Chronicle of a Death Foretold: Chapter 3

The lawyer in the trial of the Vicario brothers argues that the murder was done in legitimate defense of honor, and the court upholds this view. Even the priest, Father Amador, to whom the boys surrender after their crime, suggests that they are innocent in the eyes of God.
Although the brothers show no remorse for their crime, saying they would do the same a thousand times over, the narrator suggests that in fact, they actually did everything possible to avoid killing Santiago. On the morning of the murder, the brothers apparently go, not to the brothel where Santiago is likely to be, but to the milk shop, where they know he will never show up. Next, they wait for Santiago at his front door, although they know he always goes in through the back.
The narrator shares other evidence that the twins wanted to be stopped: while sharpening their butcher knives at the market that morning, they speak openly about their intentions to kill Santiago Nasar—perhaps hoping someone will intervene. However, nobody takes them seriously; they know Pedro and Pablo Vicario as good people and think the murder plot is just drunkards’ talk. Only Faustino Santos, a butcher friend, is concerned enough to report it to a policeman.
The boys arrive at the milk shop at 4:10 AM and drink cane liquor given to them by Clotilde Armenta. They reveal their plot to Clotilde, and she tells her husband, Don Rogelio de la Flor, but he tells her not to be silly, the boys won’t kill anyone, particularly not someone as rich as Santiago Nasar.
The mayor, Colonel Lázaro Aponte, hears the news from the police officer, and goes looking for the Vicario brothers. Finding them at Clotilde’s store, he takes away their knives and sends them home to bed. After the brothers leave, the mayor thinks it is all over. Clotilde, however, argues with the mayor, saying that he should arrest them in order to spare them from the “horrible duty that’s fallen on them.” She spends the morning telling everyone she sees to warn Santiago, and even sends a message to the cook, Victoria Guzmán, and to the local priest, Father Amador.
After being disarmed by the mayor, Pedro and Pablo disagree about what to do next. Pedro argues that they have fulfilled their duty, but Pablo, six minutes older and more resolute, insists they see the action through. Pablo gets fresh knives from the yard, and they stop by the house of Pablo’s girlfriend, Prudencia Cotes. Prudencia guesses what they are up to and highly approves, remarking years later, “I never would have married him if he hadn’t done what a man should do.” After visiting Prudencia, they return to the market to sharpen the knives, again shouting their intention to anyone who would listen, and go to Clotilde’s store a second time, ready to lie in wait for Santiago.
The narrator then explains where Santiago has been all night. Earlier that night, Santiago is with the narrator at the brothel of María Alejandrina Cervantes, a tender and elegant woman who took the virginity of all the young boys in the narrator’s generation, and who Santiago fell in love with at the age of fifteen. Around three, María kicks the group out early so the whores can get some rest. The men go off with musicians to serenade the bride and groom at the house of the widower Xius, never realizing that in fact, Angela is no longer inside the house. Santiago, again, behaves no differently than anyone else while at Angela’s apparent honeymoon lodge; there is no reason to suspect there was ever anything between him and the bride. Santiago returns home at four-twenty to get some rest before the bishop’s arrival, but the twins don’t see him come home. At five-thirty, Victoria Guzmán goes to wake him.
Clotilde Armenta has told almost everyone in town about the plot, including the priest, Father Amador. But in his hurry to see the bishop, the priest forgets about it, and walks right by her shop where the killers are waiting.
Meanwhile, the narrator secretly returns to the whorehouse to sleep with María Alejandrina, where he is asleep until the alarm bells ring after Santiago’s murder. The narrator’s brother Luis Enrique and his sister the nun are in the house recovering from their hangovers when they hear the news that Santiago has been killed.
Analysis of Chapter 3
Chapter 3 is essentially a retelling of the events of Chapter 1. Again, although the book is called a “chronicle,” it does not unfold in chronological order. Instead, details are revealed bit by bit, like the pieces of a puzzle, and the sequence of events is scrambled. First, the narrator reveals that the court upheld the twins’ statement that it was an honor killing; then, he goes back and explains how they behaved in the hours preceding the murder.
The main point being made in this chapter is that the twins did not actually want to kill Santiago Nasar. As the perceptive Clotilde Armenta observes, they had the “horrible duty” imposed upon them. The brothers know that as men, they are expected to uphold the family honor. Pablo even stands to lose the love of his fiancée, Prudencia Cotes, if he fails. Ironically, although they try to appear macho and strong, they are as much victims of their society’s rigid conventions as is their unfortunate sister, Angela.
Although Pedro and Pablo cannot refuse their “horrible duty,” they do everything they can throughout the chapter to get someone else to stop them, and nobody does. One after another, all the townspeople fail them—including even the town mayor, arbiter of the law, and the priest, the moral authority for the community. It is significant that the priest, who has been alerted about the crisis, does nothing about it because he is wrapped up with the bishop’s visit. The moral and spiritual leaders of this society are more concerned with meaningless ceremony and ritual than they are with actually safeguarding the lives and souls of the people they serve.