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ArribaAbajoLanguage and situation in part I of Fortunata y Jacinta

James Whiston

This paper attempts to study some of the language of Fortunata y Jacinta, in particular Galdós's use of imagery, sentence structure and linguistic decorum. Part I only of the novel is here dealt with but the methods and conclusions can be applied to the novel as a whole and to many of the great works in the Novelas Contemporáneas series.

Part of this essay is concerned with the use of metaphors which tend to dehumanise and hence devalue a character. Every metaphor that draws an image from the animal, vegetable or mineral world is to that extent inhuman. A metaphor such as «The bishop was a pillar of the church», while involving a comparison between a human and an inanimate thing invites the reader/listener to extract qualitics of firmness, strength, structural importance and possibly grandeur from the image and leave unextracted those qualities which might be construed as uncomplimentary: coldness, rigidity, etc. As regards the written word, context decides the tone, and tone will control the reader's response to the metaphor.

What is the «tone» of Fortunata y Jacinta? Michael Nimetz entitles the final chapter of his book on Galdós «The Humor of Familiarity».148 Three quarters of this chapter is devoted to Fortunata y Jacinta. While the chapter itself is hardly more than a summary of the novel and contains little on the technique of humour, the heading captures the basic spirit of the work. The tone throughout the novel (with the possible exception of the passages which concern Nicolás Rubín who has no redeeming trait) is genial, compassionate and gently ironic. The adoption of this tone has two consequences for the narrator: it establishes his detachment and magnanimity at the level of the social action, while in the half-conscious regions of metaphor especially and also in sentence structure, we can see the tension between magnanimous acceptance and the doubts and ironies which he hems around the making of narrative value judgments. This tension will become evident as we examine the oscillation between the extremes of materialism and idealism which informs the basic structure of Part I of Fortunata y Jacinta, indeed of the whole novel.

The non-omniscient narrator helps to establish lightness and geniality of tone.149 The narrator, while taking no part in the action, is himself a character, since he claims to have met and talked with some of the other characters at tertulias etc. In Part I there are at least six casual references to characters as sources of information. (See, for example, the very first sentence of the novel). On other occasions the narrator himself expresses doubt or ignorance about some fact or interpretation. Through this parade of non-omniscience the comic tone of the novel is established, because in Part I the tragic consequences of Juanito and Jacinta's disastrous marriage are not apparent and the narrator's genial optimism appears in keeping with the general high hopes for the union. A close reading, however, brings out the ambiguous possibilities of a metaphor such as that of the bomb in the following passage: «La   —80→   noticia del matrimonio de Juanito cayó en la familia de Arnáiz como una bomba que revienta y esparce, no desastres y muertes, sino esperanza y dichas.» (46)150, where the sentence is so structured as to delay the conventional, expected outcome until what is in fact the final, real outcome of the marriage is placed before us.

Before turning to the novel we must briefly consider the question: when is a metaphor significant and when is it merely a commonplace? The frequency of a certain kind of metaphor's occurrence is, of course, a good starting point in determining its significance for the work. Professor Ullman writes: «A study of the main themes round which images cluster in a given work will help the critic in establishing the function and the structural role of the imagery.»151 His remark can be applied to the way Galdós will «cluster» a group of images around a character or in a scene. Then the image may be taken from common experience, but may be striking in an emotional way.152 This would be the case with, say, insect images, certain kinds of which generally tend to repel us. Another method of examining imagery (not available to me at present) would be by a study of any changes made in the manuscript or proof of a novel. The novel Miau which immediately follows Fortunata y Jacinta has been examined in this respect. Robert J. Weber153 finds that Galdós revised and expanded the imagery of the novel, and consequently changed its thematic direction, from first draft to printer's copy.

The adverse criticism by Valle-Inclán and Unamuno «Don Benito el Garbancero», «Estilo de café») of the apparently commonplace texture of Galdós's writing is misconceived, because when we look closely at his imagery in Fortunata y Jacinta we find that the commonplaces have been raised to a new significance through ironic juxtaposition with their context. On this subject Stephen Gilman remarks:

Las palabras [of the characters], por tópicas que sean no son moldes rígidos e inflexibles del pensamiento. Siempre pueden redefinirse y refrescarse en las situaciones adecuadas y en la boca y en el espíritu de los hablantes apropiados.154

He goes on to describe the contemporary context of the word «rasgo» which in Fortunata y Jacinta moves from its connotations of «falsedad» and «convencionalismo» and «hacia el final se hace sublime». While it is difficult to accept, in the context of the narrator's benevolent scepticism, the epithet «sublime» to describe Fortunata's final gift, there is no doubt that the commonplace word has taken on more significance than it had earlier. But this happens not only on the structural level of the novel. Even with sentence structures, frayed words may be clothed anew with significance through ironic juxtaposition.

