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.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold takes place in a small, Latin American river village off the coast of the Caribbean sometime after the civil wars. Once a busy center for shipping and ocean-going ships, the town now lacks commerce as a result of shifting river currents.
The events of the story evolve over a two-day time period. A wedding has taken place the night before between a well-known young woman from the town and a rich stranger who has been a resident for only six months. On the day of the murder, most of the townspeople have hangovers from the wedding reception. Because a visit from the bishop is expected, however, a festive air prevails.
Foreshadowing is typically achieved through an author’s implication that an event is going to occur. Garcia Marquez adds a twist to foreshadowing by telling exactly what is going to happen but not why it will happen. The entire story builds on the foretelling of Santiago’s murder. The twins do not hide their plot; they tell everyone they meet of their plans. Each village person who hears about the scheme tells the next person. Santiago himself dreams of birds and trees the night before he dies, which his mother later interprets as the foretelling of his death. In the end, even Santiago knows that he is going to die.
D Dream Vision
Throughout Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the characters refer to dreams and visions they have that are related to Santiago’s impending death. Santiago’s mother, for example, though well-known for her interpretations of dreams, fails to understand Santiago’s dream of his own death. He tells her of his dream of traveling through a grove of trees and awakening feeling as if he is covered with bird excrement. She remembers later that she paid attention only to the part about the birds, which typically imply good health. Clotilde Armenta claims years after the murder that she thought Santiago “already looked like a ghost” when she saw him at dawn that morning. Margot Santiaga, listening to Santiago boast that his wedding will be even more magnificent than Angela Vicario’s “felt the angel pass by.” The author’s many references to dreams and visions contribute to the surrealistic tone that is characteristic of magical realism.
E Magical Realism
Latin American culture gave birth to the literary genre of magical realism. While critics attribute its beginnings to the Cuban novelist and short story writer Alejo Carpentier they agree that Garcia Marquez has continued its tradition. The hallmark of magical realism is its roots in reality with a tendency toward the fantastic. That is, while everything a magic realist writes has a historical basis, it also has fictitious elements throughout. Emphasizing this point, Garcia Marquez said in an interview with Peter H. Stone in The Paris Review, “It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality.”