The dynamics of honour and honour killings

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Chapter 3 Homicide in legitimate defence of honour


In chapter 2 the study analysed the literary trends in the representations of sexualities and established that sex, sexuality and prostitution are highly contentious themes. Prostitution in particular, is a major concern with prostitutes variously thought as deviants, rather than the victims of male sexual abuse or unattainable economic systems. It was also noted that the representations of sexualities in the modern period have become bolder since Freud’s treatises on the damaging effects of a repressed sexuality. The postmodern representations of sexualities have in turn become much bolder, taking on taboo subjects such as child sex. García Márquez takes the representation of child sex further to express the problem of commercial sexual exploitation of children, in that way providing a platform for debate on this modern worldwide social concern. The chapter also shows that machismo and marianismo as gender roles in Colombian culture are heavily influenced by both Liberal and Conservative politics. The teachings of the Catholic Church and Spanish colonial practices, rather than the indigenous socio-cultural practices also influence the particular gender roles.
Although there is a phenomenal amount of critical material written about García Márquez’s literary works, most of the criticism has dwelt on the author’s use of magical realism as a writerly mode. Critics have also dwelt on the literary influences that have impacted on him and how he in turn, has influenced other writers. Critics have also discussed García Márquez’s employment of prostitution as a metaphor for the exploitation of the colonised people by their European colonisers. The review of literature also shows a critical gap in scholarship in terms of understanding other constructions of sex and sexuality as manifestation of other forms of exploitation in García Márquez’s literary works. This scholarly gap has become particularly glaring because of the wave of public animosity towards García Márquez’s representations of sexualities in his latest novel, Memories (2004). However, the public outcry has not sought to show what it is that is particularly abhorrent about García Márquez’s representations of sexualities in his writing, especially in the novella Memories. Thus the public animosity may well be undeserved. The current study seeks to fill this scholarly gap by directly interrogating García Márquez’s representations of sexualities in some of his selected creative works.
Chapter 3 analyses the representations of sexualities in Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Chronicle henceforth). In Chronicle the construction of sexuality is premised on a complex matrix of race, class, gender and the conservatism of social institutions. In Colombian culture, gender roles are clearly defined in the two notions of machismo and marianismo. In this novel female pre-marital sex is the ultimate sin against society and its punishment is death. Honour killings are a human rights issue and perpetration of such killings raises many questions about the value placed on female sexuality in relation to that of males. Through the institutions of the family, civil society, religion and the legal system, García Márquez is able to illuminate the contradictions inherent in the ideology behind honour killings. Within these different institutions, the writer also engages with issues of race, class and gender to render the final meaning to this tale of a death everyone knew was going to happen.
Araji’s (2000) theory on the honour system of ideology is engaged in the study to enable a penetrative analysis of García Márquez’s representations of sexualities in the novel Chronicle. Araji posits that in traditional societies the honour of a tribe, clan or family depends on the behaviour of its female members. Thus female sexual misconduct in particular, is thought to bring shame and dishonour to the male members of the family or clan or the community to which such a female belongs

Plot of Chronicle

In brief, Chronicle investigates the murder of Santiago Nasar, a local Arab Catholic national who is supposed to have dishonoured the Vicario family through being accused of having premarital sex with the daughter Angela. Angela’s lack of virginity, discovered on her wedding night by her husband Bayardo precipitates the revenge killing of Santiago by the Vicario twins, Pablo and Pedro. The twins go around announcing their intention to all and sundry but none, except the woman, Clotilde Armenta attempts to stop this killing. The local policeman, the mayor, the priest and most of the citizenry, for various reasons fail to inform Santiago of his impending death. The same people also fail to dissuade the Vicario brothers from killing Santiago without giving him an opportunity to defend himself. After the killing, the twins are arrested but the trial is a mockery of justice and Angela leaves town. Angela is able to pick up the pieces of her life and tenuously but successfully woos back Bayardo after 17 years.
The present study analyses the traditional practice of honour killing and its ramifications in the lives of men and women involved. The matrix of race, class and gender is also engaged with so as to establish whether the killing of Santiago is an innocent practice of an out-dated socio-cultural custom or is a race, or class or a gender-motivated attack. The failure to act to prevent the murder of Santiago by the different institutions of religion, the law and civil society are all examined for their potential contribution to understanding the manifestation of sexuality in the novel Chronicle. The etymology of some of the character names is quite helpful for unlocking ideas about how such characters move or drawback the perpetuation of the honour killing. The label “honour killing” is limited to the act of intentionally and unlawfully killing a person in defense of honour. For the purpose of this thesis, any other labels in common use are avoided as they tend to be controversial

The dynamics of honour and honour killings

Honour killings are a worldwide phenomenon and tend to have a unique-ness to them. According to Chesler (2010), the killings may be motivated by codes of morality and behaviour that typify some cultures. Such codes are often reinforced by religious teachings. Further encouragement for the practice is implied by laws that rarely prosecute the enforcers of the honour code. Where such people are brought before the law, they receive relatively light sentences that way failing to discourage future repetitions of the practice. Chesler (ibid) further highlights the different types of honour killings and different types of victims. Honour killings are mostly family collaborations and so can have multiple perpetrators as is the case in the narrative Chronicle. In colonial Latin America the honour of men and women depended very much on the purity of a family’s bloodline. A family could be stained by the existence of a Jewish, Muslim or black African ancestor in the family tree, as posited by Johnson & Lipsett-Rivera (1998). However, this does not need to remain a permanent status as honour can be regained. Morality and one’s profession also influenced a man’s (sic) honour and status.