We can begin by analysing a section from the second chapter of Part I of the novel. The section concerns Isabel Cordero, who does not have an active role in the novel: she dies before the main action begins. She does, however, have a considerable implied influence on Jacinta, because of her overwhelming fertility and her extreme concern for social forms.

In the narrator's sketch of Isabel he uses words like «heroica», «aquella gran mujer», «aquella heroína» to describe her, a woman who because of her husband's complacent ineptitude has had to carry the dual burdens of business and family singlehanded. Isabel's resourcefulness and energy is indeed a positive contrast to her husband's bland, impotent optimism. These positive qualities are given full play in Section 5 of the chapter, especially her foresightedness in business which increases   —81→   as her husband's decreases: «Su marido empezaba a atontarse; ella a ver claro.» (30). But this resourcefulness, for all its attractive quality, has its other side, and the description of Isabel's life and works as they relate to her family is loosely but significantly counterpointed by a spread of images which describe her and her milieu in terms which point to the way she devalues and dehumanises those around her and how she is likewise devalued in the process.155 The regularity of her fertility is compared to a vegetable crop: she gives birth «con la puntualidad de los vegetales que dan fruto cada año.» (31). Her children are referred to as «aquella mies apretada» (ibid.). The word «apretada» is also a reference to the narrowness of their accommodation and the narrator introduces this with a devaluing pun on the word «bodies», as the scientific metaphor indicates: «Al ver la estrecha casa, se daba uno a pensar que la ley de impenetrabilidad de los cuerpos fue el pretexto que tomó la muerte para mermar aquel bíblico rebaño.» (Ibid.) The word «bíblico» is used here, in the context of «mermar», in the derogatory sense of «vast», «anonymous», and then there is the final animal image.156 In the following sentence there is a humorously implied comparison between the children and ceiling flowerpots and cages.

Eight of the seventeen children died. Of those who remained the narrator writes: «Falta consignar que de estas nueve cifras, siete correspondían al sexo femenino.» (32) The word «cifras» carries a suggestion of the scientific, the statistical. The impersonal impression is rounded off with the use of «sexo femenino» for «hembras» or «chiquillas», an impression further strengthened by a reference to the large family as «un problema económico». (ibid.) In this context of animal, vegetable and mineral imagery, Isabel's colloquial and vulgarísima phrase for a child, «canario de alcoba», (ibid.), and her threat that the child who wears other than hempen sandals about the house «ya me tiene hecha una leona» (ibid.), can be seen to fit into a general dehumanising picture.

The problem is to find suitable husbands for the girls. Gumersindo, Isabel's husband, has absolute faith in his wife. His way of expressing this confidence is interesting: «Verán -decía- cómo saca ella de debajo de las piedras siete yernos de primera.» (ibid.) The slightly commercial touch of the last two words is in character, but there is also, in the context outlined above, a definite animal/insect suggestion (albeit unconscious on Gumersindo's part) behind his phrase: «sacar de debajo de las piedras». Isabel's way of looking at the problem is in terms of combat (her childbearing was described as «su campaña prolífera», her first child was born «cuando vino la tropa carlista hasta las tapias de Madrid»); for her, marrying off the girls is «esta tremenda campaña matrimoñesca» (ibid.). The narrator later broadens this to include Isabel's attitude to society in general: «aquella heroína, que ni un punto se apartaba de su puesto en el combate social» (33). Here, a crude, militaristic view of life is prefaced by a reference to the heroism of the person who holds it. This kind of juxtaposition represents a fundamental ambiguity in Part I of Fortunata y Jacinta, indeed in the novel as a whole. The animal and, as we shall see, commercial images criticise the materialism of the struggle for social and economic life, while the energy and resourcefulness which is concomitant with that struggle cannot fail to win the narrator's admiration.

As the girls grow, Isabel becomes the guardian of a «rebaño, cada vez más perseguido de lobos y expuesto a infinitas asechanzas». (ibid.) But the danger is not from the wolves outside, the narrator ironically hints: he shows us Isabel «desprovista ya de todo atractivo personal que no fuera la respetabilidad» who in church   —82→   «pastoreaba aquel rebaño, llevándolo por delante como los paveros en Navidad». (32) The linking of church, «pastor» and (in this particular context) «rebaño» suggests protective and Good Shepherd connotations, but as we see from second half of the sentence it is a case of lambs being led to the slaughter, or turkeys, or girls; and Isabel is the leader.

Not only is the marriage question seen in animal terms but also in terms of commerce. The children are products to be sold. The Sunday mass, the afternoon walk and the tertulia are used to «exhibir y airear el muestrario, para ver si caía algún parroquiano, o por otro nombre, marido. Era forzoso hacer el artículo, y aquella gran mujer, negociantes en hijas, [again the juxtaposition] no tenía más remedio que vestirse y concurrir con su género a tal o cual tertulia de amigas» (33).

