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ArribaAbajoGaldós and Mass Psychology

Clark M. Zlotchew

Senatores boni viri; senatus autem mala bestia.

(Ancient maxim.)                

The present era of mass communication and social unrest places a high priority on the understanding of group psychology. Sociologists and psychologists study the phenomenon while the advertising agencies and statesmen give practical application to the knowledge gathered by the socio-psychologists. The roots of this science can be traced to the nineteenth century, principally to the Italian school of positive criminology, the founder and chief exponent of which is generally held to be Enrico Ferri1. Ferri's major departure from the classical school of criminology, with significant consequences for the yet unborn science of mass psychology, is contained in the idea that the joining together of generally intelligent individuals into a group does not guarantee the intelligence of the resulting assembly. This is so because, psychologically speaking, «the union of individuals never gives, as it would seem it should, a total equal to the individual value of each of them»2. Equally significant is his affirmation that emotion predominates over rationality in a group endeavor.3

While Ferri's statements referred principally to the composition and psychology of juries, his disciple, Scipio Sighele, applies these concepts to mobs as well and greatly expands upon them in La Folla delinquente (1892)4. Other writers, in France as well as Italy, write of the psychology of the masses in the late 1880's and early 1890's and reach similar conclusions; however, it is Gustave Le Bon who in La Psychologie des foules (1895), and while basically agreeing with Sighele in his definition of the crowd5, succeeds in providing the point of departure for most of the important subsequent studies in mass psychology. Current studies in the field generally have some basis in Le Bon and Freud whose work on the subject6 begins with a résumé of Le Bon's thoughts on the matter. In addition to the fact that Le Bon's study on crowd psychology has been highly influential in twentieth-century social psychology, the practical application of La Psychologie des foules as a textbook for the political manipulation of entire nations is notable; it was employed by Mussolini7 and probably by Hitler.8

The concept of mass psychology seems to have been in the air in Europe by the end of the nineteenth century. The purpose of the present study is to demonstrate that young Benito Pérez Galdós, in his first published novel, La Fontana de Oro (1870), already had expressed many of the ideas which were to be published later in the theoretical treatises on the subject even anticipating certain concepts which would not be promulgated again until Freud's study fifty-one years later.

Among the Novelas de la primera época, the novels in which the emphasis is heavily placed on political conflict are La Fontana de Oro and El audaz: Historia de un radical de antaño,9 published respectively in 1870   —6→   and 1871. The existence of sizeable groups in violent confrontation in these two novels provides the opportunity for examining a Galdosian entity which we shall denominate, for reasons which will become apparent, the «group-organism». In the formidable array of characters engendered by Galdós' prolific literary creativity might be numbered the various groups of individuals which seem to be brought into existence, quite often for a short period of time, for the purpose of carrying out a specific task. These task-forces, it will be seen, often are portrayed not merely as socially-organized groups or categories, but as living organisms in which the component parts (individual human beings) surrender their personal identity in order to become organs or cells of the larger organism10. The members of the organism will be observed to transfer control of their individuality to the head (literal as well as figurative) of the conglomerate creature. The group-organism may be well structured (e. g. a military unit) or quite unstructured, as in the case of a mob.

La Fontana de Oro, upon which we shall concentrate, offers prime examples of the group-organism. As a location in which politically oriented groups were formed in order to put theory into practice in the streets of Madrid, the café called the Fontana de Oro was an ideal breeding ground for group-organisms. The fact that the group-organism was quite definitely felt by Galdós to be what now is referred to as a gestalt seems evident, early in the action of the novel, when Galdós himself comments on the first speech made in the café by the protagonist. Lázaro realizes that he is making a singularly poor impression on the public. Galdós intervenes:

Lo singular es que si se hubiera preguntado a cualquiera, particularmente, su opinión sobre el discurso, habría dado, tal vez, una opinión no desfavorable; pero la opinión de un público no es la suma de las opiniones de los individuos que lo forman, no; en la opinión colectiva de aquél hay algo fatal, algo no comprendido en las leyes del sentido humano.11

There is in the idea that the opinion of a group is not equal to the opinions of the individuals who form that group an approximation to a dictionary definition of gestalt with respect to the above «público». A «público», any «público» is the possessor of an «opinión» which is not the sum of opinions belonging to the individuals who, comprise it. A «público», then, would seem to be for Galdós a living organism which is capable of thinking, of judging. The gestalt-like composition of the group, as presented by Galdós, clearly indicates the total subservience of the individual to the group-organism; perhaps it would be more accurate to refer to the absorption of the former in the latter. Galdós' words on the subject, published in 1870, are echoed in 1895 by Le Bon:

