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Chronicle of a Death Foretold

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Critically examine the title of Marquez’s novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a short novel written in the form of a chronicle. It is an instrument that combines Marquez’s journalism skills with those of fiction writing-the work depicts a murder investigation that took place around thirty years ago and, revolving around this probing, are the major problems that Marquez wants to address- lapses in the social and administrative order. The death, which was “foretold” to almost every member of the town, by the murderers, could not be prevented- it is a clear mirror to the moral disorder which was contained in and rather, dominated the society.
As the title exposes, it is about a death- it becomes a natural curiosity as to why the death takes place. In this social order, that the narrator is interviewing, it is very apparent that the culture is marked by “male privilege and domination”; here women were not allowed to exercise their “free will”- “…they have been raised to suffer.” The status of the women was, therefore, reduced to an object. Angela Vicario is reluctant to marry Bayardo San Roman because she didn’t love him. However, she is forced to marry him because he is a man of large fortune and immense power. The death in the story is caused because of an outdated “code of honor” – on the night of wedding if the bride failed to prove her virginity, she was returned back. Consequently, the person responsible for bringing about such “misfortune” was duly punished. In the novel, Bayardo San Roman - the “happy bridegroom”- becomes a disheartened lover when he discovers that his wife is not a virgin. Angela does not know the exact cause of this loss of honor, so amongst many “shadows” she takes the name of Santiago Nasar. Nasar thus, becomes the scapegoat of the text- he is clueless even till the time he is killed that he is supposed to be murdered.
Marquez uses various tools of foretelling in the novel. Placida Linero, Santiago Nasar’s mother, is well known for her ability to interpret dreams. However, she completely goes wrong when it comes to her son. Nasar’s dream- going through the timber groove experiencing the drizzle that gave him a happy feeling- was interpreted as a “good” dream. It was completely ignored as to how he felt post the dream- “spattered in a bird shit”- which is, in fact, ominous. Narrator’s mother Luisa Santiaga, Nasar’s godmother had intuitive qualities. This skill connected her with the divine; she had the ability to know things before anyone else did. However, on the day of the murder, even she could not signal any of such premonitions. Thus, both mother and godmother failed at protecting their son using “the secret threads of communication.”
For the readers, Marquez uses irony to show the pitiable state of Nasar. It is this awareness about the murder that the readers have and the victim does not, that makes his state miserable. His loud dream that his wedding would be similar to Bayardo’s, gathers major sympathies for it is known that he will be killed before the wedding will be culminated. Further, Nasar has maximum fun in calculating the expenses of Bayardo-Angela wedding (flower decoration), which was equal to fourteen funerals. This juxtaposition of flower decoration with funeral shows the state of this man; from all his happy moments he will actually be taken out and for no reason, he shall be killed.
The purpose of writing this chronicle is that it functions on two levels- the narrator in the text “innocently” performs the investigation of the murder using the town people who are still not comfortable with it, being performed to uphold the honor. However, it is clear that they don’t provide any answers that lead to conclusion. For the author (as well as the readers), this investigation serves to create a larger framework- it is a satire on the corruption which is prevailing in the religious, administrative and the judicial systems.
On the day of the murder, the crowd collected near the dock to attend to the bishop. However, the crowd’s attraction is not limited to bishop’s spirituality only. They are concerned with the wedding, which is by far the biggest wedding ceremony the town has ever witnessed and also to see the spectacle of the murder, which they all have intentionally allowed to happen. In fact, even the crowd becomes a device of satire on the tools of power that make a society function. The bishop, who is supposed to symbolize spirituality and instill the same in the people, represents exactly the opposite. By eating the combs of the roosters and throwing rest of it away, he idealizes materialism, extravaganza and pomp. His greed and shamelessness is laid thread bare as he accepts the logs of wood and roosters, but does not meet the people rather mechanically makes a cross in the air. Therefore, bishop is emblematic of the lack of concern and loss of spirituality. The roosters’ crow is a humorous response directed to the corruption of the bishop and the church. Father Amador, another agent of the church, is depicted as an escapist and also as an individual whose sense of morals is degrading. When Clotilde Armenta, a shopkeeper, informs father about the motives of the twins- to murder Santiago Nasar- he avoids the occasion where he should have been present. When he is being interviewed, he blames the civil authority, suggesting that it is their duty to maintain law and order. Further, he also says that he was too occupied with bishop to attend to such activities in the town. Therefore, like the bishop, even father becomes a picture of apathy and inertia. He does not act when most is expected of him; rather he starts a blame game. The flaws in the administrative system and judiciary are brought to the notice by showing their negligence towards their jobs. The mayor of the town; Colonel Lazaro Aponte used policemen for buying liver for him. The murder, for which he has been informed, is not of much significance to him. The extreme efforts that he performs to prevent the catastrophe is to take away the knives from the Vicario brothers. This attitude of the mayor is a clear marker of his callousness and disinterest. Further, it even exhibits his lack of common sense. The Vicario brothers were butchers by profession. By taking away their knives, they were not disarmed in any way. As expected, they soon arranged another set of knives.
In the judgment, the judge’s name is missing. Even in the investigation report, there is an omission of the fact- Nasar went to Maria Aljendrina’s place before he was murdered. Therefore, it can be clearly inferred that the law and order department of the town was not only careless it was also unconcerned with the complete event.
Marquez’s novel’s title “chronicle of a death foretold” therefore, plays on multiple levels. It catches the attention of the readers who may merely think that it is a detective story- a story in which the mystery is never resolved. The mystery in fact, lies in the town. The town dwellers, signifiers of the administration, religious heads, all of them work towards a common goal- upholding the code of honor. It is this code which is in fact, degrading, falling apart. Entire town becomes a criminal to uphold the virtue of virginity, while on the flip side; prostitution is fully and whole heartedly practiced. It is a society that functions on double standards. Lois Parkinson Zamora states that Marquez’s work is a clear depiction of an “apocalyptic” world- whereby the moral order, the spiritual structure and even the law and order department, everything is collapsing. The codes are laid down for the sake of formality because the readers can clearly find a discomfort in the practice of those codes. And it is through this discomfort, that Marquez achieves his target of chronicling the death- show the discrepancies of the times.

References 1. Santwana Haldar; Chronicle of a Death Foretold, A Reader’s Companion; “Irony in Chronicle of a Death Foretold” (2003) 2. Santwana Haldar; Chronicle of a Death Foretold, A Reader’s Companion; “ Chronicle of a Death Foretold as a Satire” (2003) 3. Santwana Haldar; Chronicle of a Death Foretold, A Reader’s Companion; “ Chronicle of a Death Foretold as a Sociological Study” (2003) 4. Santwana Haldar; Chronicle of a Death Foretold, A Reader’s Companion; “ Facts and Fantasy in Chronicle of a Death Foretold” (2003) 5. Lois Parkinson Zamora; “ Ends and Endings in Garcia Marquez's "Cronica de una muerte anunciada" ("Chronicle of a Death Foretold") (1985)

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