Chronicle of a Death Foretold

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Birds Symbol Icon

Like flowers, birds and references to birds appear throughout the text, often to a somewhat ambiguous effect. Santiago Nasar dreams of birds the night before his murder, and Plácida Linero fails to recognize this as a bad omen. The connection between birds and bad omens situates the novel within the tradition of Greek tragedy, in which augurs, or prophets, read the future by watching birds move across the sky. Notably, Santiago also raises falcons. The epigraph of the novel, a quote from Portuguese playwright Gil Vicente, tells the reader that “the pursuit of love is like falconry.” It might be said that the figure of birds, like the figure of flowers, is meant to both emphasize and bridge the disparate—but perhaps not so disparate—realms of love and violence.

Birds Quotes in Chronicle of a Death Foretold

The Chronicle of a Death Foretold quotes below all refer to the symbol of Birds. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage Books edition of Chronicle of a Death Foretold published in 0.
Chapter 1 Quotes

What happened, according to her, was that the boat whistle let off a shower of compressed steam as it passed by the docks, and it soaked those who were closest to the edge. It was a fleeting illusion: the bishop began to make the sign of the cross in the air opposite the crowd on the pier, and he kept on doing it mechanically afterwards, without malice or inspiration, until the boat was lost from view and all that remained was the uproar of the roosters.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Margot
Related Symbols: The Bishop, Birds
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Just moments before Santiago Nasar is murdered, the Bishop, whose arrival the whole town—including Santiago—has been eagerly awaiting, passes by on his boat without stopping. Here the narrator recounts what he heard of the snub from his sister Margot, who was there to witness it. The symbolism of the scene is hard to escape: it is as if God, as represented by the Bishop, has determined that the town is not worth his attention, is not worth saving. The Bishop’s blessing is a gesture without any substance, an empty ritual—it is “without malice or inspiration” and continues on mechanically even after he passes the crowd. It can do nothing to rescue the town from its impending trauma.

Tellingly, as soon as the Bishop disappears upriver, all the townsfolk who had gathered for his arrival begin to gossip about the scandalous news: Angela Vicario has been returned to her parents, and her brothers are out to kill Santiago Nasar. It is as if the Bishop’s indifference permits them, and, furthermore, condones the violent spectacle that is about to unfold.

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Birds Symbol Timeline in Chronicle of a Death Foretold

The timeline below shows where the symbol Birds appears in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Memory Theme Icon
The Sacred and the Profane Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Social Restrictions Theme Icon
Violence, Trauma, and Community Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
...dream about walking through a grove of trees, but upon waking he feels “spattered with bird shit.” His mother, Plácida Linero, a skilled interpreter of dreams, later recalls to the Narrator... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Violence, Trauma, and Community Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
...the process. He tells her about his dream, and she informs him that anything involving birds is a good omen. He waves goodbye to her casually and heads to the kitchen.... (full context)
The Sacred and the Profane Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
The docks are crowded with people waiting for the Bishop. Many have brought gifts: roosters, because the Bishop loves cockscomb soup, and loads of wood. Despite the excitement, the Bishop... (full context)
Chapter 5
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Memory Theme Icon
Violence, Trauma, and Community Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
...never forgive herself for confusing the good omen of trees with the bad omen of birds in Santiago’s dream. (full context)