Gabriel Garcia Marquez is known for revealing aspects of Latin American culture during the 1980’s- aspects that still predominate today’s society. Specifically in his novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Marquez takes a journalistic approach to the investigative and the psychological component of the twenty-seven-year-old murder of Santiago Nasar in a typical Colombian town. Throughout this approach, Marquez intends to limit the influence of emotion, yet tension is inevitable after the spiritual division of the two characters, Angela Vicario and Bayardo San Roman.
As the separation was instigated by Bayardo San Roman, the act brings to light his persona while reflecting on the persona of many Latin American men. Most importantly, Marquez manipulates the character of Bayardo San Roman to highlight the disparity of the social norms in Latin America through character development and symbolism. With “the waist of a novice bullfighter, golden eyes, and skin [… roasted by saltpeter”, Bayardo is the ideal man, a hero, fitting perfectly well in the defined Latin American social norms, which expect male figures to be superior and protective of females (Marquez 25). Yet there are aspects unknown of this ideal male figure, that question the foundational idea of perfection behind the Latin American male figure. Marquez through the development of the character of Bayardo San Roman reflects on humanity’s ultimate illusion – the possibility of being free from all flaws or defects.
In order to emphasize this perfection, Marquez begins by detailing the actions of the character of Bayardo San Roman. For example, into this theme of perfection, Marquez integrates a spice of romanticism as he details the moment where Bayardo wins Angela a mother-of-pearl music box at a charity bazaar by buying all of the raffle tickets. This action not only wins over Angela’s family but the town as well. Beyond the idea of perfection, Marquez is able to accomplish the introduction of Bayardo’s character as an international “Romeo”.
This characteristic is exemplified by Bayardo’s response to pay “ten bundles of thousand-peso notes” to Xius because Angela had stated that she adored that house (Marquez 36). To further define the idea of perfection Marquez integrates the idea of a good family behind a perfect man in the scene where the Vicario’s meet the San Roman’s. “Bayardo San Roman put an end to all those conjectures by a simple recourse: he produced his entire family”(Marquez 19).
All arrived in a “model T Ford with official plates, whose duck-quack horn aroused the streets at eleven o’clock in the morning”(Marquez 20). This scene denotes what the Latin American ideal should have resources and comes from a good family. This, in the end, represents the distinctions between upper and lower classes, male power versus female power, as many of the women in the town fall to his feet. Overall, Marquez manipulates Bayardo’s actions as a character to explore the perfection expected by social norms.
The narrator embodies the town and society’s expectation and desire of perfection as he focuses on the statistical particulars that build up as a character, as to denote that perfection is the ultimate goal of humanity. In fact, the infatuation of the town toward Bayardo and his perfection reveals that society creates the rules; yet society according to Marquez as he details through first person narration is a mental concept that limits individuality.
Although as a character, he appears like the perfect Latin American man, he actually hides another form. Behind those “golden eyes” of Bayardo San Roman and his known reputation for being an”. honest [man with] a good heart”, the power and wealth continue to exist behind this one character(Marquez 25,27). Color such as gold intends to highlight his perfection and power, according to the norms and omit the fact that the ideal Latin American man was deceived. To disprove Bayardo’s perfection, Marquez integrates opposing views into the story plot. The ovement to the reality of imperfection is guided by the narrator’s steady tone and method of progressively disclosing more information, leads us to think that the truth is about to be revealed. Progressively this revelation begins with Magdalena Oliver, who regards Bayardo as “the devil [… ] with a hidden tension that was concealed by his good manners” (Marquez 26).
While Bayardo’s landlady’s point of view goes further in questioning his reputation, when she recalls that he asked repeatedly “who the young one was… [and] to remind him to marry her”. Bayardo San Roman, for his part, must have [desired to get] married with the illusion of buying happiness with the huge weight of his power and fortune”(Marquez 28-29). These two opposing views initiate a series of doubts in this idea of perfection; for example, why did Bayardo who had traveled to many other places choose Angela, even though he had not met her yet. To reiterate his imperfection, Marquez enforces a time shift in the novel, which meant a physical change to the man who once had before “the waist of a novice bullfighter” to a man who was now old, fat and balding (Marquez 27).
As he stood, there a secluded man in the doorway equipped with two suitcases, one filled with clothing “in order to stay,” and another with almost two thousand letters that Angela had written to him, all unopened (Marquez 95). This momentous return captures the incredible sense of grief and love that follows a betrayal: Bayardo can’t bring himself to read the letters, yet he returns, bringing Angela’s life back with him. Overall, this detail serves to highlight the dependence of women on men and add illusory completeness to the narrative.
As Bayardo’s image slowly begins to crumble, with each narrated scene, he stops from becoming this hero, which everyone admired and begins to embody qualities of a victim. Bayardo San Roman is first seen as a victim of deceit, as he married Angela under the pretext that she was a virgin. Although many may think that Angela’s virginity or lack thereof shouldn’t concern him, Bayardo, as a product of his culture, cannot help but return her. It had become a matter of maintaining pride, honor, and respect in this singular male figure.
Marquez also manipulates this scene to emphasize the beginning of what came to be known throughout the novel, as machismo, which reiterated the male dominance in Latin American society. Although many had thought “Bayardo San Roman [was perfect]… underneath his worldly airs he was as subject to anyone else to his native prejudices”. Yet ultimately the concept of honor shapes the actions of everyone in the Colombian town where the murder occurs, whose victims are not only Bayardo San Roman.
Yet the town and its actions before the murder, is responsible for the established social norms, and the following of these norms of male dominance and superiority is responsible for the chaos. Marquez to further embellish the confusion between reality, fiction, and form, uses names in the novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold. For example, through the use of names Marquez intends to focus and emphasize each character’s role in the murder like that of Bayardo San Roman; “the man who had given back his bride, had turned up for the first time in August of the year before six months before the wedding” (Marquez 15).
Overall, the use of names helps spread the guilt throughout the novel to every character, including to the perfect Latin American male character Bayardo San Roman; as he is responsible for returning the bride, without explanation, which eventually set vengeance in motion. All in all the use of names serves to reiterate that the combination of the machismo culture, the emphasis on honor and the passive attitudes of the people who have grown up in this environment are responsible for the murder and the chaos in the Colombian town.
Although the novel depends on what is untold it leads a spiral search by using the murder as a narrative mechanism, that facilitates the search for satisfying explanations of why events occur as they do. Bayardo’s actions in the novel can be explained by his adjustment to the patriarchal expectations of society. His adjustment as seen developed chaos and a counterfeit life, filled with emptiness and a loss of love, mirrored by his tragic return permeated with regret. His life in the novel serves to highlight the effects of the disparity in the social norms and the social classes of the Latin American culture.