The treatment and lives of women in the Colombian town and the time period of the 1950’s, makes the reader aware of the harsh reality of the suffering women. The reader can only sympathise with society’s treatment of women; however, feel resentment towards the way in which women were ‘reared to get married.’ The way in which the Vicario sisters were brought up is shocking to the reader but not surprising, the girls were taught ‘screen embroidery, to sew by machine, weave bone lace, wash and iron, make artificial flowers and fancy candy’ (lines 3 and 4), the author’s intentions of listing these skills emphasises the early development of cultural expectations on women, education is unnecessary. The passage gives the reader an insight into the development of the Vicario siblings, especially how the Vicario sisters were brought up to ‘suffer’, something any man would be happy with to have them as wives. The character of Angela Vicario is the central figure of the novel and of the tragic events. As Angela is the only character who knows whether or not Santiago Nasar was guilty of taking her virginity, which still lies in question.
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From the beginning of the passage there is an evident divide between the developments of the Vicario siblings because it is acceptable in South American culture, something the reader may not be accustomed to. The use of short, sharp sentences such as ‘The brothers were brought up to be men. The girls had been reared to get married’ (lines 1 and 2), emphasises in an almost ‘matter of fact’ way that this was what Colombian culture required and it cannot be questioned. The effect that this has on the reader is that they become aware of the Colombian culture that Marquez wants to portray. What is more striking is the use of these short sentences at the beginning of the passage which lures the reader straight away into the culture, ‘the brothers were brought up to be men. The girls had been reared to get married’ (lines 1 and 2). The reader is introduced to the early development of this characterisation of male superiority, and inevitability of the outcome of women in life, due to what they have grown up to believe and respect, this cannot be argued against.
The tone of the passage becomes poignant halfway through, the narrator thinks about the wives of the Vicario brothers who are unable to ‘break the circle’, which describes the inevitability of these traditions holding the females in a constant battle with their cultural expectations, which they cannot escape unless that circle is broken. The wives of the brothers ‘were predisposed to find hidden intentions in the designs of men’ (lines 20 and 21), so they were also brought up with the traditions and values as the Vicario sisters were brought up with. The women were taught to find the intentions men had for women, so it can be argued that the Vicario wives were questioning the expectations of their culture, and what men really needed from their women, as it seems it was not love; a revelation to the strict Colombian values that the residents of the town were following, such as honour which lead up to the murder of Santiago Nasar.
Angela is described by the narrator’s mother as being ‘like the great queens of history ‘(lines 23 and 24) due to the way she was born with the ‘umbilical cord around her neck’ (lines 24 and 25). This superstition reemphasises the beliefs of the culture, by comparing Angela to the great queens of history, is only because she is to be wed to the wealthy San Roman, a man who clearly chose Angela because of her beauty, further making Angela lucky in both marriage proposals and her beauty, or so it seems for the time being. For the characters of the book, the marriage proposal seems just like a royal marriage destined for great things, especially for the Vicario family. The writer’s intention of comparing Angela to such important figures is to make the reader aware of Angela’s beauty and importance of this marriage. As Angela is the ‘prettiest of the four’ (line 22), she seems the only women good enough for the wealthy San Roman. This superficial view of beautiful women being successful and eligible for high status contributes to the culture of the text and the controversial act of the alleged infidelity. An intentional irony of the description of the ‘umbilical cord wrapped around [Angela’s] neck’ is shown when the narrator describes Angela as having a ‘hopeless air’, emphasising the struggle to ‘breath’ because of the umbilical cord suffocating her around her neck. However, it can also be argued, the lack of independence Angela has of her own life and body, also ironic due to the alleged infidelity in which she could not control her body from displaying sign of this. Marquez’s intention in using these two similar descriptions but in different contexts is to describe the dependence that Angela has upon her life and the lack of control women in Colombian culture have.
The narrator repeats throughout the passage and the entire text Angela’s character as ‘poor’, however it can be argued that this is not always financially but spiritually too. This may be due to Marquez’s intentional method in displaying the ‘poor’ lives that women live with no help and the little chance that is available to escape this way of life and the outcome of their purpose for being a woman. Also, the use of the words ‘destitute’ and ‘a poverty of spirit’ emphasise the lack of emotions and facial expression that Angela displays particularly after the murder, years later which is when the narrator meets her. In relation to the culture, it signifies the lack of belief that Angela may have of her culture and religion, especially when using the word ‘spirit’ which Angela doesn’t have much of. This emphasises not just the lack of belief Angela has, but the hopelessness she feels having been brought up with the restrictions she feels with being a woman. The narrator describes Angela as having a ‘hopeless air and a poverty of spirit that augured an uncertain future for her’, which in retrospect for the reader, is correct for the narrator to have assumed. The ‘hopeless air’ that Angela possesses is the loveless life that she leads now; she had not married since the murder and therefore leads an ‘uncertain future’ as to her life now. The significance of the quote is that it represents the hopelessness that all women of the Colombian culture endure; the hopeless chance of having independence and freedom from a predominantly patriarchal society. This use of metaphors adds the illusion of a woman with a lack of belief or hope, leading a life that has already been decided for her, an observation cleverly described by the narrator to help the reader understand the spiritual aspect of Angela’s character.
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The use of memory and unintentional flashbacks to the Vicario siblings’ childhood propels the reader into thinking about the inevitability of how the characters grew up in the Colombian culture and the outcome of this upbringing to what is expected of them. What is ironic is the rebellion against this culture which causes the infidelity but the excuse of honour which leads to the murder of Santiago Nasar.
Word Count: 1,462 words
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