Perspective and Point of View in Chronicle of a Death Foretold

The only certainty of life is death, or so portrays the writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. As a writer of Latin origins, Marquez’s writing is so intricately laced with surreal concepts that it has almost defined the genre of Magical Realism. Although he refuses to take all the credit himself, noting that the majority of his ideas are based in factual events, the author depicts a world so unbelievable that it is impossible to understand what is real. This genre of Magical Realism centers itself on the idea that reality comes to a point where it is so fantastically surreal that the reader finds herself struggling to grasp what is true. In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the author exemplifies the uncertain reality of life with the assistance of both point of view and perspective. Before discussing these techniques, there are important differences between each word that must be understood. Perspective is considered the vantage point from which a story is being viewed, or re-told. Point of view differs from perspective in that it is the narrator’s outlook on the story he is telling. Marquez cleverly weaves both literary techniques into his novel to further distort the validity of the reality created by each and every character.

The unnamed narrator recounts the events within the story through a first person point of view, creating crucial obstacles of uncovering the truths in his tale. Marquez places his narrator in the center of the story. He experiences everything the townspeople experienced during the sequence of events that lead to the murder of Santiago Nasar, 27 years prior to his attempt to retell the story. Perplexed by his own uncertainty, the narrator returns to the site oftown where the murder occured in an attempt to place everything together, piece by piece. To sustain the element of ambiguity, Marquez has his chronicler only thinly develop each of his fellow villagers. In effect, the bare minimum descriptions leave the legitimacy of the testimonies up to the reader’s own opinion. An example of this appears in the character of Clothilde Armenta, owner of the milk shop, and a central informant of the events that transpired. Her intentions prove to be hard to unveil because she allowed the Vicario brothers (Nasar’s murders) stay in front of her store, knowing their plan to kill Nasar. However, “she knew them so well that she could tell them apart” (55), and would have sworn that they were not to be taken seriously. Here, one finds how the first person point of view limits the possibility of discerning the truth. The narrator can only tap into the information people are willing to tell him; in actuality he can only be certain of what he sees and hears first hand, and in the end, it is unclear which character can be trusted. With this in mind, the validity of Angela’s declaration of her stolen virginity should be carefully considered. The reader must decide if Angela’s statement, “He was the one” (90), or the general sentiment that “No one would have thought, nor did anyone think that Angela Vicario wasn’t a virgin” (37), is true. There is an equal amount of evidence, or lack there of, to support each case. Without the ability to actually see Angela’s thoughts, the truth remains, yet again, uncertain. In using this point of view, the author presents and supports his belief that the truth is invariably impossible to know.

Having his narrator approach the events through the perspective of a reporter, Marquez allows for the creation of the narrative voice. Like that of reporters in the real world, the narrator’s main purpose is to uncover the truths of the incident. Marquez endows his narrator with the ability to stay as detached and objective as humanly possible. However, this proves to be difficult. His human tendency to have preconceived notions of certain things leads the narrator himself to become a questionable source of information. His personal opinion of Nasar as being a “merry and peaceful, and openhearted man” (8) clashes with that of the cook, Victoria Guzman, who often witnessed his disgusting attitude towards women and macho manner. Cautiously, the author ensures that his reporter does not question or verify the veracity of the information he collects, leaving his readers with their own opinions to sort out the truths. The 27-year time lapse must also be considered as the distorted puzzle of the murder comes together. Many of the memories have surely become vague, leaving space for alterations as each character sees fit. For instance, the Vicario brothers remember, “It wasn’t raining…just the opposite…” (61) Meanwhile, Colonel Aponte remarks that it had begun to rain at five o’clock. These seemingly minute details all assist in the ambiguity that accumulates with each person’s account. Similarly, the amount of guilt each person feels warps the “truth” in his or her account. For example, when Colonel Aponte adds his recollection to the countless others, he says, “No one is arrested on suspicion” (57), justifying why he had allowed the Vicario brothers to remain outside of Clothilde’s store before the murder. At any rate, the reporter’s attempt to simply regurgitate the facts he is given proves to be unsuccessful in that the story itself remains as confused as ever.

