What is magic realism in relationship to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Magic realism involves the interweaving of magical or supernatural events into a realistic narrative to provide greater emotional depth to the characters and the readers' response to the narrative. Chronicle of a Death Foretold has, in parts, a journalistic approach to retelling the narrative; however, there are elements of magic realism throughout the narrative. For example, Santiago Nasar's dream on the day he dies is an element of magic realism. The author describes it in the following way:

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 shit.

These strange, almost magically symbolic elements add a dimension of magic realism, as the dream contains an omen that Santiago Nasar doesn't recognize at the time but that foreshadows his death.

The way in which Bayardo Sam Ramon arrives in town also has supernatural elements to it. He is described in the following way:

He was around thirty years old, but they were well-concealed, because he had the waist of a novice bullfighter, golden eyes, and a skin slowly roasted by saltpeter.

Magdalena Oliver describes Bayardo as looking like a "fairy," conveying that Bayardo has a supernatural quality to him. These elements of magic in the midst of retelling the story of the murder elevate the emotionality of the story. In addition, the existence of the factual narrative alongside the magic elements convey to the reader the idea that there are two sides of reality—one realistic and the other magical—deepening the reader's experience of the novel. 


M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Magical realism as a genre is often associated with Latin litterateurs who, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, make good use of the richness of their native tongue to produce powerful parables, and situations of a dissociative nature which allow the reader to create a metaphor or allegory on their own accord. 

An example of magical realism in Chronicle of a Death Foretold is the importance placed on symbols and premonitory dreams as factual pieces of information. The fact that these symbols help to guide the plot of the story lead us to understand the important role which they play within it. Also, the disguising of the brothel when it is described as a form of magical place whose scent and strange elegance invites the reader to wonder what kind of place it actually is happens to be an instance of magical realism. It is as if something surreal was in the atmosphere taking the place of what is actually there.

These forms of allegory are similarly exposed in One Hundred Years of Solitudewhere we encounter the character of Pilar Ternera, for example, whose specific "scent of smoke" seemed to hypnotize her lovers and rendered them weak in her presence.

Therefore, you could argue that magical realism is, in a way, a form of existential literature with less depth but more allegorical content, and Marquez is the absolute conqueror of this type of genre.

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Chronicle of a Death Foretold

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