Realist fiction is a very different sort of literary genre than others related to it. Realist fiction attempts to create a world in which the fantastic nature of characters and events are intertwined into the daily life of the story’s key elements and offers a realistic and surreal-like impression of the world that the author creates. This is a sample essay provided by the custom writing services at Ultius, goes into depth regarding the literary conventions used by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novella, Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
Realist fiction in literature
As a magical realist author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a master of creating subtly fantastic universes with such believable characters that a reader often finds it difficult to remove the story from the real world. It is entirely possible that somewhere the Vicario twins of Chronicle of a Death Foretold are even now stalking some poor fool simply because their sister said he had done wrong. Just walking down a crowded street it might be possible to spot the majority of the story’s characters, going about their lives and silently wondering if Santiago has been killed yet and if he actually deserved it.
Gender roles in a realistic setting
Such an acute connection to reality makes a story like this the perfect platform to observe and analyze a generality like gender roles. The role of women in Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold is complicated and nuanced. It could certainly not be said that they are underrepresented or ignored, but they are also clearly submissive to the men. Angela Vicario is no exception to this, except for the one thing she does that precipitates the entire plot of the story. While she is weak even by the standards of other women, she can ultimately be seen as the most powerful of all the female characters, both in terms of self-empowerment and as a cause of action in the story.
Portrayal of women in realist fiction
When discussing the women in the novella, it has to be acknowledged that there are all kinds. There are servants like Victoria and her daughter, independent working women like Angela eventually, and even business owners like Clothilde. But the most important label for all women is familial. Everyone is someone’s mother or daughter or wife or sister; whenever possible they are one or more of those things in terms of a male character. This method of identification is so thorough and seamless that a reader might find it natural by the time the story is in full swing and never once consider what that means in terms of personal identity.
Subtle misogyny of Marquez’s female characters
If every woman is referred to in terms of her closest male relationship, then she is placed below him on the social ladder, at least from an outside perspective, and a woman’s rights aren’t apparent. A sympathetic reader might begin to feel like part of the fictional community to make this vaguely misogynistic habit feel more good-natured while a reader comfortable with male dominance might feel a comradely connection to the narrator. The smooth usage makes Marquez’s male-centric labeling system almost invisible, but a reader with an eye for gender roles would notice it immediately and probably find it aesthetically unpleasing. The labeling of women in terms of men does not appear to be malicious, though. As often as the narrator identifies female characters in terms of other male characters, he also refers to women with respect and consideration.
Santiago’s Mother – His own mother and sister are frequently cited as credible sources of information, sometimes information that would have otherwise been difficult or impossible to get. The story begins with an account of Santiago and his death from Santiago’s mother (3-4). This immediately places a woman in a position of authority to the reader since even the narrator is relying on her for insight. Within the first few pages it is clear that the subjugation of women to men, even in terms of identification, is a condition of the world Marquez is writing, not his own views as a writer.
Victoria – Most women have middling power and are in very stable positions. Even a servant like Victoria, literally subjugated to Santiago, has power over the man thanks to her protective instincts and world-weary grittiness. Her power is proved when she deliberately unsettles Santiago just to punish him for being a generally unpleasant person. He might be her boss, but he is not free to use or abuse her. But, as with all other women, her power in that way is limited. She knows she can’t ultimately stop Santiago from having his way with her daughter (6). This kind of darkness is a big part of what makes Marquez’s world so believable. Even a moment of triumph, ruining Santiago’s breakfast, does not mean that there aren’t bleaker days ahead, like him taking advantage of young Divina.
Clothilde – The milk store proprietor Clothilde is an even purer example of the general weakness of women in this setting. When the time comes for the Vicario twins to wake up and kill Santiago she is standing there watching it unfold. She sees it happening and wants to stop it but the only power she has to dissuade the twins—even though at that point they are only following through out of obligation to the town’s expectations—is to invoke the name of the passing bishop (10). So from a writer’s perspective, this serves as another example of the ingenuity and wisdom of some of the female characters, but within the story itself it is just another case of a woman needing the force of a man’s identity, even if the communication is non-verbal, to achieve her ends.
Bayardo’s Mother – When Bayardo’s family comes to town the narrator introduces the most socially powerful woman in the story, Bayardo’s mother. She is described as
“in her youth had been proclaimed the most beautiful of the two hundred most beautiful women in the Antilles” (19).
But still this is her only remarkable quality, and it is one of the past. Though she has high station as the wife of Bayardo’s father, a man of great power and importance, she is still only his wife and that is all she achieves in the story’s present time.
Angela as a realist heroine
Angela exists in a much lower social bracket. As the youngest daughter in a poor family, she has little material value to anyone and absolutely no influence upon the social hierarchy as an individual (18). It is possible that, if she had not lost her virginity prior to catching a powerful man’s eye, she would have never done a single remarkable thing in her life. She is physically very attractive, which is what catches Bayardo’s eye, and that is perhaps the only thing that catches his eye. It is clear that he is more interested in acquiring her than he is in winning her heart, as he spends almost all his time courting her family rather than her (20). At this point, Angela is quite possibly the least powerful of all characters in this story and she is poised to become a nobody if everything goes according to plan.
Angela’s Power in Society
It is only the way that she is overtly devalued that Angela ultimately gains all her power. By being flawed and incomplete, as a bride, she lost her chance for a typical life (19). From that moment, she began withering because youth never lasts and she had no chance to gain social or political prestige as a single woman, rejected for lacking her virginity. The first and last time she exerts any power as a typical member of society is when she names Santiago as the one who deflowered her. Even though the narrator raises doubt about this, by way of his sister’s insight into the situation, Angela’s word is all it takes to doom Santiago (19). For the time it takes her brothers to find and murder Santiago, Angela has more power than anyone else in the story because no one else has the power to cause or to stop a man’s death in the sleepy setting.
Joined at last
Like her beauty, Angela’s power over Santiago’s life is fleeting. She lives a life of solitude, pining for Bayardo and working as a seamstress, but she ultimately is proven a true heroine. After seventeen years he returns for her, won over solely by her persistence. She was no longer a prize to be won and he was no longer in a position to simply claim her as his own. Even though they wasted so many years, she was responsible for claiming the victory in the end. For this reason, she is the most powerful female character in the story and the only one to make a man bend to her will on her terms.
Overall, the female characters in Marquez’s story are subordinate to the men, but absolutely essential to the society. The novella itself centers mostly around men and women and the relationships they share. While all action is taken by men or in the name of men, the women are in no way disregarded. Though most women are referred to as someone’s mother or sister, making their identity contingent on men, those women are also respected for their knowledge and wisdom as mothers and sisters and ultimately keepers of secrets and traffickers of information. The narrator’s reliance on his own mother and sister suggests that even if men are the center of society, very little would get done without women to keep the men informed. When Angela abuses that power of knowledge it is clear how unquestioningly the men take her word, illustrating how subtly powerful the women can be. The truest power ia revealed when Angela is accidentally removed from the traditional power structure. What seems at first like a ruined life, ultimately leads to her winning a man’s heart through force of will and getting him to come to her out of devotion. Angela is powerful because she has a vibrant heart and is rewarded for her determination while everyone else remains part of the system.
Márquez, Gabriel Garcia. Chronicle of a death foretold. New York: Knopf :, 1983. Print.