Chronicle of a Death Foretold

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The Bishop Symbol Analysis

The Bishop Symbol Icon

On the morning of Santiago Nasar’s murder, the Bishop is visiting the town to deliver his blessing. He is less a character than he is a stand-in for some sort of abstract, unattainable holiness. He never sets foot in the town, choosing instead to deliver his blessing from afar, waving from the deck of his steamboat as it churns ominously upriver. The snub seems to be a snub from God himself, and in his wake town is left to moral decay.

The Bishop Quotes in Chronicle of a Death Foretold

The Chronicle of a Death Foretold quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Bishop. 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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Chapter 3 Quotes

“The truth is I didn't know what to do,” he told me. “My first thought was that it wasn't any business of mine but something for the civil authorities, but then I made up my mind to say something in passing to Plácida Linero.” Yet when he crossed the square, he’d forgotten completely. “You have to understand,” he told me, “that the bishop was coming on that unfortunate day.” At the moment of the crime he felt such despair and was so disgusted with himself that the only thing he could think of was to ring the fire alarm.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Father Carmen Amador (speaker), Plácida Linero
Related Symbols: The Bishop
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

The Narrator presses Father Amador to explain why he did nothing to prevent the crime when it was completely in his power to do so, and this is the answer Father Amador offers. His complacence in the face of impending violence is shocking, especially given that he is the supposed spiritual leader of the town. Unfortunately, it is also typical—his feeling that the murder “wasn’t any business” of his is common among the townspeople who failed to prevent the crime. Further, by using the Bishop’s arrival to explain his distractedness, Amador adds a layer of irony to his excuse: he was so caught up in organizing a grand display of sacredness that he failed to prevent something evil and profane from occurring right under his nose.

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The Bishop Symbol Timeline in Chronicle of a Death Foretold

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bishop 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
...and apparently unaware of the danger he is in. He is excited to see the Bishop, who is supposed to visit the town that morning on his riverboat. Santiago has had... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Memory Theme Icon
The Sacred and the Profane Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
...opens onto the town square, while the back door opens onto the docks, where the Bishop is meant to arrive. Santiago exits through the front door. Given that he is going... (full context)
The Sacred and the Profane Theme Icon
Violence, Trauma, and Community Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
...knows their plan, begs them to leave him for later, out of respect for the Bishop. Miraculously, they listen, and sit back down. (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.... (full context)
The Sacred and the Profane Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Social Restrictions Theme Icon
Violence, Trauma, and Community Theme Icon
...the riverbank, where crowds of people have brought out food to offer up to the Bishop—in vain, however, as the Bishop passed by without stopping. Now no longer distracted by the... (full context)
Chapter 2
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
...Dr. Dionisio Iguarán escaping on a boat so as not to be seen by the Bishop the next morning, people tripping over poor old blind Poncio Vicario, the Narrator himself proposing... (full context)