Chronicle of a Death Foretold

by Gabriel García Márquez

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The Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 748

There is little attempt to represent the deep psychological dimensions of the characters, as has been prevalent in the novel in English since Henry James and Virginia Woolf. The characters are rather ingredients in Gabriel García Márquez’s so-called Magical Realism, a Latin American offshoot of Surrealism, in which the fantastic is ordinary. These characters are like flowers in a small garden so exotic that the observer is astonished almost beyond understanding; they are more the inhabitants of folktale, myth, and legend, than of the twentieth century.

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Even the narrator remains oddly unknowable, though he is clearly García Márquez’s fictive alter ego (he tells how he proposed to his wife Mercedes, for example, and mentions her sister and aunt by name). He is a sort of wide-eyed, baffled observer, a student visiting home during the period of the novel, who simply likes his fellow villagers so much that he cannot find any wickedness in them—the forgivable sins of lust and drunkenness, perhaps, but not the malice that could produce the unthinkable murder of one of their own citizens in broad daylight, with practically the whole village as witnesses.

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What the characters lack in psychological shading, they make up for in abundance of color. The groom Bayardo San Román arrived in town with silver decorating his saddlebags, belt, and boots, looking for someone to marry. He had “the waist of a novice bullfighter, golden eyes, and a skin slowly roasted by saltpeter.” Magdelena Oliver could not take her eyes off him and told the narrator that she “could have buttered him and eaten him alive.” He could swim faster, drink longer, and fight better than any man in town, and was far richer than any of them; every woman in town would have married him, except for the girl he wanted at first sight: Angela Vicario. He bought all the raffle tickets to win a music box for her, then bought the best house in town for her, though it was not for sale. (The sight of all the money he put on the table ultimately killed the owner.)

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Bayardo’s character may justly be said to be flat because he is little more than a vehicle for machismo, but such a stylistic choice enables García Márquez to portray his characters as victims trapped by the prevailing codes of their lives, as outmoded as they may be judged, which leads directly to the absurd murder of Nasar because he violated Angela, although no one is ever sure that he was guilty. Indeed, the reader will not find the characters divisible into categories of major and minor, but only find those who appear more often and those who appear less, and all contribute to the unlikelihood of the central action. Magdelena Oliver, who first reacts to Bayardo’s male beauty, appears but once, and her comment stands not as her own opinion but as the ultimate consensus of the village. It is as though the village itself were the main character of the novel, speaking with many voices; in this reading, the murder itself becomes a ritualistic, communal suicide in which the forty-two characters who are named in the novel (and many more of their brothers and sisters and cousins) are helpless participants.

Thus, of the murdered man and the woman he allegedly wronged, the reader learns little more than of the characters on the perimeter of the central drama: The lesser characters serve as a kind of moral reflection of the central ones. There is Maria Alejandrina Cervantes, for example, the elegant, serviceable woman who never sleeps and who, as the narrator attests, “did away with my generation’s virginity,” including that of Nasar, who dies for a crime that for the woman is a vocation.

Nasar is a fairly affluent young man, inclined to womanizing and drinking with friends. He dies not so much because his guilt is established, but because he is typical and therefore able to be presumed guilty. His public execution at the end of the novel is described as in slow motion and in precise detail, in more detail than any aspect of his life, because his death more profoundly affects the village than his life could. Until he dies, the characters are locked into the modes of action that will produce his death. Once that is accomplished, they are freed to pursue their individual lives again, though this time, haunted by a terrible memory.

Characters Discussed

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Santiago Nasar

Santiago Nasar (sahn-tee-AH-goh nah-SAHR), a member of the Arab community, slim and pale, with dark curly hair. He is killed in front of his own house at the age of twenty-one. A handsome bachelor, he is described as having had a love for horses, falconry, and church pomp; his other characteristics included flirtatiousness, valor, merriness, peaceableness, and prudence. Normally dressed in khaki with riding boots, he donned unstarched white linen pants and shirts on special occasions. Inheritor of the Divine Face cattle ranch and a firearms enthusiast, he carried a .357 magnum with armored bullets as he traveled in the country. Although he is killed as the deflowerer of Angela Vicario, his innocent behavior up to the moment of his death suggests that he was wrongly accused of the act.

