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The Narrator’s Manipulation of Time and Its Effect on the Reader

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    There are many fine elements that make Marquez’s work very unique. In the Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Marquez with the help of the narrator manipulates time and this element makes the novel unique. The novel has a non-linear structure and this arises from the way the narrator manipulates time itself. There are shifts in the time frame of events and there is no consistency. Marquez achieves this by using many techniques such as flashbacks, sudden shifts in time frame, and memory. All of these techniques contribute to the fact that the narrator is able to manipulate time. This manipulation of time creates suspense and maintains ambiguity. Also, another contributing factor is that effect of the narrator itself. The choice of having a discontinuous journalistic reconstruction and the narrative being in first person forces the audience to trust the narrator. In essence, the narrator’s manipulation of time has a multifold effect on the audience. Marquez’s talent to manipulate time in his novel is incomparable to almost any author. He manipulates time with a whole arsenal of smaller techniques. One such technique from his arsenal is “flashback”. The narrator starts talking about something that has happened before the murder or even in Santiago’s childhood when the current narration is about an event which is past that.

    As the audience, the flashbacks provide more depth into each character of the novel. Another technique that is the used by Marquez is flash forwards. The narrator changes between two opposite time frames; the next one being set in the future relative to the first time frame. The current narration is about an event but the next event will be in the future. During the explaining of what everyone thought of Angela Vicario he writes “But it was she: Angela Vicario, twenty-three years after the drama. She treated me the same as always, like a distant cousin…”(89). The next few lines go on to talk about the time he meets Angela after the incident. This is starkly different from what Marquez was writing before as it is in the future. By this technique, the author pulls the audience in and out and manipulates time. Another technique that is used is memory. One has to realize while reading that most of the narration is done through a character’s memory. Mostly, memories can be distorted through time. Marquez writes “… when I returned to this forgotten village, trying to put the broken mirror of memory back together from so many scattered shards.”(5). The audience is reminded by this that the “shards of broken mirror are being put back” which stops the reader from completely trusting the narrator on every aspect. Also, it serves as the mental note at the very beginning of the novel of how trustworthy the narration can be. The audience at this instant could be perplexed and wonder the worth of the narrator or simply be curious. Either case, the audience’s interest is kindled. From the above, one can understand the different techniques used by Marquez in order to manipulate time. This has tremendous affect of the audience.

    The narrator’s manipulation of time allows a non-linear structure. That is, the events are not told in a chronological manner as opposed to what a journalistic reconstruction narration is supposed to do. The events are told in a rather unorthodox way in which there is an inconsistency of time frames. The events that follow each other might be from the very next time frame or the very end of the murder. Since there isn’t a specific manner the narrator follows in describing the events revolving around the murder, one can safely say that there is a non-linear structure present. This non-linear structure becomes part of his style as it is weaved into his writing style. The fact that Marquez maintains the non-linear structure throughout the novel is due to the literary techniques mentioned earlier, which composes his writing style. Such a writing style has two main effects on the reader; it creates ambiguity and suspense. When the audience is deprived of evidences, information, and facts it is very hard to actually trust the narrator. Therefore, the statements made by the narrator itself untrustworthy. Because of this uncertainty, there is constant ambiguity built up on various aspects of the play. In the lines ““Before God and before men,” said Pablo Vicario said. “It was a matter of honor.” Furthermore, with the reconstruction of the facts …”(49) we see that since Marquez switches between events so rapidly, no substance is ever built.

    The abovementioned excerpt is followed by a flashback. In this example we see that due to the non-linear explanation of events there is ambiguity since no substance is provided on what Father Amadors’ response to Pablo is. This forces the audience to critically think about the situation and judge it at all times. Also, another effect is that there is suspense involved. In certain cases, one doesn’t know what is going to happen next or what has happened. For example, the actual murder of Santiago Nasar is kept till the end as if it was a secret and only in end of the novel do we learn details of his death. The maintained suspense leads the reader to continue reading which the main goal of any author is. Another effect of the narrator is that the narrative voice is in first person. This has many advantages in story-telling. Firstly, when the narrative is in first person, the reader becomes one with the narrator by the constant use of “I”. Hence there is an intense connection between the reader and narrator that in the end one doesn’t even realize that the story is being told by someone else. Instead, the reader assumes himself/herself to be the actual narrator and becomes part of the novel. He/she is fully immersed into the novel which is one of the reasons why this novel is a terrific work of literature. Another effect of the choice of narration is that once you become immersed into the character of the narrator, you stop questioning. In other words, the narrator becomes more trustworthy if not completely honest. Therefore, the narrator’s word is taken for granted and at many instances the narrator subconsciously implies aspects that as an audience, we tend to agree with. “Seven of the several wounds were fatal.

    The liver was almost sliced in pieces by two deep cuts on the anterior side. He had four incisions in the stomach, one of them so deep that it went completely…”(75). The gore with which he describes Santiago’s death could be attributed to the fact that the narrator uses journalist techniques and wants to describe everything as accurately as possible. Although, after some point, we can tell that it’s not only about what actually happened but it tries to provoke a judgment on the reader’s behalf. Such a violent description only allows as the audience to side with Santiago Nasar. This example we see that how because of our increased trust in the narrator we tend to side with the narrator. Therefore, one can understand that all these aspects together have an effect on the audience. Marquez’s careful choice of a narration which is a journalistic reconstruction with a first person. The achieved effect of being immersed in the story constantly shows the extent of which the choice of narration is effective. Also, the narrator manipulates time and as stated above it has an effect of its own which is crucial to the novel. The manipulation of time creates constant ambiguity and in turn maintains suspense till the very end of the novel. This keeps the audience on the edge and forces the audience to keep reading. Perhaps these elements of Marquez’s writing style make his work a masterpiece.

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