An Analysis of the Journalistic Style in Gabriel Garcia Marquez Novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Gabriel Garcia Marquez is most famous for being a novelist, as he has written popular works such as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. However, Garcia-Marquez also worked as a journalist for many years, and his journalistic skills are on full display in his novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
The novel’s plot focuses on the murder of Santiago Nasar, a resident in a small Latin American town. But unlike most murder stories, this novel reveals many of the important aspects of Santiago’s death and leaves the reader wondering how they happened. Chronicle of a Death Foretold’s journalistic style is evident in the fact-based investigation of Santiago’s death, and it has the effect of creating a realistic story about the details surrounding the murder rather than a mystery story about who was murdered.
Unlike most murder stories, Chronicle of a Death Foretold is written more like a journalistic article than a fictional story. One of the ways this style is implemented is through the use of an objective, factual tone. The narrator rarely includes emotion in the story and mostly relies on facts in order to remain unbiased. This tone gives the impression that the narrator is investigating the murder like a journalist would instead of simply telling the reader the story. For example, the narrator states, “mortally wounded three times, Santiago Nasar turned frontward again and leaned his back against his mother’s door, without the slightest resistance, as if he only wanted to help them finish killing him by his own contribution” (118).
This quote demonstrates the novel’s objective tone by talking about Santiago’s death with no real concern for Santiago and by just accepting his death as an event that happened. The narrator does not condemn the Vicario brothers for murdering Santiago nor express any feelings of sadness toward Santiago’s death. While discussing his night with Santiago before Santiago was murdered, the narrator states, “It was the last time we saw him” (67). The narrator does not appear to show any emotion towards this event or even care about it. He immediately moves onto the next detail. Like a journalist, the narrator’s goal is to investigate the story and report the facts with little opinions or feelings.
Another significant aspect of the novel’s journalistic style comes from the use of characters as witnesses. Instead of simply telling the reader what happens, the narrator pieces the details of the murder together through the stories and observations of the townspeople. This method of storytelling makes the novel that much more interesting because it shows the reader different perspectives of the killing. For example, the reader experiences the murder of Santiago through the murderers themselves, while also learning that Santiago’s mother was on the other side of the door and unknowingly prevented Santiago’s escape. It’s important for news articles to have multiple sources, and this novel has just that.
The narrator reminds the reader that most of his information is coming from other witnesses when he states that “most agreed that the weather was funereal, with a cloudy, low sky and the thick smell of still waters, and that at the moment of the misfortune a thin drizzle was falling like the one Santiago Nasar had seen in his dream grove” (4). This quote is significant because it shows how reliant the narrator is on information from other characters and that most of the information within the novel is reliable. For example, the narrator states, “Pedro Vicario, according to his own declaration, was the one who made the decision to kill Santiago Nasar, and at first his brother only followed along” (60). This quote provides a significant detail about the murderers, and the reader knows that it is true because it comes directly from one of the murderers.
Another way the journalistic style is implemented in the novel is through the five “W’s” of journalism. These include “who, when, where, what, and why.” The narrator reveals who was murdered, where it happened, and the reason why it happened fairly early in the novel. The first line of the story states, “on the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on” (3). With this line, the narrator reveals who is going to be killed, which surprises the reader and also makes him or her want to find out more. Although the narrator reveals several key details of the murder near the beginning, he still leaves the reader wondering how the killing could have happened in broad daylight when almost the entire town knew it was going to happen. Similar to a news article, the novel starts off with a headline that intrigues the reader and persuades them to read more. This information revealed sets up the novel to focus on the details surrounding the murder rather than the mystery. By the end of the novel, almost every question the reader could have had when he or she read the first line has been answered by facts and details concerning the five “W’s”.
Garcia-Marquez’s choice to write Chronicle of a Death Foretold with a journalistic style has several significant effects on the novel, including the creation of an investigative story rather than a mystery drama. A lot of stories with similar narratives to Chronicle of a Death Foretold try to build suspense by tricking the reader into believing false information about the murder, and then attempt to surprise the reader with a plot twisting ending. While this kind of writing style might be entertaining, Chronicle of a Death Foretold instead directly answers most of the reader’s questions in a methodical, analytical way. The reader knows most of the important details surrounding the murder throughout the story, but this knowledge opens up so many more questions that can be answered as the plot develops.
Instead of wondering who is going to murder Santiago, the reader might question why no one is stopping the Vicario brothers, or how Santiago does not reach safety. During the climax of the novel, the story does not focus on the actual murder of Santiago but instead the failure of others to warn him. To keep the reader interested throughout the novel, the narrator provides information about the events surrounding the murder to give the reader a greater understanding as to why it happened. He explains that the Vicario brothers want to murder Santiago because he took the virginity of their sister, and then pieces together the different perspectives of the townspeople as the murder unfolds. The journalistic style of the story allows the reader to understand all aspects of the murder greater than if they were still wondering who the murderers are.
Along with the creation of an investigative story, Chronicle of a Death Foretold’s journalistic style also adds credibility to the narrator. The narrator of the story is actually a character within the novel, so it would be easy to discredit a lot of his information as unreliable or biased. However, the narrator uses other characters as witnesses to strengthen his case and to provide even more details. The reader might have not believed that the town priest performed the autopsy on Santiago, but the priest himself states, “It was as if we killed him all over again after he was dead” (72). Most of the information about the events in the novel comes directly from those involved, which makes the story a lot more realistic and trustworthy.
The narrator also adds a lot of specific details about the people, setting, and events concerning the murder, which adds even more credibility. Referring to Santiago, the narrator states, “In the closet he kept a Mannlicher Schoenauer.30-06 rifle, a.300 Holland and Holland Magnum rifle, a.22 Hornet with a double-powered telescopic sight, and a Winchester repeater” (5). Although this detail is not that significant, it still shows that the narrator has a large amount of knowledge about the case and that most of his information is probably reliable. This amount of detail adds to the increased understanding the reader has of the murder, and it helps the reader to know exactly what happened.
In conclusion, Chronicle of a Death Foretold’s journalistic style is implemented through its objective tone and investigative method of storytelling, and it has the effect of creating a more realistic story focused on the details of the murder rather than the mystery behind it. Although Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a work of literature, it is written more like a journalistic article. Therefore, the novel is more of an explanation of what happened rather than a story of what happened. This allows the reader to clearly understand the events of the plot and the motivations for characters’ actions. Each detail of the plot is thoroughly explained and the lack of emotion prevents bias. Overall, Chronicle of a Death Foretold’s journalistic style separates it from other mystery stories and makes it a lot more interesting and easier to comprehend.
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