Gender Roles In Chronicle Of A Death Foretold
1950s Colombian society had imposed many different gender roles on the men and women that lived in it, and the characters in the novella “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” fare no different fate. Men were expected to be macho men- to take care of the family and look after its dignity and honour-while women were expected to be meek and submissive in nature- to be the perfect wives, caregivers, and to maintain the household. Marquez explores these roles in his novella through the use of the various characters employed. The Vicario family is used as an example many times to explore the various gender roles imposed on men and women. A prime example of this would be the twins- Pablo and Pedro. The twins were expected to uphold the family honour after Angela was returned for supposedly not being a virgin, and once she named her perpetrator-Santiago Nasar- everyone expected the twins to kill him to bring back honour to the family. Even though the twins had grown up in the same culture, and were raised in the same way, they went about the whole ordeal differently, showing the various thoughts that the community may have had about the whole scenario- Pedro Vicario, “the more forceful of the brothers”, almost refuses to go through with the plan to kill Santiago, and the twins even had their first set of knives taken away by the mayor (which in Pedro’s eyes was enough of a sign that they should not go through with the murder) however, Pablo steps up and convinces his brother to go along with the plan, almost dragging him forward to do it. They even revealed their plan to almost 22 people. However nobody truly stopped them, thus showing how everyone, while of course disproving of murder, expected the twins to bring back honour to the Vicario family. This inner struggle brings up the community’s thoughts as they were divided in their thoughts about the whole ordeal- from one side, they expected the twins to kill Nasar for it was their role as men and brothers, however from the other, they did not think they would (or should) go through with it as they were just boys.
This inner struggle brings up another role imposed on men- machismo. Men were expected to be ‘macho men’- aggressive, violent, ready to defend honour no matter the cost, strong, and of course, sexually aggressive- however, due to this, they were not expected to show ‘soft’ emotions (such as remorse, regret, love), per se, and thus this struggle between the twins and their feelings shows the gender roles of men in that community at that time, and how the men were expected to act despite their own inner struggles and uphold a certain image, otherwise they wouldn’t be accepted.
Despite their inner struggles, upholding their sister’s honour was important, and it was not seen as a ‘murder’ by the twins, for after killing Nasar, they immediately went to church to confess, and believed that they were innocent “before God and before men” as the murder had been a “matter of honour”.The Vicarios are mostly concerned with matters of family reputation, while Pablo’s fiancée and the other members of the community were concerned with being associated with them, which shows that cultural norms came before the emotional welfare of the twins, and Prudencia Cotes (Pablo’s fiancée) even states that she “never would have married him if he hadn’t done what a man should do”, for after all it was their role as men to bring honour to the family. Moreover, the role of machismo in men brings up another role- how men were expected to be dominant (and thus ‘keep women in their place’). An example of this would be Bayardo San Roman- while the book never really delves deep into his character, it is shown that he decides to marry Angela based on her looks (as based on his conversations with various different characters- “remind me to marry her when I wake up” and also how he reveals he had been travelling from town to town, looking for someone to marry). He buys her many gifts, and when the twins go to return the music box he had given her, they return the next day with both the box and him in tow. The Vicario family had been so charmed by him, that they agree to let Angela marry him (and since he was from a rich, or at least ‘known’ family, they were grateful that such a high standing person had ‘chosen’ their daughter), and this brings out the role of dominance expected of men since Bayardo expects Angela herself to be flattered (even though he was “too much of a man” for her), and expects her to marry him based on all these gifts and his money, looks, and societal status. After all, as Pura Vicario states, love can be learnt- and that was exactly what the family was expecting of Angela. This brings out the role of dominance expected by men, as the Vicario family (or anyone in the community, truly) does not think this behaviour to be out of the norm (apart from the fact that such a high standing person would wish to marry someone from a middle class family) and instead almost encourages it to some point- as seen when Pura Vicario states that the girls had been raised to marry- and it brings out the role of men being dominant as Angela was not given any other choice here, and everyone expected her to go with such a great man. Another character who encompasses the role of machismo is none other than Santiago Nasar. While it is never revealed whether Nasar truly is guilty of deflowering Angela, his reputation around town does not help his case- he is known for making sexual passes at young women, including Divina Flor, a daughter of Victoria Guzmán (his servant).
Divina’s name is symbolic for her ‘purity’ (as it translates to ‘Divine Flower’, and she is also Divina is another example of the expectations of society upon women; she is pure and chaste and rejects Santiago Nasar’s aggressive advances), juxtaposing against Santiago Nasar’s aggressive sexuality, and one may even say that Nasar embraces the sexual aggressiveness that was expected to be displayed by the men at that time – and it also demonstrates two different roles of men and women in society: how men were almost expected to use women as objects (thus linking back to the previous role depicted of how men were expected to be dominant and ‘keep women in place’), and how the women were then meant to be submissive in nature, and take it all with a smile and more. The women of the Vicario family also bring out some important gender roles that were depicted in the novella, and an example of this would be Angela Vicario. Her name quite literally translates to ‘angel’- and while many argue that this was against her nature as they say she was the one who sent Santiago Nasar to his- this was a role expected of women- to be angelic in nature, which implies they were meant to be ‘pure’, ‘good wives’, and most of all-virgins. Purity and ‘angel’-like qualities were mostly to do with how well the women had been raised to be good wives and also whether or whether not they were virgins- for after all, that was one of the most important qualities a woman could have at that time, especially if she was not married. This thus brings up another role expected of women- marriage. Women were expected to marry and leave their jobs after getting married (Angela’s mother is a prime example of this- she left her job as a school teacher right after she got married), as in this society, it was a woman’s role to be a caregiver and be the best possible wife. Moreover, marriage was held to such high regard that if a woman was not married (or did not want to get married), something was seen to be ’wrong’ with her- and love was not a factor in marriage as ‘love can be learnt’, as Pura Vicario states. Marriage was a job, and it gave people status- and women were expected to be virgins to show their supposed purity- and the richer you married, the higher up the social hierarchy you went. Women were expected to be virgins and ‘pure’ while men were expected to be experienced which brings up the paradox of how exactly the men were meant to get any experience.
This relationship between sexual expectations of men and women brings up the high regard placed on virginity of women, and it brings out how the community expected women to keep up that purity till marriage, as it was their role to be pure. This ties in with Angela’s name and up-bringing- the community believes her to be pure and a ‘perfect wife’ as she was brought up so, and thus expected no wrong-doings from her, and thus this brings out the role that the (patriarchal) society placed on young women at that time. Virginity was held to such high regard that women knew how to fake it so as to not be seen as ‘used’ or ‘broken’, for if they were returned to their families after marriage, the community would think that something would definitely be wrong with the woman, and thus it would bring dishonour to her family (and also the parents would be blamed for raising their child in the wrong way) [it also brings up the role of women as a man’s property- for after the women got married (and had their virginity ‘taken’), they would then be seen as the property of their husband].
Marquez also uses Pura Vicario (Angela’s mother) to develop the importance of virginity as Pura has a social obligation to ‘look after’ her daughters and make sure that her household follows the rules placed on them by the patriarchy- how they were to be perfect wives. Furthermore, her name translates to “pure”, so Pura’s frustration and anger towards Angela could be based upon the importance of purity (or loss of it, in this case), which brings out the role of women as mothers and the social obligations that they had to raise their daughters to be mothers and wives.
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