Tension and suspense in the novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Marquez subtly transforms a historical murder into a crime thriller in his novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold. The very first line of the novel informs the reader about the murder, which prompts the reader to discover how and why the protagonist, Santiago Nasar will be murdered. Marquez appraises the foretold death but leaves it to the reader to explore a number of factors responsible for the death such as honour codes, the orthodox society or the laxity of the people that culminated into the death of the protagonist. Marquez weaves the story of Santiago’s murder with the gossamer of tension and suspense. His web successfully traps the reader as no one is ready to take the responsibility of the murder which had even been foretold.
The greatest tension Marquez builds in this novel is by removing the element of suspense itself from the novel and thrusting the plot in a vein similar to a Greek tragedy. Marquez’s line, “On the day they were going to kill him”(Marquez 1) is able to draw a parallel between his work and the Greek tragedies where the audience was lured by the theatre despite knowing the sum and substance of the tragic plot. Marquez uses the tool of magic realism to make his story “Part morality tale, part fairy tale”, in addition to Greek tragedy. The element of prophetic dreams perplexes the reader as he instinctively tries to explore if the dreams have any mortal innuendoes. The reader knows everything essential to the plot from the opening page, yet he is intrigued by the novel until the final paragraph, wherein the murder is described. In addition, it is not strange that by the time Marquez elucidates it, the reader is already grappling with a number of key themes such as revenge, honour, racism and religion, confused as to what it was that accentuated the murder.
Marquez orchestrates the story through an unnamed third person narrator who can only bring forth the information he gleans through his investigation although he is a next kin to the deceased. The reader feels baffled, as even the journalistic style cannot kindle the past that transpired twenty-seven years ago, in this particular rigid Latin American society. Marquez’s style is unique in that although the narrator tells the story in the first person, yet he also relates everything everyone is thinking. As in his other novels Marquez explores the theme of amnesia, thereby obscuring the evidence and testimony for the murder that took place so long ago. Most of the people who witnessed the gory spectacle are either dead or are suffering from obliviousness. It is strange that the policeman, Leandro Pornoy, shows no interest in the activities of the two drunken brothers. The Colonel, Lazaro Aponte, says “No one is arrested just on suspicion,”(Marquez 57) although he himself confiscated the knives from the Vicario brothers. Apart from the strange characters, the title of the novel is itself an oxymoron for the reader, as death can never be foretold. Ironically in the words of the translator, Gregory Rabassa, “The title is quite fitting, therefore, in that the death in question has been announced and is foretold, and through it Marquez has managed to keep the shock and horror of surprise.”