God «blesses» Isabel's efforts, the narrator tells, but «en honor de la verdad no fue muy lucido aquel matrimonio» (ibid.) because the first husband to present himself had nothing to recommend him but «sus deseos de trabajar y su honradez probada». The narrator points out the criterion for a «good» marriage in describing the second daughter's match: «Esta sí que fue buena boda. El novio era Ramón Villuendas, hijo mayor del célebre cambiante de la Calle de Toledo; gran casa, fortuna sólida.» (ibid.) A successful marriage needs only the last four words. Through them we are made to feel the succinct satisfaction of the Arnáiz household: «gran casa, fortuna sólida».

This surface, materialistic criterion then places the reader on his guard and prepares for the irony of the final paragraph of the chapter:

La tercera de las chicas, llamada Jacinta, pescó marido al año siguiente. Y ¡qué marido!


Her husband, of course, will be the shallow and self-loving señorito, Santa Cruz.

The final word on Isabel is the narrator's. In what, one feels, is a gently ironic reference to the images described above, he says of her death, just before the wedding of Jacinta and Juanito: «Su muerte fue de esas que vulgarmente se comparan a la de un pajarito.» (47)

Isabel's sister-in-law, Barbara, might be summed up by a commercial metaphor, «la compra andante». For a minor character her early upbringing is described in great detail. This period of her life is portrayed as a blurring of the human and non-human analogous to that already discussed. We are told that she remembered two of the clothes dummies in her father's shop «como se recuerda a las personas más queridas de la familia» (20). These two figures are the first things to impress her; she is also impressed by a portrait of a Chinese clothes designer, «una persona a quien la niña miraba mucho» (ibid.). For Barbara, the wooden figures and the pictures are as «real» as people. This upward valuation of things comes from, on at least one occasion, watching her mother, who shows such reverence towards some Chinese pieces on display that Barbara believes «que contenían algo así como el Viático para los enfermos, o lo que se da a las personas en la iglesia cuando comulgan» (21).

Playtime with her two closest companions consists of miniature displays of the material wealth of their parents' commercial establishments; or on the feast of the Cross in May, her efforts to «obtener el ochavito» (23). This mixture of religion and «commerce» is painted in an innocent light and in humorous vein and is recalled some chapters later when the narrator writes of Barbara's «chifladura de las compras»   —83→   (72). (In the «grown-up» chapters he continues to refer to Barbara as «Barbarita»). She and Estupiñá, the family retainer, «se iban por la calle Mayor adelante, en busca de emociones puras, inocentes, logradas con la oficiosidad amable del uno y el dinero copioso de la otra» (73). The scenes in church between the two are obviously on this comic, innocent level, but the mixture of commerce and religion, of church and market-place, is there: Estupiñá sidles over to Barbara and fills her in on the details of the day's victuals: «Hoy reciben congrio en la casa de Martínez; me han enseñado los despachos de Laredo..., llena eres de gracia; el Señor es contigo..., coliflor no hay».157

This blurring is also reflected in the references made by Estupiñá to the possibility of chancing upon a very short mass, which might not unjustly be described as a quantitative approach to religion. This is followed by his ecstasies over the food: «¡Cómo está hoy el mercado de caza! ¡Qué perdices, señora! Divinidades, verdaderas divinidades» (73).

The linking of money and religion comes naturally to Barbara. At the beginning of the novel, as she fears for Juanito's morals during his visit to Paris: «salió de su casa resuelta a implorar la misericordia divina del modo más solemne, conforme a sus grandes medios de fortuna [...] encargó la mar de ellas [misas], repartiendo además aquella semana más limosnas que de costumbre» (16-17). These statements and events are all of a piece with the genial tone of the earlier description of the Arnáiz family. The activities the narrator describes here are not viciously harmful. If the odd juxtapositions of Estupiñá are blasphemous they are unintentionally so. In the description of the pair in church there is evidently more celebration of their comic vitality than criticism of their simple-minded approach to religion. Estupiñá is really not responsible for what he says. His love of conversation is compared to a state of intoxication: «aquel licor palabrero con que se embriagaba» (35). And within the confines of the novel, apart from some references to social injustices, a full purse rapidly emptying is the centre of Barbara's world.

