Chronicle of a Death Foretold | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Chronicle of a Death Foretold | Plot Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1

Santiago Nasar has been murdered. He'd gotten up early to go and see the bishop who was arriving on a boat that morning. The day before there had been a large and lavish public wedding celebration in honor of the marriage of Angela Vicario to Bayardo San Román. Unbeknownst to Santiago, Bayardo had dragged his wife back to her parents' home the night before because he discovered she was not a virgin. When her twin brothers demanded to know who had deflowered her, Angela said it was Santiago. Her brothers Pedro Vicario and Pablo Vicario swear to murder Santiago as revenge for dishonoring their sister.

The narrator, who grew up in this town, has returned 27 years later as a professional investigative journalist to uncover the truth about why and how Santiago was murdered. Unfortunately, most townspeople have confused memories of what happened. Still, the narrator is determined to unearth the reason that although most of the people in the town knew of the Vicario brothers' plot to murder Santiago, no one warned him or did anything to stop the killing.

Chapter 2

Bayardo is handsome and rich. He arrived in town in August to look for a bride. The moment he sees Angela Vicario walking with her mother, he falls in love with her. The couple gets married in February. Bayardo's wedding feast is the most lavish and expensive the town has ever seen.

Angela does not want to marry Bayardo because she does not love him, but because she had a strict upbringing, she must do what her parents tell her to do—and they want her to marry Bayardo. When Bayardo brings her home after discovering her dishonor, Angela's mother beats her. When the townspeople find out about her dishonor, they're amazed. Angela has always been closely controlled by her mother. How had she found a way to have sex with a man before her wedding?

The narrator, his brother, his friend, and Santiago spend the entire night of the celebration together. Santiago is delightful and carefree. The narrator is certain it could not have been Santiago who had sex with Angela. She must have lied when she named him.

Chapter 3

The Vicario brothers, who are twins, must avenge the lost honor of their sister. They go to the pig butchery where they work and get two long slaughtering knives. They go to the meat market to sharpen their knives, and they boast to all the butchers there that they're going to kill Santiago Nasar. Then they go hunting for him. They roam the town looking for Santiago, and along the way, they tell everyone they meet about the murder they are about to commit. No one in town takes them seriously, so no one bothers to warn Santiago, his mother, or anyone else who might prevent the crime. People think the twins are either too drunk to be taken seriously or that they're just bluffing.

While the Vicario twins hunt Santiago, he, the narrator, his brother, and his friend go up to the newlyweds' house to serenade the couple. They are unaware that Bayardo is alone in the house, having already returned his bride to her family.

The Vicario twins finally wait for Santiago to return home. They sit in the milk shop, which is across the street from Santiago's house, and plan to attack Santiago when he returns. They tell each person who comes into the milk shop of their murderous plan. Again, no one takes them seriously or does anything to prevent it. The owner of the shop tells a beggar woman to go to warn Santiago's mother, but it's not known if she gets the message.

Chapter 4

The Vicario brothers have killed Santiago Nasar with their butcher knives, nearly hacking him to pieces. He dies in front of his home. The mayor orders the town priest to conduct an immediate autopsy, as the body reeks in the heat. The botched autopsy leaves Santiago's body even more mutilated. The priest concludes that Santiago died of seven fatal stab wounds.

The Vicario brothers turn themselves in to the church. They show no remorse because they feel an honor killing is not a sin. The priest, like most other men in town, seems to agree. Because of an unwarranted fear of reprisal by the town's Arab community, however, the Vicario brothers are moved to a jail some distance away. Angela Vicario, her mother, and the rest of her family also move out of town, fearful (needlessly) of Arab revenge.

Decades later when the journalist narrator comes to investigate the crime, he tries to interview Bayardo, who refuses to discuss the incident. The narrator locates Angela Vicario living on her own in a distant town, and she agrees to speak with him. She discusses many details of the event but will not say who had sex with her before her wedding day. She tells the narrator that, since the incident so many years earlier, she has fallen in love with Bayardo. She has written him frequent letters for many years, even though he never answers her.

Chapter 5

The people of the town are obsessed by the murder that took place so many years ago. They want to understand how and why it happened—why no one warned Santiago—but they can make no sense out of the senseless accidents and wrong choices that failed to save him.

A few weeks after the murder, a magistrate shows up in town to investigate. He, too, is bewildered by what happened. He cannot understand how everyone in town knew the murder was about to take place but no one warned Santiago or did anything to stop the crime.

The narrator goes on to describe the mischances, misunderstandings, miscommunications, unlucky choices, coincidences, and accidents that seem to have made a whole host of townspeople unable or unwilling to warn Santiago to save him. Perhaps they could not believe he would really be murdered, but it is his fate to be murdered. His fate is foretold when Angela names him and in the inaction of those who know about the killing but do nothing. Santiago meets his fate at his front door where the Vicario brothers butcher him.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction

Introduction

1 Bayardo San Román meets and marries Angela Vicario.

Rising Action

2 Bayardo returns her to her home because she's not a virgin.

3 Angela confesses that she lost her honor with Santiago Nasar.

4 Pedro Vicario and Pablo Vicario get knives to kill Santiago.

5 Coincidences prevent Santiago from hearing about their plan.

6 Santiago's mother bars the front door to her house.

Climax

7 The Vicario twins butcher Santiago at his front door.

Falling Action

8 No one in town can explain why Santiago was not warned.

Resolution

9 Angela refuses to divulge with whom she lost her virginity.

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