Themes and Meanings
Where García Márquez’s highly regarded novel Cien años de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1970) has the large, episodic scope of a Greek epic, Chronicle of a Death Foretold has the concise brevity of Greek tragedy, and it shares with tragedy the theme of guilt and its purging through recognition of the truth:For years we couldn’t talk about anything else. Our daily conduct, dominated then by so many linear habits, had suddenly begun to spin around a common anxiety. The cocks of dawn would catch us trying to give order to the chain of many chance events that had made absurdity possible, and it was obvious that we weren’t doing it from an urge to clear up mysteries but because none of us could go on living without an exact knowledge of the place and the mission assigned to us by fate.
At the political level, the book is an allegory for tyranny made possible through uncritical obedience to established codes: No one is able to step out of the accustomed modes of behavior to stop the murderers. Indeed, the attempts to purge guilt through recognition meander through the inexactitudes of memory toward self-justification offered in terms of the original misjudgments that allowed the murder to take place. It takes place over and over, in the varying accounts of witnesses, in the narrator’s conclusion, in the villagers’ memories, and since no one has learned what is necessary to prevent its recurrence, it will...
(The entire section is 553 words.)