Chronicle of a Death Foretold: Chapter Notes - Chapter 4



·         The reader learns of the autopsy performed on Santiago Nasar by Father Carmen Amador in the absence of Dr. Dionisio Iguarán. The body of Nasar was disfigured by dogs which led to an autopsy being ordered by the mayor immediately.

·         The autopsy ‘was a massacre’ (pg. 75) and ‘it was as if [they] killed him all over again after he was dead’ (pg. 72). The autopsy report was included as a piece of evidence however Dr. Dionisio Iguarán questioned the reliability of the report.

·         After the autopsy he was buried quickly ‘because he was in such bad shape’ (pg. 77).

·         María Alejandrina Cervantes’ love for Nasar is consolidated for the reader when they learn of her mourning.

·         The Vicario brothers were haunted by the memory of Nasar and ‘they couldn’t rest because as soon as they began to fall asleep they would begin to commit the crime all over again’. However, they were convinced that they had nothing to repent.

·         Due to the fear that the townspeople would want revenge, the Vicario family was moved to another town.

·         Bayardo San Román was seen as the victim and was found in a state of intoxication. His mother and sisters came to the house and took him away leaving the townspeople with ‘the memory of a victim’ (pg. 86).

·         Angela Vicario had ‘ended up understanding her own life’ (pg. 90) and ‘had nothing in common with the person who had been obliged to marry without love at the age of twenty’ (pg. 90). Although she related her side of the story to the narrator, she refused to disclose ‘who was the real cause of her damage’ (pg. 90).

·         After seeing Bayardo San Román going out of a hotel Angela ‘went crazy over him’ (pg. 93) and began writing him letters comforted by the thought he was getting them.

·         Bayardo San Román appeared at the doorstep of Angela with the almost 2000 unopened letters she had sent to him.



Motifs and Connotations:


Within this chapter the reader witnesses the damage caused to Santiago Nasar by the knives. The knives represent a violent death which is also backed up by the multiple stab wounds that were inflicted on Nasar. ‘Seven of the several wounds were fatal’ (pg. 75) and both his liver and pancreas were destroyed. In addition, the knives are a symbol of the premeditated death and the ‘ferocity of Santiago Nasar’s fate’ (pg. 78). The knives are also a symbol of a regained honour for Angela Vicario as by bringing about death they brought back her lost honour. Furthermore, the motif of weapons extends to the ‘few instruments for minor surgery’ (pg. 75) as well as the ‘craftsmen’s tools’ (pg. 75) that were used to perform the autopsy. According to the narrator, ‘they gave us back a completely different body’ (pg. 76) as ‘half of the cranium had been destroyed by the trepanation’ (pg. 76). This illustrates how these tools served as a weapon for destroying the identity of Santiago Nasar. It was described as ‘an empty shell’ by the time they were done with it and therefore effectively without an identity. Moreover, there is the presence of Angela Vicario’s small valise that contained ‘the old wives’ artifices she had been instructed in so as to deceive her husband’ (pg.86). In this case the weapon is a symbol of deceit and social expectations. It was this weapon that sparked the death of Nasar. This motif is essential to the development of the plot as it depicts the brutality of the death of Nasar and the loss of identity that it brought with it. In addition, it reflects the deceit and social expectations that sparked the death of Nasar.



The motif of dreams is prominent within this chapter as we learn of the vicious nightmares that the Vicario brothers have. The Vicario brothers had ‘gone three nights without sleep, but they couldn’t rest because as soon as they began to fall asleep they would commit the crime all over again’ (pg. 79). This clearly depicts that the dreams they were having reflected and symbolised their conscience as they were not able to escape the murder they committed. Despite the fact that they were convinced ‘they had nothing to repent’ (pg. 83) Pedro Vicario remained ‘awake for eleven months’ (pg. 80). This reflects a change in the perception of the Vicario brothers as it is evident that they feel some subconscious remorse for the crime they committed.


Social and religious ceremonies/events

Social and religious ceremonies/events are prominent throughout the novel. The body of Santiago Nasar was ‘exposed to public view’ (pg. 73) and there were ‘so many people anxious to view it’ (pg. 73) illustrating that death is a public event and social custom. The autopsy was also a public spectacle with curious onlookers ‘ranged about the schoolhouse windows’ (pg. 76). These illustrate the expectations that society has in particular circumstances.



The presence of the dogs within this chapter increase the uneasiness felt by the narrator and those around him. This is due to the fact that they are ‘aroused by the smell of death’ (pg. 73) and ‘want to eat {Nasar’s] guts’ (pg.74). The dogs could be said to serve as a parallel to society and the Vicario brothers as they too want blood and have to be held off ‘with a beam’ (pg. 73). In addition they reiterate the brutality of the death and after their rampage Nasar began to take on a ‘hostile expression’ (pg. 74).


Letters, writings and documents

Chronicle of a Death Foretold is in itself a document as it recounts the death of Santiago Nasar as well as attempts to piece together the story and the moments leading up to his death. The reliability of this is sometimes questionable due to the lack of fact and abundance of individual interpretation. Within this chapter the autopsy report is seen as a piece of documentation. This autopsy had no legal standing due to the fact that it was not carried out by a doctor or specialist. However, ‘the investigator incorporated it in the brief as a useful piece of evidence’ (pg.75). This gives the investigator’s report an air of unreliability as the autopsy report was also treated as inaccurate by the doctor. These pieces of documentation symbolise fact however, at times their reliability is called into question. Furthermore, there is the presence of the almost 2,000 letters written by Angela to Bayardo San Román. The presence of this motif could be said to symbolise Angela’s change as a person; ‘she became lucid, overbearing, mistress of her own free will, and she became a virgin again just for him, and she ecognized no other authority than her own nor any other service than that of her obsession’ (pg. 94).