Isabel Cordero, in the struggle to marry off her daughters, is described as leading them around like animals and showing them off like commercial samples. Barbara, in thinking of the possibilities for Juanito's marriage, uses a metaphor which is common enough to describe a young person when she brings the subject to mind: Juanito as a «pollo». But she emphasises the animal sense of the word, thinking: «Ahora le voy a poner a mi pollo una calza para que no se me escape más» (44). And the narrator comments: «Esperaba ocasión propicia y en cuanto ésta llegó supo acometer la empresa aquella de la calza, como persona lista y conocedora de las mañas del ave que era preciso aprisionar» (ibid.). Her idea of marriage is as simple as she herself is. She chooses a homely metaphor to express it: «Lo mismo de pegarte el botón que se te ha caído, que de elegirte la que ha de ser compañera de toda tu vida, la que te ha de mimar cuando yo me muera» (45). The second part of this sentence by its contrast with the first part highlights her oversimplifying attitude: the juxtaposition of the triviality of «el botón que se te ha caído» with the seriousness of «compañera de toda tu vida». The third part of the sentence shows what she thinks marriage is. For Barbara, wives are mother substitutes when the real thing fails. Her simple certainty is so strong as to be religious: «En ciertos casos [and marriage is one of them] no nos equivocamos; somos infalibles como el Papa...» (ibid.).

The metaphorical caging of Juanito is, in fact, very real. He too has a religious sense of his mother's infallibility, believing «que aquella gran mujer y madre tenía   —84→   tratos con el Espíritu Santo» (ibid.). Juanito is very much under the thumb of his mother in the matter of his marriage. He deceives himself into thinking that he is thinking it over, when in fact he is looking for a fair form with which to conceal his subservience. This is how the narrator imagines him replying to his mother:

Mamá: he meditado profundísimamente sobre ese problema, pensando con escrúpulo las ventajas y los inconvenientes, y la verdad, aunque el caso tiene sus más y sus menos, aquí me tiene usted dispuesto a complacerla.


We notice the balance of the sentence, the supposed weighing of one thing against another. In fact, as the narrator tells us, it is a complete misrepresentation. Jacinta is not referred to except as a «caso» or as a «problema», (and when a little girl she was a «problema económico»!). The pseudo-philosophy of the sentence is revealed by the childish first word «Mamá», which shows Juanito's real position and makes nonsense of what follows. The last word is «complacerla» (i.e. Barbara). Thus the sentence structure itself reflects Juanito's imprisonment: Barbara begins and ends his philosophy of marriage.

This tendency in some of the characters to treat people as objects, or in a less than human way, underlies the longest episode of Part I: the circumstances surrounding the deal in which Jacinta buys Juanito's supposed son, Juanín, from José Izquierdo. The deal is carried on in true bartering style, Izquierdo holding out for a destino and Guillermina Pacheco trying to get the lowest price, because the difference between the final price and Jacinta's initial offer will go towards Guillermina's orphanage. The Santa's power over other people emerges during the transaction. To obtain a good bargain she has to be callous and devalue Juanín and other neighbours' children. This is how she sums up her position to the recalcitrant Izquierdo:

Vio [Jacinta] al Pituso, le dio lástima, le gustó...; pero es muy caro el animalito. En estos dos patios los dan por nada, a escoger...; por nada, sí alma de Dios, y con agradecimiento encima... ¿Qué te creías, que no hay más que tu piojín?... Ahí está esa niña preciosísima que llaman Adoración... Pues nos la llevaremos cuando queramos, porque la voluntad de Severiana [Adoración's mother] es la mía...


«Animalito» or «alma de Dios»? -the juxtaposition brings the latter commonplace expression into focus turning it into a judgment on Guillermina's devaluing of the child.

When the deal is concluded Jacinta is very happy: «Había realizado su antojo; ya tenía su juguete» (128). The child is taken to the Villuendas household and is washed and scrubbed amid shouts of «¡Es un niño Jesús..., es una divinidad este muñeco!» (135). The juxtaposition of the contrasting images -divinidad/muñeco- continues the tone of serio-comic irony and also underlines that the incident takes place on Nochebuena; but there will be no room for Juanín at the Santa Cruz household. Barbara inevitably sees the whole affair through the eyes of her «vicio»: «No se le cocía el pan a Barbarita hasta no aplacar su curiosidad viendo aquella alhaja que su hija le había comprado: un nieto» (140): another sharp juxtaposition in the last three words. Juanito is, of course, sceptical of the whole episode so that Jacinta, to get him to see the child, asks him to keep an open mind, just as he would about a purchase made by his mother: «Considéralo [a Juanín]», she says, «como una compra que hemos hecho las dos maniáticas. Si compráramos un perrito, ¿no querrías verlo?» (145).   —85→   She, like Guillermina, attempts to make the negotiation seem trivial and off-hand. (But, in fact, the rhetoric of the novel involves us deeply with Jacinta's anguish, as I shall show later, whereas with Guillermina we have no evidence that she thinks otherwise than during her verbal rout of Izquierdo). If the women see the child in this way don Baldomero can hardly be expected to do any better: he buys Juanín an accordion to take with him to the orphanage, because he says, «Yo también le tengo cariño a ese muñeco» (149).

