tell whether Marquez did or did not carry an important role to the story. All the reader knows is that he came back at an odd timing to address the casualties of the story. It is easy to identify the dissatisfaction that the character Marquez carries while telling the story of Santiago’s death. He found the need to go back 27 years later to record a story that many people were clearly not past. Marquez, the author, attempts to teach the reader that bystanders in a deadly situation carry no purpose. He shows us that gossiping about a unfortunate event, that could have easily been prevented, not only causes remorsing guilt for years on end, but also a feeling of unfulfillment.
In conclusion, Marquez uses irony and symbolism in association with the characters to ultimately convey that the moral present in the novel is primarily unjustified. He shows the reader how it would have been very possible to change Santiago’s fate if only the townspeople and main characters carried slightly different values. If only people valued women more and refrained from the easy option of oppressing them, Angela would not have said the name of a potentially innocent man solely out of fear.
If only the Machismo ideology did not exist in 1950’s Columbian society and equal rights for all genders was implied, Santiago would not have felt the pressure to withhold an image that possibly did not represent him at all. If only the idea of honor over moral was not implied, the townspeople could have easily stopped the death of a potentially innocent man. The characters themselves represent major downfalls in the late Columbian society. Marquez ultimately creates a satire society in which he mocks the lifestyle rather than the people themselves.