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Acquisition honour in Colombian society

At this point it is necessary to briefly show how one can acquire honour in Colombian society as this is relevant to the workings of family honour, a concept that is so essential to García Márquez’s representation of sexuality in Chronicle. There are different ways through which one could gain honour according to Christie (1993). Honour could be acquired through petitioning the courts, a process that would lead to investigations and questioning whoever can vouchsafe for the petitioner. Honour could also be awarded by the crown or alternatively be bought from the crown. The crown had the mandate to fill any open governmental positions with any individual deemed suitable or any man willing to pay for the privilege. The government could even alter an individual’s racial status if that person could afford to pay. Thus honour could be bestowed on those wealthy enough to purchase the privilege. A man was expected to show courage and physical skill in carrying out honour killing whenever the need arose. Through education one could work in government service or for the Church (refers to the Catholic Church as the majority religion in South America) that way earning oneself honour. A man could also protect his honour by avoiding disreputable professions and behaviours. Certainly honour was not easy to come by and so had to be guarded jealously. One imagines women could gain status and honour through marriage. It is for these reasons that maintaining one’s family’s honour is such an important duty in societies that believe in the practice of honour killings. Peter Beattie (1997) posits that the all-pervasive military culture of South America further reinforces the code of honour by promoting the cult of machismo. In Chronicle, García Márquez offers an understanding of the manifestation of the honour code as a response to sexual transgression and the tragedy that result from it.
Although honour killings were practised in traditional societies the practice remains actively in place in many parts of the world where cultural and religious conservatism is the norm. For Colombia, honour killings are primarily a Spanish colonial legacy that gets complicated by social control and the construction of a masculinity that is grounded on the physical restriction of women’s sexuality, as pointed out by Fitts (2006). In critical terms, honour killings are attempts by men to control and abuse women but additionally, such killings can also be perpetrated by other women as exemplified by Angela’s mother, a woman dedicated to upholding a patriarchal double standard on the norms of premarital sex for the different sexes. According to Raffaelli & Ontai (2004), the honour/shame connection is the driving motivation for honour killings and can be realised beyond the individual family to reach the community level. In its processes, honour killing involves a sense of shame that can only be cleansed through violent retribution against the women involved and/or the men they are linked with. Although honour killing also presupposes the restoration of a defiled woman’s integrity, the system works to control women’s sexuality in the main.
The killing of Santiago Nasar in cold blood by the Vicario twins, Pablo and Pedro is premised on the shame and dishonour visited upon the Vicario family when their sister Angela is returned to the family home on their wedding night by her new husband Bayardo San Roman. Angela identifies Santiago as the man who had defiled her sexually and so caused dishonour to the girl and by extension to her entire family and the community. Patently, the honour killing of Santiago is justified by the basic terms of the social practice but a crime of culture does not normally receive precipitate sentences. The Vicario twins’ execution of the actual killing excludes some of the essential conditions the brothers should have considered before taking a man’s life. These are the factors that make the killing particularly abhorrent and shockingly evil. The Vicario brothers’ act of killing Santiago, while culturally legitimised by tradition would be illegal from a more modern perspective. The crime allows a critical interrogation of gender roles and how sexual expectations are played out in the novella Chronicle. In this way, a critical analysis of the workings of the honour code in Chronicle is essential so as to determine to what extent the purported honour killing is indeed honourable and how the individual woman Angela’s body, through her sexuality, becomes the locus of such a heinous crime.
On the one hand, the girl’s mother Pura Vicario demonstrates female initiative for meting out patriarchal justice. On the other, through the same character, García Márquez shows female powerlessness. On the night Angela is dumped at her family home for her lack of virginity, Pura takes immediate and decisive action. The mother beats the daughter so fiercely that, we read, “ Only Pura Vicario knew what she did during the next two hours, and she went to her grave with her secret” (46). On her part Angela says,
The only thing I could remember is that she was holding me by the hair with one hand and beating me with the other with such rage that I thought she was going to kill me (47).
Pura Vicario’s violence against her daughter belies the Colombian concept of marianismo for women; she is no gentle protector of her daughters. She takes the lead in dealing with the subject of defilement, the subject of family shame and diminished social worth. Araji (2000) suggests that honour killings as attempts by men to control and abuse women, can also be perpetrated by women. Pura Vicario’s severe beating of her daughter demonstrates this potential. Pura acts quite decisively, and ignores the presence of her emasculated and physically blind ex-goldsmith husband. Although she sends for her violent twin sons to take up the mortal retribution against, Santiago Nasar, the man accused of defiling Angela, metaphorically, Pura Vicario perpetuates the honour killing by initiating its processes. Thus Pura becomes what Naana Banyiwa Horne (1999: 308) calls “… an instrument of oppression by subscribing to oppressive ideologies”. Pura is trapped, unable and unwilling even, to assert any agency for change, opting instead to sustain patriarchal privilege. In this way the character Pura unwittingly appropriates female agency for the furtherance of patriarchy and gender oppression.
Yet the same circumstances demonstrate Pura’s powerlessness as a woman. Being the matriarch but married to an ineffectual man, she still needs to co-opt her twin sons to carry out the precipitate honour killing, that is, Pura cedes the power she has exercised so far, to the males of her family. Thus Pura’s role in the honour killing process is neither complete nor passive; it belies the traditional patriarchal expectation of female passivity that is implicit in marianismo.
It is chiefly because of Pura’s controlling attitude that the disaster occurs in the first place. During the engagement period that lasted a brief four months, Angela actively considered confiding in her mother about her deflowered state, “… she [Angela] was so disturbed that she resolved to tell her mother the truth so as to free herself of the martyrdom, …” (37). Clearly the mother-daughter relationship is not mutually supportive and so, her [Angela] two confidantes … dissuaded her from her good intentions. “I obeyed them blindly … because they made me believe that they were experts in men’s tricks. They assured me that almost all women lost their virginity in childhood accidents. They insisted that even the most difficult of husbands resigned themselves to anything as long as nobody knew about it (emphasised) (37).
From this citation, it can be deduced that the females of the society of the novel employ covert ways to deal with the problem of premarital sex. The friends Angela confides in have practical ways of handling what their society deems unacceptable sexual behaviour. The tricks they employ to feign virginity are entirely subversive. The confidantes’ observation that almost all women lose virginity in childhood accidents may not be not entirely accurate, but does raise the question of how widespread the defilement of women may be. Such explanations certainly show that the maintenance of sexual purity by unmarried girls is of little consequence to them. Angela’s disgraced state did not need to be punished even if Bayardo had privately known; he could have protected his honour by maintaining silence or by allowing Angela to pretend to be virginal. In this case her defilement would be no threat to her biological family’s honour, social standing or political status. Angela’s confidantes are sexually liberated in their attitudes to female premarital sex as demonstrated by their willingness to help Angela deceive Bayardo into believing he had married an unsullied virgin. Although the women show a flawed agency, their kind of tricks enable them to subvert disaster whereas Angela’s well-meant honesty results in the tragedy of Santiago’ death


