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Analysis of Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Info: 1770 words (7 pages) Essay
Published: 27th May 2021 in Literature

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In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez demonstrates the moral questions that arise living in a small, religious Latin-American Society of the 20th century. As Buford describes, Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a “simple narrative, charged with irony that it has the authority of a political fable” (Buford. 1979, 637), solely as a result of their “use of magical realism”. I argue that despite the cliché translation, the narrator accurately expresses through magical realism, moral and ethical dilemmas, the ambiguity there is in the character's decision and the subsequent social injustices that come thus. Therefore, he protests the idea of honor as worthless justification. 

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Opening with the line: “on the day when they were going to kill him” (Marquez. 1983, 1), Marquez introduces/foregrounds the use of magical-realism in a third-person magical tone narration, to explain how the soon-to-be-killed Santiago Nasar experienced two separate and differing dreams about trees. His blatant criticism of the existence of truth in the most objective manner, sets forth the idea that there is no truth in anything and thereby leaving it up to the viewer to “choose between contradictory versions of what constitutes the truth [in order to set up] a dialogue between the past and the present” (Dale 2008, 27). Moreover, nothing is shown to be what it seems; Santiago’s first vision explained him “going through a grove of timber trees where a gentle drizzle was falling, and for an instant, he was happy in his dream, but when he awoke, he felt completely spattered with bird shit.” (1). In his next dream, “he’d dreamed that he was alone in a tinfoil airplane and flying through the almond trees without bumping into anything,” (1). The contrast that Marquez creates with his super surrealistic descriptions of events, while they are indeed quite underwhelming and ordinary when compared to surreal characteristics in the novel, demonstrates the presence of magical-realism. For example, when Santiago dreams about the “gentle rain”, we know it is in a sense a magically described occurrence, that will be realized in the “real world”: The light downpour in his first vision occurs just as he is about to die. This demonstrates an impending doom of the event, and as Mustier says, despite everyone in the town knowing the murder about to occur, they fail to prevent it, and as Ahmad says this is the inconsiderate behaviour of a society that will do nothing to prevent the murder of a fellow human being. (Ahmad. 2015, 5).

Throughout the novel, Gabriel demonstrates the damaging effect of racism - a result of honor and magical-realism -has on society, by highlighting the role slaves have in this fictional society. By mirroring the setting with our current society, (even despite the abolition of the slave trade), Garcia’s protests the societal expectations that have been set in by tradition. Divina Flor and her mother, Victoria Guzmán are both Afro-American and therefore the victim of the societies hate, disrespect and prejudice, solely based on their race. This group is in response to how the Spanish conquered the Caribbean and started a slave trade. Servants to Santiago Nasar, they are rather literally treated like slaves, thereby showing the never-ending results following colonization. Furthermore, Garcia continues to use magical-realism to show their destiny for this low-ranking role and how doomed they were. Victoria Guzmán enticed by Ibrahim's luscious life, “made love to him in secret for several years in the stables of the ranch, and he brought her to be a house servant when the affection was over” (8). Divina Flora, “knew that she was destined for Santiago Nasar’s furtive bed” (8). Nevertheless, the belief in racial superiority is only “a hereditary compulsion to molest the eligible servant in his home” (Stone. 2013, 116). Ibrahim’s and Santiago Nasar’s inclination towards the youngest servant women and the complete ownership they believe they have over the lesser race is justified and has been normalized by his ancestors. This submissive attitude from the Afro-American groups, that they will accept/submit to their “masters” torment, is manifested when Flor immediately becoming “overwhelmed by the drive of her glands” when Santiago Nasar “grabbed her by the wrist when she came to take the empty mug from him” (8). This represents the eons of fear for a slave’s master.

