Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez

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Summary

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The “chronicle” of the title is the attempt by the narrator to piece together events leading up to the murder of Santiago Nasar by Pedro and Pablo Vicario. He does so by drawing on his own memories as well as on the accounts of those who witnessed the murder and whom he sought out twenty-seven years after the event. Thus, the novel bears many of the trappings of a murder mystery, but it is hardly a conventional representative of that genre: The murderers had announced their intentions to everyone they met for hours before the event. What the narrator, and indeed all the characters need to learn, is how a murder so publicly announced could have occurred, with so many well-meaning people doing nothing to stop the Vicario brothers, who had little heart for carrying out the deed and who, by their open announcements, were in effect asking to be stopped.

As the novel begins, the narrator recounts Nasar’s waking about an hour before his death and telling his mother his dream of walking in a drizzle through a timber forest. Although she is a renowned interpreter of dreams, she fails to recognize the ominous foreboding of death. Her failure is the first of many to come, culminating in her barring the door through which Nasar is about to escape from his attackers, when she hears the crowd approaching at the end of the novel, thinking her son already safe inside the house.

The narrator’s reconstruction of the events of that morning is complicated by the varying accounts of people’s whereabouts, their awareness of the brothers’ intentions, and their feelings toward Nasar. They cannot even agree on the weather that morning, whether it was radiantly pleasant or oppressively funereal. The narrator objectively records all details, scarcely weighing them for consistency or import, possibly because he is attempting a purely journalistic account, and possibly because he resembles his mother in the way, as he notes, “she is accustomed to noting . . . superfluous detail when she wants to get to the heart of the matter.”

Nasar is murdered by the Vicario brothers to avenge their sister Angela’s dishonor. She had married Bayardo San Román the previous day, but after a day and a night of extravagant feasting by the village, the groom discovers that his bride is not a virgin and returns her to her home. Her mother beats her, and upon questioning by her brothers, Angela Vicario identifies Santiago Nasar as her “perpetrator.” Their duty is clear. They take two of the knives they use in their trade of slaughtering pigs, sharpen them at another butcher’s shop, then wait in Clothilda Armenta’s milk shop, from which they can watch Nasar’s bedroom window, until he goes out to see the bishop who is to come and bless the village. They carry out their simple plan, to butcher Nasar at his front door, and profoundly change the lives of everyone who has gathered to watch.

Summary

(Novels for Students)

Chronicle of a Death Foretold relates the events leading up to and, to a lesser degree, those that follow the murder of Santiago Nasar, a twenty-one year old Colombian of Arab descent. He is killed by the Vicario brothers to avenge the loss of their sister's honor. Told twenty-seven years after the crime by an unnamed narrator (arguably García Márquez himself) who returns to the village where he once lived to put back together "the broken mirror of memory," the story is constructed from the fragmented and often conflicting versions of events as they are remembered by the townspeople and by the narrator himself.

Chapter 1
On the morning after the wedding celebrations for Angela Vicario and Bayardo San Román, Santiago Nasar, son of Plácida Linero and the late Ibrahim Nasar, wakes to greet the bishop who is arriving by boat early that morning. When he enters the kitchen, both the cook, Victoria Guzmán, and her daughter, Divina Flora, know what Santiago Nasar will not learn for some time—that two men are waiting outside the house to kill him. They, like many others...

(The entire section is 1,789 words.)