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Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Gabriel García Márquez

Study Questions and Essay Topics

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Study Questions

Why do you think that Gabriel García Márquez used real names in his text? How does this decision influence the reader's experience of the narrative?

The way that Márquez uses names in Chronicle of a Death Foretold emblematizes the confusion between reality, fiction, and form. The story itself is based on a real occurrence, but the novel, while seemingly journalistic, uses anecdotal information as often as it presents the reader with the facts of the murder. For example, the narrator spends a few pages discussing the fact that Santiago Nasar was in love with Maria Alejandrina Cervantes at the age of fifteen, but he does not ever clarify whether or not Santiago Nasar was guilty of the crime he died for. Clarification of the second point, in terms of the plot, is a much more important question to answer, and the novel never answers it. In addition, the novel does not "chronicle" the events as the title leads the reader to expect that it will-the narrative shifts between the past and the present.

Because the novel does not answer many questions, it accurately shows the reader how confusing all of the events surrounding the murder were when it occurred. In real life, nobody is ever sure whether or not the student that was murdered was guilty of the crime he committed or not, or whether or not he had any idea why he was dying. The same is true for the narrator: even at the end of the book, he doesn't know any more than when he began. But because the narrative constantly displays a sense of imminent disclosure, the reader feels cheated when the novel fails to disclose important information. The reader expects conclusions because Chronicle of a Death Foretold is misleadingly purposeful in its tone.

What cultural aspects of the Colombian town affect the course of events leading up to the murder?

The concept of honor shapes the actions of everyone in the Colombian town where the murder occurs. This is one of the strongest differences between the Spanish culture presented in the novel and American culture. In America, the strict adherence to hierarchical, traditional ideals is far less practiced, even in the 1950s, and the definition of gender roles was less misogynistic than it is in the novel.

The double standard regarding women's virginity is much less strongly enforced in the United States. It is very improbable that a woman would be returned to her house and beaten simply because she lost her virginity before she was married. And it is even less likely that the woman's brothers would go out and murder the man who took her virginity-in America, such an action would be judged as first-degree murder, and the culprits would have been locked up for decades. However, within the Colombian town, the Vicario twins are largely condoned for their crime because they murdered Santiago in order to uphold their sister's honor. Honor, in Colombia at that time, was worth killing for. In America, murdering someone was a crime excused only by insanity; in Colombia, the cultural norms appeared to supersede the law.

How does Márquez's narrator use repetition in the story? With what result?

Márquez's use of repetition confounds the journalistic agenda that the general style of the book seems to engender. The text seems to constitute a sort of ritual repetition of the crime. Márquez states over and over that Santiago Nasar is going to be killed-in fact, he tells us this fact in the very first line. The discourse of the novel clashes with its purported end: to shed light on the death of Santiago Nasar. What the text does (and the repetition throughout the text highlights this phenomenon) is to re-enact the death rather than to ever satisfactorily explain it.

Suggested Essay Topics

Examine the roles that women play in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Is Angela Vicario the most powerful or the least powerful woman in the novel?

How do the excerpts from Gil Vincente's poem shape the text as a whole? Compare and contrast the themes used in the poem with those in Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

Is there any significance to the repeated mention of dreams and/or weather in the story? How do these elements affect the narrative?

What view does the narrative seem to take toward authority? How are the authority figures (Father Amador, the Bishop, Colonel Aponte) depicted? Do their actions represent a larger theme?

Discuss the use of magic realism in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. How does the use of this literary technique affect the narrative?

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