Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, is a story that brings one to question the code of honor that exists in the Columbian town. Marquez paints a picture that shows how societal values, such as honor have become more important than the inherent good of human life. The Vicario brothers’ belief that their sister was done wrong was brought upon by this honor, along with racial and social tension. The dangerous path of both honor and religious faith caused Santiago’s untimely death.
“‘Before God and before men,’ Pablo Vicario said. ‘It was a matter of honor'” (Marquez 56). In the town, honor is taken very seriously, and any action taken to protect one’s own honor or family’s honor is never questioned. If someone loses their honor, they automatically become an outcast in society. Angela Vicario’s father had “lost his sight from doing so much fine work in gold to maintain the honor of the house” (33). When Angela Vicario explained, she lost her virginity to Santiago Nasar, the honor and respect of the family were lost.
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The Vicario brothers felt their purpose was to keep some semblance of honor to their family name. Angela’s supposed premarital relations with Santiago Nasar were enough in this culture to warrant death. The idea that honor can cross the boundaries of religion is considered to be very powerful. It is an action in which one can take the life of someone else. The act of killing someone becomes a powerful and almost godlike statement. Honor can extend beyond the reaches of religion, as shown in this story. Angela Vicario could have been beaten to death because she infringed on the honor of both Vicario and San Roman families.
This begs the question, why didn’t anyone question the Vicario brothers’ motive? Angela named Santiago Nasar her lover, but there was no other evidence besides her word to back that statement up. The narrator explained that “most of those who could have done something to prevent the crime and did not console themselves with the pretext that affairs of honor are sacred monopolies, giving access only to those who are part of the drama” (114). If the medieval idea that death brings honor is true, then it is safe to say Santiago Nasar died without honor, for he did not know why his death was.
The Vicarious were poor Hispanics, and the Nasars were rich Arabs, so social and racial tension was clear. In the town, though, honor is not defined by race or color. The Vicario brothers are cousins to Santiago, yet when Santiago died, the Arab families were “perplexed and sad…but none harboured the ideas of vengeance” (94). After they killed Santiago, the brothers went to the parish house, not for repentance, but because they would be “safe from the Arabs” (91) and “were comforted by the honour of having done their duty, and the only thing that worried them was the persistence of the smell [of death]” (91).
Before their release, their mother Pura asked Father Amador “to confess her sons in jail, but Pedro Vicario refused and convinced his brother that they had nothing to repent” (95). That scene gives the reader a picture of how the twins viewed the killing as being above their religion as if it is an even higher power. Marquez tries to explain that honor can be used to justify an unjust or rash action. He satirizes the brothers’ beliefs when he says they “stood by the thesis of homicide in legitimate defence of honor” (55). He adds that the defence of honor was “upheld by the court in good faith” (55).
Society as a whole in the town would look down upon murder as being barbarous. But when honor is used as an excuse, everyone does not question the act, no matter of race or wealth. Marquez wants to say that this culture has become corrupted by hypocritical ideas of what God really wants. Along those lines is when the brothers say they killed Santiago “openly” and that they were “innocent” (55). Father Amador, in response, comments that they did it “perhaps before God” (56). This creates an obvious contradiction in that God is generally considered the source of all good. But yet this crime is obviously one that is basically evil. The fact that the twins and Father Amador took for granted the idea that God overlooked killings that dealt with honor contradicts one’s basic knowledge of Christianity. This is a clear example of how the town’s culture and beliefs are poured into murky waters that confuse honor with God’s will.
Another example of this is when Angela attempted to keep the fact she lost her virginity a secret and disguise it as something else. She said she had been told, “that God understood such thing” (46) and that she was taught tricks “to feign her lost possession” (42). Angela, deep down, probably knew this was all untrue but she felt compelled to believe it anyway. It seems religion became moulded into different beliefs so that each individual could do whatever they wanted before God. Guilt is God’s eyes became separate from the guilt that comes from the town’s eyes. Since the honor system is corrupt, the religious beliefs found in the community are also shady. The nun is found to be drunk, and the bishop does not get off the ship that he is travelling on and instead asks to eat cock-comb soup,whicht is costly to make and considered a sexual innuendo.
He only offers his blessing on the boat nearly a few hundred yards offshore. The people take pride in their religious faith, yet a whorehouse and constant sexual relations saturate everyone in the town. Marquez in Chronicle of a Death Foretold attempts to show that people naturally blur the interpretation of their own beliefs. The honor code that exists in the town is merely outdated. The hypocritical system of honor and religion breeds infidelity, murder, and deceit. The Vicario brothers abused honor and God’s repentance as reasons for their actions. Religion and honor can be a dangerous force to merge in this town, and Santiago Nasar was an innocent victim right in the way.