Throughout Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Márquez subtly scrutinizes the underlying rules of social relations, questioning how the circumstances of one’s birth structures and determines the course of one’s life. Márquez is especially interested in the ways in which widely held notions of gender might govern one’s position in society. In the Narrator’s hometown, one’s gender sharply delineates the borders of his or her experience. To put it bluntly, the community is inherently sexist. If you are born with male features, you are educated and grow up to work. The question of your virginity has no moral bearing on your character—in fact, you are more or less expected to be having sex from a young age. On the other hand, if you’re born with female features, your virginity is of the utmost importance. You grow up cloistered and are taught only to be a good wife. Angela Vicario and her sisters are raised this way, as is Flora Miguel. Most of the female characters—Plácida Linero, Victoria Guzmán, and the Narrator’s Mother—while powerful in their own, private ways, exert very little control over their station in life.
Of course, gender is not the only social determinant in this community. Not unrelatedly, wealth and social class are additional factors that structure and determine the lives of the characters. This is most apparent in Angela’s engagement to Bayardo San Román. Bayardo, an outsider who is “swimming in gold,” is betrothed to Angela against her will. The marriage is arranged by Angela’s parents, who come from a more modest background than Bayardo. Such an arrangement is seen as normal in the town, where social class is extremely important and “marrying up” is common practice. Further, ethnicity plays a less prominent but still important social role: the minority group of Arabs—to which Santiago Nasar belongs—are relegated to a kind of community within the community, one that is looked on with some suspicion by the non-Arab majority.
For Márquez, character is not necessarily destiny. However, the accidents of one’s character—one’s gender, one’s social class, one’s race—can have a tremendous, often oppressive effect on one’s life. One could even argue that, more than destiny or the perverse will of a few criminals and their enablers, it is the overarching structure of society that kills Santiago Nasar. After all, Pablo and Pedro Vicario are in some ways moved to murder by social forces beyond their control. They understand their crime as duty, one foisted upon them by their religion and the culture in which they live, and they in some ways do their best to escape it, but to no avail.
Gender, Class, and Social Restrictions ThemeTracker
Gender, Class, and Social Restrictions Quotes in Chronicle of a Death Foretold
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.
I met him a short while after she did, when I came home for Christmas vacation, and I found him just as strange as they had said. He seemed attractive, certainly, but far from Magdalena Oliver's idyllic vision. He seemed more serious to me than his antics would have led one to believe, and with a hidden tension that was barely concealed by his excessive good manners.
The parents' decisive argument was that a family dignified by modest means had no right to disdain that prize of destiny. Angela Vicario only dared hint at the inconvenience of a lack of love, but her mother demolished it with a single phrase:
“Love can be learned too.”
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.
So he put the knife in his hand and dragged him off almost by force in search of their sister’s lost honor.
“There's no way out of this,” he told him. “It's as if it had already happened.”
Santiago Nasar had an almost magical talent for disguises, and his favorite sport was to confuse the identities of the mulatto girls. He would rifle the wardrobe of some to disguise the others, so that they all ended up feeling different from themselves and like the ones they weren't. On a certain occasion, one of them found herself repeated in another with such exactness that she had an attack of tears. “I felt like I'd stepped out of the mirror,” she said.
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.
She became lucid, overbearing, mistress of her own free will, and she became a virgin again just for him, and she recognized no other authority than her own nor any other service than that of her obsession.