In the scene where Juanito meets his presumed son, Jacinta in vain defends the child against her husband's accusations: «no le abandono, aunque lo mande quien lo mande. Es mío.» Juanito replies: «-Como que te ha costado tu dinero.» The narrator comments:

El chico le echó [a Jacinta] los brazos al cuello y miró a los demás con rencor, como indignado de la nota infamante que se quería arrojar sobre su estirpe.


On one level we smile at the comic contrast between the language, «indignado» «infamante» «estirpe», and the child who would be unable to clothe such thoughts, if he had them, in so fair a form. The narrator's intention in turning linguistic decorum upside down is certainly comic. But the seemingly pretentious language used here is, above all, ironic. It is a double-edged irony that while humorously pointing up the gap that exists between the language and the real state of things, at the same time enshrines a truth: that Juanín is at least as worthy of having this kind of language used about him as el Delfín (Juanito) but in fact is degraded and treated as an object of trade.

The treatment of people as objects is most consistenly displayed in the character of Juanito Santa Cruz. He uses Ido's hunger, misery and mental illness to torment him. (We shall examine this later when dealing with Ido). During Santa Cruz's own illness -a cold- this attitude is particularly marked: «Mamá, Jacinta, distraedme; tráiganme a Estupiñá para reírme un rato con él» (95). It is not, however, to laugh with him but at him, as the image he uses a little later indicates: «Que venga [Estupiñá] para decirle: 'Lorito, daca la pata'» (97). He complains of being treated like a dog (ibid.), but this is placed in ironic perspective during his search for Fortunata. The search is futile and the narrator comments in the final paragraph of Part I:

Es mucho Madrid este. Sale de caza un cristiano por esas calles, noche tras noche. ¿En dónde estará la res? Tira por aquí, tira por allá, y nada. La res no cae.


Once again an approach to life lacking in idealism is sharply juxtaposed with the casual, commonplace use of «cristiano» for «sujeto», «fulano», and is an ironic narrative echo of Santa Cruz's own self deception as to the real reason why he wants Fortunata: during the hunt he squares his conscience «con razones filantrópicas y aun cristianas, que sacaba de su entendimiento rico en sofisterías» (156).

The contrasting theme of romantic idealism is most probingly dealt with in Parts II and III in the characters of Maxi Rubín and Fortunata, but in Part I materialism has its contrasting feature in the portrayal of the characters of Jacinta, José Ido and José Izquierdo. They are, of course, treated in very different ways, but their romantic notions make them have this in common: they all exaggerate.


Jacinta is set apart from the other two, who approach nearer to caricature than to the fully rounded, compassionate treatment afforded to her. (Even though we are allowed extensive glimpses into the minds of both men, which tends to humanise rather than caricature them). Jacinta's weakness is ridiculed, but in a way that paradoxically brings out her compassion and generosity. We can examine a sentence from the incident where Jacinta tries to have some kittens rescued from drowning:

De allí, sí; de allí venían aquellos lamentos que trastornaban el alma de la Delfina, produciéndole un dolor, una efusión de piedad que a nada pueden compararse. Todo lo que en ella existía de presunción materna, toda la ternura que los éxtasis de madre soñadora había ido acumulando en su alma se hicieron fuerza activa para responder al miiii subterráneo con otro miiii dicho a su manera.


The borderline between romantic parody and unironic writing here is very slim indeed. Jacinta's painful, frustrated condition is given sympathetically in the very density of feeling in the description: «trastornaban el alma... un dolor... una efusión de piedad que a nada pueden compararse... presunción materna... éxtasis... de madre soñadora.» This is the language of commitment, not parody. But the gentle ridicule does come in the description of what she is responding to, and how: her response «al miiii subterráneo con otro miiii dicho a su manera.» This is followed by the facts of the matter, which further elicit our sympathy: the porter tells her that the noise comes from the kittens «de la gata [...] que parió anoche, y no los puede criar todos» (ibid.). In the animal world just as in the human (her mother's overwhelming fertility and the consequent dehumanising struggle to marry off her daughters; her poorer sister, Candelaria's, fertility; the many ill-cared for children she sees in the slums), Jacinta is surrounded by the crushing irony of apparently pointless fertility which makes her sterility-in-affluence all the more poignant.

