How is morality presented in the novels Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Therese Raquin by Emile Zola?

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Vikesh Harjani


The issue of morality is blatantly presented in the novels Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Therese Raquin by Emile Zola. Marquez’s novel is set in a world where morality is inextricably linked to religion and honour to such an extent that the community’s behaviour and actions are driven by these rather than legal concerns. Zola’s novel explores the effect on individuals of individuals and their resulting unravelling after an immoral deed.

In the name of honour, the murder of Santiago Nasar was committed “before God” (Marquez, G. 2003, p.49; subsequent citations refer to this edition and appear in the text) according to the controversial religious standards of society. Blinded by this religious conscription, the Vicario brothers’ moral beliefs are significantly influenced to accept murder when dealing with a “matter of honour” (p.49). This in effect shocks and surprises the reader as Marquez is able to expose the hypocrisies of the “unforgiving bloodthirstiness” (p.49) that is murder. Through this he subtly reveals his antagonistic view to the reader of such immoral deeds integrated into society. Marquez also addresses the moral ambiguity of the brothers’ actions during their trial; he mocks the law and its concord with religion. Because “the lawyer stood by the thesis of homicide in legitimate defence of honour” (p.48), the brothers are excused of their sins after they “surrender” (p.49) to the priest. This revelation is frowned upon by Marquez as he reveals the irony to the reader of such forgiveness in “reality” (p.49).

In this Latin American society the values and ideals of moral conduct that coincidentally shape the minds of the people are determined by a dominant machismo mentality as demonstrated through the characters of Pablo and Pedro Vicario where the “brothers were brought up to be men” (p.31). By no means did the brothers have to embrace this behaviour but it is because of a bestowment of religion from birth that such moral values are assimilated in them and often used in the novel to justify the brutal murder of Santiago Nasar, “legitimate…honour” (p.48). Marquez also points out that the brothers never showed “any indication of remorse” (p.49) to emphasise that they had no contemplation of questioning this lubricous logic. No moral injustice had been done according to them, “God and…men” (p.49). This lucidly highlights the hypocritical nature of the machismo element in the makeup of men in such a religious social construct. Furthermore the alliteration of “never noticed” (p.49) instils an abrupt ‘n’ sound that creates an ironic tone through the writer’s disagreement with such zealous support for murder. In addition, Marquez interjects the narrative voice in this instance and hints to the reader his personal judgement when claiming “in reality...the Vicario brothers had done nothing right” (p.49). This break in the journalistic tone applied throughout the novel expresses his clarification of dissent with the idea that such a mindset can corrupt true morality and the real depiction of right and wrong when it comes to murder.

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Marquez draws attention to moral misconduct also through the exploration of premarital sex and the different consequences to men compared with women in society. He identifies that a woman’s reputation is dependent on “‘…what [the men] see on the sheet’” (p.38) and he is critical of how this “stain of honour” (p.38) although it was something “all women lost…in childhood” (p.38) would determine the tragic fate of Angela Vicario taking a chastise “beating” (p.46) from her mother. This highly sexist immoral code of conduct as supported by the people of the Columbian society is vividly portrayed to show a lack ...

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