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Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Gabriel García Márquez

Chapter 5

Chapter 4

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

The narrator says that for years, nobody could talk about anything but the murder of Santiago Nasar. Most people felt at the time that they couldn't intervene too much because it was a matter of honor. Placida Linero never forgave herself for mixing up the bad omen of birds with the good omen of trees in her son's dream, and telling her son, before his death, that his dream boded good health.

Twelve days after the crime, the investigating magistrate arrives. Everything the narrator knows about his character has been derived from the margins of the pages of the brief that the narrator salvaged twenty years later in the Palace of Justice.

What alarms the magistrate most is that there is not a clue that Santiago Nasar has taken Angela Vicario's virginity. Angela herself never specified how or where, but insisted that he was the perpetrator. The narrator's personal viewpoint is that Santiago Nasar died without understanding his death.

Cristo recalls that as Santiago and Cristo Bedoya walked through town on that fateful day, people were staring at them. A man named Yamil Shaium, stood in the door of his shop so that when Santiago passed by, he could warn him of the planned murder. Yamil called Cristo Bedoya to see if Santiago had already been warned. Cristo left Santiago to go talk to Yamil, and Santiago continued on his way home to change clothes in order to have breakfast with the narrator's sister.

As soon as Yamil related the Vicarios' plan to Cristo, Cristo ran to try and find Santiago. Frantic, he checked Santiago's house on the off chance that he was already home. Santiago wasn't there, and Cristo took the gun out of Santiago's night table and stuck it in his belt, not realizing it wasn't loaded.

The people coming back from the docks began to take up positions around the square to witness the crime. Cristo Bedoya went into the social club and ran into Colonel Lazaro Aponte, and he told the Colonel what was going on. The Colonel did not believe him at first because he had taken away the knives, but then realized they had gotten other knives. But because he was slow in leaving the club, the crime had been committed by the time he arrived. Cristo ran to his own house, thinking that maybe Santiago went to breakfast without changing his clothes.

Meanwhile, Santiago Nasar was in the house of Flora Miguel, his fiancée. She had heard about the planned killing, and thought that even if they didn't kill him, he would be forced to marry Angela Vicario in order to give her back her honor. She was upset and humiliated, and when Santiago came in she was furious. She handed him a box with all of the letters he had ever sent her. She told him that she hoped they did kill him, and she went into her room and locked the door.

Santiago's frantic knocking on her door woke everyone else up. Nahir Miguel, her father, told Santiago that the Vicarios wanted to kill him. Santiago said, "I don't understand a god-damned thing." He left the house, and started to head home. Clothilde Armenta yelled at Santiago to run, and he ran the fifty yards to his front door. Placida Linero, Santiago's own mother, had just closed the front door because Divina Flor lied to her and said that he was already home and had gone up to his room.

The Vicario twins caught up with him and began stabbing him. After his entrails had fallen out of his body, he fell to his knees, then managed to stand. He walked more than a hundred yards, completely around the house, and went in through the kitchen door, and fell flat on his face in his kitchen.

Analysis

This chapter demonstrates the complicity of the town in the murder of Santiago, and shows how they saw themselves as spectators rather than actors. The division between spectator and actor is blurred by the narrator's role. He himself acknowledges that he is not absolved of blame. Because the narrator is a part of the community in which the murder took place, he cannot be an objective observer. The blurring of journalism and fiction in the story is shown most clearly in the character of the narrator himself, since he hardly discloses any revealing information. In many ways, he is the most enigmatic of all the characters.

Despite the narrator's interviews of town residents throughout the story, and despite the investigative magistrate's report, the narrator does not shed any new light, twenty years later, on the murder of Santiago Nasar. This failure to fully explain events shows that the object of the investigation to be not the discovery of the truth, but rather the determination of how such a publicized death could have taken place. In the end, the reader is left with a series of coincidences, moments of personal weakness, and assumptions whose random variety evades any sort of an overarching explanation or understanding of the crime.

Throughout the novel, the narrator's steady tone and method of progressively disclosing more information, leads us to think that the truth is about to be revealed. Especially because the narrator repeatedly insists upon Santiago Nasar's innocence, the reader feels that the true identity of whomever took Angela Vicario's virginity will be clear by the end of the book.

The absence of conclusion also illustrates the importance of ritual in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. In a sense, the entire story is a ritual in that it re-enacts the murder, with no other result than merely showing the reader the events that happened before and after the event.

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