Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a novella written by Gabriel García Márquez, an author who skillfully weaves a world of magic realism in his other novels. However, this is a non-linear, realistic story which was inspired by a real-life murder mystery. This novella by Marquez is devoid of his signature elements of magic realism. The narrator is unnamed and tells us about the murder of a certain Santiago Nasar. Interestingly, the novella was inspired by true events that happened to a family that Marquez was acquainted with. Gabriel García Márquez came to learn of a young couple who tied the knot in Sucre. On the day after their wedding, the groom rejected the young bride on the grounds of her not being a virgin. The bride admitted to having had intercourse with her former boyfriend. This man was then pursued by the two brothers of the bride and murdered to preserve family honor. Many publications had speculated that Márquez had actually witnessed this murder himself, however, the writer was not present during any of the events. The actual events took place in 1951 in Sucre. The author weaves an intriguing tale of the murder of a man based on these real events.
In the very beginning, the story takes us straight to the morning during which the murder is discovered. Santiago Nassar, the one who is killed in the story, lives in the same house as Placida Linero, his mother; Victoria Guzman, the cook; and Divina Flor, the cook’s daughter. After his Arab father Ibrahim passed away, Santiago became the sole inheritor of their prosperous family ranch. On that day, Santiago had returned home from a wedding in the first hours of the morning. This wedding was that of Angela Vicario, who had been living in town for a while, and Bayardo San Roman, a man who had recently arrived in the area. A night-long celebration was going on as part of the wedding festivities, from which Santiago had returned in the early hours of dawn. However, after about two hours of the wedding, Bayardo found out that Angela’s lack of virginity and promptly rejected her. Upon hearing this, her mother drags her back to their house and gives her a sound beating. Following the beating, Angela reveals the person’s name who has violated her honor and purity. This man, she says in a rather spurious way, is none other than Santiago Nasar. Hearing this, Angela’s twin brothers Pedro and Pablo Vicario hit upon a plan to murder Santiago as revenge, as he has tarnished the Vicario family honor. Their weapons of choice are two knives which were used for the purpose of slaughtering pigs previously.
In the early hours of dawn, the two brothers head out to the meat marketplace to make their knives sharp. They even announce in front of the butchers and the owner of the shop that they scheme on killing Santiago. Nobody takes the threat very seriously as the brothers have the reputation of being ‘good people.’ This is the reason why they initially see it as drunken gibberish. However, butcher Faustino Santos is the only one to realize that something is wrong. He reports this incident to Leandro Pornoy, a local policeman. Next, the brothers show up at the milk store of Clotilde Armenta and repeat the same plan regarding killing Santiago. The lady notices that the brothers actually have rag-wrapped knives on them. In the meantime, Officer Leandro speaks to Colonel Aponte, the mayor. The latter is not all that bothered by the threat, rather, he dresses up, enjoys his breakfast leisurely and goes to the dairy shop. He meets the brothers, takes away the knives from them and tells them to go home to sleep, all the while considering them nothing but bluffers. Clotilde however, asks the Colonel to investigate the matter further so that the brothers are ‘spared from the horrible duty’ and that they are stopped. In spite of the request, the Colonel does not do anything else about the case. As the duo had already announced their plan to murder Santiago in two different shops of the market, the news soon becomes the talk of the town. The good-natured Clotilde requests everyone she runs into to caution Santiago, however, the people are not eager to do it for a couple of reasons. They all assume that the man has already been warned, many want someone else to caution him, don’t actually believe that it can happen, are reluctant about it, cannot find Santiago easily, are preoccupied with the Bishop’s arrival etc. Many also want Santiago dead secretly, thinking that he deserves to be killed at the hands of the brothers. The Vicario brothers again show up at the milk shop with a pair of new knives. This time though, Pedro has his doubts about killing Santiago. He feels that they had done whatever their duty was, and it ended after the mayor had taken their knives away. However, they continue to speak about their plan to kill Santiago. Later on, even the holy man admits that he did not know what to do, it was none of his business but it was completely the headache of the administration and it was on them to take the necessary actions. Even though he did want to warn Santiago’s mother, the holy man forgot to tell her due to the excitement surrounding the arrival of the Bishop in town.
After about an hour of sleep, Santiago wakes up, gets dressed and becomes ready to welcome the Bishop. The whole town has been expecting the Bishop’s presence there, he would have a brief stopover at the town on the way to some other place. In his hurry, Santiago misses a note that was lying on the ground, containing details and a warning about the twins’ plans to kill him. In spite of the town’s excitement, the Bishop’s boat does not stop there even though the people had been eagerly awaiting him with many gifts. Santiago approaches his fiancé, Flora Miguel, at the venue, but she yells, wishing him dead. She is visibly upset about the Angela Vicario incident and decides not to alert him about the killing.
Finally, after doubts from many people regarding whether to warn and whether to kill, the murder takes place. After the incident, a humiliation and ignominy immediately followed the Vicario family surrounding not only the murder but also Angela’s marriage. The Vicario family depart from the town as these problems escalate. Angela’s husband Bayardo San Roman also leaves the town along with his family, who come to pick him up by boat. The Vicario twins are captured, and they await trial in prison for three years. However, they are tried in court. After that, Pedro leaves to join the army and Pablo gets married to his lover.
Angela is really taken by grief, but she remains persistent in trying to win the love of Bayardo San Roman. For each day for their seventeen years of separation, Angela writes a letter to him after she had left town with her family. After this long wait, San Roman finally answers her call and returns. He comes bearing all of his letters with him in different bundles, and we find that all of them are unopened. Only after the return of Bayardo, Angela falls in love with him.
We are then brought to the description of Santiago Nasar’s murder. Christo Bedoya, his friend, had been looking for Santiago frantically in the morning in order to warn him of the threat. However, he fails to find Santiago, who was in fact, at his fiancee’s house. When the father of Flora Miguel finds out, he cautions Santiago about the twins’ plan moments before the two reach him. Disoriented, Santiago heads out to rush home. His mother also learns about this plot finally and assumes that her son is at home, she closes the front entrance so that no intruder can come in. However, Santiago was then running from the twins who were pursuing him. Moments before entering his home, he was stabbed many times. Over twenty times to be precise, which gave him seven lethal wounds. The wounds were all discovered in a badly performed autopsy done by the holy man. The killing is so brutal that in the end, Santiago enters the house carrying his own entrails. He finally collapses in the kitchen and passes away.
There are some differences between the actual incidents of Sucre and that of the novella’s plot. First of all, Santiago Nasar had no premarital relations with Angela Vicario. Yet, in real life, the bride indeed lost her virginity to her previous lover. Moreover, Marquez decided to make the brothers, the killers of Santiago, twins in the novella. In reality though, Pedro and Pablo were merely brothers. In the end, we see a reconciliation and closure between Angela and Bayardo San Roman. However, no reconciliation takes place in real life between the couple in Sucre.