Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a novella by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that centers around the narrator's efforts to put together the fragments of memories of a murder that took place in a small Latin-American coastal town twenty-seven years previously. This passage from the novel takes place at the end of chapter two, where Angela Vicario was sent home by her fiancé Bayardo, and was almost beaten to death by her mother Pura Vicario, all because Angela had lost her virginity. This passage's effective structure, unique style, interesting diction and various appropriate literary techniques reveals the absurd female social conventions and gender bias present in the South American society at the time.
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The passage is written in chronological order that describes the events in an orderly fashion, but actually has another layer of deeper meaning hidden underneath the veil of plain narration. Firstly, the chronological narration tells the story in a natural sequence, in a way where the audience can easily engage in and understand the plot. The readers first sees Angela being sent back home because she was not a virgin, resulting in her mom Pura Vicario's serious beating, then followed by her raging brothers demanding the name of the man responsible for Angela's loss of virginity, all arranged chronologically. Each event happens due to the previous one, and this logic and clarity achieved, and this chronological order allows the continuous occurrence of events that revolves around Angela's virginity to each fall neatly into place, and subtly but surely raises the issue of women's unfair obligations and expectations present in society. And so the chronological narration makes the plot clear and logical, and also the layers of meanings further engage the readers to compellingly bring out the main theme of the passage.
The main theme of the passage centers around virginity, and the hint of the theme of honor supports the unfair double standards women must live up to and the discrimination of sex roles. Marquez has weaved the theme into the plot in such a way that would produce a reaction from the readers. For example, as Pura Vicario beat her daughter to the verge of death, "she did with such stealth" (p 46) that no one found out about it until much later. True, Angela did do a dishonorable act that smudged shame on her family; however she took her beating silently because she had a strong sense of honor, and believed that what she did was wrong. The readers are forced to not simply dislike, but also somewhat sympathize with Angela through this irony. We learn that although the character has imperfections, she also has something redeeming about her. This allows Marquez to invite the readers to criticize not just the characters, but also consider the traditions, cultural values and the society as a whole. The relatively minor theme of honor backs up the major theme of sexism inside this particular excerpt, Marquez successfully points out and highlights the cruel social conventions placed on women, such as the overrated importance of virginity.
Marquez also manipulates language to make the absurd sound normal, utilizing nuances to influence us in our judgments towards the norms in South American society, such as the unfair double standard placed on women. This is a style known as Magical Realism that Marquez is famous for. For example, when Angela was sent home by Bayardo, she was dressed in a shredded dress and her mother Pura Vicario was given a shock, as she "said in terror": "'Holy Mother Of God'" (p 46). Although quite extravagant and impolite in front of a guest, this colloquial dialogue shows that Pura as a mother expresses a deep concern towards Angela. However as soon as Pura learnt that her daughter had been sent by Bayardo due to her not being a virgin, Pura immediately gave Angela a beating, and Angela recalled that "[she] thought she was going to kill me" (p 47). The fact that a mother is willing to physically abuse her own child only moments after praying to God for her survival shows Pura's ridiculous change in attitude, and even more so when the author decides to add no further comments to explain this absurdity; but it is exactly this absurdity that grabs the readers' attention and exemplifies the absurd, exaggerated importance of virginity in society, and powerfully criticizes the social norms at the time. Additionally, after Angela's beating had been done, all she wanted was "for it to be over quickly so [she] could flop down and go to sleep" (p 47). The verb phrase "flop down" here has a very casual connotation, and we see no signs of her feeling any rage or frustration towards Pura Vicario who beat her. But the narrator does not further explain this absurdity, which effectively provokes the readers to question about the reason behind her apparent lack of anger. One can only deduce that Angela does not question the justice of her beating, and that her culture brought her up in a way that she believes what she did was wrong. This profoundly reveals the absurd sex role that women play in society; it's as if virginity is the most important aspect of a woman. Furthermore, the absurdity of the sentence and seriousness of the tone blend in together, which creates a surrealistic touch to his work, drawing the readers' attention, engaging them, and enables the delivery of the theme to be more impactful on the readers.
Lastly, Marquez weaves in literary techniques into the text to enhance the impact of the message. When Angela accused Santiago of being responsible for her loss of purity, "she nailed it to the wall with her well aimed dart, like a butterfly with no will whose sentence has already been written" (p 47). This metaphor and imagery of a butterfly pinned to a wall is quite symbolic to both Santiago and Angela's situation. The obvious part of this metaphor would be an indication of Santiago's now inevitable death; the twins must kill him in order to restore Angela's and their family's honor. Killing is a great sin, and the austerity of the crime they were about to commit strongly reflects the absurd honor and value imposed upon a female's virginity at the time. However, Marquez does not clearly indicate who the imagery of the butterfly is referring to, thus it could well be Angela, and the latter nuance in the metaphor lies in the meaning behind her accusation. Angela is well aware of the fact that if she doesn't give her brothers a name, she could be beaten again for protecting the man who had shamed her and her family, thus she is obliged to come up with a name. And when she does that, she loses to and accepts the cultural mores that the society imposes upon her, and her "sentence has already been written" by false values that society has placed upon her. So cleverly, Marquez uses a metaphor to double layers of meaning to it, and again effectively raises the overvalued concept of virginity, hence the issue of sexism in society.
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In conclusion, Marquez has successfully conveyed a message to us. In this short passage, with all the unpleasant events centering Angela's lost virginity, Marquez has compellingly revealed to us the brutal social standards regarding virginity that women have to endure. Through his objective and journalistic narration, Marquez does not give us a definitive view on the society. Instead, he produces a reaction from the readers with the voice hidden behind the narration, and forces us to contemplate the issues that exist in society.
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