‘I returned to this forgotten village, trying to put the broken mirror of memory back together from so many scattered shards’, summarizes the narrator’s entire expedition to Sucre trying to unravel an unsolved mystery of the murder of Santiago Nasar. This essay will explore how memories serve as a tool in ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’. Memories seem to be the only source of information for the narrator and are frequently used by Marquez to bring to the reader the plot, albeit in a non-sequential order.
Memories not only help in determining a character’s perception of events but also create ambiguity. Marquez showcases some memories as contradicting and the others as vaguely similar to what actually happens in the lives of the characters twenty-seven years back. The writer creates a relation between the reader and narrator with the help of first-person narrative; this engages the reader more as he leaves them to decide whose memory should be trusted.
One of many words that can be associated with this story is ‘enigma’, as a result of Marquez’s non-linear narrative. Although the story begins with the revelation of specific memories of the murder such as the time, setting and the victim, the suspense lies in the context – why the Vicario brothers kill Nasar. Marquez uses stereotypical techniques that accompany a mystery – revealing conflicting memories of different characters at once: “It wasn’t raining”, Pablo Vicario remembered. “Just the opposite,” Pedro recalled  . While Victoria Guzman was sure that it had not rained the entire month of February, some others claimed that the weather was “funereal”  and a “thin drizzle”  was falling. Thus, one cannot effectively visualize the setting of the day Nasar is murdered; these contradicting reminiscences of weather are perhaps intended to create uncertainty. The uncertainty in the recollections of weather not only forebode Santiago Nasar’s death, but also help the writer in using it as a tool to forebode other impending uncertainties, which are a result of ambiguous memories. This helps the writer in weaving an atmosphere of suspense.
The memories of characters effectively bring out the dynamics of relationships in the plot. That the Columbian culture emphasized on strong filial bonds is clearly discerned in Placida Linero’s memory of her son: “The last image his mother had of him was that of his fleeting passage through the bedroomâ€¦ as she would remember him forever”  . Her memories reveal the strong tie between Santiago and herself, years after her son’s death. Marquez also presents the flipside of filial bonds through Angela’s recollection of her relationship with her mother. Angela only recollects the harsh incidents and the severity with which her mother dealt with her when she was returned by Bayardo San Roman for losing her virginity before marriage: “The only thing I can remember is that she was holding me by the hair with one hand and beating me with the other with such rage that I thought she was going to kill me”  . Purisima del Carmen’s vigilant disposition, made Angela subservient to her. This reflects on Angela’s upbringing, a certain lack of trust, thereby, the dynamics of their relationship.
Santiago Nasar’s character is established through the varied memories of him.
The memories of minor characters also add to the multiple perspectives of Nasar and his murder. Flora Miguel said ” Here you are â€¦And I hope they kill you!”  . But on the other hand Luisa Santiaga and Yamil Shaium try stopping the murder to save Nasar. With this in mind, he can also be claimed the protagonist of this chronicle, as all memories, either good or bad, are centered around him.
The memories of individuals serve different purposes, than when used collectively to discover the truth. Separately, memories add a different angle to the recollection, by including each character’s thoughts and feelings. ‘There has never been a death more foretold’  , the narrator remarks during his journey. It can also be inferred that the characters themselves did not remember the event chronologically but rather in bits and pieces.
This also refers to the title, as per definition of a chronicle; it is not sequenced chronologically
Jointly, memories help the writer to gather all the recollections to narrate an event that takes the reader back in time, to describe events during the wedding: ‘I had a very confused memory of the festival before I decided to rescue it piece by piece from the memory of others’  . Using memory as a motif, the writer also creates literary tension as he tries fitting all these pieces of memory together to present a sensible picture.
Memories bring to life the rationale represented by Columbian culture in the eighteenth century. The writer’s use of memories draws a parallel between the social conventions of that period and those twenty-seven years later. Pablo’s wife claimed: “I never would have married him if he hadn’t done what a man should do”  . The importance of family honor and machismo and the correlation between the two remains the same after twenty seven years. Memories therefore play mediator through different time periods by presenting the unchanged social constructs and norms.
Using memories, the writer presents elements of magical realism through such instances as the dissection of Santiago Nasar’s body (“It was as if we killed him all over again after he was dead”  ) and the recollection of the priest (“the dogs, aroused by the smell of death”  ). These instances add to the uncertainty and create anticipation, as the suspense is revealed slowly.
Later in the text, even with the description of Nasar’s body being cut open and stitched back together, the effect of using magical realism here is to show how Nasar’s reputation was questioned and how is identity was erased, after his murder.
Memories are also used as a cathartic tool to purge the guilt associated with Santiago Nasar’s murder. The entire community is to blame for it and their memories either come across as excuses or remorse for not informing Santiago that he was in danger. “(The) twins declared at the end of the trial that they would have done it again a thousand times over for the same reason”  . This conveys how the brothers attempt to purge themselves of the guilt related with the murder, by convincing themselves more than the narrator or the reader that they are guiltless. “We killed him openly,” Pedro Vicario said, “but we’re innocent.”  They repeatedly try to justify their act, to escape the guilt and remorse associated with killing a man, whose culpability they are, perhaps, uncertain about.
Marquez’s portrayal of a mystery catches the attention of the readers instantly. The use of memories is prevalent in different forms and consistent through the entire mystery. Although the investigation has been carried out after so many years, it still gives rise to a few significant questions about. Thus, the reader may question the accuracy of these memories and whether they can actually be of any help in understanding the reasons for death of Santiago Nasar. The answer to this question could probably be traced through the authenticity or reliability of these memories, and the reconstruction of these broken pieces, that Marquez puts together for the reader, as a complete chronicle.