Sunday, December 18, 2005

We Are All Complicit

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez is an excellent sociological study of a small community. The book is a novel but reads like a journalistic account. This is not a surprise thanks to Sylvia's research. The story is about the death of Santiago Nasar, a respected, if not always well liked, young man and land owner. After the wedding party to beat all wedding parties of Angela Vicario to outsider Bayardo San Román, Angela's new husband discovers she is not a virgin and returns her to her family. Angela's brothers demand to know who deflowered her so they could avenge her honor. Angela names the unfortunate Santiago Nasar. Pedro and Pablo Vicario sharpen their pig slaughtering knives, fortify themselves with much alcohol, and wait for Nasar. The brothers are not quiet about their intent, the entire town ends up knowing about it but no one does anything to stop them and no one tells Nasar. The style of the story is spare and the tone calm, but yet this is deceiving. Different viewpoints and opinions of the townspeople are woven together, adding layer upon layer of information, building tension. I found myself yelling at the characters, "Do something!" But their refusal to stop the Vicario brothers or warn Nasar, make Nasar's death inevitable. But it is clear it didn't have to be inevitable. Because of the rules of honor, the Vicario brothers were compelled to avenge their sister. They told everyone they met, hoping that just showing they were willing to kill Nasar would be enough. They even told a good friend of Nasar's, but even that did not work:

The twins knew the bonds between Indalecio Pardo and Santiago Nasar, and they must have thought that he was just the right person to stop the crime without bringing shame on them. But Indalecio found Santiago being led by the arm by Cristo Bedoya among the groups that were leaving the docks, and he didn't dare warn him. "I lost my nerve," he told me.
The townspeople all had their reasons for not doing anything. Quite a few believed the Vicario brothers were just drunk. Others, like Indalecio, lost their nerve. Some, like one of the servants in Nasar's own house, wanted Nasar dead. And still others just didn't want to get involved because it wasn't their business. And yet, when it was obvious the Vicario brothers were about to commit murder, no one stepped in:
The people who were coming back from the docks, alerted by the shouts, began to take up positions around the square to witness the crime.
There were a few of Nasar's friends who tried to stop the crime, but through bad luck and the sheer momentum of the town's complicity, they could do nothing. It left me wondering how many crimes are committed in life because of the reluctance of others to stop them before they go too far? In the end, as García Márquez shows, we are all complicit in one way or another. I read this book as a Slave of Golconda. Some of the other Slaves are: Quillhill (the instigator of the Slaves), Susan, Sylvia, Ella, Kate, Iliana, and Maryann. I think I got them all. If I forgot you, I'm terribly sorry and please let me know. I'll be cross posting this at MetaxuCafe.