In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez portrays different roles of men and women in the Latin American culture through various characters in the novel. In Latin American culture, women were designated to be serviceable wives restricted by strict cultural traditions. They were solely responsible for cooking, cleaning and chores while having no mention of pursuing careers or education. Men were expected to take care of the family and protect family honour. Women suffered in marriage and had no consent over who they wanted to marry. Furthermore, this shows how the expectations of Latin American culture are crucially strict and how women are forced to follow these strict rules with no freedom in their life. In this essay, I will be exploring in different female characters and their perspectives/decisions as well how social expectations are undermined.
The traditional expectation of how women were demanded to be virgins contradicts with the reality of how women develop ways to cheat ‘this system’ such as the character Angela in a chronicle of a death foretold.
Angela Vicario is the daughter of Poncio Vicario, a goldsmith, and Purisima Del Carmen, a retired school teacher. Who was a poor girl, she is described as an impotent little girl living with “A poverty of spirit with helpless air” which foreshadows an uncertain future for her. However, Angela was soon discovered by a wealthy man called Bayardo San Roman and forced into a marriage arranged by her parents who were excited. Although Angela had an opportunity to get rid of the “poverty spirit” and marry a rich man, she was apprehensive with the marriage, she feared that Bayardo will discover the truth of her not being a virgin on the wedding night as women were demanded to be virgins and should not have premarital sex before marriage as it is disrespectful and dishonourable to the family and themselves.
However, most women develop ways to cheat this ‘system’ as “They assured her that almost all women lost their virginity in childhood accidents.” Moreover, it is believed that 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 honour”. This quote depicts the idea of how women use this ‘trick’ to cheat the system and men to believe them.
In Latin American culture, it is believed that women would tear their Hymen and bleed when having their first sex. Therefore, leaving “Stain of honour” on the sheet. This stain proves that the women were a virgin. However, the fact that “almost all women lost their virginity in childhood accidents” suggests that they are not virgins before marriage which presents social hypocrisy revealing the reality of how women develop ways to cheat ‘this system’ in order to avoid the shame that will be received as consequences such as Angela in the novella. Women are demanded to be a virgin before marriage. However, this “trick” opposes the idea against societal expectations. Yet, Angela does not remain a virgin marrying Bayardo. Moreover, Marquez reveals the trust within the relationship as the husband will only believe what he sees “on the sheet” emphasizing how in the Latin American society, women are seen as undependable and unreliable. Furthermore, Marquez also suggests that Men does not always portray their masculine gender roles. “Most men came to their wedding night so frightened that they were incapable of doing anything without the woman’s help”. Although men are described as machismo and powerful, this quote illustrates the reality of men and how impotent they are in reality.
Female characters are presented as burdened to protect their family despite the society considering them as weak in order to reveal the hypocrisy of men in Latin American society who claim to be responsible for difficulties.
For example, one of the characters that demonstrate this idea is Victoria Guzman. She is Santiago Nasar’s cook. She had a love affair with Ibrahim Nasar and he took her virginity when she was a teenager. She has a daughter called Divina Flor and Santiago is sexually wanting her. “When Santiago Nasar grabbed her by the wrist when she came to take the empty mug from him. ‘The time has come for you to be tamed,’ he told her. However, Victoria Guzman portrays a powerful and protective character in order to fight against this cycle to avoid her daughter experiencing the same situation and losing her virginity. ‘Let go of her, a white man,’ she ordered him seriously. ‘You won’t have a drink of that water as long as I’m alive.’ This quote depicts how much guts Victoria has as she is standing against her employer crucially in order to protect her daughter. Nevertheless, this displays social hypocrisy as Victoria has been seduced by Ibrahim Nasar, yet she is not willing to let her daughter go through the same cycle as she did. Therefore, she stands against Santiago using any method her while daughter resists to fight and remain silent.
Women are presented as protectors of traditional belief of Honour as being the most significant aspect of the Latin American culture despite it going against the teachings of religion practised in society.
Clotilde Armenta is the owner of the milk shop where the Vicario twins waited to kill Santiago. She understands the reason behind why Vicario twins have killed Santiago. Clotilde stated, “It’s to spare those poor boys from the horrible duty that’s fallen on them.’ This quote demonstrates the idea that not only Santiago and Angela are the victims. The twins were also partially victims as well as they killed Santiago in order to “restore the honour of their sister”. Additionally, the twins also acknowledge that it was their duty to defend their sister’s honour. It was claimed that the twin’s act was “Homicide in legitimate defence of honour” in the court and the priest states the twins as “an act of great dignity”. This portrays how the society views the twin brother as victims more than murderers.
However, this shows social hypocrisy as regaining the honour for the loss of virginity (religion) is more important than death in the culture. Although people in the village try to prevent the death occurring, most people believed that Santiago deserves this punishment and considered that it was a reasonable consequence.
On the other hand, the boys have attempted to avoid the situation by killing Santiago. The Vicario twins claimed that they were going to kill Santiago at the market. As well, “..twenty-two people declared they had heard everything said”. Therefore, the death of Santiago could have been avoided if people in the village was more aware. Moreover, Pedro Vicario also refused to kill Santiago at one point. However, Pablo convinces Pedro and “dragged him off almost by force to search for their sister’s lost honour”. This emphasizes how regaining the honour by killing someone is more significant than religious beliefs such as virginity.
The portrayal of the relationship is characterized as angels and devils. When the Narrator’s mom first saw Bayardo, She described him “ It also seems like he is swimming in gold”. She expressed her admiration and praised him stating he was “not only was Capable of doing everything, and doing it quite well, but also had access to endless resources”. Yet, after the unfortunate wedding. Her impression on Bayardo changes as she claims “he reminded me of the devil”. However, during her first impression, she sensed a foreboding feeling about him. But, she did not reveal her true feelings until after the wedding.
Overall, Marquez portrays different female characters in order to communicate his argument of social hypocrisy in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. He uses Angela to reveal the expectations of Latin American society in women and reveals the reality of the situations women are overcoming, Victoria Guzman protects her daughter from Santiago in order to avoid her daughter experiencing the same cycle (losing her virginity), regaining honour is more important than traditional religion values. Moreover, how the impression of people differs on Bayardo after the unfortunate wedding happens.