Chronicle of a Death Foretold: Chapter 5

For years after the incident, everyone in the town ponders over the mysterious sequence of events that led to Santiago’s murder, wondering what they might have done differently. Cristo Bedoya, who later became a renowned surgeon, wonders why he went to his grandparents’ house that fateful morning instead of going home to his parents, who were waiting for him to warn him of the plot. One woman in the town runs out naked in the street, driven temporarily mad by guilt. Clotilde Armenta’s husband dies of shock after viewing Santiago’s body. Plácida Linero, Santiago’s mother, regrets having misinterpreted her son’s dream, thinking it was an auspicious dream about trees when it was actually a bad dream about birds.
Twelve days after the crime, the investigating magistrate comes into town; the narrator is able to learn about his investigation years after the fact by examining papers stored in the decrepit, flood-plagued Palace of Justice. The judge is struck by the coincidences in the case, but is most alarmed by the lack of evidence that Santiago was guilty of any wrongdoing. Although Angela insists that he was the “perpetrator,” Santiago’s behavior just before his death seems to show that he was innocent. When he learns of the threat against his life, Santiago Nasar reacts not with the panic of one whose sin has been discovered, but with the bewilderment of innocence.
Leaving the docks on the morning of his death, arm-in-arm with his friend Cristo Bedoya, Santiago is such the picture of unconcern that those who have heard about the plot against his life suddenly doubt it could be true. Nobody warns him about it, assuming it must have been cleared up already. Only Yamil Shaium, a friend of Santiago’s late father, makes a move to warn him, but he hesitates at the last moment, not wanting to alarm the young man unnecessarily, and then decides to consult with Cristo alone first.
Hearing the news from Yamil, Cristo runs to catch up with Santiago, but can’t find him at home or anywhere. After confronting the Vicario twins at Clotilde’s shop, Cristo notifies the mayor, Colonel Aponte, who promises to go and deal with them. However, before doing so, the mayor stops into the social club to check on a date for dominoes, and he is too late to stop the crime.
Cristo goes to the narrator’s house to look for Santiago, and the narrator’s mother tells him that Santiago is killed. While Cristo was looking for him, Santiago goes to see his fiancée, Flora Miguel, with whom he has had a fairly conventional engagement. Flora, having just heard the story about Angela, angrily returns all the letters he has written her, saying, “I hope they kill you!” Her father, Nahir Miguel, tells the bewildered Santiago that they are waiting to kill him. Santiago leaves the house utterly confused. All the people are gathered in the square, shouting for him to run. At first, he runs for the back door, but then he went to the front of his house.
In the moments before the murder, Divina Flor has a vision of Santiago, dressed all in white and carrying what looks like a bouquet of flowers, entering the house. The vision is so clear that when Santiago’s mother asks her where Santiago is, she answers that he is already inside. Having just heard the news from the cook, Santiago’s mother then rushes to lock the front door, wanting to prevent the killers from entering. As she rushes upstairs to find her son, Pedro and Pablo catch him at the door and stab him to death. He staggers into the house, carrying his intestines in his hands, and falls down on the kitchen floor.
Analysis of Chapter 5
In each chapter of the book, the same story is retold, but with different information. This chapter reveals what happens in the fateful minutes before the murder. A series of bad choices and random coincidences lead to Santiago’s easily preventable death. First of all, there are so many people who could warn him and do not. Just before he is killed, crowds gather in the square, “the way they did on parade days,” showing that they consider themselves passive observers to the drama and feel powerless to stop it. The Colonel, who represents authority in provincial Colombia, fails to stop the crime because he is checking on a dominoes game. Santiago’s mother mistakenly believes he is already in the house, due to the vision seen by Divina Flor of Santiago carrying a bouquet of flowers—a vision which immediately foreshadows his entry into the house carrying his own entrails. Because so many people know about the plot against Santiago and still fail to take action to stop it, the entire community is to blame for the terrible injustice of his death. At the same time, the extraordinary series of coincidences, along with Divina Flor’s prophetic vision, seem to suggest that Santiago’s fate is predestined and could not have been prevented in any case.