Term Paper: Death of Santiago Nasar

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¶ … death of Santiago Nasar

As the title itself suggests, Chronicle of a Death Foretold is the story of Santiago Nasar's death at the hands of Angela Vicario's two brothers who accuse him of having dishonored their sister. On her wedding night, Angela Vicario is returned to her family by her husband because she is no longer a virgin. The first-person narrative sustained by an unnamed narrator in this novel can be somewhat difficult to understand to someone living in our society. Many questions arise: why did no one intervene, why did Angela's brothers murder Santiago when they had no other proof except their sister's word; why did no one try to save Santiago since they were told about the Vicario brothers' intentions?, and so on. The cultural context of the novel is the key to understanding the events, as the plot is not applicable to any other kind of society but the Latin American. Latin American society is based on the concept of honor; even today, honor plays a very important part in everyday life. Despite the fact that Marquez emphasizes that every person who could have and did not prevent Santiago's death is responsible of it, he does not give the impression that the murder itself was a questionable deed although the reader cannot be absolutely positive that Santiago was even guilty of taking Angela Vicario's virginity. Thesis: The murder of Santiago Nasar is a symbol of mid-20th century Latin American moral values, culture and gender roles in the sense that the events that occur in the small Colombian coastal town are representative to the entire Colombian society.

The incident motivating the killing of Santiago Nasar in Chronicle of a Death Foretold is the loss of honor by Angela Vicario. The Vicario twins must kill Santiago Nasar to restore the family's honor. The townsfolk go along with this and see the twins' deed as morally acceptable; hence, they do nothing to stop the killing. There is only a small minority within the novel that objects to the killing. The majority views the Vicario brothers' deed as a socially and morally acceptable response. Within the moral parameters of Colombian rural society of the 1950s and 1960s, the loss of a woman's virginity before being wed destroyed not only the honor of the woman, but also that of the family. Such an act could only be absolved with the death of the perpetrator. This is why, without a legal trial or a simple conversation to clarify the innocence or the guilt of Santiago Nasar, the Vicario twins are convinced of their moral duty. Since Angela's father is blind, and thus unable to carry out this duty, the burden falls to the brothers. Ironically, the twins, who are now in charge of guarding the moral values of the family, were seen the night before drinking and carousing at a house of ill repute, in the company of Santiago Nasar, their ultimate victim. This is very enlightening as far as moral values and gender roles in Latin American society at the middle of the 20th century.

Santiago Nasar is murdered in the last chapter: "they've killed Santiago Nasar!" (Marquez: 237). The narrator points at a series of events which could have prevented the death of the young man. Santiago's friend, Cristo Bedoya, can stop the crime but does not because he does not know how to use his own gun. Also, those who want to do something to prevent the murder are either uncertain they should intervene or simply procrastinators who do not realize the importance of their actions in such a situation: "But most of those who could have done something to prevent the crime and did not console themselves with the pretext that affairs of honor are sacred monopolies, giving access only to those who are part of the drama." (Marquez: 97) However, perhaps the most shocking instance is right before Santiago is attacked by the Vicarios brothers. Although he learns about their plan to kill him, Santiago goes home, and rather than using the back door which is always unlocked, he decides to use the front door which his mother locks seconds before her son her gets to it. He is attacked by Pedro and Pablo Vicario who stab him to death. Ironically, in a certain sense, one can say that his mother unknowingly contributes to Santiago's death. The final instance of subtle irony but also of the implacability of fate occurs when Santiago screams for help but his screams go unheard because of the sounds of the bishop's festival taking place at the same time.

Honor is central to the novel. In Latin American society, honor is taken very seriously as it is an integral part of local culture. In this sense, honor is the fundamental moral value that must be kept intact. Once harmed, someone's honor must be avenged irrespective of what this implies because without the trait of honor, any man is lost and seen as an outcast in Latin American society. Consequently, in Marquez's novel, all of the characters are shaped and deeply influenced by this powerful moral value. It is somewhat ironical that defending honor as the supreme moral virtue does not rule out murder. In other words, the Vicario brothers kill Santiago for the sake of their sister's and family's honor. However, they do not stop to consider that by committing murder they erase their family's right to honor forever. Clearing their sister's name through the act of murder is not only a horrible sin in the eyes of God, but also an illegal deed which will be punished by law, as well as a moral wrongdoing that can never be repaired.

Santiago's death reveals a great deal about the small coastal town, and establishes Colombia as a clear representative of Latin American culture and society during the middle of the 20th century. Machismo is an important theme in the novel; it is mainly expressed through the emphasis placed on a strict distinction between gender roles in society. Males are proud and benefit from total sexual freedom whereas women are confined to a rigid set of rules that they cannot stray from. However, men are not only allowed to visit the town brothel, but they are proud of doing so. They are not ashamed of their actions because by using women these men think they increase their masculinity and establish themselves as machos. Nonetheless, it is important to take into account that in Latin American society such practices were not only endorsed, but encouraged and passed down from one generation to another. There are numerous examples of machismo in Marquez's novel; for instance, when Bayardo San Roman returns his wife to her family after finding out she is no longer a virgin. Also, the Vicario twins' murder of Santiago is proof of machismo from two points-of-view: firstly, their act is an attempt to restore their sister's honor although this is impossible because in mid-20th century Colombian society losing one's virginity before marriage is an unredeemable social sin. Secondly, in a deeply patriarchal society, the Vicario brothers want to establish themselves as machos i.e. rulers of the household because their father is blind and cannot avenge his dishonored daughter.

Women are seen as frail and unimportant. They run the household, raise and educate the kids but traditionally are not endowed with much decision-making power, or authority whereas the men are raised to be strong and authoritative: "The brothers were brought up to be men. The girls were brought up to be married. They knew how to do screen embroidery, sew by machine, weave bone lace, wash and iron, make artificial flowers and fancy candy, and write engagement announcements? my mother thought there were no better-reared daughters. 'They're perfect,' she was frequently heard to say. 'Any man will be happy with them because they've been raised to suffer.'" From this perspective, Angela Vicario is both a victim and the person morally responsible for Santiago's death. When returned to her family by her husband on their wedding night, Angela is confronted with the rage of her brothers, and accuses Santiago of deflowering her which likely is not true: "Pedro Vicario, the more forceful of the brothers, picked her up by the waist and sat her on the dining room table. 'All right, girl,' he said to her, trembling with rage, 'tell us who it was.' She only took the time necessary to say the name. She looked for it in the shadows, she found it at first sight among the many, many easily confused names from this world and the other, and she nailed it to the wall with her well-aimed dart, like a butterfly with no will whose sentence has always been written. 'Santiago Nasar,' she said." (Marquez: 112). Angela Vicario names Santiago and is aware of the consequences of her words. However, she is too afraid to stand up to her family because she is the victim of a double social standard which… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Death of Santiago Nasar.  (2008, April 24).  Retrieved July 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/death-santiago-nasar/340441

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"Death of Santiago Nasar."  Essaytown.com.  April 24, 2008.  Accessed July 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/death-santiago-nasar/340441.