Chronicle of an innocent murder

| Staff Columnist

I want to sleep. Badly. Last night I did not get to bed until 4:30 a.m. because I was working on a Spanish essay about Gabriel García Márquez and his work, “Crónica de una Muerte Anunciada.” “Crónica” is his work that is most grounded in reality, detailing the murder of an innocent man, Santiago Nasar. Anticipating the arrival of the bishop to bless the town, every citizen in his village hurries around distractedly in an effort to appease the expected desires of this holy man, and completely misses the slaying of Santiago by the disgruntled brothers of a woman who claims that Santiago stole her virginity.

In the same manner, I feel that I (we) have a tendency to grow so distracted by school and all of the obligations associated with it that I have come to lose track of my own desires in an effort to satisfy some sort of ideal that cannot be reconciled.

Granted, we all have homework and extracurricular activities that we have to keep track of, but I know that in my case, I have become so fervent about my studies or throwing myself into everything I have to read for class that I completely lose touch with the outside world. I spend all Thursday nights and Fridays working on homework so I can get it all out of the way, but then I wind up waiting until the night before a paper is due, staying awake until the wee hours of the morning and then pretending that I’m some kind of martyr for the literary tradition. And see, the thing is that I tell myself it is worth becoming so immersed in this spectacle of academia, writing papers and identifying arguments and slicing open old, old books, all for the sake of “knowledge,” and making myself better for that one ominous day when some boat brings the bishop to cross himself and give me a communion wafer.

I used to like writing fiction, stories with actual characters and plot, stories like the ones I find myself having to read for class, but not nearly as good. But now? Now, I’m too busy scouring and organizing my house before the priest gets here so I can be acceptable as a college student or intellectual or whatever it is we’re supposed to be at a university. An adult?

Whatever it is I find myself pretending to be, and whatever it is I’m preening over, I feel like I’ve lost a little bit of myself. I came here so I could improve my writing, and I’m even in a fiction class this semester, but now even that has become hurried, mechanical. It’s more about fitting myself to the expectations of my professors and not what I, myself, am really passionate about.

The problem with the citizens in “Crónica de una Muerte Anunciada” is that they become so concerned with preparing themselves for the bishop’s oh-so-holy coming to demonstrate how very sacred and sanctified they are, that right in the middle of their efforts, they watch as an innocent man is murdered and do absolutely nothing. In their efforts to be blameless, they end the story with blood on their hands, guilty by association, but still guilty.

I know I, at least, have done that, and I can imagine that I am not the only one. I have harbored and squelched the one thing that I enjoy more than anything else. I have claimed a title of scholar and augmented it with only superficial thoughts and readings. I have called for profound and ground-shaking action, all the while chatting on Facebook or continuing to contribute to the systems against which I protest with my words. I have prepared my temple for the Man of God, and I, in my inaction, have killed Santiago Nasar.

The greatest irony of “Crónica” is that the bishop never actually comes. In the blind zeal of the measures taken to make his visit a pleasant and holy one, the townspeople let one of their own die because they were too distracted by the promise of something that would make their lives what they were supposed to be, some ideal. In the end, though, they find that they have lost a part of themselves for something that was never worth it to begin with.

Gabe is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at gcralley@wustl.edu.