Monday, June 12, 2006

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I believe that imagination is the particular faculty artists possess that enables them to create a new reality from the one they live in," writes Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Coming from the Caribbean, though, has made it virtually impossible for Marquez to depart from reality, even with liberal use of his imagination. Marquez claims, " . . . nothing has ever occurred to me, nor have I been able to do anything, that is more awesome than reality itself. The most I've been able to do has been to alter that reality." This seems an awesome claim after reading Chronicle of a Death Foretold, in which some episodes seem completely impossible. That impossible reality, however, is what, according to Marquez, gives Latin American writers the ability to create fantastic stories. The ambiguous Latin American setting of Chronicle of a Death Foretold is what gives Marquez the opportunity to use his imagination to create an altered version of his own magical reality.

The events that transpire in Chronicle of a Death Foretold hinge on the setting. Marquez is purposefully not very specific about the location or identity of the small Latin American town in which Santiago Nasar dies. He reveals that the population is small, which is very important to the plot progression. Marquez would not have been able to create the same story in the middle of a bustling city full of strangers; he needed a small intimate setting that would allow him to twist reality within reasonable bounds. One of the elements of the plot that best exhibits magical realism is the fact that everyone in the town knows Nasar is going to die without Nasar finding out until the last minute. It seems impossible for everyone to know someone is going to die without the future victim having any knowledge of his fate. Marquez has "alter[ed] reality," but made his alterations more plausible by his choice of setting.

First, Marquez presents the town as being very small and intimate. Consisting of many large and intermarried families, the town is filled with friends and family, who would spread news of Nasar's doom relatively quickly. There is also the shop in which the Vicario brothers sit to wait for Nasar. Since the town is small, it is reasonable that many of the town's residents would pass through the same store on their morning's rounds and see the two men. This makes it more plausible that everyone might hear a piece of gossip within a couple hours.

Marquez also chooses to make the residents of the town relatively poor and not disclose the exact era during which the events occur. Through these two choices of setting development, Marquez makes it possible to remove the presence of automobiles, save the one brought in by Bayardo San Romn. This lack of automobiles explains why everyone in the town walks everywhere, and lends further credence to the fact that everyone knew Santiago Nasar was going to die. Marquez's choice of setting has allowed him to create a reality that seems impossible, yet somewhat plausible, all at the same time.

The choice of setting only makes more reasonable a story line that otherwise seems impossible. Marquez may have created a setting in which it is reasonable to believe that an entire town would know a man was going to die soon. Even Marquez, though, cannot offset the mystery as to how Nasar himself could not know his fate. In his essay, Marquez speaks of "Latin America's impossible reality," so in the end perhaps it is enough to know that Chronicle of a Death Foretold is set in Latin America. There is nowhere else that such an impossible reality could be possible.


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