Le fait le plus frappant présenté par une foule psychologique est le suivant: quels que soient les individus qui la composent, quelque semblables ou dissemblables que puissent être leur genre de vie, leurs occupations, leur caractère ou leur intelligence, le seul fait qu'ils sont transformés en foule, les dote d'une sorte d'âme collective. Cette âme les fait sentir, penser et agir d'une façon tout à fait différente de celle dont sentirait, penserait et agirait chacun d'eux isolément. La foule psychologique est un être provisoire, composé d'éléments hétérogènes pour un instant soudés, absolument comme les cellules d'un corps vivant forment par leur réunion un être nouveau manifestant des caractères fort différents de ceux que chacune de ces cellules possède.12


Le Bon's comments on the jury succinctly states the same notion: «Et c'est ainsi qu'on voit des jurys rendré des verdicts que désapprouverait chaque juré individuellement...».13

Judging by the above, we note that Galdós recognized a phenomenon the psychological implications of which are utilized today by television producers. Laughter, as well as fear, is highly infectious. As a result, it has been observed that a member of a motion picture audience laughs more readily at humorous events than the solitary television viewer of the identical film. Horror movies are probably more effective with respect to audiences in movie theaters than to the individual home viewer. In order to simulate to some degree the impact of the group upon the individual, producers of many television comedy series employ pre-recorded laughter on the soundtrack of their program. This «canned-laughter», operating in much the same manner as would laughter emanating from a theater audience, provokes the viewer to laugh and produces the illusion of greater comicity than might actually exist. The pre-recorded laughter of the soundtrack indeed causes the viewer to temporarily relinquish his individuality while becoming one cell, so to speak, in an artificial group-organism. The individual's personality is subordinated to that ephemeral organism (an «audience» represented by its voice alone) in much the same manner as suggested by Galdós who states that the «opinión» of «un público» is not equal to the sum of the opinions held by its components.

Another facet of the relationship between the individual and the group-organism is revealed in the course of Lázaro's unsuccessful speech at the Fontana de Oro. The omniscient narrator explains: «En todo orador hay dos entidades: el orador, propiamente dicho, y el hombre. Cuando el primero se dirige a la multitud, el segundo queda atrás, dentro, mejor dicho, hablando también» (p. 55). In this dédoublement, the independent personality («el hombre») remains in the background or rather within, which is equivalent to its being submerged, and observes its own actions (oratory, in the case at hand) with detachment. Lázaro as «orador, propiamente dicho», functions as one cell of a group-organism while his independent personality («el hombre») is temporarily suspended.

At this point in Galdós' development of the scene, Lázaro has not yet been definitively absorbed by the group-organism; he is attempting to be absorbed by it. His efforts to sway the audience may be compared vaguely to the manner in which an idea occurs in the human mind. The audience considers Lázaro's words much as a mind weighs ideas. Just as the mind ultimately either accepts and then acts upon an idea or, on the contrary, rejects it after consideration, the gathering at the café, after having weighed Lázaro's exhortations, rejects them: «Ni Lázaro persuadió al público, ni éste aplaudió al orador» (p. 56). «Lázaro - idea» has been considered by the Fontana-organism and, found unacceptable, is rejected. Lázaro desired to become a cell of the organism, albeit a rather important cell located in the brain, but failed. An effective image is employed by Galdós to describe this rejection of an idea by a mind unwilling to or incapable of incorporating it. Lázaro's experience is expressed thus: «como si hubiera encendido un sol en un mundo de ciegos» (p. 56). Perhaps paradoxically, the individual   —8→   (Lázaro) is saddened at not being deprived of his individuality by the group: «Bajó con el alma atribulada, oprimido el corazón...» (ibid.). For the nonce the personality has regained its integrity; the «hombre» and the «orador, propiamente dicho» have been reintegrated into an independent unit.

Another orator ascends the platform while: «la multitud celebraba con aplausos maquinales las frases de su orador favorito...» (p. 57). The fact that the «multitud» applauds «maquinalmente» this other speaker who is classified as «favorito» even before he begins his discourse is analogous to the mind's predisposition to accept familiar ideas («orador favorito») while being disinclined to readily embrace new ones (Lázaro). Le Bon refers to this quality of the crowd mind: «S'il faut longtemps aux idées pour s'établir dans l'âme des foules, un temps non moins considérable leur est nécessaire pour en sortir».14

