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.

A Chapter 1

On the morning after the wedding celebrations for Angela Vicario and Bayardo San Roman, Santiago Nasar, son of Placida Linero and the late Ibrahim Nasar, wakes to greet the bishop who is arriving by boat early that morning. When he enters the kitchen, both the cook, Victoria Guzman, and her daughter, Divina Flora, know what Santiago Nasar will not learn for some time-that two men are waiting outside the house to kill him. They, like many others Santiago will cross in the short time before his death, do not warn him.

When Santiago leaves the house, he passes the milk shop owned by Clotilde Armenta where the twins, Pedro and Pablo Vicario, are waiting to kill him. It is Clotilde Armenta’s plea to “leave him for later, if only out of respect for his grace the bishop” that keeps the twins from killing him immediately. The bishop, however, never gets off his boat and departs after drifting past the crowd gathered on the pier. Santiago then joins Margot, the narrator’s sister, and their friend Cristo Bedoya, two of the only people who still do not know about the twins’ intentions. Santiago accepts an invitation to breakfast with Margot but wishes first to return home and change.

Meanwhile, Margot learns that Angela Vicario has been returned to her parents by her husband because he discovered that she wasn’t a virgin. She does not know how Santiago is involved, only that two men are waiting for him to kill him. When Margot’s (and the narrator’s) mother hears the news, she immediately sets out to warn Placida Linero that her son is in danger, but is stopped in the street and told that “they’ve already killed him.”

B Chapter 2

Bayardo San Roman arrived in the town for the first time in August of the year before looking for someone to marry. According to the narrator, it was never well established how he and Angela Vicario met. One version has Bayardo deciding to marry Angela after first seeing her pass by his boarding house; another has the pair meeting for the first time on the national holiday in October. According to the latter version, Bayardo wins a music box which he has gift-wrapped and delivered to Angela’s home. He soon wins the family with his charms and, despite Angela’s protests, succeeds in making her his fiancee.

Prior to the wedding, Angela comes close to telling her mother that she isn’t a virgin but is dissuaded from her good intentions and follows the advice of two confidantes who teach her how “to feign her lost possession” so that, on her first morning as a newlywed, she can display the sheet with the stain of honor. When her wedding night arrives, however, she is unable to carry out the “dirty” trick and is returned to her parents’ house by her husband. At home, Angela is beaten by her mother and is confronted by her brothers, to whom she reveals the name of the man responsible: Santiago Nasar.

C Chapter 3

After completing their gruesome task, the Vicario brothers surrender themselves to their church and announce that although they killed Santiago Nasar openly, they are innocent because it was a matter of honor. Despite their lack of remorse, the narrator tries to demonstrate that the twins did all they could to have someone stop them.

In the meat market where the twins go to sharpen their knives, Pedro and Pablo take every opportunity to announce their intentions. “We’re going to kill Santiago Nasar,” they say repeatedly. Later, at Clotilde Armenta’s, they even reveal their plans to a policeman who passes on the information to the mayor. The latter takes away the twins’ knives, but Clotilde Armenta believes the twins should be detained to spare them “from the horrible duty that’s fallen on them.” She says this knowing that the Vicario brothers are “not as eager to carry out the sentence as to find someone who would do them the favor of stopping them.”

Although Pedro thinks his and his brother’s duty fulfilled when the mayor disarms them, Pablo insists they carry out their deed. “There’s no way out of this,” Pablo tells his brother, “it’s as if it had already happened.” They return to Clotilde Armenta’s with a new set of knives and wait while “fake customers” come in to see whether what they have heard is true.

D Chapter 4

Following Santiago Nasar’s death, an autopsy is performed and determines that the cause of death was a massive hemorrhage brought on by any one of seven major wounds. The autopsy, a “massacre” performed by Father Amador in the absence of Dr. Dionosio Iguaran, makes it impossible to preserve the body and Santiago is buried hurriedly at dawn the next day.

On that day too the entire Vicario family, except the imprisoned twins, leaves town “until spirits cool off.” They never return. The twins remain imprisoned for three years awaiting their trial but are eventually absolved of the crime. Pablo then marries his longtime fiancee and Pedro re-enlists in the armed forces and disappears in guerrilla territory.

For many, the only real victim in this tragedy is Bayardo San Roman. He is found in his home on the Saturday following the crime, unconscious and in the last stages of ethylic intoxication. He recovers and is later taken away by his family. Angela, for her part, goes “crazy” for her husband following her rejection on her wedding night. For years she writes him a weekly letter until, one day, he shows up at her door, fat and balding, but wearing the same belt and saddlebags he wore in his youth. He carries with him a suitcase with clothing in order to stay and another filled with the almost two thousand unopened letters that she’d written him.

E Chapter 5

According to the narrator, Santiago Nasar dies without understanding his death. It is only after parting from Margot and Cristo Bedoya, when Santiago enters the home of his fiancee, Flora Miguel, that he is finally told that the Vicario brothers are waiting for him to kill him. Flora Miguel has heard the news and, fearing that Santiago will be forced to marry Angela Vicario to give her back her honor, returns to him his letters, crying, “I hope they kill you.”

When Santiago leaves his fiancee’s house, confused and disoriented, he finds himself amid crowds of people stationed on the square as they do on parade days. He begins to walk towards his house and is spotted by the twins. Clotilde Armenta yells to Santiago to run, but Santiago’s mother, believing that her son is already up in his room, locks the door seconds before he would have reached safety. Instead, the twins catch up to him and carve him with their knives. The watching crowd shouts, “frightened by its own crime.” When the twins are done, Santiago is left “holding his hanging intestines in his hands,” and he walks more than a hundred yards to the back door of his house and falls on his face in the kitchen.

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