Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” is exemplary in showing the forgoing of the spirit of religion and justice in the name of man-made codes such as honor. The writer portrays an unnamed town where the most vicious of crimes can be committed in the name of honor. The Vicario brothers who brutally butchered Santiago Nasar are given a reprieve after three years of imprisonment. Is it not ironical that they had to stay in the prison only because there was no one to bail them out? Marquez repeatedly denounces the town folks of holding honor above religion. Throughout the novella, Marquez unmasks the absence of true religious values in the town and reveals the double standards of the townsfolk.Order now
Marquez attacks the flimsy standards that prevail in the society, and also how people discard their religion. The three things forbidden by the Catholic church such as whores, alcohol and gambling freely flourish in the town. Even the church is corrupted when we see that “ nun had 80% hangover” (Marquez 71). The bishop’s behavior is objectionable when he expresses his intention of eating cock-comb soup, which is very costly and has a sexual implication. People carry on with their sinful lives without caring for redemption and salvation. Even the priest does not remember the ten Commandments of Catholicism! Marquez criticizes the honor codes as well as the legal system of the town where the lawyer stands in “legitimate defense of honor” (Marquez 48). The honor is so deep rooted in the heart of people that Prudencia will marry Pablo only if he murderers Santiago as one is supposed to avenge the wrong done to one’s honor.
The town upholds the brutal murder of Santiago as legitimate. The Vicario Brothers openly declare “ we killed him before god” (Marquez 49) they take refuge in the church not for repentance but only to escape the Arabs. Divina Flor, confesses to the narrator after her mother dies, “in the depths of her heart she wanted to kill him”. Father Amador takes for granted the idea that god overlooks honor killings. Thus it can be said that honor and religion can play dangerous role in the society, and Santiago is nothing but a victim of them.“ most of the townspeople consoled themselves with the pretext that affairs of honor are scared monopolies.” Through his stylistic approach Marquez intends to draw the attention of the reader to the injustice prevailing in the society in the name of honor and religion. No doubt Santiago is a victim of the superficial norms of the society.
Although the people are catholic Christians the religion appears just for the namesake. If men are violent, indulgent and depraved, women have lost their honor. Even a girl like Angela Vicario, brought up in a conservative atmosphere, is not a virgin. Not only she hides it from her mother, but lies to frame Santiago under false charges. Her friends “teach her the tricks which will enable her to ‘display open under the sun in the courtyard of her house the linen sheet with the stain of honor.’” The old wives tricks prevailing in the town show that women are all equipped to deceive their husbands. They do not set any values to virginity and chastity, but are more worried about how to hide their guilt.
It is the irony of human kind that men openly indulge in wine, women and crimes, without feeling a slight tinge of their moral conscience. Marquez lashes upon the absurdity of the societal and cultural aspects of the town when he says that most of the men would sleep in glory in “the apostolic lap of Alejendrina Maria Cervantes.” Interestingly the people of the town do not know the meaning of honor even. They forget what religion preaches: “that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor”. All they remember is how to distort religion as per convenience, and the detestable honor killing.
Bayardo San Roman too manifests the evil of male patriarchy when he discards his wife on the mere suggestion that she is not a virgin. He confuses between the real meanings of virginity and purity, and feels no shame in deserting his wife. All he knows is his manly honor where the wife must be no different from a “ garden fresh commodity”. The dictate of the Bible for a Christian wedding, “ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate”, adds no significance for him. Pura Vicario is also shown as a type cast woman who has raised her daughters to become perfect mothers not providing them any opportunity of education. It looks clear that the society is preset on the gender roles, and what it fears most is the violation of honor and religion.
Marquez’s novel raises a question as to what is bigger: religion or honor? Did religion first dawn on the earth or the concept of honor? Religion is practiced all over the world, as it is the factor that distinguishes us from animals by making us more disciplined, caring and honest. But the chaotic murder of Santiago Nasar shows the diminishing values of religion and fall of human standards in the Columbian society. In my opinion these honor killings are nothing but the excuses and shields used by man from time to time to conceal his primal instincts of power, lust and greed. And Santiago is an epitome of these animal instincts as he hails from an Arab ancestry, wherein he feels proud of shooting animals and raping girls, setting no values to religion in the Columbian society.
Santiago, although an Arab, is full of zeal on the day of the arrival of the Bishop. He “put on a shirt and pants of white linen… if it hadn’t been for the Bishop’s arrival, he would have dressed in his khaki outfit…” Can the white clothes hide his black deeds? Santiago is shown as a young man who is fond of raping the women. He drinks to such an extent that he depends on the aspirin to “overcome his hangover”. He spends the night before the wedding at the brothel of Alexandrina Cervantes. he is waiting for the moment when his maid, Divina Flor “will be destined to his furtive bed.” The townsfolk justify his brutal murder not only because they feel he is guilty but also for he is rich. Faustino asks, “Why they had to kill Santiago Nasar since there were so many other rich people who deserved dying first.” It shows the Columbian society is founded on the pillars of jealousy, class rivalry and revenge. The concept of honor and religion is a farce to ease the designs of the natives.
Marquez uses the journalistic style to give the reader an in-depth analysis of the Columbian culture. The genre of magic realism used by the writer further entangles the mystery as to who the seducer of Angela is. Garcia succeeds in highlighting the deeper motivations of a people in a society based on rigid hierarchies and stringent codes of behavior. He lashes upon the hypocrisy of the town when the shows that the honor codes are reserved for ladies of a higher standard. The poor women are exempted from such strange honor codes when Santiago, “nipped in the bud all the virgins that ever came to the woods.” And it is the irony of human kind that there is no one to protect the virginity of Victoria Guzman or Divina Flore even though there is so much hue and cry in the name of honour and religion.
The unique style of the author lies in it that Santiago ‘s murder is proclaimed throughout the novel. “There was no murder more foretold” (Marquez 50). In the words of the critic, Debicki Dámaso Alonso, “the reader relives the murder. It is an endless cycle of violence that is never cleansed. In fact, Santiago is killed many times throughout the text. There is, of course, the grisly murder that appears at the end of the book, but Santiago Nasar also dies symbolically in his dreams.” Most critics agree that Chronicle of a Death Foretold “provides a snapshot in time of a society that remains captured by its own outmoded customs, beliefs, and stones.” And it is the irony of human kind that man forgets the creator as he is entrenched deep in the mirage of his superficial system of codes. The people dress themselves in white linen only to cover their bodies; the insides of which are as polluted as filth. The significance of the soul and morality has lost it meaning in their eyes. By putting on a white veil on their bodies, the townspeople intend to hide the demon that has grown inside their hearts with the ignorance of the true ideology of religion.