When the favorite speaker ends his exhortation declaring the necessity for putting into effect the demonstration prepared for the following day, the audience reacts enthusiastically: «Todos se levantaron unánimes gritando: '¡Sí'» (ibid.). The organic character of the group is emphasized by Galdós who qualifies its action as «unánimes». After having rejected a new idea (Lázaro), the organism's mind reconsiders a familiar one («orador favorito») to which it is already favorably disposed, becomes entirely convinced («¡Sí!») and prepares to act on its final decision: «Todos prometieron concurrir...» (ibid.). Galdós, as we have seen, considered that the organism referred to as «público» holds opinions which do not necessarily reflect those of its component parts, He has implied that those parts might well have reacted favorably to Lázaro's perorations had they considered them as individuals. One might speculate whether the reverse would hold true. Whereas the organism approves with «aplausos maquinales» the favorite speaker even before hearing his words and unanimously and emotionally begins to transform resolution into action, might not the individuals composing the group-organism have thought better of the rash action embarked upon in exaltation?

In any event, we have witnessed, in this speech-scene in the café, the thought process within the group-organism's mind. The presentation of this thought process within a living body (taken etymologically, «unánimes» suggests the existence of one single soul within this body) lends true life, in the reader's conception, to one more personage in the novel. We observe further development of this new creature: «[...] y tres o cuatro, encargados del ceremonial, dieron cuenta del arreglo de la procesión; se fijó la hora, se designó el punto de reunión» (ibid.). The organs or cells of the organism, that is, the totality of persons in the café, are arranged so that it has a body (most of the members) and a brain formed of the «tres o cuatro» who arrange the details of the action to be taken. This organism, whose thought patterns we have been observing, will be seen in action and in conflict with another group-organism at a later time.

As the patrons of the Fontana de Oro take their leave, one small group characterized by Galdós as «aquella fracción ignorante y turbulenta» decides to end the evening by creating civil disorder outside the home of Morillo, Captain General of New Castile. This group has as its nucleus a small number of individuals who had been seated in one corner of the café. At the instigation   —9→   of Calleja, the barber, who shouts, «¡Señores, serenata a Morillo!», their ranks are augmented by: «[...] toda la gente dispuesta para el caso que por allí pasaba» (p. 57). This entity, which we may denominate the Calleja group, may be viewed as yet another personage, one which is quite distinct from the group formed within the café and which is scheduled to participate in a demonstration the following day. The Calleja group is as much the product of oratory («serenata a Morillo») as is the other organism, but its difference in character may be noted by its more violent and less considered intentions in addition to the fact that it operates in accordance with Calleja's exhortations rather than the advice of the café's «orador favorito». Calleja had not dared to speak in competition with the eloquent orators of the Fontana de Oro; nevertheless, Calleja-idea is hastily accepted by the group labeled «ignorante y turbulenta». As human beings differ in character according to the ideas they accept and the actions they commit, so do the two groups described above (the café group which rejected Lázaro-idea but accepted the «orador favorito»; the Calleja group) differ and may be considered distinct Galdosian personages.

Prior to the events of the evening described above, Alcalá Galiano addresses the throng gathered at the Fontana de Oro15. This prestigious historical personage finds it necessary finally to step down from the speaker's platform when, after a disturbance is heard forming in the streets, his listeners increasingly are drawn from the café to join the street mob until: «el orador no tuvo más remedio que callarse» (p. 20). Finally, the five or six persons left in the café, wanting to satisfy their curiosity, leave the café accompanied by Alcalá Galiano himself. The idea represented by the renowned Alcalá Galiano is abandoned in favor of that represented by the street disturbance. This process may be thought of as analogous to the group-organism's changing its mind. One feature of this particular organism's character is brought out by this action: rashness. Rather than follow the intricacies of Alcalá Galiano's reasoning, it prefers to cease thinking altogether in favor of precipitate action.

The event just described may well have implications which may be generalized: the active mob sweeping through the streets has irresistibly drawn the individuals forming the sedentary café audience into its ranks. A still embryonic group (the café patrons) has been attracted into an already formed, although turbulent, organism to become part of ft. The reader is not told the exact nature of the mob's mission; in fact, he is left with the feeling that no specific goal is present, but rather that the group-organism in question is having, as do individuals, an outburst of undirected temper. The only information we have concerning the activities to be carried out by the mob is the statement: «Todas las señales eran de que había comenzado una de aquellas asonadas tan frecuentes entonces» (p. 20). Another generalization is possible with relation to the events just described, viz., that emotion is a force which has greater power over the group-organism than reason. We have just observed that Alcalá Galiano's sensible but intricate reasoning was abandoned in favor of unconsidered action sparked by high feeling in the streets. This generalization will be expressed by Le Bon: «Dans sa lutte éternelle contre la raison, le sentiment n'a jamais été   —10→   vaincu»16. He insists: «Aussi est-ce à leurs sentiments et jamais à leur raison que font appel les orateurs qui savent les [les foules] impressioner».17