Angela Vicario

Angela Vicario (AHN-heh-lah vee-KAHR-ee-oh), the youngest and prettiest daughter of a poor family. She resists the prospect of marriage to Bayardo San Román and unsuccessfully attempts to pass as a virgin on their wedding night. After Bayardo takes her back home, she is beaten by her mother, Purísima (Pura) del Carmen Vicario. Questioned by her brothers, she names Santiago as the man responsible for deflowering her. In the aftermath of the murder, she grows from a hapless spirit to a mature and witty woman. Previously uninterested in Bayardo, she becomes obsessed with him and remains unmarried, writing hundreds of letters to him in the years after their separation.

Bayardo San Román

Bayardo San Román (bay-AHR-doh sahn rroh-MAHN), who captures the imagination of the villagers when he arrives in town wearing clothing ornamented with silver. About thirty years old, he has a slim waist, golden eyes, and tanned skin. A drinker, he seems to lack a steady occupation but exhibits familiarity with railway engineering, telegraphy, frontier illnesses, card games, and swimming. Soon after seeing Angela, he courts her and proposes to her. When he discovers on their wedding night that she is not a virgin, he carries her to her mother. Afterward, he is found in a state of severe intoxication and carried out of the town by members of his family. Although he never opens any of Angela’s letters, he saves them and eventually returns to her.

Pedro Vicario

Pedro Vicario and

Pablo Vicario

Pablo Vicario, brothers of Angela, identical twins who support their family by slaughtering pigs. Both presented themselves for military service at the age of twenty, but Pablo, six minutes older than Pedro, stayed home to support the family. Pedro entered service, where he contracted a case of blennorrhea (excessive mucus discharge). Told that Santiago has dishonored their sister, the brothers undertake to stab him to death. Although they are unrepentant after the deed is done, the narrator notes that they seemed reluctant to carry it off: By informing more than a dozen villagers of their intent, they seem to have been hoping to be stopped. In jail, they are haunted by an odor of Santiago that lingers after his death. Pablo, who suffers a severe case of diarrhea in confinement, becomes a goldsmith upon his release. Pedro, whose chronic pain prevents him from sleeping for eleven months, is cured of his disease while behind bars. After he is freed, he rejoins the military and disappears on a mission.

The narrator

The narrator, a friend of Santiago. Returning to his hometown, he investigates Santiago’s murder twenty-seven years after its occurrence. the narrative summarizes the results of his efforts.

Clotilde Armenta

Clotilde Armenta (cloh-TEEL-deh ahr-MEHN-tah), a milk vendor who appeals to the Vicario twins to refrain from killing Santiago. In an effort to prevent the crime from taking place, she asks all the people she sees to warn Santiago of the danger he is in, attempts to intoxicate the brothers, unsuccessfully tries to restrain Pedro, and shouts a warning to Santiago.

Don Rogelio de la Flor

Don Rogelio de la Flor (roh-HEH-lee-oh), Clotilde Armenta’s husband.

Colonel Lázaro Aponte

Colonel Lázaro Aponte (LAH-sah-roh ah-POHN-teh), the mayor. He and Don Rogelio disappoint Clotilde because they do not take strong measures to prevent the murder from occurring. Don Rogelio dies from shock after seeing Santiago’s bloody corpse.

Purísima (Pura) del Carmen

Purísima (Pura) del Carmen (pewr-EE-see-mah), Angela’s mother, who beats her daughter harshly after Bayardo returns her.

Luis Enrique

Luis Enrique (lew-EES ehn-REE-keh), the narrator’s brother and a friend of Santiago.