The kittens scene illustrates how her tendency to exaggerate is built around her idée fixe of maternity. When the half crazed Ido makes the commonplace and deliberately flattering observation that she should have children, «Esto le pareció a la Delfina tan discreto, que creyó tener delante al primer filósofo del mundo, y le dio más limosna» (93). This tendency is linked, in an ironic way, to the techniques of melodramatic theatre and the sentimental novel. She herself, doubtless, is initially aware that she is overdramatising the Pitusín episode: Ido tells her of Juanín's origins and she is suspicious at first, thinking «Sólo en las novelas malas se ven esos hijos de sorpresa que salen cuando hace falta para complicar el argumento» (95). The dividing line between good natured acceptance and criticism of the romantic novel which Jacinta will help to «write» is again a slim one, because here indeed is an «hijo de sorpresa» being introduced into the novel Fortunata y Jacinta to «complicar el argumento»! When the deal is concluded Jacinta plans a sudden and dramatic «reunión» of father and son, and adding to it «mil cosas y pormenores novelescos [...] producíase en su alma un goce semejante al del artista que crea o compone» (128). Again, the tone which faintly ridicules the extravagance and indiscipline of «mil... pormenores novelescos» is offset by the metaphor of the artist who creates: Jacinta's is a positive reconciling activity born of deep need, and contrasts, as we shall see, with the negative, hallucinogenic and vengeful «novelising» of Ido, who is so mistakenly obsessed with the supposed adultery of his wife, that he misses the «real» story of Juanito's adultery which is going on in front of him. The ironic balance, then, is   —87→   maintained in the face of Guillermina's good humoured accusation of Jacinta: «tú buscas la sorpresita y el efecto teatral» (ibid.).

When Juanito hears the news of the child he comments: «Esos hallazgos de hijos parecen cosa de novela» (132). He confronts Jacinta, accuses her of having «[la] razón allá por esas nubes», and moralises: «¡ah las mujeres! Todas ellas tienen una novela en la cabeza' y cuando lo que imaginan no aparece en la vida, sacan su composicioncita...» (142). He advises her, «despídete de tu novela, de esa grande invención de dos ingenios, Ido del Sagrario y José Izquierdo» (143). He agrees to see the child and when in spite of the fact that: there is no recognition scene as she had hoped, Jacinta wishes to keep Juanín, her husband replies: «Chica, chica, estás en pleno romanticismo» (146). But Juanito's accusations of romanticism ring false, because when soon after this he chases Fortunata he himself falls into the very attitude of which he accuses Jacinta: his vision of Fortunata «le dominaba de tal modo, que lo infructuoso de sus pesquisas producíale un dolor indecible, y se fue exaltando, y por último figurábase que tenía sobre sí una grande, irreparable desgracia» (155). «Indecible», «exaltando», «irreparable» are not words we should associate with one who prides himself on his moderation. The description of his descent to houses of bad repute in search of Fortunata is a gentle parody of a novelette situation (notice especially the last five words) and an ironic reminiscence, which becomes a judgment on his selfishness, of Jacinta's visit to the slums in search of Juanín: «Parecía un padre, un hermano que desalado busca a la prenda querida que ha caído en los dédalos tenebrosos del vicio» (156). His over-exposure to the elements during the quest does not result in his catching the fashionably romantic discase of tuberculosis, but it is very nearly a case of «all for love», since the only result of his search is «una pulmonía de las finas» which almost kills him.

The Pituso story ends in the realistic way, not the romantic way that Jacinta had hoped for. Don Baldomero, although sentimentally hoping the child might be his grandson recognises that «lo del nieto era una novela» (150) and the child for whom. Jacinta had entertained such great: hopes is handed over to Guillermina's expanding orphanage. This in the narrator's words is the «desairado y risible desenlace de la novela pitusiana» (ibid.).

Jacinta's visits to the fourth estate contrast her sensitive yet ultimately impotent awareness with the cruder, «commonsense» approach of Guillermina, a contrast shown in the different ways they see and describe the misery around them: the narrator describes Jacinta's feelings on being accosted and implored by the needy:

Tantas y tantas lástimas oprimían el corazón de Jacinta, llevando a su mente ideas muy latas sobre la extensión de la miseria humana. En el seno de prosperidad en que ella vivía, no pudo darse nunca cuenta de lo grande que es el imperio de la pobreza, y ahora veía que, por mucho que se explore, no se llega nunca a los confines de este dilatado continente.


One notices the inappropriateness of the images used to describe the plight of the beggars who push against her; images that tend to sentimentalise and distance the situation and are indicative of Jacinta's own womb-like existence and removal from harsh economic realities. Yet this language of suppressed idealism contains a feeling which Guillermina, for all her commonsense sanctity, can never know. Her summary of things   —88→   is witty and down-to-earth: «Para venir aquí se necesitan dos cosas: caridad y estómago» (102). It is typical, too, of Jacinta's sentimental, more deeply personal approach to things that she becomes the «madre adoptiva» of one of the slum children, Adoración, and does have a relationship with her. Guillermina is first introduced to us as the mother of a hundred children and never strikes up a relationship with any of her «clients». (The Santa's most notorious «failure» in this respect is, of course, with Fortunata in Part III Ch. 7.)