Galdós soon reveals that many of the «asonadas» so frequent in the era described (1820-23) were fomented by Absolutists who, using Fernando VII's funds, would pay professional agitators to stir up the impressionable pueblo and the more radical elements of the anti-Absolutists against the Government, a constitutional monarchy in which the King was only a figurehead and in which the affairs of state were run by intelligent liberals whom the King would have liked to see destroyed. The exaltados (radical elements who wish immediate revolution) blindly discharge their fury against the more moderate government ministers, not realizing that in so doing they are serving the King and are working against their own interests. The mob just described displays extreme ignorance of the facts of political life18. Its energy is expended in self-defeating enterprises. As Le Bon would observe: «Les impulsions diverses auxquelles obéissent les foules... seront toujours tellement impérieuses que l'intérêt de la conservation lui-même s'effacera devant elles».19

The raging mob exerts a powerful attraction on those listening to Alcalá Galiano's speech, incorporating them within itself. The «canned laughter» effect mentioned above is a mild form of the same phenomenon exemplified by the attraction of the mob on individuals within sight and sound of its presence. The proximity of an active and violent mob irresistibly draws the previously calm individuals into the rabble's uncontrolled rampage, completely subjugating individual will to that of the entire organism. The psychological implications suggested by Galdós in this case are, incidentally, remarkably similar to the laws of physics in which the mass and proximity of a physical body determines the amount of attraction it exerts on smaller bodies.

Thus far we have witnessed the birth of three distinct group-organisms: that created in the Fontana de Oro after rejecting Lázaro-idea but accepting the «orador favorito» as their guiding principle; the irresponsible Calleja group formed in the streets outside the café for the purpose of creating a disturbance at Morillo's residence; and the mob surging through the streets which attracted to itself Alcalá Galiano's listeners. A fourth organism might have developed from Alcalá Galiano's audience had the individuals forming the potential organism not been attracted to and absorbed by the more active and larger street mob. Each of the three groups actually integrated may be thought of as constituting a unique personage in La Fontana de Oro possessing its own personality and its particular function with respect to the novel.

The group which rejected Lázaro but was moved to action by the «orador favorito» disbanded the evening of the speeches (the organism «went to sleep») determined to act on the following day. This group-organism, which we shall now call the Riego group, has decided to parade about bearing a large portrait of general Riego, the officer in charge of Aragón who was relieved of his post by the Government. The procession has been prohibited by the authorities, but the group, as we have seen, has been sparked into action by the power of oratory. This organism has grown to many times its original size. While smaller when first formed and possessing a brain   —11→   composed of «tres o cuatro» men, on this day the creature, whose body has grown but whose brain has decreased to «dos o tres personas» (p. 63), is wallowing in confusion.

At this moment, Lázaro struggles with his determination to go straight to his uncle's house and with the opposing force of the group which exerts a tremendous attraction upon him: «Allí estaba reunido un pueblo, dispuesto a una gran manifestación» (p. 64). His struggle to maintain his individuality in the face of the attraction of the larger organism may be seen especially in the skillful portrayal of his mental state in the words: «Lázaro quiso dominarse rechazando la tentación. Se alejó del pueblo y volvió a acercarse a él» (ibid.). The protagonist's fluctuation between independence and surrender is further described: «La masa, en tanto, se arremolinaba y se extendía por la plazuela del Ángel. Lázaro la siguió como fascinado; después se apartó con miedo de ella y de sí mismo. Pero no podía resolverse a retirarse» (ibid.). He hovers on the border between self-possession and absorption by the group-organism. While attracted by it, he also feels «miedo» toward it, presumably because of its potential for destroying his personal will; he feels this same emotion toward himself («de sí mismo») because of the half-realization that something within him wishes to be absorbed by the mob. This suggests the same duality in Lázaro which was made explicit by the narrator when, the previous night, Lázaro was described as being both «orador, propiamente dicho, y el hombre» (p. 55).

Up to this moment, the organism has reached physical proportions too great to be directed by its small and apparently inefficient brain. The fact that it wallows about in confusion as well as the insistence that it is one single creature, one unified entity, is clearly indicated by Galdós: «Había llegado aquel momento supremo de las agitaciones populares en que las turbas se paran silenciosas, alterados los miles de corazones por un solo y profundo temor, trastornadas las mil cabezas con una sola duda» (p. 64). While the creature is the possessor of thousands of hearts and a thousand heads, those hearts and heads all share «un solo y profundo temor» and «una sola duda». The emotions are single rather than multiple, thus, demonstrative of integration. This moment in the formation of a group-organism will be described by Le Bon:

Dans certaines circonstances données, et seulement dans ces circonstances, une agglomération d'hommes possède des caractères nouveaux fort différents de ceux de chaque individu qui la compose. La personnalité consciente s'évanouit, les sentiments et les idées de toutes les unités sont orientés dans une même direction. Il se forme une âme collective, transitoire sans doute, mais présentant des caractères très nets. La collectivité devient alors ce que, faute d'une expression meilleure, j'appellerai une foule organisée, ou, si l'on préfère, une foule psychologique. Elle forme un seul être et se trouve soumise à la loi de l'unité mentale des foules.20 (Le Bon's emphasis.)