Cristóbal (Cristo) Bedoya

Cristóbal (Cristo) Bedoya (krees-TOH-bahl bay-DOY-ah), another friend of Santiago. Luis, Cristo, Santiago, and the narrator had been drinking companions of Bayardo.

Luisa Santiaga

Luisa Santiaga (lew-EE-sah sahn-tee-AH-gah), the narrator’s mother, who was Santiago’s godmother and a blood relative of Pura. She is initially impressed with Bayardo, but her regard for him gradually ebbs. On the day of the murder, she tries to warn Santiago of the threat to his life but is told that she is too late.

Characters

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It was a matter of honor," says Pablo Vicario in defense of his involvement in the murder; however, the statement could well suffice as the artistic premise of the novel. Designed as a vehicle to entertain as well as engage the reader in social and psychological introspection, Chronicle of a Death Foretold unfolds as a ritual involving a preconceived cast of characters: the seducer and the seduced, the maligned husband, the avengers, and the assorted bystanders needed to witness and confirm the official act of vengeance. As a result, character development in the novel is extremely limited, supplemented or more accurately replaced with individuals assuming their assigned roles.

Discovering the infidelity of his new bride, Bayardo San Roman returns his wife to her disgraced family. The woman, Angela Vicario, names Santiago Nasar as her lover and her twin brothers Pedro and Pablo assume the responsibility for upholding the family honor. Announcing in public their intention to kill Santiago, the brothers carry out their threat juxtaposed against either faint protest or silent approval from the townspeople. Offering some compensation to the reader, Garcia Marquez effectively taints the scenario with unsuspected irony: Santiago seems an unknowing participant in the seduction, Angela appears less than innocent as the victimized woman, and the Vicario brothers evolve as being suspect to the necessity of the murder. Of thematic importance to characterization is that Santiago is consistently portrayed in an unflattering light as a womanizer: brash, conceited, and unsympathetic. In addition, his Arab extraction allows Garcia Marquez the opportunity to suggest a racial overtone in the town's moral paralysis in attempting to prevent his death.

Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1932

Colonel Aponte
See Lazaro Aponte

Lazaro Aponte
The head of the police, Lazaro Aponte (also known as Colonel Aponte) first hears of the twins' plot to kill Santiago a little after four o'clock that morning. He has just finished shaving when one of his officers, Leandro Pornoy, tells him. He does not take the threat too seriously, because when he sees the twins, they seem fairly sober. He takes their knives away and feels assured that they will not carry out their plan.

Clotilde Armenta
Owner of the milk shop where the killers slept and awaited Santiago, Clotilde Armenta claims that Santiago already looked like a ghost when she saw him early on the morning of the murder. She makes a mild attempt to convince the twins not to kill Santiago.

Cristo Bedoya
Cristo is a friend of Santiago and of the narrator. The three young men spend the night before the murder attending Angela Vicario's wedding. The next morning, Cristo is with Margot and Santiago on the pier awaiting the bishop's arrival. Cristo and Santiago go their separate ways when they reach the village square. When Cristo hears of the murder plot, he tries, to no avail, to catch up with Santiago to warn him.

Maria Cervantes
Maria owns the brothel, or "house of mercies," where Santiago Nasar, Cristo Bedoya, Luis Enrique, and his brother, the narrator, continue their partying after the wedding. Maria has the reputation of having helped all of them lose their virginity. She is tender and beautiful, yet strict about her house rules.

Purisima del Carmen
Purisima is the mother of Angela and the twins, Pedro and Pablo. A former schoolteacher, Purisima is married to Poncio and has dedicated her life to being a wife and mother. She has raised her daughters to be good wives and mothers and her sons to be men.

Divina Flor
A young woman just entering adolescence, Divina Flor is Victoria Guzmán's daughter. Seeing Santiago always overwhelms Divina with emotions she can not yet define. Santiago touches her in ways she does not like and seems to want to harm her. She knows of the plot to kill Santiago, but like her mother, she tells him nothing. She is too young to decide to tell him on her own and is frightened enough by him to want to keep her distance.

