Chronicle of a Death Foretold | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Chronicle of a Death Foretold | Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

Bayardo San Román has returned his bride, Angela Vicario, to her parent's house. He had arrived in town in August, looking for a bride. Bayardo is rich, handsome, and charming. He fixed on Angela Vicario the moment he saw her in the street walking with her mother. The narrator's mother thought Bayardo was "a very strange man," and some residents believed he was the devil. In contrast, others thought of him as a man "honest and [with] a good heart." Bayardo finally meets Angela in October at a charity bazaar. Bayardo sends Angela a music box as a gift, but her brothers, suspecting untoward behavior, rush to return the present. Yet once they meet Bayardo they are charmed by him, and they bring the music box back to their sister. Everyone agrees that Angela has been well and strictly brought up, so she would make a perfect wife for Bayardo. Bayardo is so intent on the marriage that he brings his entire family to meet with, and get the approval of, Angela's parents and family. Because Bayardo's father was a renowned military general, the Vicarios are delighted with the match.

Angela has her doubts about marrying Bayardo, but her mother refuses to listen to them. Instead of having the usual long engagement, Bayardo and Angela are engaged for only four months. When Bayardo asks Angela about her dream home, she says it's the hilltop house owned by the old man, Xius. Although Xius is at first adamant that he would not sell his lifelong home, Bayardo makes him an offer of money he cannot refuse. Angela will have her dream house.

It never occurs to anyone that Angela Vicario isn't a virgin. She'd never had a fiancé, and "she'd grown up ... under the rigor of a mother of iron." Even after the engagement she's not allowed to go out unchaperoned with Bayardo. Only once did the "blind father" accompany Angela and Bayardo out to see the house he'd bought for her. It's unclear if anything happened between them, but afterward Angela sought out her friends' advice about lost virginity. They assure her that a childhood accident could cause such a loss and, anyway, a nonvirgin bride could easily find a way to stain a bedsheet with a drop of blood to dupe her new husband.

Meanwhile, Bayardo is planning the grandest and costliest wedding celebration for the town's citizens. All the while Angela is getting beautiful and expensive wedding presents. Bayardo enlarges the Vicario house to accommodate them and to make room for revelers at his wedding party. He is "the perfect image of a happy bridegroom." As for Santiago Nasar, the narrator and his friends are with Santiago during the entire celebration. Santiago loves parties but does nothing untoward during the festivities. However, everyone at the celebration gets totally drunk, so memories of what really happened are fuzzy, at best. Finally, Bayardo "carrie[s] his terrified wife" to their dream house.

While the festivities continued in the streets, Bayardo shows up at the Vicario home and shoves his disheveled and half-naked wife through the door. He thanks Pura Vicario and then leaves. Pura Vicario, Angela's mother, is beside herself and can scarcely remember what happens in the next few hours. However, she does recall beating Angela mercilessly. When the twin brothers Pedro Vicario and Pablo Vicario arrive home at three in the morning and see the situation, they demand that Angela tell them who dishonored her. She instantly names Santiago.

Analysis

The touchy issue of female honor is introduced when Bayardo gives Angela the music box. As soon as she shows it to her family, her brothers immediately assume that Angela had "given Bayardo [a] reason to send her a gift like that." They suspect her of illicit physical or sexual contact with him. That they rush off to return the gift to restore Angela's supposedly compromised honor reveals the power a woman's lost honor has on men in this culture. A bit later in the text this attitude is emphasized: "the brothers were brought up to be men," confirming that such actions are expected of them.

At the same place in the text the statement that "girls had been reared to get married" underscores the rigid gender roles of that society. Angela Vicario states that she didn't love Bayardo and that "he seemed too much of a man for me." Because of his and his family's high social status, however, her mother ignores Angela's reluctance to marry him. Young women marry the man their family tells them to marry. Bayardo wants to marry Angela because he falls in love with her, but women are denied that privilege. For women love has nothing to do with marriage. However, in this culture female virginity has everything to do with marriage. Angela is schooled in tricks women can use to create a "stain of honor" that fools their husbands into believing they're virgins when they're not. Male chastity is never an issue in a marriage.

Gender and honor are interrelated when it's stated that "no one would have thought ... Angela Vicario wasn't a virgin" because she was so strictly brought up. However, it's unclear if the "blind father" fails to notice sexual improprieties when Angela is out with Bayardo. The question still remains that if Bayardo was the man who deflowered Angela, why would he have returned her to her family because she's not a virgin?

The violence of the Vicario brothers is revealed in their occupation as hog butchers. The objects in their abattoir—a sacrificial stone and a disemboweling table—foreshadow the bloody sacrifice of Santiago and the brutality of his murder. The victim of their violence is accompanied throughout the celebrations by the narrator, his brother, and his friend Cristo. Thus Santiago is identified as an innocent, as a sacrificial offering.

Pura Vicario, Angela's mother, reacts with violence when Bayardo returns her daughter. Angela remembers only that her mother beat her for two hours. The beating was so violent Angela says, "I though she was going to kill me."

The confusions of memory are exaggerated by the drunkenness of those at the wedding party. For the narrator, everything about the party is confused, which is why he "decided to rescue [events] piece by piece from the memory of others." Unfortunately, most other attendees got equally as inebriated and so have similarly fuzzy memories. The multitude of voices and points of view still add depth and breadth to the description of events leading up to the murder.

The lavish wedding celebration is festooned with countless flowers, and Santiago calculates their cost at equaling the flowers at 14 funerals. Flowers thus symbolize death. Santiago even tells the narrator that "the smell of closed-in flowers had an immediate relation to death" for him. At this time and place such a statement is prophetic.

Angela's naming Santiago as the man who has violated her encompasses the themes of fate and choice and references the symbol of falconry. It is understood throughout the book that Santiago did not interfere with Angela, yet she chooses to name him as soon as her brothers demand to know who molested her. Her accusation seals Santiago's fate and ensures his brutal death even though Angela's accusation, which comes to be seen as false, seems to be plucked out of thin air—as a falcon snares its prey randomly among other flying birds. At no point in the novella does Angela reveal the truth about who her actual lover was or why she names the innocent Santiago; she is the agent of Santiago's terrible fate, nailing him "to the wall with her well-aimed dart, like a butterfly with no will whose sentence has always been written." This description foreshadows how and where Santiago will be killed. It underlines his powerlessness in altering his fate, which is foretold.

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