What effect does the theme of 'supernatural' have in Chronicle of a Death Foretold?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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As the leading representative of the Latin-American-made genre of magical realism, Gabriel García Márquez uses the supernatural as one of many themes that accentuate the magical realism of the narrative, adding a Gothic atmosphere to the novel. This Gothic atmosphere is based on four basic tenets.

  • a) Inevitability of fate taking over the character
  • b) The supernatural as a background of life
  • c) Isolation and nostalgia
  • d) An overall sense of mystery

These Gothic traits certainly color Crónicas de una Muerte Anunciada with dark and mysterious undertones that bring out the tragedy of Santiago's unlucky life.

An example of the supernatural in Crónicas is the use of premonitions. A good example is Santiago's strange dream the night before his death. The dream that Santiago has is a premonition of his impending murder.

He'd dreamed he was going through a grove of timber trees where a gentle drizzle was falling, and for an instant he was happy in his dream, but when he awoke he felt completely spattered with bird (expletive)..

The fact that his mother happens to be a known interpreter of dreams also adds to the unique supernatural flavor of the narrative. It brings with it a veil of enigma at wondering whether this woman's innate (or God-given) gifts will help save the fate of her son.

We learn that she finds nothing wrong with the symbols in Santiago's dream. This automatically turns his mother's character into yet another townsfolk who is unable, or unwilling, to warn Santiago that there is something very bad about to happen.

She had a well-earned reputation as an accurate interpreter of other people’s dreams...but she hadn’t noticed any ominous augury in those two dreams of her son’s, or in the other dreams of trees he’d described to her on the mornings preceding his death

Another example of premonition occurs in yet another dream where Santiago can see that his fate, in classic Gothic style, will take a hold of him, allowing him to have a painful and lonely death.

The week before, he’d dreamed that he was alone in a tinfoil airplane and flying through the almond trees without bumping into anything

Aside from the premonitions, there is also the folklore of a town that is shaken by a terrible crime, and that feels somewhat guilty for not having prevented it. To Clotilde, Santiago "looked like a ghost" that very morning of his murder. The idea of a man already looking dead certainly invokes a deep, supernatural and enigmatic feeling. This is another of many examples of the use of the supernatural in the novel.

In all, the supernatural inChronicles of a Death Foretoldaccentuates with Gothic elements the already-ever present magical realism that comes in and out of the story. Although this is not García Márquez's most magically-realistic work, it is precisely the addition of Gothic and supernatural elements that balances the themes and literary techniques within the narrative, producing a truly successful piece of literature.


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