This statement should be compared with Galdós' description, through La Zarza, a personage in El audaz (1871), of the Parisian mob: «Ninguno era dueño de sí mismo; todos habían abdicado su persona ante la colectividad, y cada cual dejó de ser un individuo para no ser más que muchedumbre» (P. 255).


Something is still lacking to set this creature in motion: «Falta que una voz sola diga lo que todos sienten» (p. 64). The emotions felt by the organism must be expressed; this expression cannot be multiple if it is to represent one single creature. The «voz» which is needed must be «una» and «sola». Furthermore: «[...] esa voz dice lo que una multitud no puede decir; porque la multitud, que obra como un solo cuerpo con decisión y seguridad, no tiene otra voz que el rumor salvaje, compuesto de infinitos y desiguales sonidos» (ibid., my emphasis).

Lázaro asks himself: «¿Sería el verbo revelador de aquel cuerpo ciego e inconsciente? ¿Hablaría o no hablaría?» (ibid.). Finally, his resistance disappears entirely and he is drawn into the organism as the necessary «verbo». The description of his absorption is extremely vivid: «Lázaro se mezcló en el torbellino. Sus ojos brillaban con extraordinario resplandor; su inquietud era una convulsión; su agitación, una fiebre; su mirada, un rayo» (ibid.). This is not the description of a man simply joining with his fellows: Lázaro is undergoing a metamorphosis which Galdós felt important enough to portray in a searching «close-up» of the protagonist at a crucial moment. There is, in the vocabulary depicting Lázaro's incorporation in the organism («convulsión», «agitación», «fiebre») and the appearance of his eyes, the suggestion, quite possibly unconscious on Galdós' part, of sexual union; this latter type of union may result, as does incorporation in a group-organism, in the creation of a new being. Furthermore, in both cases the creation of the new entity is accompanied by the temporary surrender of the personality on the part of the individuals who unite in this endeavor. The elements of attraction, resistence, surrender, pleasure within that surrender, and temporary abandonment of the self in the creation of another being, are factors common on one hand, to the process under scrutiny in which individuals form the group-organism and, on the other, to sexual reproduction. Perhaps one might suggest some analogy between the distinction orador-hombre and a dichotomy representing procreation and self-preservation.

The parallel between the attraction exerted by the mob and sexuality, here suggested dramatically by Galdós, is not observed by Le Bon and will not be examined until 1921 when Freud, who places great emphasis on this parallel, seeks to explain the psychological factors which are responsible for the change in mental state undergone by the individual in a mob:

Our interest is now directed to discovering the psychological explanation of this mental change which is experienced by the individual in a group. ... what we are offered as an explanation by authorities upon Sociology and Group Psychology is always the same, even though it is given various names, and that is -the magic word 'suggestion'. Tarde calls it 'imitation'; but we cannot help agreeing with a writer who protests that imitation comes under the concept of suggestion, and is in fact one of its results. Le Bon traces back all the puzzling features of social phenomena to two factors: the mutual suggestion of individuals and the prestige of leaders. But prestige, again, is only recognizable by its capacity for evoking suggestion.21

Protesting that, while suggestion repeatedly has been offered as the explanation for the individual's mental change in a crowd as well as under hypnosis, but that the nature of suggestion itself has not been explained, Freud states: «[...] I shall make an attempt at using the concept of libido for the purpose of throwing light upon Group Psychology...»22 He explains:


Libido is an expression taken from the theory of the emotions. We call by that name the energy... of those instincts which have to do with all that may be comprised under the word 'love'. The nucleus of what we mean by love naturally consists (and this is what is commonly called love, and what the poets sing of) in sexual love with sexual union as its aim. [...] in relations between the sexes these instincts force their way towards sexual union, but in other circumstances they are diverted from this aim or are prevented from reaching it, though always preserving enough of their original nature to keep their identity recognizable...23

He continues:

We will try our fortune, then, with the supposition that love relationships (or, to use a more neutral expression, emotional ties) also constitute the essence of the group mind. Let us remember that the authorities make no mention of any such relations. What would correspond to them is evidently concealed behind the shelter, the screen, of suggestion. Our hypothesis finds support in the first instance from two passing thoughts. First, that a group is clearly held together by a power of some kind: and to what power could this feat be better be ascribed than to Eros, who holds together everything in the world? Secondly, that if an individual gives up his distinctiveness in a group and lets its other members influence him by suggestion, it gives me the impression that he does it because he feels the need of being in harmony with them rather than in opposition to them -so that perhaps after all he does it 'ihnen zu Liebe'24, ('ihnen zu Liebe' is an idiom meaning 'for their sake' but literally signifies: 'for love of them'.)

