Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Chronicle of a Death Foretold Summary and Analysis of Chapter 2


The second chapter begins with a description of Bayardo San Roman, the groom from the wedding. He is largely a mystery: an extremely wealthy man from a distinguished military family who arrived in town for the first time only sixth months before his wedding. At thirty years old, Bayardo had "the waist of a novice bullfighter, gold eyes, and a skin slowly roasted by saltpeter"; he is accomplished and well liked. Only the narrator's mother, Luisa Santiaga, admits to forebodings about him, but she does so years after the wedding.

Bayardo's ostensible reason for coming to town is simple; he says, "I've been going from town to town looking for someone to marry." When he first sees Angela he calmly realizes that he is going to marry her. He wins her a mother-of-pearl music box at a charity bazaar by buying all of the raffle tickets. She rejects his offer initially, considering him conceited, but Bayardo is a charmer (and much wealthier than the Vicarios) so it doesn't take him long to convince the Vicarios to give him their daughter; they had "scant resources." Pura Vicario, Angela's mother, insists that Bayardo "identify himself properly" before the wedding and so he produces his whole family, makes it known that he is the son of General Petronio San Roman, the "hero of the civil wars of the past century," and presents his beautiful mother and two "provocative" sisters. It doesn't take long for the town to realize that "Bayardo San Roman was going to marry whomever he chose."

Angela, however, remains opposed to marrying him. Her family decides, despite her lack of love for the man, that the marriage will go on, and they arrange a short four-month engagement. Bayardo does all he can to win Angela's love. He asks her what house in the town she likes best and she points out the widower Xius'. Bayardo tells Xius that he wants to buy the house and the widower initially refuses because everything in it had been his wife's; however, when Bayardo Xius makes him an outrageous offer, putting "ten bundles of thousand-peso notes" in front of him, Xius can't refuse any longer. With tears of rage in his eyes, Xius sells Bayardo the house and dies two months later.

One massive problem remains, however: Angela Vicario is not a virgin. She plans to tell her mother and thus cancel the wedding but her friends convince her to fake her virginity by staining her wedding sheets with blood. On the wedding night itself, however, Angela is unable to feign virginity, thus Bayardo returns her to her family.

The narrator next describes the wedding and the feast that followed it. After one problem-Bayardo showed up two hours late and Angela refused to put on her wedding dress until he arrived-the proceedings are magnificent. The narrator, along with his brother Luis Enrique and Cristo Bedoya, were with Santiago Nasar at the wedding and the party the whole night. These four were very close friends; they all cannot believe that if Santiago had taken Angela's virginity, as he is accused, he would not have told him. Bayardo is very friendly with the four during the wedding feast, even discussing the cost of the wedding with Santiago, who is planning a wedding of his own.

The official wedding festivities end at six p.m., when Bayardo and Angela leave to consummate their marriage, but the townsfolk continue celebrating until around midnight, when Santiago Nasar, Cristo Bedoya, Luis Enrique, and the narrator retire to Maria Alejandrina Cervantes's "house of mercies." There they meet the Vicario brothers, who drink and sing with Santiago just five hours before they kill him.

Pura Vicario, Angela's mother, goes to bed around eleven p.m. on the wedding night only to be awakened by three slow knocks on the door. She finds Bayardo San Roman and Angela, in a shredded satin dress and with a towel wrapped around her waist. He leaves Angela with her, saying, "Thank you for everything, Mother. You're a saint." For the next two hours, Pura silently beats Angela-bringing her to the verge of death without even waking her husband. When the twins arrive home, shortly before three, Pedro asks her "who it was." She replies quickly, only taking "the time necessary to say the name," Santiago Nasar.


Though Santiago's death is treated as an astonishing and unjust occurrence, Garcia Marquez hands down no simple condemnations in his novel. Every character is flawed and complicated, containing some portion of blame for the sequence of events that culminates in the murder. Chapter Two focuses on one of the most complicated of all these characters: Bayardo. Mysterious, wealthy, reclusive, soft-spoken but with an iron will-Bayardo is difficult to pin down. The narrator says that "he seemed to me like a very sad man," while Luisa Santiaga claims, "He reminded me of the devil" (granted, no one else in the story senses evil in Bayardo). Bayardo is at once capable of ostentatious displays of love and charm and also of ruthless selfishness-as in his transaction with Xius, whom he badgers into selling his home, eventually killing the man.

We also may want to condemn Bayardo for returning Angela, but the way in which he does it, with a soft-spoken thank you to Angela's mother, is strange and unsettling-perhaps engendering a measure of sympathy in the reader. Garcia Marquez does not make Bayardo or Angela simply condemnable any more than he makes Santiago purely loveable (recall Santiago's sexist molesting of Divina Flor, his servant). This is a pattern repeated throughout his novel-and indeed, in many of his other works as well. All of his characters contain obvious imperfections; all share in ultimate guilt but all deserve a measure of the readers' sympathy as well. His purpose, then, is not to blame individuals, but to invite us to consider larger intersections of fate, society, community, and memory.

Which is not to say that the individuals in the novel aren't interesting. Rather, they are full of mystery and strangeness-which Garcia Marquez highlights by using unconventional narrative techniques. For instance, the narrator pointedly mentions that Bayardo San Roman went missing for two hours prior to his wedding, only to arrive "the perfect image of a happy bridegroom." In most novels, we would learn what went on in that two-hour interval, but in this novel we never do. Perhaps there is something strange and significant in his absence, perhaps not-Garcia Marquez leaves his novel open to such loose ends, knowing that human life is full of such unexplainable details. His novels-containing both surreal coincidences and their opposite, purely random asides-recreate the perplexity of everyday life: of meaning formation itself.

The chapter closes with Angela's absurdist beating at the hands of her mother-whose rage is so violent that she nearly kills her daughter, yet so controlled that she never makes a sound during the beating. Pura beats her daughter with the same combination of steeliness and propriety that she herself displays-she can't forgive her daughter, it seems, for doing what she would never have done: for surrendering herself.

As for Angela's confession, the narrator makes two things clear: both Santiago's likely innocence and Angela's relative freedom from blame. He writes, when Pedro asks her who did it, that she "only took the time necessary to say the name. She looked for it in the shadows, she found it at first sight among the many, many easily confused names from this world and the other, and she nailed it to the wall with her well-aimed dart, like a butterfly with no will whose sentence has even been written." Santiago's name is picked from the "shadows"-any man's name would have done as well (which implies, perhaps, that all men, as complicit in the patriarchal society that values her only for her virginity, share some blame for what follows). As in so many later events, Santiago is "like a butterfly" pinned to a wall (which, later, he in fact is, by the twins' daggers) by random fate. Angela needs a name in order not to be beaten to death, and the name that comes to her, for whatever reason, is Santiago's.