There are many different forms of narration that can be used in a novel; the topic of this essay specifically discusses the journalistic approach used in the novella, Chronicle of the Death Foretold written by Gabriel García Márquez, and how it enhances the major themes of the story. In this work, the utilization of the author’s journalistic experiences combined with his ability to present a well-crafted tragic story allows to enhance the major themes of the novella. Themes such as the quest for truth through memory are made more effective with the journalistic approach. Furthermore, the theme of family honour and community engagement in trauma is also enhanced due to investigative style of writing. Finally, the theme of moral limitations is one that is discovered and enhanced through Màrquez’s writing style.
The author introduces the murder of Santiago Nasar at the beginning of the novella to draw the attention of the readers, which is an indicator of the author’s journalistic skills: “ON THE DAY they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning” (1). In this excerpt, the first three words of the novella are in capitals just like a headline from a newspaper article which is an example of how Marquez uses the journalistic approach to grab the reader’s attention and create suspense. Similarly, a recent CBC article states, “Police said she likely died of hypothermia. (citation)” Likewise, in the novella, the author claims, “The report concluded that the cause of death had been a massive hemorrhage” (76). Both of these headlines follow a similar journalistic approach because of how it is structured and the language that is used. Márquez purposefully uses a journalistic approach to create curiosity for the reader and to allow them to follow the novel as if it is an investigation.
Moreover, Márquez uses a first-person narrative style, where he himself is a journalist putting evidence and clues together based on his memory, for a murder that he witnessed twenty years ago. Similar to the novella, Márquez’s family friend, Cayetano Gentile Chimento, was murdered in 1951 by two brothers because Cayetano’s action of taking the virginity of their sister. Since Márquez is going back twenty years to recall information, the readers cannot be certain that the memory of events is intact. Márquez narrates the novella by relying on this own memory to figure out other witnesses who were there during the event. Therefore, there is a non-linear structure to the novella as Márquez jumps from witness to witness to figure out why Santiago was murdered. A non-linear structure means that the story does not follow a chronicle or a typical journal report. For instance, the first paragraph spans about 27 years, therefore this makes the literal indication of the title irrelevant: “Placida Linero, his mother, told me twenty-seven years later, recalling the details of that distressing Monday” (2). This quote by the narrator also foreshadows the ‘distressing’ Monday that will come later in the story. Therefore, this journalistic method of the story of Santiago Nasar’s murder being in a non-chronicle order allows the reader to follow the mind of an investigator who is compiling evidence in a sporadic fashion in order to find the truth.
In addition, Márquez also uses a style that makes the characters flat and static as he wants the reader to form their opinions about the characters. His journalistic approach allows him to create an unbiased narrative of the murder hence, readers have an absence of emotions in the characters. For example, there is no emotion in the people that knew of the murder as they are passive. The reaction of the characters is mysterious, which makes sense in the journalistic point of view since he is writing in order to search for the truth through investigation and interrogative means, rather than just assumptions or rumors. In the novella, there is an unbiased representation of the antagonist and protagonist due to the journalistic approach. No one is completely guilty, despite the whole town knowing the Vicario brothers’ intentions, and even though no one stopped them, they are not accused of hiding the truth. Thus, the quest for truth being one of the major themes in the novella, is enhanced through the journalistic approach as it allows the reader to become engaged in the investigation as they are not simply told how to feel about certain characters, but are given unbiased evidence and are allowed to make their own conclusions.
In addition, two other major themes within the novella are of honour and community engagement. The Vicario brothers, who committed the murder, did it to protect the honour of their family. Angela Vicario tarnishes her family’s honour by losing her virginity to Santiago. Yet, interestingly enough, it is also the society’s moral responsibility that is very much in control of everyone in the town and makes the readers uncertain about the truth in society. Angela speaks about how her mother treated her after she revealed she was not a virgin, “The only thing I remember is that she was holding me by the hair with one hand and beating me with the other with such a rage that I thought she was going to kill me” (28). Angela didn’t reveal any other name but Santiago’s, not because he was the one who had done the act, but he fit perfectly to the description: “She found it at first sight amongst many, many easily confused names of this world and the other” (28). This forces uncertainty into the minds of the readers to speculate whether or not it was supposed to be someone else. Angela’s act also leads to the death of Santiago, which again makes the readers comprehend why she had possibly said the wrong name. This displays that within the story, out of fear of her own and her family’s honour, Angela wanted to deflect attention from herself so that her family as well as the community would focus on who wronged her.