Specifically referring to the nature of the ties which are present in groups, Freud adds: «We are concerned here with love instincts which have been diverted from their original aims, though they do not operate with less energy on that account»25. (Let us recall, at this point, that Lázaro marries Clara to settle down with her in isolated, provincial Ateca only after he definitely has freed himself from the attraction of the group-organism and abandons Madrid and his desire to play a part in politics. In Freudian terms this would represent a reversion of Lázaro's libidinal drive toward a truly sexual object. Freud might as well have been referring specifically to Clara and Lázaro when he affirmed: «Two people coming together for the purpose of sexual satisfaction, in so far as they seek for solitude, are making a demonstration against the herd instinct, the group feeling».)26

If the above parallel is valid (obviously, it is extremely vulnerable) and the «orador» is analogous to the part of the personality attracted to procreation, Lázaro's condition on joining the group-organism, as described further by Galdós, takes on greater significance while the rather exalted language employed is justified to a greater extent:

Cruzábanle por la mente extrañas y sublimes formas de elocuencia; latíale el corazón con rapidez desenfrenada; las sienes le quemaban, y sentía en su garganta una vibración sonora que no necesitaba más que un poco de aire para ser voz elocuente y robusta.

(p. 64)                

Galdós continues to stress the importance of speech to the full development of the group-organism:

Cuando aquel hombre [la «voz»] ha hablado, la multitud ha dicho lo que tenía que decir; la multitud se conoce, ha podido recoger y unificar sus fuerzas, ha adquirido lo que no tenía: conciencia y unidad. Ya no es un conjunto inorgánico de fuerzas ciegas: es un cuerpo inteligente cuya actividad tiende a un objeto fijo, bueno o malo, pero al cual se encamina con decisión y conocimiento.



Once its voice has been found, the creature gains self-awareness; it possesses personality. The organism is sufficiently intelligent to concentrate on obtaining a specific goal, for better or worse. Galdós now proceeds to endow this creature with limbs and sight while insisting on its intelligence: «El gran monstruo midió de una mirada el volumen de sus miembros multiplicados y la anchura del arco por donde había de pasar» (ibid.). With this description of the organism, whose sinister potential is hinted at by the term «monstruo», in its great size coupled with intelligence, Galdós brings a touch of melodrama to the action.

The organism whose genesis we have witnessed is now fully formed and will not long be viewed in a vacuum. Once described, it will enter into conflict with another organism. In attempting to parade through the streets bearing aloft the portrait of Riego, in defiance of Government orders, the Riego organism finds its path barred by a military detachment composed of two rows of soldiers lined up in the Platerías backed up by mounted lancers commanded by Morillo: «[...] el capitán general de Madrid, a caballo, esperando con grande aplomo y entereza» ibid.). An excitable but poorly armed «civilian» (the Riego group) faces a well armed and disciplined «soldier» (Morillo's troops). The Riego group has as its only intention a public demonstration in favor of Riego. Morillo's troops have been ordered to prevent this demonstration from taking place. Galdós presents us with a dramatic conflict between two «characters». The visual impact the reader receives of the Riego organism, a living creature with limbs carrying a huge likeness of Riego, is, in effect, that of a monster wearing a mask. Because this organism's only purpose is to call attention to itself and to the portrait, one may perhaps describe its motive, using an English idiom, as being nothing more than to «show its face».

After being ordered to disperse, the Riego group explains that the demonstration it wishes to carry out is not aggressive in purpose; its motives are merely those of rendering tribute «al héroe que había dado la libertad a su Patria» (p. 65). Morillo is adamant, however, and orders everyone to return home. It is obvious that the Riego group cannot contend with the military; it begins to retreat. The organic character of this group is insisted upon by Galdós' description of the disposition of Riego's portrait: «El retrato descansaba en tierra y se movía adelante y atrás, poco seguro en manos de sus portadores» ibid.). We receive a visual image of Riego's head lowered and nodding to and fro on the agitated body of the organism. If not too facetious, the English phrase referring to an Oriental code of honor might be appropriate in describing this physical manifestation of the psychological phenomenon now taking place: the organism is «losing face».

