In the novella Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells a story of a man whom two brothers murder in the name of honor. This story takes place in the early to mid twentieth century in a poor agrarian town in Columbia, South America. Santiago Nasar has been named as the man that took Angela Vicario’s virginity and the twin brothers must kill him to restore honor to their family’s name. This town is a very small tight knit community where everyone knows everyone else and most people are related in some way. When something wrong happens to a family in this community, the whole town is wronged in a way.
Since the people in this community are poor the only way they can earn and keep respect is honor. Honor is, essentially, the only thing people in small communities such as this one have, next to family. If a family is dishonored in this community, they lose the respect of the community and either restore honor, move out of the community, or live in shame in the community, the latter of which is never an option. So when the brothers find out their sister’s virginity has been taken by another man and shamed their family, they must restore honor to the family’s name and kill the man who did it.
I think the theme of this novella is how important honor is in a small community, such as the one in this story. The novella starts off with the death of the main character, Santiago Nasar. After that the story starts before Angela Vicario’s wedding and works up to the murder. After we, the reader, learn that Santiago Nasar is going to die we find out why. The story starts off a couple days before the wedding when everyone is awaiting the arrival of the local bishop. A rich son of a politician comes to the town to find a bride.
The wealthy man, Bayardo San Roman, finds a woman, Angela Vicario, and decides that he wants to marry her. The Vicario family is relatively poor and has no choice but to give their daughter away to Bayardo. “Angela Vicario only dared hint at the inconvenience of a lack of love, but her mother demolished it with a single phrase: ‘Love can be learned too'” (p. 35). The mother tells Angela that even though she does not love Bayardo and has never met him before she will learn to love him, just as Mr. and Mrs. Vicario learned to love each other.
… And all he had to do was appear on the running board [of the car] for everyone to realize that Bayardo San Roman was going to marry whomever he chose. It was Angela Vicario who didn’t want to marry him. ‘He seemed too much of a man for me,’ she told me. Besides, Bayardo San Roman hadn’t even tried to court her, but had bewitched the family with his charm” (p. 34). Since Bayardo is a wealthy man the Vicario family has a chance to raise their social status within their community just by being related, by marriage, with Bayardo San Roman.
Naturally the family wants to take advantage of this opportunity even if Angela does not want to marry Bayardo. At first the Vicario brothers, Pedro and Pablo, do not know or like Bayardo San Roman, but after a long night of drinking with him they are overjoyed that he will become their brother-in-law. After the wedding the whole community is invited to the huge after party that continues even after the newly-weds leave the party to consummate the marriage. Coincidentally, the Vicario brothers and Santiago Nasar stay up all night drinking at the local brothel unaware that the next morning they will kill Santiago.
When Bayardo and Angela try to consummate the marriage, he finds out that she is not a virgin and he returns her to her family in disgrace. The brothers, who arrive home after Angela is returned, find out that she is not a virgin, according to Bayardo, and ask her who dishonored their family by taking her virginity. Although it is unclear to the reader, she says that Santiago Nasar has taken her virginity. Since the family’s name has been dishonored, the only way to restore honor would be to kill Santiago Nasar.
The next morning, the Vicario brothers walk around town looking for Santiago and telling everyone in the town that they are going to kill him. Most people do not believe them because they thought the brothers were joking and still drunk from the previous night. Almost the whole town, except Santiago Nasar, finds out that the Vicario brothers want to kill him, but no one tries hard enough to stop it from happening. At one point, the mayor takes the knives they plan to use from the brothers and sends them home. Then they go home and grab more knives and return to town warning everyone that they are going to kill Santiago.
Santiago’s friend Cristo Bedoya runs all around town trying to find Santiago but is too late with the message. Even during the murder Santiago never finds out why the Vicario brothers want to kill him. After the murder, the Vicario family leaves town, the Vicario brothers are each sentenced to three years in prison, and when they get out Pablo marries his former lover and Pedro goes into the armed forces. Angela Vicario, who now lives with her mother, realizes she has fallen in love with Bayardo San Roman and writes a letter everyday for seventeen years to him. Even though he never opens the letters he returns to Angela and they get married.
In conclusion, the whole book revolves around the theme of how important honor is to a small, impoverished community such as the one in this book. When you are poor, you have no important assets except for your family and your honor. If you do not have honor then most likely your family does not just by association. So if you have no honor, then you have nothing. The murder of Santiago Nasar was an honor killing. Even though the family moved away after the murder it was expected by most people in the community as the only way to restore the good name of the family.
Honor killing was an excepted form of civil duty that the men in a family must perform if they do not want to be labeled as outcasts and shunned in the society. Since the brothers only received three years in prison, the reader can tell that the honor killing was an excepted form of retribution by a family. The reader and the narrator never find out why Angela Vicario named Santiago Nasar, but the gossip in the town says that it was to protect her first lover, which is never confirmed because Angela never returns to her supposed lover after the killing.