Term Paper: Honor in Chronicle of a Death Foretold

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¶ … Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Specifically it will discuss honor in the novel and the symbolism that Garcia Marquez presents in the novel. Written in 1981, this dark and symbolic novel gives the reader a glimpse into Latin American culture and society, and indicates that death can be the defining moment in a town, as well as the end to a person's life. Honor is one of the key themes in this novel, and it drives the brothers to avenge their sister, even when it seems like she may have accused the wrong man.

Born in Columbia in 1928, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a Nobel Prize winning novelist who often writes about his native Latin America with wit and a deep understanding of the culture of the area. Literary critic Ruben Pelayo notes, "One year after the publication of 'Chronicle of a Death Foretold,' in 1982, newspapers around the world announced that Garcia Marquez was that year's winner of the Nobel Prize in literature" (Pelayo 111). In this book, he tells the story, twenty-seven years later, of a girl who turns out not to be a virgin on her wedding night. Because she has lost her honor, her two brothers go out to find the man responsible, so they can make him pay for taking their sister's honor. One of the most interesting things about the novel is the fact that just about everyone in the town knows what the brothers are going to do, but no one warns the victim, Santiago Nasar. Later, there is speculation that Nasar may not have really been the one to take Angela Vicario's honor, and that he was murdered without cause.

Angela's groom returns her to her family to save his own honor, and the beginning of the story actually occurs 27 years after Nasar's death, then moves in a dreamlike quality from one of the residents' remembrance of the murder to another. Along the way, it tells the reader much about Latin American culture and beliefs, from the swaggering machismo that males must exhibit to gain the respect of their friends, to the Catholic Church, which has so much influence over just about everyone in the town. It also shows how honor overshadows everything else in Latin America culture - even love, duty, and family.

Honor is the most important thing to these people, which may be one reason none of them ever warn Nasar about the impending attack. First, he is not one of "them," he is a foreigner of Arab descent, and second, he does not hold many of the same values as his neighbors, and so, he may be seen as an enemy of sorts, and not worthy of warning, even though his family is one of the most powerful and wealthy in the town. The fact that no one warns him indicates that honor is more important than even friendship or respect. As one character in the novel says to the brothers on their way to murder Nasar, "Honor doesn't wait'" (Garcia Marquez 71), and in this case, it surely did not. In addition, some people in the novel actually want him dead, like the bitter Victoria Guzman, who hates Nasar because of his father's love affair with her. There is also a side to Nasar that illustrates he may have been totally capable of raping Angela. Victoria's daughter, Divina Flor, says, "He grabbed my whole *****,' [...] 'It was what he always did when he caught me alone in some corner of the house [...]'" (Garcia Marquez 13). Thus, there were many people who felt Nasar deserved his fate, and some who believed he was at least capable of the charge against him.

Finally, Angela and her groom are reunited, 17 years later in the strangest of circumstances. At the time of their wedding, neither really loved the other, but almost as soon as her groom brings her back to her family, she has a change of heart. Garcia Marquez writes, "Suddenly, when Mother began to hit me, I began to remember him,' she told me. The blows hurt less because she knew they were because of him. She went on thinking about him with a certain surprise at herself as she lay sobbing on the dining-room sofa" (Garcia Marquez 91). Therefore, it is really no surprise that after 17 years, and over 2,000 letters from Angela, her groom returns and they are reunited, discovering that although they have aged, they have come to love each other over time.

Honor is one of the most important and compelling customs in Latin American culture and a person's entire reputation is built upon their honor, as this novel clearly shows. The Vicario family is so worried about their daughter's honor that they guard her like watchdogs up until her wedding, and then when they find she is not a virgin, they take their family honor one step further and murder the man she accuses of taking her honor. Garcia Marquez writes, "Even when it was less than two months before she would be married, Pura Vicario wouldn't let her go out alone with Bayardo San Roman to see the house where they were going to live, but she and the blind father accompanied her to watch over her honor" (Garcia Marquez 41). Honor is everything to this family, and so, they will do anything in their power to maintain their honor, no matter what the result, or who the victim turns out to be. In fact, honor is everything to the community, as well. They forgive the Vicario brothers for the murder, but force Angela and the rest of the family to leave town because of her lost honor.

The honor of the family is also upheld by the brothers' actions, which indicate, at least in their culture, that they were raised as "men" and will not allow any crime among their family to go unpunished. Pedro and Pablo, who are twins, agree to carry out the murder. However, there are many signs the brothers do not really want to go ahead with their deed. They waste time on the way to find Santiago, and they tell everyone in the town about their plans, as if they hope someone will stop them from killing Nasar. After all, they spent their sister's wedding night in a whorehouse with Nasar, so it is not as if they have always carried a grudge against him. Indeed, it often seems as if they really want someone to stop them throughout the novel, but no one actually manages to do that in time.

The brothers act against Nasar, but do not see their actions as anything other than normal under the circumstances. "After three years in jail awaiting trial, the twins are acquitted by the court because their action is considered a legitimate defense of their family's honor" (Pelayo 114). Thus, the court has put honor above human life, and no one, not the townspeople, or the local clergy, or anyone, questions this decision. Indeed, the twins struggle over killing another man, but they do not feel as if they have sinned against Nasar or their Church. Critic Pelayo continues, "Although the brothers suffer the psychological fallout of having killed a man, they do not view themselves as sinners and refuse to confess themselves to a priest when they have the opportunity to do so" (Pelayo 121). Thus, they feel no guilt at avenging their sister, even though it was someone they knew and someone that was powerful in the community and in their lives. Many critics believe this is another reason that the brothers were so hesitant to kill Nasar, because he was so much more powerful than they were, and was so prominent in the town where they lived. They were actually a little in awe of him, but that did not stop them from killing him in the end. In fact, they seem to understand, whether they want to commit the act or not, that it is their destiny to kill Nasar. Pedro says about warning Nasar, "Don't bother.... No matter what, he's as good as dead already" (Garcia Marquez 102), and then they seek him out and commit the murder.

It is interesting to note that honor even supersedes the Catholic religion of the country in this story. The Bible says "Thou shalt not kill," but honor is more important than church doctrine, and so, the brothers follow their plan and kill Nasar, even though their religion does not condone it. The importance of the Catholic religion in the lives of the people is evident in their preparations for the arrival of the bishop. They gather together items they know the bishop likes to please him, and most of the town waits on the docks to welcome him. The church stands at the end of the town square, watching over the entire town, and the local priest knows of the threat against Nasar but… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Honor in Chronicle of a Death Foretold.  (2008, February 7).  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/honor-chronicle-death-foretold/7792213

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"Honor in Chronicle of a Death Foretold."  Essaytown.com.  February 7, 2008.  Accessed May 25, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/honor-chronicle-death-foretold/7792213.