Whodunnit? A Textual Investigation of the Deflowering of Angela Vicario in Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
Why all the mystery?
Marquez does not reveal the identity of the person who is responsible for Angela’s loss of virginity. However, he does not leave us without evidence. A careful reading of the text can lead us to reasonable conclusions about who did it and why.
Why doesn’t Marquez just tell us who is responsible? This is not a conventional mystery novel: there is no clear revelation at the end to satisfy our curiosity. Marquez demands a higher degree of thought from his readers than that. He causes us to question the reliability of the narrative through the contradictions evident in the various reports. As a result, we begin to piece together the subtext through hints, allusions and logical deduction. We are being compelled to constantly question the agendas of the various narrative voices present. Why are they lying? What are they trying to conceal? How are they trying to represent themselves? What is revealed by their deception? This leads us to question the text itself. Why does Marquez create so many misleading elements? Why all the contradictions? What is hidden by the surface text?
Marquez is explicit in telling us, through the narrator that part of the evidence is missing as he rescues some 322 pages….from the more than 500 that the brief must have contained. (p259). The magistrate, whose job, like the reader’s, it is to decode the chronicle, is a man burning with the fever of literature…with marginal notes…(which) seemed to be written in blood. He is so perplexed by the enigma of the chronicle that he keeps falling into lyrical distractions that ran contrary to the rigor of his profession. (p259) This last element clearly assists us to see the need to be rigorous in our reading of the text and to avoid the distraction of the lyrical.
The character who knows the secret is clearly Angela, so it is to her that we look for evidence in the text. Early in the text, we are encouraged to join with the Vicario brothers and to go in search of their sister’s lost honor. (p230) Later in the text, she would recount (her story) in all its details to anyone who wanted to hear it, except for one item that would never be cleared up: who was the real cause of her damage. (p251) Angela is clearly a fictional embodiment of the text itself. The text also recounts its story in all its details to anyone who wants to hear it except for the one item. Left here, there seems to be no hope of deciphering the conundrum. But the text does not leave us without hope. Because we know that Angela wrote (Bayardo) a feverish letter…in which…she let out the bitter truths that she had carried rotting in her heart ever since that ill-fated night (p255).
The description of these letters (p254) describes them in terms strongly suggesting encoded messages: notes, secret, little messages, furtive, invented, complicity. There is direct allusion to a fraudulent proof of my love and imagined sexual intercourse. (p255) But when Bayardo returns to Angela, he is carrying the letters unopened: but he is carrying the secret in his hands. This is a direct, and consciously fictional, allusion to the secret of the text which the reader carries in their hands: written in letters, directed to the reader, needing to be opened, centred in Angela, the truth delivered in notes, communicated furtively, invented, and imagined. The narrator decalres that for this chronicle I had to be satisfied with a few disconnected notes. (p251)
So let us try to open these letters.
Eliminating the main suspect:
The one character who could not have taken Angela’s
virginity is Santiago Nasar. Apart from the fact that the text tells us
that she looked like a nun (p206),
and that even her sisters’ husbands found it difficult…to break the circle because they went together everywhere (p207),
the text also tells us that Santiago was only known to have a conventional relationship with his fiancee, Flora Miguel, and a sexual one with the prostitute
Cervantes. (p251) His predatory sexual attitude towards Divina Flor is opportunistic as
she is in his home. He calls Angela the booby (p251). The narrator is explicit: no one believed that it had really been
So why accuse him? When her brother demands the name of her lover, she looked for it in the shadows, she found it at first sight among the many, many easily confused names from this world and the other… (p219) There is no suggestion here of giving up a lover: rather of picking a name at random from among many.
So if there were no men available, how did it happen that she was not a virgin on her wedding night?
1. She was predisposed to find hidden intentions in the designs of men. (p207) i.e. She was preoccupied with sexual thoughts in relation to men. Marquez is also signalling the hidden intention in this design of men – i.e. the novel.
2. She didn’t want to marry (Bayardo). (p209)
3. She did not love Bayardo. (p209)
4. She chooses the least obtainable house in town for a home, hoping to place an obstacle in the path of the marriage. (pp209-210)
5. She considered suicide to avoid the marriage. (p212)
6. Discussions with her two confidantes convinces her that the stain of honor on the wedding sheets is all that matters to a husband. (p212)
7. She decides to deceive Bayardo (p212) although not in the way that the text seems to suggest.
8. She has the capacity to fake virginity but refuses to do it. (p249, 252)
9. She later tells the narrator the truth about her misfortune (the wedding night)…in order to cover up the other misfortune, the real one, that was burning in her insides. (p252)
10. She later becomes totally obsessed with explicit sexual fantasies regarding Bayardo. (p255)
We are encouraged to try to give order to the chain of many chance events that had made absurdity possible. (p257) What is the absurdity which is possible? What could be more absurd than for a young woman to fake, not virginity, but loss of virginity in a society where virginity in a woman was highly valued? Who, instead of pretending that her hymen is intact by douching with the astringent alum, and faking the blood of virginity with mercurochrome, to deceive her husband, fakes the prior loss of virginity to deceive him.
Consider the evidence above with this in mind: she knows that if she is not able to display evidence of her virginity, she will be rejected by the husband she does not want. It is a clear way out of the marriage.
Further support is given by her graphically sexual dreams and fantasies 20 years later. Here is a woman, branded as immoral, who has not had the pleasure of a sexual relationship apart from one violent sexual encounter on her wedding night. (p218)
Marquez writes that she became the mistress of her own free will, and she became a virgin again just for him. (p254) Consider the double entendre here: mistress of her own free will. Angela did not lose her virginity as a result of being a man’s mistress, but because she became mistress of her own free will. A mistress, is a woman who is in charge of a situation, or one who has a sexual relationship with a woman who is not her husband. Angela is a mistress also: she puts herself in charge of a situation (her marriage) in which she is apparently powerless, but also has a sexual relationship with her own will by tearing her own hymen so that there will be no blood of virginity on her wedding night.
Finally, she became a virgin again just for him, strongly indicates that she was a virgin the first time and that she has been a virgin just for him (Bayardo).
Re-reading the text with this perspective in mind causes the
rest of it to make sense.