Barbarity vs. Civility

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Barbarity versus Civility

In the scheme of life, civility can be learned through a number of factors, including certain upbringing taught at home, school, and influences from society. But these factors also work the same in dictating barbarity within people. In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez uses literary elements and techniques to convey the theme that even the most civilized people resort to senseless, barbaric acts.

The usage of animal imagery in the novel describes the extent of how barbaric the people in a small town in Colombia can be. Victoria Guzman is the cook for the Nasar family. Victoria displays disdain toward Santiago Nasar. On the morning Santiago was murdered, Victoria was “disemboweling” a rabbit in the kitchen “…she remembered Santiago Nasar’s horror when she pulled out the insides of a rabbit by the roots and threw the steaming guts to the dogs.” Marquez uses foreshadowing to portray the nature of Santiago’s death to the reader. The effect of foreshadowing gives the reader a sense of symbolism using the words “rabbit” and “dogs”. The rabbit represents Santiago Nasar because he was wearing white linen the morning of his death and the dogs represent the Vicario brothers because of the barbaric, unmerciful nature of Santiago’s death. This can be inferred from the way Victoria is gutting this rabbit. The words “roots” and “steaming guts” point to the negative, barbaric event in this seemingly wealthy, civilized household.

Before the Vicario brothers killed Santiago Nasar, they went to Faustino Santos’s meat market to sharpen their knives; then they waited and spoke with the butcher. The butcher claimed that one of the Vicario brothers said “When you sacrifice a steer you don’t dare look into its eyes.” The Vicario brothers established a good reputation for themselves in the town as good hearted people, but this quote shows how heartless they could really be. Marquez conveys the idea that a “steer” is sacrificed to satisfy the needs and hunger of their family. This is significant because it is in direct relation to the Vicario brothers justification of Santiago Nasar’s death. The Vicario brothers had to kill him because they felt they had an obligation to uphold the family name and retrieve her sister’s honor. They felt as if he had to die simply so his family could survive, similar to when a steer is sacrificed. Their drive to survive was so profound that they would go to extreme lengths to achieve what had to be done.

Barbarity can often blind ones ability to think critically and reason. No matter how much reputation may serve to preserve ones civility, there is always room for barbarity. Before the murder, when the Vicario brothers were waiting at Clotilde Armenta’s milk shop to kill Santiago, Pedro Vicario was deliberating whether or not Santiago was armed with a gun; “…he’d foreseen the possibility that he might be armed when he made the decision to wipe his sister’s honor clean…Dead men can’t shoot…” In the midst of the Vicario’s reckless decision, Pedro is thinking of the possible consequences he may face, including the possibility that Santiago may be armed. Pedro disregards these consequences due to the desire to reclaim their sister’s honor. This is significant because Pedro speaks in the past tense as if Santiago’s death is inevitable; in addition, it conveys how barbarity can force one to make reckless decisions.

When it was Santiago’s time to meet his fate, the Vicario brothers ambushed him and cornered him at the front door of his mother’s house. Then Pedro Vicario then began to stab him, “The strange thing is that the knife kept coming out clean…I’d give it to him at least three times and there wasn’t a drop of blood.” The fact that the knife kept coming out clean, demonstrates magical realism. Marquez uses magical realism to portray just how unbelievable and exaggerative this situation is. Pedro notices that the knife came out clean the first time he...
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