“Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” by Gabriel Marquez, comments on gender roles through ironic religious expectation and degrading implications on female value in society. Set in the 1950’s in a Colombian costal town, there was strict belief that women were to remain pure, domestic figures for prospective husbands. Men, however, maintain power with wealth to receive respect from the townspeople and were not shamed for promiscuity or breaching Catholic principle.
The parameters of cultural expectations create confines on power among the characters, specifically between sexes. The relationship between gender and power throughout the work makes it evident that compliance with cultural expectation determines the amount of power a man or woman holds. Both sexes are confined by these conceived gender expectations; without being agreeable to them, their societal standing is devalued and therefore honor cannot be preserved.
When female characters in the book are submissive to societal expectation, including serving as a caretaker in the household, acting as the lesser being of a couple in marriage, and upholding a pristine reputation according to Catholic principle, then power is gained to make decisions for the family, and potentially in business. In discussing the events of the night preceding the murder of Santiago Nasar, the milk shop that Clotilde Armenta and her husband, Don Rogelio de la Flor, own together is referred to as “Clotilde Armenta’s establishment, ” and earlier as “Clotilde Armenta’s store” (45, 15).
Although a seemingly minute detail, the reference to her ownership alludes to Clotilde’s power as a business-person, which incorporates wealth and respect from the townspeople. Clotilde is aware that Pedro and Pablo Vicario were going to kill Santiago as they had waited in the shop for three hours, watching for Santiago to cross the town square. Clotilde requested of the killers, “leave him for later, if only out of respect for His grace the Bishop” (16).
Her attention to maintaining reverence towards Catholicism influenced the Vicario twins who “reflected, and the one who had stood up sat down again” (16). Despite the usual tendency for men to ignore and invalidate demands from women, the brothers recognized that the effort was out of obedience to Catholic principle. Following Colonel Lazaro Aponte’s confiscation of the brothers’ knives, after numerous reports of the suspected murder, Clotilde recognizes “it’s to spare those poor boys from the horrible duty that’s fallen on them” (57).
Clotilde accepts that the killing must take place to preserve honor, which is one of the great ironies of the text. Religion is glorified and compulsory, yet neglect of Catholic principle to preserve pride and honor foregoes accordance to sanctification. Clotilde “even sent word to Father Amador through the novice on dry, who came to buy milk for the nuns” (58). Her failed attempt to utilize a religious figure to stop the murder from taking place satirizes the moral values of those who claim to be devoted Catholics.
Despite Clotilde’s endeavors in halting the killing, she is confined by gender-expectations which delineate that she should not question the preservation of honor in men. She complies with her gender role and dedicates diligence to religion, however her claims are not heard. Don Rogelio de la Flor disregards his wife’s allegations that the Vicario brothers were planning to kill Santiago. “Don’t be silly, those two aren’t about to kill anybody, much less someone rich” (55). Don is confined by the power struggle among men in the town.
Santiago is highly valued by virtue of his wealth, as is Bayardo San Roman. Don’s involvement in stopping the killing from taking place, let alone believing his wife’s accusations regarding the killing, is restricted by his societal standing. He acknowledges that the brothers will not kill a highly valued man in the town because of his wealth. Wealth, which upsurges societal value, correlates to a man holding power. Don holds less of this power, so he then lends his razor to Pablo Vicario for shaving and acts courteous and unsuspectingly of the brothers.
His inattention to his wife’s insightfulness due to her gender role as a lesser valued being, particularly in their marriage, leads him to get up “for the last time to see how they had hewn Santiago Nasar to bits against the locked door of his own house, and he didn’t survive the shock” (97). The consequence of his ignorance towards his wife in attempt to maintain power over her costs him his life. Although discrete, the work comments on the confines of both sexes.
When women are submissive to societal expectations of their role as caretakers, and are objectified as prizes to men seeing as they maintain a pristine reputation, they gain power in the home and workplace, as seen in the situation of Clotilde Armenta. However, men are confined by the power struggle between males in the town, yet are not shamed for promiscuity or negligence of Catholic principle. Both genders are confined by cultural expectation in differing ways, however the impulse of men to preserve their honor and pride has consequences including murdering another man, and losing their own life as well.