Victoria Guzmán
Victoria Guzmán cooks for the Nasar family. Formerly Ibrahim Nasar's mistress, Victoria views Santiago with as much disdain as she does his late father. She still hates Ibrahim for keeping her as his mistress and then making her his cook when he tired of her. She thinks Santiago is exactly like his father and works diligently to keep Santiago away from her daughter, Divina Flor. Victoria learns early on the morning of the murder that Santiago is destined to die, but she says nothing to him.

Plácida Linero
Santiago's mother, Plácida Linero, interprets people's dreams. On the day of her son's death, however, she fails to recognize the significance of Santiago's dream of birds and trees the night before. She regrets that she paid more attention to the birds, which signify good health. Trees, on the other hand, are an omen. In her later years, Plácida suffers from chronic headaches that started on the day she last saw her son. Her knowledge that she unwittingly closed the main door of the house against Santiago, where his killers caught up with him, haunts her.

Flora Miguel
Flora is Santiago's fiancée through their parents' arrangement. Her family never opens the doors or receives visitors before noon. Flora learns early on the morning of the murder that Santiago is going to die. Because she is afraid that if Santiago lives he will have to marry Angela to save her honor, Flora invites Santiago into her home and vents her frustration and rage. Flora's father, concerned about his daughter, comes to check on her and is the one who tells Santiago of the plot.

Narrator
The narrator never gives his name, but he is a member of the Santiaga family, son to Luisa and brother to Margot. He is also a friend of Santiago Nasar. The narrator has returned to his village twenty-seven years after Santiago's murder and is trying to piece together the events of the day.

Ibrahim Nasar
Ibrahim Nasar, Santiago's father and Plácida Linero's husband, has been dead for three years when the story opens. His memory lives on in Santiago, however, who has his good looks and runs his ranch. Nasar had come to the Caribbean village with the last group of Arabs who arrived after the civil wars ended. A relatively wealthy man, he had purchased the warehouse—in which Plácida and Santiago live—and brought his mistress, Victoria Guzmán, to live with them as their cook. Victoria despises Ibrahim for his womanizing and hates Santiago because he so much behaves like his father.

Santiago Nasar
The son of the recently deceased Arab, Ibrahim Nasar, Santiago Nasar lives with his mother, Plácida Linero, in a small Caribbean village. Twenty-one-year-old Santiago resembles his father. He has his father's Arab eyelids and curly hair. He also possesses his father's love for horses and firearms as well as his wisdom and values. Having inherited the family ranch, The Divine Face, Santiago enjoys a comfortable life and has money to spare. From his mother, Santiago has received a sixth sense about things. On the day of his death, Santiago tells his mother of dreams that he has been having about trees and birds.

Slim and pale, Santiago wears his clothes well—typically a khaki outfit and boots when he is working. On special occasions, such as the day of the Bishop's arrival at the beginning of the story, Santiago looks especially handsome in his white linen shirt and pants. Women appreciate Santiago's good looks and fortune as well as his pleasant disposition. They consider him a man of his word. Men, too, admire Santiago. When his father dies, Santiago has to leave his studies to manage the family business, yet he never complains and is always willing to join with his friends in celebrations of any kind. They know Santiago to be a man who is careful with his guns and ammunition and who has no reason to arm himself except when he is working in the country.

Santiago is to marry Flora Miguel at Christmas time. He seems happy with the arrangement and is content to live life as it is. He appears to have no enemies. Santiago's happy-go-lucky lifestyle ends, however, when Angela Vicano accuses him of taking her virginity.

