Chronicle of a Death Foretold: Chapter 2
In Chapter 2, the narrator tells the story of Angela Vicario and her groom, the golden-eyed Bayardo San Román. A wealthy, dashing railroad track engineer and the son of a famous army general, Bayardo arrives in the town six months before the wedding in search of a woman to marry. He discovers Angela and wins her hand by dazzling her family with his fortune and prominent background. There is only one problem: Angela does not want to marry Bayardo San Román. She thinks he is conceited, and does not love the man. “Love can be learned too,” remarks her mother, the nunlike Purísima del Carmen.
The narrator comments that in the Vicario family, “The brothers had been brought up to be men. The girls had been reared to get married. They knew how to do screen embroidery, sew by machine, weave bone lace, wash and iron, make artificial flowers and fancy candy, and write engagement announcements.” The narrator’s mother considered the girls to be “perfect,” observing that “Any man will be happy with them because they’ve been raised to suffer.”
Raised, then, with these conventional values, Angela puts up little resistance to the match, and agrees to be married after four months. Bayardo San Román, for his part, continues to show off for his bride. When she comments that the prettiest house in town is the one owned by a widower, Xius, Bayardo is determined to buy it for her. Xius does not want to sell, as the house is filled with memories of his loving wife and their thirty years together, but Bayardo offers him so much money that he cannot refuse. Two months after selling his house, the widower Xius dies of heartache. “He was healthier than the rest of us,” comments the town doctor, Dr. Dionisio Iguarán, “but when you listened with the stethoscope, you could hear the tears bubbling inside his heart.”
At the time of her marriage, nobody suspects that Angela is not a virgin. Her mother is very strict, and she is never allowed to be alone with her future husband. Distressed by her terrible secret, Angela confides in two friends, who explain how she can fake her virginity on her wedding night.
In the days leading up to the wedding, the couple receives numerous lavish gifts, including table settings in pure gold for twenty-four guests. The Vicario home, with its pigsty and butchers’ table out back, receives an overhaul in preparation for the wedding party that will be held there.
The narrator attends the wedding feast along with Santiago Nasar, his best friend Cristo Bedoya, and the narrator’s brother Luis Enrique. As recalled by the narrator years later, Santiago shows no sign of having any big secret about Angela. He spends the evening calculating the expense of the party, estimating it at 9,000 pesos.
The narrator recalls many other details, including the butterfly wings worn by Bayardo’s sisters on the night of the wedding and his own proposal of marriage that evening to Mercedes Barcha. The most vivid memory he has is of Angela’s father, the elderly and blind Poncio Vicario, sitting alone on a stool in the center of the yard.
As the newlyweds go off to their dream house, the party breaks up. The narrator, Santiago Nasar, Cristo Bedoya, and Luis Enrique go to María Alejandrina Cervantes’s whorehouse to continue partying. Among the revelers there are the Vicario brothers, who drink and sing with Santiago Nasar, never guessing they will kill him just five hours later.
Later that night, sometime after eleven o’clock, Angela’s mother Pura Vicario hears three knocks at the door and opens it to find Angela and Bayardo standing there. Angela’s satin dress is torn into shreds and she is wrapped in a towel up to the waist. For a moment, Pura Vicario is terrified, thinking they are ghosts. Then Bayardo pushes Angela into the house and says goodbye.
Pura Vicario spends the next few hours beating Angela. When the twins arrive home, demanding to know the name of the man who took her virginity, Angela names Santiago.
Analysis of Chapter 2
In Chapter 2, the narrator gives background information, revealing what happened in the weeks and months leading up to Santiago’s murder. Although Angela names Santiago as the man who took her virginity, her accusation is placed in doubt. No other witnesses recall ever seeing Angela with Santiago. As the narrator points out, nobody in the town even knew Angela was not a virgin. At the wedding feast, Santiago shows no sign of having a secret about Angela. The wording of the last paragraph, in which Angela is described as finding his name “at first sight among the many, many easily confused names,” suggests that she simply said the first name that came into her head. The comparison of Santiago’s name to a “butterfly with no will whose sentence has always been written” suggests that he is an innocent victim of fate.
A picture is given of the strict conventional values that govern the society. The Vicario brothers have been brought up “to be men,” while the girls are brought up to be married. It is a world in which women have very little freedom. Unable to support themselves economically, they are pressured into marrying not for love, but for money and social position. Furthermore, unlike men, who are free to visit brothels, women are expected to remain pure for marriage. Angela is first pushed into a marriage to a man she does not love, then humiliated and beaten when it is discovered she is not a virgin.
There is irony of situation in the incident with the widower Xius. Bayardo San Román buys the house in which Xius and his wife were happily married for thirty years, and yet he is unable to be happy in the house for even a single night. The incident highlights the irony of fate and, perhaps, the message that money cannot buy happiness.