We have already, on several occasions, noted the importance of oratory in La Fontana de Oro with respect to the activation of the group-organism. Calleja activated his small and senselessly violent group by shouting: «¡Señores, serenata a Morillo!» (p. 57). The «orador favorito» gave resolution to the group at the Fontana de Oro, which, re-uniting on this next day and having swelled by the addition of new components, we have referred to as the Riego group. The scene in which Lázaro-idea was rejected by the audience which then accepted the «orador favorito» also underlines the significance   —15→   given by Galdós to the spoken word27. Today, Lázaro has been accepted as the «voz» which provides the organism with intelligence and cohesiveness, and once more we shall see the importance of speech. Le Bon recognizes this: «L'orateur, en communication intime avec la foule, sait évoquer les images qui la séduisent. S'il réussit, son but a été atteint; et un volume de harangues ne vaut pas les quelques phrases ayant réussi à séduire les âmes qu'il fallait convaincre».28

As the intimidated Riego organism begins to withdraw in the face of the Morillo organism, Lázaro addresses the crowd: «El orador [Lázaro] continuó su filípica; pero la continuó excitando al pueblo a que no cediera su empeño de verificar la manifestación. [...] y cada palabra suya era como un latigazo que estimulaba a la muchedumbre a seguir adelante» (p. 65). The troops, with weapons and military skill, nevertheless prevent the demonstration from taking place. The means by which this is accomplished once more underlines the power of the spoken word as the idea impelling the group-organism. The officers repeatedly give orders to seize the speaker, thereby recognizing the motivating quality of speech:

-¡A ésos que gritan! -dijo el que mandaba el piquete...


-¿Quién gritaba? -dijo el capitán-. A los que gritan. Prended a los que gritan...


Prended a los que gritan. Este es el predicador. ¡A ése!


Lázaro is apprehended and the demonstration ends: «La procesión fracasó. El retrato quedó hecho trizas en medio de la plaza...» (ibid.). The portrait of Riego lying in the square while the crowd disperses may be taken as a kind of symbol of the decapitation and death of the Riego organism.

The importance of the leader to the life of the psychological crowd, here recognized by Galdós, is made explicit by Le Bon: «Si, par suite d'un accident quelconque, le meneur disparait et n'est pas immédiatement remplacé, la foule redevient une collectivité sans cohésion ni résistance»29. Freud explains this phenomenon in terms of panic, which is the result of the severance of the libidinal ties between the crowd and the leader, on cone hand, and between each member of the crowd and his fellows, on the other: «Now that he [the individual in the crowd] is by himself in facing the danger, he may surely think it greater»30. He gives an example:

The typical occasion of the outbreak of a panic is very much as it is represented in Nestroy's parody of Hebbel's play about Judith and Holofernes. A soldier cries out: 'The general has lost his head!' and thereupon all the Assyrians take to flight. The loss el the leader in some sense or other, the birth of misgivings about him, brings on the outbreak of panic, though the danger remains the same; the mutual ties between the members of the group disappear, as a rule, at the same time as the tic with their leader. The group vanisher, in dust, like a Bologna flask when its top is broken off.31

As the action progresses, the King's agents continue their attempts to incite the people against the moderates. On one particular evening many impassioned speeches are delivered at the Fontana de Oro. The audience at the café once more appears to be conceived of as a group-organism: «La   —16→   Fontana estaba aquella noche elocuente, ciega, grande en su desvarío. Iba a perpetrar un crimen sin conocerlo» (p. 142, my emphasis). Because of his action during the Riego demonstration, we: may consider Lázaro a «familiar idea» in the mind of the Fontana de Oro. He is urged to speak and he complies with great skill. The main thrust of this speech is that the people have become slaves to a privileged class which has arisen from among them. He refers to the moderates or prudentes who are presented by the narrator with great sympathy. As a familiar «idea», Lázaro's speech has a powerful influence on the listeners. A secondary character tells Lázaro: «Esta noche nuestro partido adquiere con la palabra de usted una fuerza terrible» (p. 143). The «fuerza terrible» brought about by Lázaro's oratory will be seen in operation as the fury of the mob is unleashed the following evening.