Slowly, as the reporter compiles the stories, a distinction can be made between perspectives of those who had been informed of the murder and share in the collective sentiment of guilt, and those who earnestly tried to put a stop to the crime. Without any formal confirmation, it can be assumed that the townspeople who knowingly allowed the murder to take place had their own incentives for it. Father Amador, for one, claims that he simply forgot to warn Nasar. The explanation however, is insufficient due to the fact that after performing a massacre of an autopsy, the priest took Nasar’s guts and “gave them an angry blessing and threw them into the garbage”(76). Marquez enlists the priest not only to represent corruption of the Church but also to display corruption of character. Nasar was known to be an Arab, and a wealthy one at that, and in doing what he did to Nasar’s intestines, the priest exemplifies the collective jealousy and animosity towards the Santiago. Here, one is introduced to outside perspectives acting as another driving force of ambiguity in the story.

Of those who were aware of the murder, the one whose actions on that day prove to be the most ambiguous are that of the victim himself. Indeed, Nasar cringes at the morning ritual of gutting the rabbits commanding his cook to “Make believe it was a human being” (10), appearing to sense something on that morning. Yet, the narrator himself remarks “Nor was it known what cards Santiago Nasar was playing,” suggesting the possibility of Nasar knowing of his approaching death. Because the narrator offers no information into the perspective of Nasar himself, his conviction is projected through the perceptions of others. There is no doubt that the guilt felt throughout town shakes it forever, often causing people to mask the truth of events. Accordingly, those who feel guilt in relation to the murder perceive Nasar as knowing that it would take place. Confidently, Pedro Vicario, one of the killers, said, “He knows why” (69) when Clotilde inquired about Nasar’s soon to be death. But conversely, those innocent of the whole affair believe that Santiago remained unaware of the murder or the reason for it up until his last breath. The chronicler even says, “My personal impression is that he died without understanding his death” (101). Again, the reader is placed in the position to decide what is truth and what is made up. The author’s use of perceptions proves to aid the uncertainty felt through the entirety of the book.

Questions of deciphering the truth in Marquez’s novel will never stop being asked. It is for this reason that the writer has won such high acclaim. He achieves his initial intention of using point of view and perspective as means by which to create uncertainty and although “There had never been a death more foretold” (50), it could be argued that the statement would better read: There has never been a death more confused.

Pam Bianda

Mr. Kelly

AP English IV

30 November 2011

Perspective and Point of View in Chronicle of a Death Foretold

The only certainty of life is death, or so portrays the South American writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. As a writer of Latin origins, Marquez’s writing is so intricately laced with surreal concepts that it has almost defined the genre of Magical Realism. Although he refuses to take all the credit himself, noting that the majority of his ideas are based in fact, the author depicts a world so unbelievable that it is impossible to understand what is real. This genre of Magical Realism centers itself on the idea that reality comes to a point where it is so fantastically surreal that the reader finds himself struggling to grasp what the truth is. In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the author exemplifies the uncertain reality of life with the assistance both point of view and perspective. Before discussing these techniques, there are important differences between each word that must be understood. Perspective is considered the vantage point from which a story is being viewed, or re-told. Point of view differs from perspective in that it is the narrator’s outlook on the story he is telling. Marquez cleverly weaves both literary techniques into his novel to further distort the validity of the reality created by each and every character.

The unnamed narrator recounts the events through a first person point of view, creating crucial obstacles of uncovering the truths in his tale. Marquez places his narrator in the story, experiencing everything the townspeople experience during the sequence of events that lead to the murder of Santiago Nasar 27 years earlier. Perplexed, the narrator returns to the site of the to try and place everything together piece by piece. To sustain the element of ambiguity, Marquez has his chronicler only thinly develop each of his fellow villagers. In effect, the bare minimum descriptions leave the legitimacy of the testimonies up to one’s own opinion. An example of this appears in the character of Clothilde Armenta, owner of the milk shop, and a central informant of the events that transpired. Her mentality proves to be a hard one to unveil due to the fact that she indeed allowed the Vicario brothers stay in front of her store, knowing their plan to kill Nasar. However, “she knew them so well that she could tell them apart” (55), and would have sworn that they were not to be taken seriously. Here, one finds how the first person point of view limits the possibility of discerning the truth. The reporter can only tap into the information people are willing to tell him; in actuality he can only be certain of what he sees and hears first hand, and in the end, it is unclear which character can be trusted. With this in mind, the validity of Angela’s declaration of her stolen virginity should be carefully considered. The reader must decide if Angela’s statement, “He was the one.” (90), or the general sentiment that “No one would have thought, nor did anyone think that Angela Vicario wasn’t a virgin.” (37), is true. There is an equal amount of evidence, or lack there of, to support each case. Without the ability to actually see Angela’s thoughts, the truth remains, yet again, uncertain. In using this point of view, the author presents and supports his belief that the truth is invariably impossible to know.

