Ironic Structure in Chronicle of a Death Foretold 

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the story where the narrator returns to his hometown to investigate the murder of Santiago Nasar that changed the town forever. The entire town is aware of the fact that Santiago might be murdered yet none of them do anything. Even those who are in a position of power to stop the murder don’t do anything to save Santiago. After the murder the people in the town can’t help but feel bad for Santiago’s death- as they should- but they use the belief of fate to defend their actions. Every chapter reveals more about the investigation and allows us to grow a better connection to both the characters and how their actions affect others. In Chronicle of Death Foretold, Marquez uses structure to develop the idea of guilt and show how blaming powers outside of our control is more comforting than confronting the truth.

There are several instances, where the day of Santiago’s murder is referred to as “unfortunate” day. When the narrator is asking the priest if he ever received word about Santiago’s possible murder he “confessed” (Marquez, 71) to the narrator then he did in fact hear about the murder allegations. “ ‘The bishop was coming on that unfortunate day.” (71) Priest Amador told the narrator. The irony in this text is the fact that the Priest confesses to the narrator when he is a person who other people tend to trust with their own personally confessions. Father Amador reveals that he in turn does happen to feel guilty for not doing everything he could for Santiago. When he refers to the day of the murder as unfortunate he was putting the blame on fate in order to reveal some of the guilt that he was feeling. It was much easier for Father Amador to put off the blame onto fate instead of his own actions.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold is written much like an investigation would go. We don’t have all the information at once. We learn more about the murder every chapter of the book. This structure allows our opinion of Santiago to develop. At first, we can’t help but dislike and feel that Santiago deserved his death. However towards the end when we learn more about the case we can’t help but feel sorry for everything that he was going through. We begin to develop the guilt that the town starts to feel. We begin to feel frustrated that no one in the town did anything to help him and they just allowed him to die. Everyone had the potential and opportunity to do something and no one went out of their way to help him. This structure is very ironic since the more we learn about the investigation the guiltier we feel as readers and the more sorrow we can’t help but feel for Santiago.

There are several moments of frustration in which it seems that even when people are attempting to stop the murder it is simply not enough. For instance, when the colonel took away the knives the twins had when he heard that they had a plan to murder Santiago he did attempt to save him and yet that was still not enough. “Nor did he interrogate them concerning their intentions, but took away their knives and sent them off to sleep” (56) The biggest mistake that everyone made was to assume that the Vicario twins were not actually gonna do anything. Even in this case where something was done to stop the twins was not good enough. Marquez uses irony to show that the one thing that no expected the twins to do was the very thing that they did.

Not only did Colonel Aponte feel that taking away the knives from the twins was enough but he actually “was at peace with his soul” (57) Colonel simply saw Santiago as an afterthought and it didn’t even cross his mind until he saw him at the docks. The irony is that Santiago was alive at the time and there was still time for the Colonel to warn him and yet he did nothing and congratulated himself for “making the right decision” (57) The Colonel was at peace with avoiding on the problem by relying on the fact that it was only a suspicion and there was nothing for him to do. By completely avoiding the issue and believing that it simply wasn’t his problem was an easier choice for the Colonel to live with.

There was also a very strict and set of guidelines that most people need to follow in the town. These guidelines seem to be very unreasonable and unfair to the one specifically. No one necessarily came out with these guidelines and yet they continue to follow the rules since they feel that, that is the correct way to act. So when these guidelines are ignored or disobeyed there is a set of punishments and understandings that can be put in place to punish the disobeying person. The townspeople had that women were raised and taught from a very young age that they needed to fit all the requirements of a “good wife”. There was a certain amount of praise that came with being a good wife and making your husband happy. Yet when it came to how the men were raised they were brought up with the concept that they needed to do everything in their power to honor and defend their family. Blaming people who don’t follow these norms -in a way that is already set for them- is much simpler than having to take responsibility for hurting others. For example when the reasoning for why Santiago was murder the main reason that was brought up is Honor. “Honor is love” (97) is mentioned all throughout the novel. Blaming the norms that they grew up with takes off the responsibility off the person. It is much easier to state that you are defending both the town and the honor of your societal norms than to express that you commited your own actions based on your own personal opinions.

Every chapter of the novel ends with some acknowledgement of the murder. This is to help convey and get a reaction of guilt and anger. We can’t help but feel frustrated that people can get away with murder due to the justification of someone’s “honor”.

Author is criticizing the townspeople’s belief that everything is decided by fate and we don’t have any responsibility for our actions. This belief is what everyone uses to defend the fact that they didn’t do anything to help Santiago. The narrator understand that this belief is quite toxic and he understands that every single person in that town could have done something to save Santiago and they didn’t. This makes them at the very least somewhat responsible for what happened to him. This guilt carries out for quite a while. Even after the twins had served their time the town couldn’t help but still feel bad for their actions -or lack thereof-.

The last chapter of the novel, leaves the reader with having to accept Santiago’s death and we are left with the guilt that is associated with the death. Everyone in the town starts to feel sick physically and we can’t help but feel the same way after being told the graphic description of his death. The vivid writing makes us feel partly responsible and remorseful for the murder of Santiago. This was the exact purpose of this writing was to make the reader feel uncomfortable and pushes a more emotional reaction to be released.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold shows how guilt and the suppression of guilt correlates to how we deal with the consequences of our actions. Blaming your actions on forces outside of your control alleviate your feelings of guilt.

Reflective Statement for Chronicle of a Death Foretold

During several of the discussions about Chronicle of a Death Foretold several new perspectives about the social issues were brought up. During the initial reading of the book it was clear to me very early on that the characters in the town have very specific opinions and outlooks on how society treats certain people- specifically women-.

One of the first things that stood out to me was the standard that the townspeople had that women were raised and taught from a very young age that they needed to fit all the requirements of a “good wife”. There was a certain amount of praise that came with being a good wife and making your husband happy. Yet when it came to how the men were raised they were brought up with the concept that they needed to do everything in their power to honor and defend their family.

During one discussion, as a class we began to talk about if we believed that gender roles have changed since the time period of this book. Personally, I felt that roles have changed quite drastically since this time period. But throughout the discussion it opened my eyes that these roles that are enforced onto us at a young age haven’t actually changed as much as we wished they would. While women are no longer brought up with the sole purpose of being a “good wife”. There is still a expectation that ultimately getting married and having kids should be a woman’s overarching goal. I found it quite interesting during this discussion that it was bought up how much judgement and pressure is still put on women to this day. But one aspect that we realized was that the roles have reversed quite a bit when considering blame particularly when it comes to relationships. During the time period of the book all the blame was placed on Santiago instead of Angela. In recent times women are blamed and judged more than men when it comes to sexual relationships. This also correlates to how no one judged or felt that is was wrong when all the men went to María Cervantes’s house. It was completely socially accepted that men could be with prostitutes.

This whole discussion opened my eyes to understand that these norms of gender roles are still very present in our current society.

Work Cited

  1. Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Trans. Gregory Russia. New York: Vintage International, 1981