The belief and concept of honor in the Columbian culture presented in Chronicle of a death foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is amongst the deciding aspects of the character's beliefs and actions. Any action done taken to preserve one's honor is never questioned. In fact, it is a moral trait that one must cherish. It is a tradition that anyone who looses his/her honor is an outcast to the culture and the society.
All the characters in Chronicle of a death Foretold are influenced by this powerful construction of honor. The Vicario brothers kill Santiago Nasr in order to restore their sister Angela's honor. She dishonors her family by marring Bayardo San Roman when she had already slept with another man. But the Vicario brother's now have to kill Santiago Nasr, the man who supposedly took Angela's virginity, in order for this wrong to be righted. And they think that their killing Santiago Nasr will clear their sister's name. Even though Santiago is an important person in the community, people in the town thought that the honor of the Vicario family was far more important than Santiago's life. This proves how important honor played a role in people's life in those times.
The very fact that death was accepted as a reasonable vengeance for the crime of taking a girl's virginity indicates how terrible it was considered to sleep with an unmarried woman, because then it ruins her chances of her marrying well, and marriage is probably a woman's only way to avoid the world. No one said a word in protest against the Vicario brothers after their act of killing Santiago because they believed that the severity of the crime deserved a vindictive punishment.
In Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the newly wed bride Angela Vicario is returned back to her family when her husband, Bayardo San Roman finds out that she is not a virgin. That fact that she wasn't a virgin was enough to prevent the marriage from continuing further, also brought disgrace to the family and even led to a murder.
When a marriage is going to take place, men feel that their future wives to be virgins. This is probably due to the insecurity complex that men may have. If their brides are not virgin then they will probably compare their husbands to their previous partners, and they might not live up to their expectations. But on the other hand, if the women is a virgin, never been with any man before, the man will be more confident since his wife will not compare him to her other partners. This I think can be a reason why Bayardo returned Angela back to her parents upon realising that she wasn't a virgin. He might have thought that she will compare him to her previous partner and he might not live up to her expectations which will weaken his image in front of her and he surely wouldn't want that. But aside the jealousy and insecurity factor, I think, men also want their wives to be virgins because that somehow it guarantees them that they will remain faithful and loyal to them in future. If a woman has had promiscuous partners before marriage then that proves that she could not wait for her marriage and it somehow comes in the men's mind that those kind of women might not remain faithful to them since they couldn't wait for their marriage. Remaining a virgin assures the husband that he is the only one his wife desires to be with. And this again is probably yet another reason why Bayardo returned Angela back to her parents upon not finding her a virgin.
The importance of honor and virginity is prevalent in the novel; in fact the whole novel is based on these themes. Angela loosed her virginity, and Santiago is killed because he supposedly took her virginity. No evidence was found that Santiago really was the one who took Angela's virginity. But because honor played a very important role during that time, no one questioned the Vicario brother's act. "Honor doesn't wait" (Marquez, pg 62). The Vicario brothers' mother told them that she understood what they were doing and she was them. Now if a mother wouldn't support her daughter, who else will? In this case, even Angela's mother wasn't with her. Also, according to people, honor is more important than a person's life and therefore, without finding any evidence, Santiago was given a punishment that he probably did not deserve.
Loss of virginity seemed like a loss of perfection in a woman. A woman can not have sex before marriage, while men can go around visit brothels like men in Chronicle of a Death Foretold visited the brothel of Cervantes, they can have pre-marital sex, but women cannot do that. They loose everything if they do so. They loose their honor and bring a disgrace to their families. No man wants to marry them because supposedly they loose their perfection, purity, innocence and honor. This is the gender difference which was also prevalent in those times. A woman looses her virginity means that she lost her honor, and if honor is lost then that person's character is portrayed as dishonest, disrespectful and without integrity.
Today, time has changed. A woman not being a virgin at the time of marriage is not considered a disgrace, but rather, it is accepted and is common nowadays. But in the Christian faith as well as some others, men still want their wives to be virgins probably because of the reasons already mentioned. Although, if women are not virgins, it would not lead to murder but still men would prefer their wives to be virgins. Honor and virginity does play a role even today, but it is not that intense as it was previously; like murders won't be committed if a girl is found not to be a virgin.
But Gabriel Marquez in his novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold has portrayed the old Columbian culture, which clearly tells us that pre-marital sex, resulting in loss of a girl's virginity was not accepted at all. They could go to any extent to restore their family's honor and it played such an important role that anything done to restore a person's honor was not questioned at all. If a girl looses her virginity, she looses her honor; she can not get married to a respectful man because men did not want women who weren't virgins as their wives. This meant that loosing their honors meant loosing everything. All this leads to only one conclusion that a woman's virginity and honor was everything that she had, and if she lost that then she was doomed. Her life would become miserable with the taunts of her family and the society. She probably would never be able to live a normal life again and may even have to leave the place where she lived, just like Angela had to leave the place where she live, had to another place and settle down again in completely different world.
- Marquez, Gabriel, 1982, United states, New York, Vintage books.
- "The Importance of Virginity in Chronicle of a Death Foretold."123HelpMe.com. 21 Jan 2010 <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=5307>.
- http://www.oppapers.com/essays/Chronicle-Death-Foretold-Honor/102270, viewed on 22nd January 2010.
- http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/chrondeath/themes.html, viewed on 22nd January 2010.