Chronicle of a Death Foretold

by Gabriel García Márquez

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What does the tree dream at the beginning of Chronicle of a Death Foretold signify?

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The tree dream at the beginning of the novella signifies the radical change in luck and fate that Santiago Nasar will experience. After a late night of celebrations for the wedding of Angela Vicario and Bayardo San Roman, Santiago awakes from a happy dream where he was moving "through a grove of timber trees where a gentle drizzle was falling.” Feeling content and free of worry, he looks forward to the day and the arrival of the bishop’s ship. The previous week, he had dreamt that he was flying though “trees without bumping into anything.”

Up to this point in his life, Santiago has met few obstacles (the trees), except for his father’s death. Instead, he has freely enjoyed many pleasures (the gentle drizzle) like chasing women and deflowering virgins. In fact, Santiago may have been the man who took Angela's virginity.

Upon awakening, however, he feels like he is "completely spattered with bird shit." His life will take a drastic turn as foreshadowed by the title Chronicle of a Death Foretold. The couple’s wedding night’s abruptly changes from celebratory joy to rejection and vengeance when Bayardo discovers that Angela is not a virgin. He sends her home in shame. Her twin brothers Pedro and Pablo force her to confess the identity of the man who defiled her—Santiago—and then pursue him to murder him. Santiago is no longer a carefree bachelor who does what he pleases (like sexually assault women, especially those younger and in lower social positions), but a hunted man. He is no longer like a bird of prey but the prey itself.

Ironically, being pooped on by a bird is supposed to bring a person good luck. In Santiago’s case, however, his feeling that he was doused with bird poop signifies his downturn in luck and foreshadows his death.

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Santiago Nasar had two dreams during the opening of the story as told by the narrator. He tells his mother about the dreams but she is unable to foresee what they truly meant. In the first dream Santiago was moving through a grove of trees where it was drizzling lightly. In that moment he felt happy, however the happiness was short lived because when he woke up he found himself spattered with bird poop. The essence of his dreams and particularly the first one comes out clearly as one goes through the story. In the story, Santiago is butchered by the twin brothers Pablo and Pedro because of the dishonor to their sister Angela allegedly caused by Santiago. The two brothers make public proclamations of their intentions to kill Santiago and even though most people know of their plan they do not warn Santiago nor do they try and stop the brothers. In this regard, the trees in the dream symbolized the people Santiago met but did not warn him, the brief happiness points to his unwary nature, while the bird poop symbolized his eventual demise.

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According to dream symbolism the...

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almond tree which is what Santiago dreams of

“in a tinfoil airplane and flying through the almond trees without bumping into anything” 

is symbolic of an impending wedding, joy, and happiness. Since his death occurs after the wedding of Angela Vicario, this would be considered foreshadowing.

Arguably, the symbolism would be that his soul will go wandering away after his murder. However, there is more to Santiago's trees. Both the almond and timber trees are representatives of wealth, happiness, and joy. They are very strong and beautiful trees, which may also be representative of Santiago's own nature as a human being. After all, it is more than likely (although it is never absolutely resolved) that all that happened to him was entirely unfair.

Another ironic fact about dreaming of these trees is that, while they are meant to represent happiness, Santiago's ending is anything but happy. Yet one of Santiago's salient traits is his optimistic outlook on everything, his natural ability to feel joy. This is what makes his murder all the more horrifying to those who loved him best. 

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