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Introduction

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold is one of the Nobel Prize-winning author’s shorter novels, but past and current critics agree that the book’s small size hides a huge work of art. According to Jonathan Yardley in Washington Post Book World, Chronicle of a Death Foretold “is, in miniature, a virtuoso performance.”

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Best known as the author of the prizewinning One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez began life in Aracataca, Colombia, on March 6, 1928. The son of poor parents, Gabriel Eligio Garcia and Luisa Santiaga Marquez Iguaran, Garcia Marquez lived with his grandparents for the first eight years of his life. According to Marquez, this is a common practice in the Caribbean. In his case, though, his grandparents offered to raise him as a reconciliatory gesture towards their daughter after opposing her marriage to Garcia Marquez’s father. As a result, Garcia Marquez grew up in a house with his grandparents, aunts, and uncles and hardly knew his mother. His extended family regaled him with stories: the women told tales of superstition and fantasy, while the men-especially his grandfather-kept him grounded in reality.

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Plot Summary

Chronicle of a Death Foretold relates the events leading up to and, to a lesser degree, those that follow the murder of Santiago Nasar, a 21-year-old Colombian of Arab descent. He is killed by the Vicario brothers to avenge the loss of their sister’s honor. Told 27 years after the crime by an unnamed narrator (arguably Garcia Marquez himself) who returns to the village where he once lived to put back together “the broken mirror of memory,” the story is constructed from the fragmented and often conflicting versions of events as they are remembered by the townspeople and by the narrator himself.

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Characters

A Colonel Aponte

See Lazaro Aponte

B Lazaro Aponte

The head of the police, Lazaro Aponte (also known as Colonel Aponte) first hears of the twins’ plot to kill Santiago a little after four o’clock that morning. He has just finished shaving when one of his officers, Leandro Pornoy, tells him. He does not take the threat too seriously, because when he sees the twins, they seem fairly sober. He takes their knives away and feels assured that they will not carry out their plan.

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Themes

A Honor

The motive for the murder of Santiago Nasar lies undetected until halfway through Chronicle of a Death Foretold. While everyone knows that Nasar will be murdered, no one knows the reason. Then, after a night of carousing, the Vicario twins, Pedro and Pablo, return home at their mother’s summons. The family presses a devastated Angela, the twins’ sister, to tell the reason for her humiliated return from her marriage bed. When Angela says, “Santiago Nasar,” the twins know immediately that they must defend their sister’s honor. The twins’ attorney views the act as “homicide in legitimate defense of honor,” which is upheld by the court. The priest calls the twins’ surrender “an act of great dignity.” When the twins claim their innocence, the priest says that they may be so before God, while Pablo Vicario says, “Before God and before men. It was a matter of honor.”

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Construction

A Point of View

One of the most outstanding features of Chronicle of a Death Foretold is the point of view Garcia Marquez uses to tell the story. Narrating the story from the first-person point of view is the unnamed son of Luisa Santiaga and brother of Margot, Luis, Jaime, and a nun. Having returned to the river village after being gone for 27 years, the narrator tries to reconstruct the events of the day that ends in the murder of Santiago Nasar. Typically, a first-person narrator gives his own point of view but does not know what other characters are thinking: an ability usually reserved for the third-person omniscient, or all-knowing, point of view. In this novel, however, Garcia Marquez bends the rules: the narrator tells the story in the first person, yet he also relates everything everyone is thinking.

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Historical Perspective

A The Birth of Latin American Culture

The term “Latin America” refers to the area that includes all of the Caribbean islands and the mainland that stretches from Mexico to the southernmost tip of South America. Latin America has a very long history, dating back to Columbus’ discovery of the territory in the late 15th century. Settled mostly by Spanish and Portuguese immigrants, Latin American culture is derived from both its European newcomers and its native inhabitants’ traditions. Marquez blends elements from both cultures in Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

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Questions

Pedro Vicario suffers from a medical condition he acquired while in the military. What is the condition? Research its causes, symptoms, and treatments. Assume the role of a medical practitioner and create a presentation to inform your colleagues about the illness.

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Further Reading

Translated from Spanish to English in 1970, One Hundred Years of Solitude stands as Garcia Marquez’s best-known novel. It combines historical and fictional elements to tell the story of the rise and fall of a small, fictitious town-Macondo, Colombia. Many critics claim that while the novel reflects the political, social, and economic ills of South America, it actually depicts a more universal worldview.

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