Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a novella by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that centers around the narrator's efforts to put together the fragments of memories of a murder that took place in a small Latin-American coastal town twenty-seven years previously. This passage from the novel takes place at the end of chapter two, where Angela Vicario was sent home by her fiancé Bayardo, and was almost beaten to death by her mother Pura Vicario, all because Angela had lost her virginity. The concept of virginity in this excerpt has been developed to such a depth that the readers are urged to question the social conventions and inequalities imposed upon women.
The passage is written in chronological order that describes the events in an orderly fashion, but actually has another layer of deeper meaning hidden underneath the veil of plain narration. Firstly, the chronological narration tells the story in a natural sequence, in a way where the readers can easily engage in and understand the plot. The readers first see Angela being sent back home because she was not a virgin, resulting in her mother, Pura Vicario, seriously beating her. This is then followed by her raging brothers demanding the name of the man responsible for Angela's loss of virginity, all arranged chronologically. Each event happens due to the previous one, and this logic and clarity achieved, and this chronological order allows the continuous occurrence of events that revolves around Angela's virginity to each fall neatly into place, and subtly but surely raises the issue of women's unfair obligations and expectations present in society. So the chronological narration makes the plot clear and logical, and the layers of meanings further engage the readers, which powerfully present to them the main theme of the passage.
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The main theme of the passage centers around virginity, and the hint of the theme of honor supports the unfair double standards and the discrimination of sex roles that women must live up to. Marquez has weaved the theme into the plot in such a way that would produce a reaction from the readers. At the beginning of the text, Bayardo returned Angela back because she wasn't a virgin. Angela's "dress was in shreds", which is a hint that she had been beaten by Bayardo for not telling him the truth earlier. Refusing to marry Angela and exerting violence onto her due to such trivial reasons may seem unacceptable for us readers; but in society it was seen as an honorable act, thus making Bayardo an honorable person at the time. Furthermore, when Pura Vicario beat her daughter to the verge of death, "she did with such stealth" (p 46) that no one found out about it until much later. True, Angela did do a dishonorable act by having sex before marriage, which brought shame onto her family; however she took her beating silently because she had a strong sense of honor, and acknowledged what she did was wrong, which suggests her possibly honorable nature. We learn that although the characters have imperfections, they also have something redeeming about them. This compels the readers to criticize not just the characters, but also consider the traditions, cultural values and social conventions that influence the characters' actions. The relatively minor theme of honor reinforces the major theme of sexism inside this particular excerpt, which successfully highlights and puts an emphasis on the cruel social conventions placed on women, such as the overrated importance of virginity.
Marquez also manipulates language to make the absurd sound normal, utilizing nuances to influence us in our judgments towards the norms in South American society, such as the unfair double standard placed on women. This is a style known as Magical Realism that Marquez is famous for. For example, when Angela was sent home by Bayardo, she was dressed in a shredded dress and her mother Pura Vicario was given a shock, as she "said in terror": "'Holy Mother Of God'" (p 46). Although quite extravagant and impolite in front of a guest, this colloquial dialogue shows that Pura, as a mother, expresses a deep concern towards Angela. However as soon as Pura learnt that Bayardo had sent her daughter home due to her not being a virgin, Pura immediately gave Angela a beating, and Angela recalled that "[she] thought [Pura] was going to kill [her]" (p 47). The fact that a mother is willing to physically abuse her own child only moments after praying to God for her survival depicts Pura's ridiculous change in attitude; but it is exactly this absurdity that grabs the readers' attention and exemplifies the absurd, exaggerated importance of virginity in society, and powerfully criticizes the social norms at the time. Additionally, after Angela's beating had been done, all she wanted was "for it to be over quickly so [she] could flop down and go to sleep" (p 47). The verb phrase "flop down" here has a very casual connotation, and we see no signs of her feeling any rage or frustration towards Pura Vicario who had just beaten her moments ago. But the narrator does not further explain this absurdity, which effectively provokes the readers to question about the reason behind her apparent lack of anger. One can only deduce that Angela does not question the justice of her beating, and that her culture brought her up in a way that she believes what she did was wrong. This profoundly reveals the absurd sexual role that women play in society; it's as if virginity is the most important aspect of a woman. Furthermore, the absurdity of the sentence and seriousness of the tone blend in together, creating a surrealistic touch to his work, drawing the readers' attention, engaging them, and enables the delivery of the theme to be more impactful on the readers.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Lastly, Marquez weaves in literary techniques into the text to enhance the impact of the message. When Angela accused Santiago of being responsible for her loss of purity, "she nailed it to the wall with her well aimed dart, like a butterfly with no will whose sentence has already been written" (p 47). This simile creates an imagery of a butterfly helplessly nailed to the wall, which symbolizes both Santiago and Angela's circumstance. One layer of this simile would be an indication of Santiago's now inevitable death; the twins must kill him in order to restore Angela's and their family's honor. Killing is a great sin, and the austerity of the crime they were about to commit effectively mirrors the absurd honor and value set upon a female's virginity at the time. Additionally, Marquez does not clearly indicate whom the imagery of the butterfly is referring to; the latter nuance in the simile lies in the meaning behind Angela's accusation. Angela's lost virginity was a matter of honor not just for her, but her whole family; thus she was obliged to provide an explanation for this and let her brothers find a way to clear the shame off her name. But by doing so, she accepts and is "nailed" to the false values imposed on virginity by society, which results in Santiago Nasar's death. Clearly cultural mores that lead to such misfortunes are not desirable for a healthy society; so cleverly, this simile with double layers of meaning provides the readers with a powerful hint, which effectively provokes them to realize the overvalued concept of virginity at the time, hence criticizes the issue of sexism in society.
Indeed, Marquez has successfully conveyed a message to us. In this short passage, with all the unpleasant events centering Angela's lost virginity, Marquez has compellingly revealed to us the brutal social standards regarding virginity that women have to endure. Through his objective and journalistic narration, Marquez does not give us a definitive view on the society. Instead, he produces a reaction from the readers with the voice hidden behind the narration, and forces us to reflect on the issues that exist in society.