Chapter 1  Introduction and Overview
Chapter 2 
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Trends in literary representation of sexuality
2.3 Colombian culture on sex, sexuality and gender roles
2.4 Criticism on Gabriel García Márquez’s literary works
2.5 Analysis of Gabriel García Márquez’s writing that is focussed on sexuality: insights and major problems
2.6 Conceptualisation of sexuality
2.7 Conclusion the review of literary representations of sexualities
Chapter 3  Homicide in legitimate defence of honour 
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Plot of Chronicle
3.3 The dynamics of honour and honour killings
3.4 Honour killing as response to sexual misconduct in Chronicle
3.5 Female resistance against the honour code
3.6 Restoration of family honour
3.7 Race, class and gender as standards of honour
3.8 Official response to honour killing
3.9 Conclusion: Balancing the scales of justice
4.1 Introduction 95
4.2 Brief summary of The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975)
4.3 Rape culture, scatology and the grotesque body in literature
4.4 The Latin American dictator novel
4.5 Sexuality in The Autumn of the Patriarch
4.6 Paedophilia and grotesquery in Patriarch
4.7 The failed project
4.8 Conclusion to the representation of sexuality in Patriarch
Chapter 5 
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Brief summary of One Hundred Years
5.3 Critical background to the representations of sexuality in One Hundred Years
5.4. Incest in Hundred Years: fact presented as myth .
5.5. Child sex in One Hundred Years
5.6 Concubinage in One Hundred Years
5.7 Brothels spaces in One Hundred Years
5.8 Conclusion to the representations of sexuality in One Hundred Years
Chapter 6 
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Brief summary of Innocent Erendira
6.3 Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC)
6.4 The cultural value system operating in Innocent Erendira
6.5 Erendira’s different abusers .
6.6 Erendira as a victim of child commercial sexual exploitation
6.7 The institutions that could have protected Erendira
6.8. Conclusion to the representation of sexuality in Innocent Erendira
Chapter 7 .
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Brief summary of Memories of My Melancholy Whores
7.3 The representation of CSEC in Memories
7.4 “The last kick of the prostate”
7.5 Risky sexual behaviour in Memories
7.6 The interface between marriage and prostitution in Memories
7.7 Sexual stereotyping and ageism in the novella Memories
7.8 Conclusion to the representations of sexualities in Memories
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Restatement of the research questions
8.3 Research findings in the context of the theoretical framework
8.4 The study’s contribution to knowledge and further areas of study

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