Chronical Of A Death Foretold Essay, Research Paper
A Parody of Three Deaths
According to Raymond L. Williams, Gabriel Garcia Marquez “underplays the importance of [death], in a lightly humorous tone”(146) through the ritual repetition of the crime. Although the most perceptible irony of the whole novel of Chronicle of a Death Foretold is in the title itself, the author uses this rhetorical device not only to attract the reader’s attention to the almost comic crime itself, but to the theme of death as well. Marquez’s attitude in writing, which dictates that “death never seems to signify the literal end of life”(Williams 146), leads the author to depicting three murders to make that of Santiago Nasar more complete. Through the use of irony, Marquez reveals that in his novel there are three deaths occurring: the physical, where Nasar is actually stabbed death; that of Santiago’s identity; and finally, the societal, where together with the upper class, the ideal of communal honor is destroyed.
The most patent of the three ironic deaths in the novel is the physical act itself. Santiago Nasar was stabbed to death numerous times, where “seven of the many wounds were fatal”(Marquez 86). Yet, as simple and straightforward as it seems, this death is much more complicated than one would think. For some witnesses, the physical death occurs even before the true and final stabbing. According to their accounts, they saw “the knives in the light from the street lamp and it [already] looked to [them] like they were dripping with blood”(Marquez 71). Although others continue to report that Nasar is still walking the streets of the town, the latter are convinced that, by that time, the murder has taken place and that “Santiago Nasar is dead”(Marquez 80). With that foolish and disproved excuse they refuse to take upon themselves any guilt for not attempting to prevent the crime from happening. However, there are those who testify that the death does not occur at the place of the crime, the front door. According to them, “Santiago Nasar walked with his usual good bearing, measuring his steps well, [with] his Saracen face [and] dashing ringlets ? handsomer than ever?and continued though the bedrooms to the rear door of the house”(Marquez 142). Although the later autopsy report revealed Nasar received twenty-two wounds to areas of the body which should cause immediate death, not to mention, it would preclude the possibility of Nasar walking a distance as far from the closed front door to the kitchen in the rear of house. The numerous accounts transform a normal murder into an act of a mystical nature.
The second depicted death in the novel is that of Santiago Nasar’s identity as a brave, strong man with extensive knowledge of weapons, especially guns. Yet, as the novel develops, this image of a healthy beau is stripped down to a form that does not even deserve to be labeled a mere shadow hardly resembling the once vibrant human being. Albeit still alive, Santiago Nasar is considered as “no matter what?as good as dead already”(Marquez 120). His face, once so handsome and proud, now seems to some as that of a cold corpse. Even his hands “felt frozen and stony, like the hands of a dead man”(Marquez 13). Just as his physical appearance experiences dramatic transfigurations, his behavior falls victim to this Greek-like tragedy. Just hours earlier, he carelessly plays with numbers in his mind, boldly walking with a confident step and with his thoughts running far from the grave danger hovering over his life. However, as soon as he discovers that he is being plotted against, his manner no longer reflects the usual aloofness, but rather “fear and confusion”(135 Marquez). Furthermore, at the moment of his murder, he resembles the rabbit, which Nasar observed earlier as the animal was gutted. The final blow stripping Nasar of his former identity, is the unprofessional autopsy, which seems more like a massacre. It results in a completely different body ‘destroyed by the trepanation, and the lady-killer face that death had preserved ended up having lost its identity”(Marquez 88). It is as if Nasar died all over again on the autopsy table.
The third death is not that of Santiago Nasar himself, but rather of the townspeople and their morality. For at the moment of Nasar’s murder, the church fails to carry out its duty of protecting its people and societal honor is sacrificed in the name of personal dignity. The horrific crime could be prevented for “there had never been a death more foretold”(Marquez 57). The Vicario twins, the murderers, spread the news about their intentions wherever they go. Yet, the people, instead of warning the future victim, pretend to buy “milk they didn’t need and asking for food items that didn’t exist [while] seeing whether it was true that they were waiting for Santiago Nasar to kill him”(Marquez 73). They choose to ignore the fact that the twins are greatly predisposed to killing a human being, even though, working as butchers, the brothers sacrifice the same pigs they raise, an act unheard of in their profession. Even the church decides “that it wasn’t [its] business but something for the civil authorities”, although it is perfectly clear that the latter simply refuses to prevent this intricate plot. Furthermore, the priest recalls the Vicario twins’ surrender as an “act of great dignity”(Marquez 55). While most townspeople do not admit to supporting the crime, there are some who openly advocate the murder and even encourage the twins by saying “honor doesn’t wait”(Marquez 71). With their morality blinded and the ideal of honor seriously distorted, the townspeople become accomplices through negligence.
Not until Marquez revealed the three deaths is his report of Santiago Nasar murder truly complete. Mundanely depicting numerous, seemingly insignificant details, the author expresses contempt for the ridiculous crime that shattered the ideals of honor and abrades the value of what it means to be a human being. The mysticism and exaggerated repetition of facts emphasizes the grotesque circumstances of the killing. The author reveals that murder is not the responsibility of a single human being, but rather that of all that have any power to prevent evil from happening.
Word Count: 1003
Marquez, Gabriel G. Chronicle of a Death Foretold. New York: Ballantine Books, 1982.
Williams, Raymond L. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. London: Prentice Hall International, 1984. 134-153