Santiago Nasar as a representative of Christ

During the autopsy report it was found that Santiago Nasar ‘had a deep stab in his right hand’ which, according to the report, ‘looked like a stigma of the crucified Christ’ (pg. 76). This motif symbolises how the way in which Christ sacrificed himself for the sins of the people can be compared to the way in which Santiago Nasar effectively sacrificed himself for society and to give Angela Vicario back her honour.




Honour, obligation and social expectation

Within this chapter, the theme of honour, obligation and social expectation is present. In the jail cell, the Vicario brothers were ‘comforted by the honour of having done their duty’ (pg. 79) as well as having restored their sister’s honour by murdering the person that had tainted her. This was expected by society as was the lack of remorse felt by the brothers as they felt ‘they had nothing to repent’ (pg.83). Furthermore, the fact that Angela was dressed in ‘bright red so nobody might think she was mourning her secret lover’ (pg. 83) illustrates the social expectations enforced upon society. This theme illustrates the strict social expectations that society maintains.


Uncertainty, ambiguity and mystery

There is uncertainty, ambiguity and mystery shrouded around Chronicle of a Death Foretold due to the lack of fact and abundance of personal interpretation resulting in many of the documents being called into question. In addition, there remains uncertainty and mystery over who Angela actually lost her virginity to. ‘There was one item would never be cleared up: who was the real cause of her damage and how and why, because no one believed that it had really been Santiago Nasar’ (pg. 90). This uncertainty, ambiguity and mystery allows the reader to have a certain amount of freedom of thought and the ability to put their own views into the story which is already made up of mostly opinions.


Responsibility as a society and an individual

It is simple to say that the responsibility of the death lays solely on the shoulders of the murderers – the Vicario brothers. However, there is a large amount of collective responsibility that could be placed on the whole of society. It was a ‘death for which we all could have been to blame’ (pg. 82) according to the narrator. This motif reflects the way in which the majority of the characters went about their daily lives and did not feel any sole responsibility for the death despite the fact they had a chance to stop it.




Throughout the chapter there are images of death and decay. An example of this is the description of the body; ‘in the afternoon a syrup-coloured liquid began to flow from the wounds, drawing flies, and a purple blotch appeared on his upper lip and spread out very slowly like the shadow of a cloud on water, up to his hairline’ (pg. 74). The shadow illustrates that there is no more life in his body and symbolises the period of mourning.




The fact that there are so many characters that are seen throughout the novel depicts that the truth is dispersed amongst everybody. This makes it clear how difficult it is to discover the truth. It also illustrates the unreliability of the story due to many different perspectives as well as that it is impossible to come up with one view. In addition, it creates a social hierarchy and is realistic as life is a myriad of different people.


Within the chapter the reader feels sympathy for the narrator who is mourning and attempting to make sense of his friend’s death. In addition he demonstrates a need to understand and gather the facts about his friend’s death. However, the fact that he is fraternizing with Nasar’s lover, María Alejandrina Cervantes, evokes a feeling of disloyalty and distrust.


Furthermore, the reader feels a great deal of sympathy towards Bayardo San Román who is seen as the victim throughout the story and is often forgotten about. The reader may also feel a sense of high regard when he shows up at the doorstep of Angela Vicario. In addition the reader may feel a newfound sense of respect towards Angela Vicario as she is able to change and ‘she became lucid, overbearing, mistress of her own free will, and she became a virgin again just for him, and she recognised no other authority than her own nor any other service than that of her obsession’ (pg. 94). However, there may also be a sense of bitterness as it was essentially her who sealed the fate of Santiago Nasar.


Despite the fact that the Vicario brothers were convinced ‘they had nothing to repent’ (pg. 83) and undeniably murdered Santiago Nasar, a feeling of sympathy may be felt towards them as they were effectively obliged to carry out the task due to society’s expectations.




The novel is set in a small town which shows the restricting nature of society. As the settings change within the chapter it illustrates the unfolding of a sequence of events.



Narrative Style/Structure:

The novel is written from the point of view of the narrator who is attempting to construct the story and piece together the last day of his friend’s life however he is met with uncertainty as well as different points of view. The fact that there are many characters within the story each with their own slightly different recollection of the events is a metaphor for reading. It depicts how many different points within a story where there can be different interpretations, views and perspectives. In addition, the people within the story are influenced by knowledge and hindsight, therefore affecting the reliability of the story. Similarly we, the reader, are put in the same positions as we know of the death at the beginning of the novel and therefore attempt to read more into it. Furthermore, the fact that the narrator remains unnamed throughout the story gives him a sense of objectivity and reliability and separates him from the rest of the characters making him seem removed from the story and as if he is watching in from the outside. However, he is in fact more involved than most of the other characters. This style of narration often calls the reliability of the chronicle into question due to the many different perspectives.



Unity of Part to the Whole (Development):

Ultimately chapter 4 is essential to the plot as it reiterates the sense of uncertainty, ambiguity and mystery that the novel is shrouded in as well as demonstrates society’s expectations and the consequences of carrying out what one is obliged to. A sense of death is prominent throughout the chapter. In addition, it builds up tension as to how exactly Santiago Nasar died.