Having his narrator approach the events through the perspective of a reporter, Marquez allows for the creation of the narrative voice. Like that of reporters in the real world, the narrator’s main purpose is to uncover the truths of the incident. Marquez endows his narrator with the ability to stay as detached and objective as humanly possible. However, this proves to be difficult. His human tendency to have preconceived notions of certain things leads the narrator himself to become a questionable source of information. His personal opinion of Nasar as being a “merry and peaceful, and openhearted man” (8) clashes with that of the cook, Victoria Guzman, who often witnessed his disgusting attitude towards women and macho manner. Cautiously, the author ensures that his reporter does not question or verify the veracity of the information he collects, leaving his readers with their own opinions to sort out the truths. The 27-year time lapse must also be considered as the distorted puzzle of the murder comes together. Many of the memories have surely become vague, leaving space for alterations as each character sees fit. For instance, the Vicario brothers remember, “It wasn’t raining…just the opposite…” (61) Meanwhile, Colonel Aponte remarks that it had begun to rain at five o’clock. These seemingly minute details all assist in the ambiguity that accumulates with each person’s account. Similarly, the amount of guilt each person feels warps the “truth” in his or her account. For example, when Colonel Aponte adds his recollection to the countless others, he says, “No one is arrested on suspicion” (57), justifying why he had allowed the Vicario brothers to remain outside of Clothilde’s store. At any rate, the reporter’s attempt to simply regurgitate the facts he is given proves to be unsuccessful in that the story itself remains as confused as ever.

Slowly, as the reporter compiles the stories, a distinction can be made between perspectives of those who had been informed of the murder and share in the collective sentiment of guilt, and those who earnestly tried to put a stop to the crime. Without any formal confirmation, it can be assumed that the townspeople who knowingly allowed the murder to take place had their own incentives for it. Father Amador, for one, claims that he simply forgot to warn Nasar. The explanation however, is insufficient due to the fact that after performing a massacre of an autopsy, the priest took Nasar’s guts and “gave them an angry blessing and threw them into the garbage”(76). Marquez enlists the priest not only to represent corruption of the Church but also to display corruption of character. Nasar was known to be an Arab, and a wealthy one at that, and in doing what he did to Nasar’s intestines, the priest exemplifies the collective jealousy and animosity towards the Santiago. Here, one is introduced to outside perspectives acting as another driving force of ambiguity in the story.

Of those who were aware of the murder, the one whose actions on that day prove to be the most ambiguous are that of the victim himself. Indeed, Nasar cringes at the morning ritual of gutting the rabbits commanding his cook to “Make believe it was a human being.” (10), appearing to sense something on that morning. Yet, the narrator himself remarks “Nor was it known what cards Santiago Nasar was playing”, suggesting the possibility of Nasar knowing of his approaching death. Because the narrator offers no information into the perspective of Nasar himself, his conviction is projected through the perceptions of others. There is no doubt that the guilt felt in the town shakes it forever, causing people to mask the truth of events. Accordingly, those who feel guilt in relation to the murder perceive Nasar as knowing that it would take place. Confidently, Pedro Vicario, one of the killers, said, “He knows why” when Clotilde inquired about Nasar’s soon to be death. But conversely, those innocent of the whole affair believe that Santiago remained unaware of the murder or the reason for it up until his last breath. The chronicler even says, “My personal impression is that he died without understanding his death.” (101). Again the reader is placed in the position to decide what is truth and what is made up. The author’s use of perceptions proves to aid the uncertainty felt through the entirety of the book.

Questions of deciphering the truth in Marquez’s novel will never stop being asked. It is for this reason that the writer has won such high acclaim. He achieves his initial intention of using point of view and perspective as means by which to create uncertainty and although “There had never been a death more foretold” (50), it could be argued that the statement would better read: There has never been a death more confused.