Pura
See Purisima Del Carmen

Bayardo San Román
The insulted bridegroom Bayardo San Román returns Angela Vicario to her parents' home when he discovers that she is not a virgin. San Román acts very much the gentleman whom people have come to know since he appeared in their small community. Having only been a resident for six months, San Román still has people guessing about his background. The women, however, love his looks and do not worry about who he is. He arrives dressed in a short calfskin jacket, tight trousers, and gloves to match, with silver decorating his boots, belt, and saddlebags. His physique matches that of a bullfighter's, and his skin glows with health. When Bayardo's family arrives for the wedding, the townspeople discover that Bayardo is the son of a wealthy civil war hero.

General Petronio San Román
Bayardo's father, the General, arrives for the wedding in a Model T Ford with an official license. Famous for his leadership in the past century's civil wars, he is immediately recognizable. The General wears the Medal of Valor on his jacket and carries a cane that bears the nation shield. The people of the village no longer question Bayardo's honor and understand that because of who he is, Bayardo can marry anyone.

Luisa Santiaga
Luisa, the narrator's mother, typically knows everything that is going on. On the morning of the killing, however, she goes about her business at home without any inkling of Santiago's fate. When her daughter, Margot, arrives home and begins to relate what she has heard on the docks, however, Luisa suddenly knows before Margot has finished telling her. Luisa is Santiago's godmother but is also a blood relative of Pura Vicario, Angela's mother; therefore, the knowledge of the plan to kill Santiago poses a problem for Luisa.

Margot Santiaga
The narrator's sister and Luisa's daughter, Margot envies Santiago's fiancée. To spend time with Santiago, Margot often invites Santiago to breakfast at her parents' home. Having felt a premonition about Santiago on the day of the murder, she urges Santiago to go home with her immediately. Later, she learns about the plot to kill Santiago while she is awaiting the arrival of the bishop. She is distressed by the news and hurries home to tell her mother.

Angela Vicario
The sister to twins Pedro and Pablo, Angela suffers great humiliation when her newlywed husband discovers that she is not a virgin. Angela is the youngest daughter of the Vicario family, who have raised her to marry. Even though she is prettier than her sisters, she somewhat resembles a nun, appearing meek and helpless. The Vicarios have watched over her carefully, so Angela has had little chance to develop social skills or to be alone with men. Everyone expects Angela to be chaste. When they discover Angela's secret, the family reacts violently to the knowledge that Santiago Nasar is responsible for her disgrace.

Pablo Vicario
Even though twenty-four-year old Pablo is the older of the Vicario twins by about six minutes, he assumes the role of the obliging younger brother. When Pedro leaves for the military, Pablo stays home to mind the business and take care of the family. Upon Pedro's return, however, Pablo is happy to depend on his brother's leadership. Pedro claims the responsibility for making the decision to kill Santiago. Pablo, however, actually gets the knives and convinces Pedro to carry out his plans after the mayor has disarmed them once.

Pedro Vicario
Pedro Vicario, pig slaughterer by trade, is the twin to Pablo. Pedro and Pablo are responsible for Santiago's murder. Pedro is the "younger" of the twins, having been born about six minutes after Pablo. Twenty-four years old, Pedro and Pablo have lived a hard life. They have a reputation for heavy drinking and carousing. Pedro started their slaughtering business after his father lost his eyesight. While Pedro is the more sensitive of the two, his time in the military has made him hard. He likes to give people orders. Pedro claims to have made the decision to kill Santiago. In addition to acquiring in the military his tendency to command, Pedro also contracted blennorrhea, a medical condition that makes urination difficult and painful.

Poncio Vicario
Poncio Vicario heads the Vicario household. As a former goldsmith who spent years doing close work, he has lost his eyesight. While the family still holds him in high esteem, he is not accustomed to being blind and appears confused and anxious most of the time.

The Widower Xius
Bayardo convinces the widower Xius, an old man living alone in the prettiest house in town, to sell it. He does not decide to relinquish his home, though, until Bayardo offers him ten thousand pesos. Although extremely sentimental about his home and unhappy to be put in such a position, the widower gives in. He dies only two months later.

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