- “On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.” (Chapter 1, page 3)
In the opening line of the book, García Márquez reveals the ending of the story: Santiago Nasar is killed. The rest of the story unfolds in reverse, as readers learn more of the details of how and why Santiago is killed. This tantalizing sentence provides a good example of García Márquez’s baroque writing style. Three different points in time are referred to in the same sentence, so that the central fact of Santiago’s impending death is nearly obscured with other details.
- “He won’t even get off the boat. He’ll give an obligatory blessing, as always, and go back the way he came. He hates this town.” (Chapter 1, page 8)
This is Plácida Linero’s comment about the much-anticipated visit from the bishop. As it turns out, she is correct; the bishop does not even bother to get off the boat, but makes the sign of the cross toward the gathered crowd, then turns and goes back up the river. This incident shows that the moral and spiritual authorities in this society are more concerned with meaningless ritual than they are with actually helping the people they serve.
- “The boys were brought up to be men. The girls had been reared to get married. They knew how to do screen embroidery, sew by machine, weave bone lace, wash and iron, make artificial flowers and fancy candy, and write engagement announcements. …[T]he four were past mistresses in the ancient science of sitting up with the ill, comforting the dying, and enshrouding the dead. …[My mother] thought there were no better-reared daughters. ‘They’re perfect,’ she was frequently heard to say. ‘Any man will be happy with them because they’ve been raised to suffer.’” (Chapter 2, page 31)
This describes the Vicario family. Pedro and Pablo Vicario are raised “to be men,” while their sister Angela is brought up to be married and to suffer. The rigid conventional values that govern their family—and the community as a whole—lead directly to the killing of an innocent man, Santiago Nasar, as Angela is coerced into blaming someone for her lost virginity, and Pedro and Pablo are pressured to commit murder in defense of their family honor.
- “He was healthier than the rest of us, but when you listened with the stethoscope you could hear the tears bubbling inside his heart.” (Chapter 2, page 37)
This comment is made by Doctor Dionisio Iguarán about the widower Xius, who dies of grief two months after selling his home and everything in it to Bayardo San Román. Xius did not actually want to sell his home because to him it represented the happiness he shared for thirty years with his late wife; however, he could not refuse Bayardo’s offer of an astronomical sum of money. The anecdote serves to illustrate the theme that love is worth more than money.
- “[Clotilde] was certain that the Vicario brothers were not as eager to carry out the sentence as to find someone who would do them the favor of stopping them.” (Chapter 3, page 57)
Clotilde realizes the truth about the Vicario brothers; they do not really want to kill Santiago Nasar, but only feel pressured into it by society, which holds that a real man must defend his family honor. All morning, they go around the town loudly proclaiming their intention to kill Santiago, in hopes that word will get back to him and that he will either evade harm or they will be stopped by the authorities. Unfortunately, nobody stops the Vicario brothers, and they are forced to go through with the senseless and unjust killing.
- “ ‘There’s no way out of this,’ he told him. ‘It’s as if it had already happened.’ ” (Chapter 3, page 61)
This line is spoken by Pablo to his brother Pedro, as Pedro hesitates to follow through on their planned honor killing of Santiago. The quote points to the fact that the entire episode seems predestined to happen.
- “I knew what they were up to, and I didn’t only agree, I never would have married him if he hadn’t done what a man should do.” (Chapter 3, page 62)
This is spoken by Prudencia Cotes, the girlfriend of Pablo Vicario. It reveals the expectation of society that men should live up to a certain code of honor, even if it meant committing murder.
- “No matter how much I scrubbed with soap and rags, I couldn’t get rid of the smell.” (Chapter 4, page 78)
This comment by Pedro Vicario reveals the guilt the Vicario twins felt after killing Santiago Nasar. Indeed, the “smell” of Santiago pervades the whole town on the day of his death, implicating everyone in his murder.
- “ ‘Sometimes I couldn’t think of what to say,’ she told me, ‘but it was enough for me to know that he was getting them.’ ” (Chapter 4, pages 93–94)
For seventeen years after she is rejected on her wedding night for not being a virgin, Angela Vicario writes nearly two thousand letters to her estranged husband, Bayardo San Román. At last he forgives her deception and returns to Angela, but without having read a single letter—it was enough for him to get the letters, without caring what they said. The anecdote reveals the formal, ritualistic nature of romantic love in their society, in which gestures matter more than thoughts.
- “He died without understanding his own death.” (Chapter 5, page 101)
This is the narrator’s opinion of Santiago’s state of mind as he faced his death. Although everyone in the town seems to know about the plot against Santiago, the young man himself remains ignorant about it until only minutes before it takes place. He reacts, according to the narrator, not with the panic of someone whose sin has been discovered, but with the bewilderment of innocence. Santiago is innocent of wrongdoing, and thus cannot understand what is happening to him when he is killed.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold: Top Ten Quotes