Violence, of course, is a persistent theme throughout this crime story. The violence that Santiago Nasar suffers is—for Márquez and his characters—both familiar and entirely alien. The Narrator, and through him Márquez, asks dogged questions pertaining to violence: What does violence do to its victim? What does violence do to its perpetrator? More pressingly, what is the place of violence within a community? How can a community knowingly allow violence to occur, and, further, treat it as a public spectacle?
The apparent incompetence and, worse, the complacency of his community in the face of impending violence haunts the Narrator throughout his investigation of the crime. By the time Santiago Nasar is pinned to his own front door and stabbed before a crowd of spectators, nearly the entire town knows what’s coming. Pablo and Pedro Vicario have announced their plans to all who will listen. Some people, like Cristo Bedoya and Clotilde Armante, try but fail to warn Santiago. Others, like Divina Flor and Indalecio Pardo, have the opportunity but are too frightened to do so. Others still, like Victoria Guzmán, refuse to warn him out of spite. However, the vast majority of the townsfolk—including Colonel Lázaro Aponte, who of all people wields the authority to prevent the murder—simply don’t take seriously the Vicario twins’ threat, chalking it up to hyperbole, or just the ravings of a couple of drunks. Márquez thus demonstrates that violence, even while it is considered by most to be beyond the pale, is never very far off. The barrier between everyday life and the most unimaginable bloodshed is delicate, and in fact easily overcome. Chronicle of a Death Foretold thus demonstrates how the possibility of violence can become—suddenly, shockingly—permissible.
And despite the ease with which violence is committed, violence is also utterly transformative, for all parties involved. Márquez lingers gruesomely on the transformation of Santiago Nasar from a walking, talking, smiling citizen to a confused, helpless animal, and finally to a piece of dead meat indistinguishable from the rabbits that Victoria Guzmán spends the morning disemboweling. The violence is also transformative for its perpetrators, Pablo and Pedro Vicario, who are in some ways left traumatized by their own crime. This trauma manifests itself physically: in jail they both become entirely sleepless, Pedro’s venereal disease worsens, and Pablo falls deathly ill. After Santiago’s death, Angela Vicario finds herself mysteriously falling in love with Bayardo San Román, whom she had all but hated before. Santiago’s death is transformative, at last, for the community at large, which is left frozen and traumatized after witnessing their collective crime.
Chronicle of Death Foretold demonstrates that the conditions within a community that allow violence to occur are not so difficult to meet—they arise almost spontaneously—and yet the fallout following a public murder is immense. Violence is easily committed and its effects are irreversible. Only vigilance and moral courage can prevent it.
Violence, Trauma, and Community ThemeTracker
Violence, Trauma, and Community Quotes in Chronicle of a Death Foretold
She had watched him from the same hammock and in the same position in which I found her prostrated by the last lights of old age when I returned to this forgotten village, trying to put the broken mirror of memory back together from so many scattered shards. She could barely make out shapes in full light and had some medicinal leaves on her temples for the eternal headache that her son had left her the last time he went through the bedroom. She was on her side, clutching the cords at the head of the hammock as she tried to get up, and there in the half shadows was the baptistry smell that had startled me on the morning of the crime.
No sooner had I appeared on the threshold than she confused me with the memory of Santiago Nasar.
But she couldn't avoid a wave of fright as she remembered Santiago Nasar's horror when she pulled out the insides of a rabbit by the roots and threw the steaming guts to the dogs.
“Don't be a savage,” he told her. “Make believe it was a human being.”
Victoria Guzmán needed almost twenty years to understand that a man accustomed to killing defenseless animals could suddenly express such horror.
They insisted that even the most difficult of husbands resigned themselves to anything as long as nobody knew about it. They convinced her, finally, that most men came to their wedding night so frightened that they were incapable of doing anything without the woman's help, and at the moment of truth they couldn't answer for their own acts. “The only thing they believe is what they see on the sheet,” they told her. And they taught her old wives’ tricks to feign her lost possession, so that on her first morning as a newlywed she could display open under the sun in the courtyard of her house the linen sheet with the stain of honor.
“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.
They gave us back a completely different body. Half of the cranium had been destroyed by the trepanation, and the lady-killer face that death had preserved ended up having lost its identity. Furthermore, the priest had pulled out the sliced-up intestines by the roots, but in the end he didn't know what to do with them, and he gave them an angry blessing and threw them into the garbage pail.
For the immense majority of people there was only one victim: Bayardo San Román. They took it for granted that the other actors in the tragedy had been fulfilling with dignity, and even with a certain grandeur, their part of the destiny that life had assigned them.
For years we couldn't talk about anything else. Our daily conduct, dominated then by so many linear habits, had suddenly begun to spin around a single common anxiety. The cocks of dawn would catch us trying to give order to the chain of many chance events that had made absurdity possible, and it was obvious that we weren't doing it from an urge to clear up mysteries but because none of us could go on living without an exact knowledge of the place and the mission assigned to us by fate.
They were sitting down to breakfast when they saw Santiago Nasar enter, soaked in blood and carrying the roots of his entrails in his hands. Poncho Lanao told me: “What I'll never forget was the terrible smell of shit.” But Argénida Lanao, the oldest daughter, said that Santiago Nasar walked with his usual good bearing, measuring his steps well, and that his Saracen face with its dashing ringlets was handsomer than ever. As he passed by the table he smiled at them and continued through the bedrooms to the rear door of the house.