Jacinta's romantic idealism, then, comes under the implacable yet sympathetic scrutiny of the narrator: the metaphors of sentimental novelising are balanced by her concerned creativity and its contrast with the negative romances of Ido and Juanito; from her comparison with Guillermina she does not emerge unfavourably: her lack of resources and resourcefulness strengthens her sensitivity but predisposes her to sentimentality. This narrative magnanimity is a certain feature of the style of Fortunata y Jacinta and is rooted in the ironic tone and balance of the language and situation of the novel.

It is José Ido del Sagrario who introduces Jacinta to that favourite theme of romance: the lost child. Like her, his dominant trait is to exaggerate. He is, however, distinguished from her because his idealising tendencies are not genuine and treated satirically, while Jacinta's spring from a truer and potentially more tragic source. Ido is described in terms that link him to the theatre, spectacle and the novel, not in the quieter, sentimental tones that suited yet criticised Jacinta so delicately, but in strong heroic-tragic terms ludicrously disparate with the wretchedness of his real situation, because he himself is hopelessly at odds with his surroundings: «Era como los niños o los poetas de verdad, y las sensaciones eran siempre en él vivísimas; las imágenes, de un relieve extraordinario. Todo lo veía agrandado hiperbólicamente o empequeñecido, según los casos» (107). While he may have the rudiments of a poetic intensity inside his head his failure lies in an inability to break away from the romantic clichés which suit his need to exaggerate his vision of the world around him: «Allí, la Puerta de Toledo, ¡qué soberbia arquitectura! A la otra parte, la fábrica del gas..., ¡oh prodigios de la industria!» (ibid.). This is of a piece with a general tendency to use hyperbolic language (in the next example, bureaucratic), a fixed habit of thought with him. When he sees the illiteracy of the street posters he voices his complaint: «¿Por qué no me había de dar el Gobierno, [...] el encargo, mediante proporcionales emolumentos, de vigilar los rótulos? [...] Si el Gobierno me nombrara ortógrafo de la vía pública, ya verías...» (ibid.).

It is with his wife that Ido's exaggeration becomes most ludicrous. While he calls her «la Venus de Médicis» the narrator describes her as lacking in every physical charm. Ido sees their situation in terms of an extravagant honour play. On the two occasions when he cats the chops that cause his hallucinations his rantings link him with melodramatic theatre. He speaks «con entonación trágica de actor de la legua» (92). His gestures are described as «extendiendo ambos brazos como suelen hacer los bajos de ópera cuando echan una maldición» (ibid.).

When he visits the Santa Cruz house Juanito gives him a meal, not primarily to help him (Jacinta suggests it), but «gozando con la idea de ver comer a un hambriento» (91). Ido obliges, providing the desired spectacle: «cayó sobre las chuletas como un tigre» (ibid.); and in the face of Santa Cruz's continued baiting «otra vez hincaba la barba en el pecho, mirando con los ojos medio escondidos en el casco y cerrándolos de súbito, como los toros que bajan el testuz para acometer» (92).


In spite of this inhuman degradation of Ido by Santa Cruz, the general portrayal of the hack writer is on the same benign, innocent level as that of Barbara and Estupiñá. Just as Barbara had her «manía de las compras», and conversation for Estupiñá was humorously described as a drug, thus on one hand tending to excuse him, so the same metaphor describes Ido's need for the meat that makes him wild:

De lo más hondo de su naturaleza salía un bramido que le pedía ¡carne, carne, carne! Era una voz, un prurito irresistible, una imperiosa necesidad orgánica, como la que sienten los borrachos cuando están privados del fuego y de la picazón del alcohol.


After his meal with Izquierdo his hallucinations begin: he charges home to catch his wife «in fraganti». She humours him, treating him like a child: «le puso en la mano un palillo de tambor que allí habían dejado los chicos» (113) and waiting for the attack to pass, puts him to bed.

José Izquierdo's romanticism is a romance with the past. Unlike Jacinta and Ido he consistently overvalues himself in relation to it by devaluing others. It is humorously ironic (and probably true in Ido's case) that the only compliment he pays is to that writer's pedagogic qualities, but with his grotesque vocabulary the word «instrucción» is garbled and the intended compliment emerges disastrously as: «usted, ¡hostia! sería un lince para la Destrucción Pública» (111). The tone of the narrator's treatment of Izquierdo is genial and comic, yet critical. Guillermina finally puts him on the road to «success» when she suggests that he become an artist's model and provides him with an introduction to a friend who is painting «un magnífico Buen Ladrón» (133). Buen Ladrón: this is the tone of the narrator's attitude to Izquierdo.

