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.”
While the twins say the murder was necessary for their sister’s good name, and the courts agree with them, many disagree, viewing the murder as a cruel act of revenge. The manner in which they kill Santiago appears to be much more vicious than what a simple murder for honor would entail. The twins first obtain their two best butchering knives, one for quartering and one for trimming. When Colonel Aponte takes these knives from them, the twins return to their butchering shop to get another quartering knife-with a broad, curved blade-and a twelve-inch knife with a rusty edge. Intent on making sure Santiago is dead, the twins use the knives to stab him over and over again. Seven of the wounds are fatal; the liver, stomach, pancreas, and colon are nearly destroyed. The twins stab him with such vengeance that they are covered with blood themselves, and the main door of Placida Linero’s house, where Santiago was killed, must be repaired by the city. Further supporting the view that the twins acted in revenge is the fact that they show no remorse for the murder.
After the murder, the twins fear revenge from the Arab community. Even though they believe they have rightfully murdered Santiago for their sister’s honor, the twins think that the tightly knit community of Arabs will seek revenge for the loss of one of their own. When Pablo becomes ill at the jail, Pedro is convinced that the Arabs have poisoned him.
C Sex Roles
Purisima del Carmen, Angela Vicario’s mother, has raised her daughters to be good wives. The girls do not marry until late in life, seldom socializing beyond the confines of their own home. They spend their time doing embroidery, sewing, weaving, washing and ironing, arranging flowers, making candy, and writing engagement announcements. They also keep the old traditions alive, such as sitting up with the ill, comforting the dying, and enshrouding the dead. While their mother believes they are perfect, men view them as too tied to their women’s traditions.
Purisima del Carmen’s sons, on the other hand, are raised to be men. They serve in the war, take over their father’s business when he goes blind, drink and party until all hours of the night, and spend time in the local brothel. When the family insists on Angela’s marrying Bayardo, a man she has seldom even seen, the twins stay out of it because, “It looked to us like woman problems.” “Woman problems” become “men’s problems” when the family calls the twins home upon Angela’s return. She feels relieved to let them take the matter into their hands, as the family expects them to do.
Angela Vicario is not a virgin when she marries Bayardo, but no one would suspect otherwise. Her mother has sheltered her for her entire life. Angela has never been engaged before, nor has she been allowed to go out alone with Bayardo in the time they have known one another. Angela, however, is concerned that her bridegroom will learn her secret on their wedding night, and considers telling her mother before the wedding. Instead, she tells two of her friends, who advise her not to tell her mother. In addition, they tell Angela that men do not really know the difference and that she can trick Bayardo into believing that she is a virgin. Angela believes them. Not only does Angela wear the veil and orange blossoms that signify purity, she carries out her friends’ plan of deception on her wedding night.
Throughout Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Marquez weaves elements of the supernatural. From the dreams that Santiago has the night before his death to the signs that people note foretelling his death, a sense of an unseen force prevails. For example, Santiago has inherited his “sixth sense” from his mother, Placida. Margot feels “the angel pass by” as she listens to Santiago plan his wedding. Supernatural intervention pervades all aspects of the characters lives. For example, Purisima del Carmen tells her daughters that if they comb their hair at night, they will slow down seafarers.