Perhaps the most obvious example of racial discrimination in this novel establishes a contrast between what right and is wrong. Divina’s father is just another one of her mother’s most recent mate; thus, showing that her mother’s purity has been taken by those with a social standing they believe to be greater, therefore they believe their actions are justified. Garcia's disgust can be seen through Victoria Guzmán’s, when she describes Santiago Nasar’s shock when “she pulled out the insides of a rabbit by the roots and threw the steaming guts to the dogs” (Marquez. 1983, 6). Therefore, the act of discarding the rabbits to the dogs could be related to how later the hounds want to devour Nasar’s guts from his dead body when it is “exposed to public view in the centre of the living room” (69). Relating to this, the contrast created when Garcia makes Divina Flor howl right after the dogs are described to be ‘howling’ outside the house of the murdered Santiago Nasar stands metaphorical to show the intensity of girl’s sin. Likening Divina Flor actions to that of a dog emphasizes the low status of the black community in the Caribbean. Furthermore, the references in the book about the slaughter of animals immediately can be compared, even unknowingly by the reader to how Santiago Nasar was butchered. As a result, the smell or should I say stench is that both the Vicario twins and the whole town suffer. Not only does his smell engulf the whole town like a plague, signifying the collective guilt everyone had in the murder. This belief is so extreme that the Maria, a slut and therefore a symbol of impurity and defilement will not make love to the narrator as he “smells of him”. The suffering that follows as they fail to “scrub” away the smell from their hands, follows in line with Sir and Lady Macbeth as they helplessly attempt to remove Duncan’s blood from themselves. Therefore, Garcia highlights the insensitivity and carelessness in this society, as everyone chose to only silently observe rather than preventing the crime. 

An effect of Garcia protesting racism is that it subsequently demonstrates “a class de-limited concept of honor” (Gal. 2003, 368). The irony in a world where males from allegedly superior races are free to torment in any way possible the females of lesser classes and races, yet the society they are in supposedly will not tolerate “sexual unions between white females of the elite class and non-white males” (Williams. 2010, 201), is a satire attempt to protest magical realism. The effect being that there is a corrupt theory surrounding honor as it allows the advantaged male gender to act in whatever way they deem necessary. One such way is how the rape of black female is considered normal, however, when a black male rapes a white female or especially when a black male is raped by a woman it is considered a direct attack of honor. This is because honor changes based on gender, for a female, she is required for her virginity to be upheld and maintained, while for males, the theory of honor determines him responsible for protecting the virginity of his female relatives as demonstrated by the Vicario twins act of revenge. (Graham. 2000, 200). These differences in the expectations of honor, as dictated by a person’s gender and race is an example of racism and gender inequality. 

Garcia also explains the women's purpose in Latin-America's narrow-minded society. He develops that a woman will be suspect to punishing life, as they only do housework, look beautiful and raise the sons and daughters to the men they call their husband, yet who treat them back like slaves rather than a wife. The slave and master interaction is in regards to all aspects of her life: the better the woman is at doing these chores, the better her future husband will be. One example of Garcia’s protest is when “Angela Vicario only dared hint at the inconvenience of a lack of love” her resent was removed by her mother when she says: “Love can be learned too” (25) The provincial setting and her wedding that prioritised her husband’s ease over herself, leads to the realisation that Bayardo was “too much of a man for [her]” (25), since “he hadn’t even tried to court her but had bewitched the family with his charm” (25) and so she understands how irrational her decision was. In the end, she’s “softly pushed into the house without saying a word” (41)

In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the use of magical realism illustrates the complex nature of moral dilemmas. Through Gabriel’s use of magical realism, the novelist shows that slavery, racism, and honor are just meaningless standards that the characters swear/live by to protect a “supposed” prestige. 

 

 

SOURCES

  • Ahmad, M. (2015). Elements of Social Protest in Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Pakistan: Hazara University. [Accessed 20 Oct. 2019].
  • Dale, J. (2008). Chronicle of a Death Foretold. New writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, 5(1), pp.16-45. [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].
  • Garcia Marquez. (1983). Chronicle of a Death Foretold. 1st ed. La Oveja Negra. [Accessed 2 Nov. 2019].
  • Graham, Sandra Lauderdale. (1998). Honor among Slaves. 1st ed. in L. Johnson and S. Lipsett-Rivera, The Faces of Honor, Sex, Shame and Violence in Colonial Latin America, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico. [Accessed 2 Nov. 2019].
  • Whitehead, H. and Ortner, S. (1981). Sexual Meanings: The Cultural Construction of Gender and Sexuality. 1st ed. Social Science. [Accessed 7 Nov. 2019].
  • Seed, Patricia. (1988). Marriage Promises and the Value of a Woman’s Testimony in Colonial Mexico. Vol. 13, 2nd ed. Signs [Accessed 9 Nov. 2019].
  • Stone, Bruce. (2013). A Problem of Precipitation: Finding Gatsby in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Vol. 11, 1st ed. The F. Scott Fitzgerald Review. [Accessed 11 Nov. 2019].

 

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