Chronicle of a Death Foretold: Theme Analysis
Failure of Authority
One of the themes evident in Chronicle of a Death Foretold is the failure of legal and moral authority in a time of crisis. Gabriel García Márquez was critical of political and religious leadership in Colombia for failing to address real problems of the people. As a journalist, he called attention to the failings of leadership. In the novel, he portrays the mayor as being more interested in a domino game than in preventing a murder that is about to happen in their town. The priest, Father Amador, is shown as being more interested in a visit from the bishop than in counseling the would-be murderers and trying to stop the crime.
Apathy of Society
The failure of the townspeople to act when they learn of the threat against Santiago could be seen as a criticism against apathy in society. People in the narrator’s town seem to view themselves as outsiders or observers rather than as actors who can make a difference.
The concept of honor is strong in the narrator’s society. A man must defend the family honor by killing if necessary. Gabriel García Márquez shows how the idea of honor can be crippling for both men and women in the society. In the case of Angela Vicario, her dishonorable loss of virginity before marriage causes her to be rejected by her husband, beaten by her parents, and unable to marry again. The dishonor drives Bayardo San Román nearly to suicide, and then causes him to lead a lonely life for more than seventeen years. And finally, Angela’s brothers, Pablo and Pedro, are forced to commit an act of violence they do not have the heart to commit in order to restore their family honor.
Inevitability of Fate
Throughout the novel, omens and coincidences point to the fact that Santiago Nasar’s death is fated to happen. Although the townspeople are to blame for not stepping in to prevent his senseless death, the extraordinary series of coincidences and omens seems to suggest that this murder was meant to happen.
Meaningless Ceremony and Ritual
The emptiness of ceremony and ritual is a theme addressed through many examples in this novel. For instance, when the bishop arrives to bless the town, his visit is simply an empty ceremony, devoid of any real feeling. He in fact hates the town and is not really sympathetic to the people there who have gathered, sincerely hoping that his blessing will cure them or heal their pain. Another example of meaningless ritual is seen in the courting between Bayardo and Angela. Their courting consists of symbolic gestures, such as when Bayardo buys things for Angela or when she sends him letters that he never opens.