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Chronicle of a Death Foretold | Study Guide

Gabriel García Márquez

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Chronicle of a Death Foretold | Symbols



The book opens with an epigraph about falconry: "The pursuit of love is like falconry." Santiago Nasar is a falconer, and his fate may reflect the falcon's pursuit of prey. In the novella falconry even more closely represents fate and how arbitrary and lethal it might be.

People who own falcons train the birds to hunt and then enjoy a rather grisly spectacle. When the falcon is released, its owner watches as it soars upward searching for a bird it can snare in its talons. (This horrific scene mimics the death of Santiago.) The relevance to the novella is clear: Angela seems to pick Santiago's name out of thin air, the same way a falcon catches a bird in flight. It is his random, strange, and meaningless fate to be murdered just as it is the fate of the falcon's prey to be the one bird the predator grabs. There are references to falconry, and its lethal arbitrariness, in several places in the novella.

The Bishop

The bishop symbolizes unattainable holiness and morality. These characteristics condemn him because he ignores these characteristics in his dealings with the townspeople. The bishop affects a religious superiority to the townspeople who, in his eyes, are so sinful they are unworthy of even the touch of his foot on town land. If, as the Church teaches, all men are sinners, it is the Church's role and responsibility to lead them in the path of righteousness, not to reject them and leave them to wallow in their spiritual darkness.

That the entire town turns out to see the bishop likely represents the hypocrisy of the populace. The townspeople go through the motions of religious observance and respect but then ignore its teachings and go about their mundane and sinful daily lives. It's as if they want to have as little to do with the bishop as he wants to have with them.

Natural World

As symbols, elements of the natural world—especially flowers, birds, and trees—appear in the novella with situational irony (when what is expected to happen is the opposite of what happens). Flowers most often represent death or human detachment from brutal killing. Pedro Vicario and Pablo Vicario give their pigs the names of flowers, for this makes it easier for them to slaughter the pigs. It also serves to separate the slaughter of pigs from the slaughter of humans, although that connection is made in the novella. In other places in the story, flowers are referenced as key elements of funerals, or their scent makes a character think of death.

The symbolism of birds is more ambiguous. Most likely birds represent omens of ill fortune. In some cases, as in Santiago's dream, they are clearly an evil omen. That Santiago owns a falcon may represent this bird of prey as a bringer of arbitrary death.

Trees are also ambiguous and changing symbols, and they occur mainly in dreams. In some cases trees are good omens and are called "magnificent." In other cases they are seen as "ominous," as foreshadowing evil or tragedy.

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