The murder scene in Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a very significant scene. In this scene, the Vicario brothers kill Santiago Nassar for allegedly taking Angela’s virginity. Though the reader knows from the beginning that Santiago dies, they do not know how he dies. In this ending scene, it revealed to the reader exactly how he dies in great detail. This short extract not only provides the climax of the novel, but also the anti-climax. This reflects how the murder of Santiago did not take very long in the story. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s word choice in Chronicle of a Death Foretold enhances the effect of this scene on the reader as it heightens the imagination. Marquez also builds up the tension in this scene very effectively. He makes use of bathos in this last scene, which further enhances the effect on the reader. The murder scene answers all the questions the reader has had from the beginning of the novel. It is for this reason that the murder scene is so imperative.
Marquez makes use of bathos in the murder/ending scene of his novel. Early on in the passage, the Vicario twins claim they were ‘scared when [they] saw him face on’ (p. 119). Because the reader views Santiago as the protagonist of the novel, they are relieved when it is implied that he has a chance with not being killed (even though they know he dies). This is taken away when he dies at the end. The Vicario brothers very brutally murder Santiago Nassar, ‘Pablo Vicario gave him a horizontal slash on the stomach, and all his intestines exploded out.’. This is very shocking to the reader; it is very intense. At this point, the reader is very excited and eager to read on. However, after Santiago was near death Argenida Lanao stated that ‘Santiago Nassar walked with his usual good bearing, measuring his steps well…handsomer than ever…smiled at them…’ (p.122). This proves the anti-climax of the novel. After all the excitement, he does not die in a very dramatic way.
He is very calm, which contrasts with what has happened to him. This confuses the reader and forces him or her to switch from being excited to being calm, just like Santiago has to do in the novel. At the very end of the passage, Poncho Lanao says ‘What I’ll never forget was the terrible smell of shit’ (p.122). After all the fighting and all the suspense, all he remembers is this smell. It is through this that Marquez makes the greatest use of bathos in the novel. It is almost a letdown; the only thing that Santiago is remembered for by this man is the fact that he smelled extremely bad. This also reflects Santiago’s character. Instead of screaming in pain, he is smiling and polite as ever after everything that has happened. ‘They’ve killed me…fell on his face in the kitchen.’ (p.122) This is how he dies. It is not big or exaggerated; it is calm just like his personality was.
In the murder scene, Marquez uses specific words to heighten the reader’s imagination. The actual murder is described in a very detailed manner. He also uses various structural techniques to highlight this section of the novel. One structural technique he uses is alliteration, ‘…hallucination, holding his hanging intestines in his hands.’ (p.121). When one reads this out loud, it is almost as if they are panting just like Santiago is. It also speeds the reading up, creating excitement and tension within the reader. This creates a connection between the reader and Santiago, which makes his death all the more tragic. This highlights the brutality of the murder. ‘…all his intestines exploded out.’ (p.121). The word ‘exploded’ stands out in the quotation. It is a very strong, shocking word to use. His intestines most likely didn’t explode out. Because though it is an exaggeration, the intensity of the situation is further emphasized.
In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Marquez uses suspense/tension to keep the reader engaged in the murder scene. It is worth noting that this is very hard to achieve as the reader already knows the outcome. In order for the reader to be truly shocked and excited, Marquez needs to have quite a notable death scene. Suspense and tension evolve into confusion within the reader in this scene. It is through confusion that tension is built. Divina Flor claims she saw Santiago ‘wearing a white suit…[carrying] a bouquet of roses.’ At this point, the tension and suspense evolve into frustration. This does not happen in real life, it happens in Divina’s head. If she had no claimed she saw him, Placida would never have locked the door and Santiago would not have died. The reader views Santiago as the main protagonist in the novel as the whole novel revolves around his death and the reasons he died. We do not want him to die, even though we know he does, so we get frustrated when we find out that there could have been a chance for survival. Before it is revealed that this is a vision, the reader is unsure whether or not it is a vision.
This creates suspense as we read on. In this vision that she has, Marquez incorporates the theme of magical realism. This aspect of the novel creates suspense as the line between reality and magic gets quite blurred. The reader is unsure of what is real and what isn’t which creates tension. The narrator claims that Victora Guzman ‘lied honestly…’ (p.118). This is a contradiction as it is impossible to lie honestly. This keeps the reader interested and eager to read on to find an explanation for this. This also reflects on the irony of Santiago’s death. It could have easily been stopped, which creates frustration for the reader, but death is inevitable for Santiago as his death is set from the beginning. The whiteness of the suit reflects the theme of purity. It is purity that is his downfall in the end. The Vicario twins think that Santiago took Angela’s purity, her virginity. The reader is unsure about whether or not he actually took her virginity.
This causes confusion and tension in turn. The red flowers could represent blood. This foreshadows the unpleasant events to come, creating suspense. The note that is left on the floor is something that would have prevented Santiago’s death. However, no one thinks to pick it up. ‘Placida Linero then saw the paper on the floor, but she didn’t think to pick it up…’ (p.118). This creates frustration in the reader because we are hoping for her, for anyone, to pick it up in order to avoid the death that is about to come. This creates tension because the reader is waiting for someone to realize that Santiago is going to be murdered and try and stop it. On page 119, Santiago lets out a cry of pain that ‘everybody heard’. This portrays just how painful it was as everyone heard. This, of course, is an exaggeration but still creates suspense nonetheless. When he screams for his mother, ‘ “Oh, mother of mine!” ‘ (p.119), it is quite ironic. Indirectly, his mother is the reason he dies because she locks the door.
Because the reader experiences the story through the narrator and the narrator was Santiago’s best friend, we form a connection with Santiago. However; the narrator does not seem that emotionally involved in Santiago’s death even though he’s supposed to care for him a great deal. This could be because it has been such a long time since the death and he has moved on. It is slightly strange that he isn’t very connected with the emotional side of his best friend’s death. This, again, creates confusion in the reader, building tension.
The murder scene is probably the most prominent section of the novel. It provides the climax and the anti-climax. Through Marquez’s use of suspense, bathos, word choice and other techniques, the reader feels the effect of the murder. The reader views the ending as quite tragic as we have a bond with Santiago. This scene evokes many feelings in the reader including empathy and succeeds in making this scene very important.