Whenever I read Garcia Marquez’ Chronicle of a Death Foretold, an odd thing happens. CDF tells the story of Santiago Nasar’s murder, a murder committed because of a misunderstanding. The novel begins with Nasar’s murder and then “chronicles” how the murder came about. The narrative, therefore, is circular. But here’s the odd thing: even though I know Nasar dies, murdered by essentially good people, I read through hoping that the outcome will be different. I know there can be no other outcome. Yet, I read the novel expecting there to be another outcome: that Nasar will not be killed.
How does an author generate this “reader response”? The same goes with King Lear. Every time I read Lear I hope the text will end differently. I’m hoping for the play to change, for Edmund to open his mouth. But he never does. I know he won’t. But I read “hoping” that he does.