Gabo Marquez' short novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, contains a historical message much deeper than the swirling story of a man killed to uphold the honor of a rejected bride.
In the book, an unknown narrator recounts the story of Pedro and Pablo Vicario, brothers of Angela Vicario, killing Santiago Nasar after she had been returned by her new husband, Bayardo San Ramon, on the morning following their wedding when he discovered that she was not a virgin. The narrator has returned to the town twenty years from the event of the crime to piece together what happened, eventually reaching the moment of the stabbing.
At the moment of Angela's return to the family home, she is asked the name of the man, replying, "Santiago Nasar." Throughout the text, there are doubts raised about the exactness of this nomination. Santiago had never been seen friendly with Angela and he had a fiancée of his own, as well as being a well-respected member of the community.
Nonetheless, her two brothers were forced by tradition to kill the man who had brought shame to their family. Still drunk from the excessive wedding, they carried knives from their butcher shop through town, publicly sharpening them and telling everyone that they saw on that morning their intentions of killing Santiago, including the mayor of the town. Nobody took them seriously due to their respectfulness and the lack of reasoning behind their stated actions. Only with people very tightly-knit can words like these be interpreted as a joke.
The "Death Foretold" in the title of the book would seem to point to Santiago's death as pronounced to the entire town and carried out without resistance by any of its citizens but certain clues point to an alternate, more far reaching, historical metaphor.
Santiago was not the only person to die in the story. The widower Xius died 2 months after Bayardo San Ramon extorted his precious home from him through a display of extreme wealth.
A foreigner to the town, Bayardo arrived with the direct intention of finding a wife, something that would require him to fully infiltrate a local family. He was difficult to trust but his charm and handsomeness brought him whatever he desired.
Santiago Nasar was a third generation Arab immigrant to the town. The Arabs had prudently assimilated and only eventually married outside their own group while always living peacefully alongside the original citizens, running successful businesses without disrupting the lifestyle of the people around.
In order to gain the trust of the family of Bayardo's fiancée, he "produces" his family. Bayardo's father is referenced as "having put Colonel Aureliano Buendia to flight." This connection to Marquez' story of modernization and development in 100 Years of Solitude reinforces the subconscious theme of a more significant death foretold.
On the surface, the book asks the reader to question the traditions of virgin wives and honor killings but Bayardo's extreme wealth, warlord father, and tragedy brought to the town carry a metaphor of foreign investment driving development, extracting wealth, and delegitimizing the social capital of traditional lifestyles.
In the morning before Santiago was killed, he had awoken early to see a Bishop pass by the town on a boat. As Santiago's mother had predicted, the Bishop did not bother to stop in the town for a blessing.
The local priest had been minimally trained in medical subjects and was selected to perform an autopsy on Santiago's shredded body. The clear cause of death, multiple extremely deep knife wounds, was not enough for the officials in the court room. The priest's inexperience with the situation caused the unshredded parts of Santiago, namely his face, to be disfigured beyond recognition, causing more harm than good.
These symbols of religion failing the townspeople match the same failures of religion to protect from the dangers of private developments by extremely wealthy actors seeking to extract more wealth.
Marquez explicitly displays the follies of development in 100 Years of Solitude while in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, a more implicit questioning of respect for respect's sake is asked of the reader.