Lázaro, who has political reform through legal means in mind upon making his speech, is shocked to discover that his words have been distorted into an exhortation to liquidate the members of government referred to variously as discretos, prudentes, or servilones. Consequently he warns the men who, are the object of the plot. The mob, the instrument of absolutist conspiracy, swells with misguided exaltados and members of the pueblo, reaching fearful proportions: «todo el largo de la tapia del Príncipe Pío estaba ocupado por el pueblo, y algunos pelotones de gente armada estaban en la Montaña, en la parte contigua a dicha puerta» (p. 171). One member alone of this organism is composed of over three hundred persons: «El callejón de la Cara de Dios contenía más de trescientas personas...» (ibid.). This mob, while composed of «personas», is portrayed as one single organism in Galdós' vivid description: «Imposible es referir los vaivenes, las convulsiones, los bramidos con que se manifestaba la pasión colectiva del inmenso pólipo, difundido allí, comprimido con estrechez en aquel recinto» (p. 172).

The creature, here specifically called an «inmenso pólipo», is seen writhing in «convulsiones» and is heard by its «bramidos»; thus, we are presented by the narrator with visual as well as auditory manifestations of a «pasión» referred to as «colectiva». The monster's physical strength is applied intelligently to the weakest point of the intended victims' meeting place: «El monstruo oprimió con su más fuerte músculo la puerta de la casa» (ibid.). Galdós is not viewing the mob as a union of distinct personalities; he is painting a picture of a single monstrous creature operating in concentrated fury.

As a result of Lázaro's recent awareness of the true political situation (the Absolutists' manipulation of radicals and people to destroy, rather than liberalize, constitutional government) and his warning, the mob-organism will have to contend with another organism: «[...] pero al llegar al patio hubo un instante de vacilación, de terrible sorpresa. Doble fila de soldados apuntaban a la multitud...» (p. 172). The military organism is once more presented as an entity which, unlike the mob, is orderly, methodical, dispassionate, and well disciplined. When the door is knocked down by the «monstruo», the riflemen still hold their fire, merely aiming their weapons at the invaders. The commanding officer orders the mob to retreat. Only when one of the soldiers is felled by a shot (i. e., the military organism receives a wound) do the riflemen fire. After a brief skirmish, the undisciplined horde begins   —17→   to recoil in confusion as foot soldiers advance against it. Simultaneously, a squad of cavalry gallops into the fray, proceeding along the Calle del Conde Duque as a battalion of National Guards advances along the Portillo impeding the rioters' escape. The cavalry, the National Guards, and the riflemen within the house may be considered several members of one organism. This military organism destroys that which has been variously labeled by Galdós «pólipo» and «monstruo».

Galdós states in the preámbulo to La Fontana de Oro that this novel is didactic in nature, having as its purpose the analysis of a complicated political situation in the Spain of 1820-23 for the purpose of avoiding a repetition, in Galdós' own time, of the misfortunes occasioned by political naiveté in the era described in the novel. The utilization of the device denominated by us as the «group-organism» serves several purposes. The spectacle of two branches of the same political persuasion (liberal) divided into two camps (exaltados and prudentes) capable of destroying the Liberal party and allowing the King to regain absolute control gives rise to two distinct, although related, themes which will be present in some form or another in much of Galdós' subsequent work. The first theme is that peace and compromise are to be preferred to the futility of violence and extremism (these last two qualities appear graphically in the form of antagonistic group-organisms). Deriving from Galdós' concern with the deep ignorance evinced by the organisms composed of pueblo, an ignorance which leads these entities to engage in self-defeating activities, there emerges a second theme which will be a constant in his work: the importance of education as the remedy for destructive ignorance. Precisely because the group-organism is easily led to engage in acts which the individual members composing ft might eschew if in possession of their personal consciousness and because these acts can be violent, the group-organism attains, in La Fontana de Oro, the function of a dual symbol for ignorance and extremism. Galdós' weapons against this bicephalous monster, as may be seen throughout his work, are education and a spirit of compromise.

What is of paramount importance to the present study, however, is that many of the concepts relating to mass psychology which were published in the late 1880's and early 1890's must have been in the air throughout a good part of Europe previous to 1870, when La Fontana de Oro was published, and most certainly were known to Galdós at that time. Galdós as a very young man, and in his first published novel, demonstrates familiarity with the socio-psychological «discoveries» promulgated by the theoreticians over two decades after the appearance of La Fontana de Oro. However, even more startling is the fact that in this early novel Lázaro marries Clara only after he manages to disengage himself from the bonds of the group-organism, a concomitance which is in perfect accord with Freud's affirmation, published in 1921, more than a half-century after the novel, that: «Two people coming together for the purpose of sexual satisfaction, in so far as they seek for solitude, are making a demonstration against the herd instinct, the group feeling»32. While not writing a treatise on social or psychological theory, but rather producing an artistic creation, young Pérez Galdós   —18→   anticipated by fifty-one years Sigmund Freud's tracing to the libido the phenomenon which group psychologists had been labeling suggestion or imitation without further analysis.33

State University of New York at Fredonia

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