«Parece que en él ha querido la Naturaleza hacer el hombre tipo de la época presente. Está cortado y moldeado para su siglo, y encaja en éste como encaja en una máquina su pieza principal» (129).
One is reminded of the equally decisive climax in discurso form of a later Galdós novel, Torquemada en el Purgatorio.
Robert J. Weber, The Miau Manuscript of Benito Pérez Galdós (Berkeley, 1964), p. 47.
While we believe this to be true, we are not claiming that thematic elaboration precedes thematic definition in the creative process.
Useful representative studies, from differing vantage points, are those of Ricardo Gullón, op. cit.; José F. Montesinos, Galdós, II (Madrid: Editorial Castalia, 1969); and Denah Lida, «Sobre el krausismo de Galdós», in Anales Galdosianos, II (1967), 1-27.
These words express the central theme of the novel, one of contemporary man's most disturbing perceptions. B. F. Skinner, in his Beyond Freedom and Dignity (Bantam Books: New York, 1972) -one of many elaborations that might be cited- states categorically that «a person does not act upon the world, the world acts upon him». (202). Ernest Jones explains Freud's comparable view in The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (New York: Basic Books, 1955) as the result of three scientific blows to mankind's narcissism -those of three revolutions: the cosmological of Copernicus, the biological of Darwin and the psychological of Freud. (II, 225-26). Galdós, clearly responding elsewhere in his work to the first two and markedly pre-Freudian in his best work, is nevertheless, in Manso, concerned with a social rather than a scientific perception. Karl Marx' view that «it is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness» (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy , reproduced in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, ed. L. S. Feuer, [Garden City: Doubleday, 1959], p. 43.) is not far removed from the statement made by El amigo Manso, one of the early overt treatments of the theme.
This last is documented in a forthcoming study.
An embryonic version of this study was read at the 28th Annual Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, Apr. 24-26, 1975. I am grateful to Brian J. Dendle for the invitation that sparked this essay.
I use the term «autonomous» not to refer to a character's extranovelistic credibility, as Francisco Ayala, for example, uses it in «Los narradores de las novelas de 'Torquemada'», «Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos, No. 250-252 (1970-71), 375; rather, I apply it more narrowly to the illusion of independence from authorial control by means of a character's confrontation with his fictionality. Joseph E. Gillet, «The Autonomous Character in Spanish and European Literature», Hispanic Review, 24 (1956), 179-90, who makes only passing reference to El amigo Manso and detours around the illusory nature of the device, discusses autonomy in this light as an author's willing abdication of his power, with the result that characters exist as citizens of a double world of reality and literature. This duality infuses the concept with its problematic nature, of which I am fully aware and which I shall develop later in this essay.
References to El amigo Manso are to the first edition (Madrid: La Guirnalda, n.d.  by chapter and page. I have modernized the accentuation and, where necessary, the punctuation.