With Jacinta the language of the narrator is close to her feelings, which are seen as valid in themselves and viewed sympathetically, so that any criticism about the application of these feelings is mitigated. In Ido's case the gap between his language and actions and the reality of the situation is extreme. His distance from the narrator is very great; he is presented as a comic, childish figure, although he does engage some sympathy on his first entrance through the gratuitous insensitivity of Juanito and because of his generosity in sharing his last duro with Izquierdo. In the latter's case it is the gap between his language and his ambitious personal pretensions that is brought out. He wants «administración del Pardo» when he cannot read or write («ministración» for «administración»: he gets even the name of the desired post wrong). With him as with Jacinta and Ido, the narrator draws a contrast between his pretensions and the reality of things: he applies for a modelling situation and this is how the narrator describes it:

Un año después de lo que ahora se narra, estaba ya aquel planeta errante en su sitio cósmico. Platón descubrió al fin la ley de su sino, aquella para que exclusiva y solutamente servía. Y tuvo sosiego y pan, fue útil y desempeñó un gran papel, y hasta se hizo célebre y se lo disputaban y le traían en palmitas.


Here the parody of heroic language is as much a parody of the kind of painting for which he models, as of Izquierdo himself (we notice later in the paragraph the deflating juxtaposition of the heroic and the prosaic: Izquierdo representing «el gran Alba poniéndoles las peras a cuarto a los flamencos»). In the third sentence, quoted above, a gentle rise is taken out of the bustle and «busy-ness» of greatness as the verbs and copulatives pile on one another: nevertheless, the meaner aspects of it all   —90→   -«sosiego y pan» - are not omitted. The distancing narrative gap works on his «Tú sirves para algo» which becomes «presentimiento indeciso de glorias y bienandanzas» (ibid.). And his goodbye to the women after the Juanín deal is described as: «Despidiose de ellas el futuro modelo con toda la urbanidad que en él era posible» (133). Here the contrast between narrative and situation is underlined because of the way Izquierdo usually speaks: his «conversation» is frequently punctuated by animal grunts.

This bombast, as well as emphasising the gap between Izquierdo's broken-down language and his genteel pretensions contains its own structural irony because it anticipates the future success of Izquierdo, as against his present barbarous incoherence and uselessness. But, again ironically, the reality of his success is dependent upon things unrealistic: idealised portrayals in an age of realism. So, the language describing Jacinta brings out the potential altruism of motherhood that is waiting to be released, and the fulfillment of which is suggested at the end of the novel. With Ido's wild hallucinations there is no potential realisation because, unlike Izquierdo who escapes from a useless life into a silent fiction, Ido transfers his idealising from art to life.

In the character of Izquierdo things material and ideal are inextricably bound up. His success depends upon a «varonil y gallarda cabeza» which, however, hides a «mente embrutecida», and is cloaked with the trappings of uniforms and swords. This dualism is very well expressed by Guillermina when she advises him to present himself as a model:

Pues ellos te ponen vestido de santo, o de caballero, o de Padre Eterno, y te sacan el retrato..., porque tienes la gran figura. Cara, cuerpo, expresión, todo lo que no es del alma es en ti noble y hermoso... Llevas en tu persona un tesoro, un verdadero tesoro de líneas [...] Con tu piojín a cuestas serías el San Cristóbal más hermoso que se podría ver.


The last remark is particularly ironic in view of the reason for the meeting between Guillermina and Izquierdo: the sale of Juanín.

A summary, however, shows that not only in the character of Izquierdo but throughout Part I the ground between a mercantile, materialist approach to life and a romantic, idealistic one is very shifting, as the narrator's benevolent yet critical attitude traces, in a truly Cervantine fashion, a pattern of irony through his tale: Guillermina «la santa» aided and abetted by Jacinta's romantic tendencies negotiates the cash deal for el Pitusín; Juanito the relativist nearly dies trying to track down Fortunata; the idealising Ido needs «¡carne, carne, carne!» to feed his hallucinations; Izquierdo's animal grunts, as I said, are silenced and his noble features apotheosised in idealist paintings.

In the other three parts of the novel analogous ironic patterns are repeated: Fortunata the aspiring bourgeoise reverts to being Fortunata the romantic anarquista; Juan Pablo Rubín the anarquist becomes a pillar of society; the love of the wise old realist Feijoo for Fortunata turns him «chocho»; while the capitalist Moreno Isla's love for Jacinta reduces him to childish innocence; the faces of «la santa» Guillermina and «la diabla» Mauricia merge into one another; the inextricable demands of reason, religion, society, passion, humanism and individual idealism are all expressed in the frail and sickly figure of Maxi Rubín. Using commonplace images and ironic juxtapositien   —91→   of his sentence and situational structures the narrator traces these complex movements. Although some characters are certainly «better» than Others he will not commit himself to a final judgment. He is very much in the company of writers described by Maurice Z. Shroder: «Novelists are rather like the god of Tolstoy's parable: they see the truth, but wait».158 In Fortunata y Jacinta the ethic of tolerance, imbued with irony, becomes an aesthetic.

Trinity College. University of Dublin