Selecciona una palabra y presiona la tecla d para obtener su definición.
Anterior Indice Siguiente

  —72→     —73→  

ArribaAbajoGaldós' Tormento: political partisanship/literary structures

John H. Sinnigen

Tormento was published in 1884, almost twenty years after the period it refers to (1867, 1868). It was written at a high point of the Restoration, for it had been ten years since both the revolution of 1868-1874 and the Carlists had been defeated, the Spanish economy was still riding the crest of the «fiebre de oro» (1876-1886), and the turno pacífico was functioning well. These years, then, were ones of social stability which stood in contrast to the nearly continual turbulence Spain had known throughout the nineteenth century. The years in which Tormento takes place were one of those tumultuous periods, the interim between the uprisings of 1854 and 1868; that is, between an uprising which stopped short of the abolition of the monarchy and one which accomplished that task. Throughout the novel there is repeated explicit reference to the historical situation, especially as characters anticipate the coming of a social upheaval.

In spite of this conjunctural difference between the two periods, Galdós perceived that, in fact, the societies in question were similar. As the narrator in Tormento observes:

En una sociedad como aquélla, o como ésta, pues la variación en diez y seis años no ha sido muy grande; en esta sociedad, digo, no vigorizada por el trabajo, y en la cual tienen más valor que en otra parte los parentescos, las recomendaciones, los compadrazgos y amistades, la iniciativa individual es sustituida por la fe en las relaciones. Los bien relacionados lo esperan todo del pariente, a quien adulan o del cacique a quien sirven y rara vez esperan de sí mismos el bien que desean. En esto de vivir bien relacionada, la señora de Bringas no cedía a ningún nacido ni por nacer, y desde tan sólida base se remontaba a la excelsitud de su orgullete español, el cual vicio tiene por fundamento la inveterada pereza del espíritu, la ociosidad de muchas generaciones y la falta de educación intelectual y moral. Y si aquella sociedad difería bastante de la nuestra, consistía la diferencia en que era más puntillosa y más linfática, en que era aún más vana y perezosa (my emphasis), y en que estaba más desmedrada por los cambios políticos y la empleomanía.

(1464, 1465)127                

This statement is revealing about both the ideological preoccupation of Tormento and the principal literary vehicle that will be used to explore this preoccupation. Since the societies of 1884 and 1867, 1868 are portrayed as similar, Spain is seen as still suffering from an allegiance to old, established, pre-capitalist, institutions, and from the corresponding inability to admit any new, revitalizing elements which might alter those institutions. It is best described by the pairs of adjectives puntillosa/linfática and vana/perezosa. Its illness is two-fold; it is dedicated to appearances (puntillosa and vana), and it is lazy (linfática and perezosa). This critique of the Restoration flows from Galdós' recognition of the failure of the Spanish bourgeoisie to fulfill   —74→   its historic task, the final seizure of political power and the transformation of the institutions of the ancien régime.128

These traits are presented through an individual-typical character, Rosalía de Bringas. Throughout Tormento and La de Bringas there is substantial evidence of Rosalía's devotion to the superficial, and, although she is not always lazy, her energies are never productive. To the contrary, they are dedicated to maintaining appearances. Rosalía is the wife of a government bureaucrat, a particularly unproductive profession. Furthermore, the well-being of her family is tied to the interests of the monarchy, and she lives in Madrid, that capital most affected by «los cambios políticos y la empleomanía». We see, then, that Galdós focuses on a specific sector of Madrid society as a vehicle for talking about all of Spain. The problems that dominate in the governmental bureaucracy are portrayed as those which plague the nation: «esta sociedad... no vigorizada por el trabajo» is at once the bureaucracy, Madrid, and Spain.

Of course Tormento is a novel and not a political treatise. Therefore within it any ideological preoccupation had to be articulated in a specifically literary form. Galdós wrote within the tradition of classical bourgeois realism, a tradition corresponding to the period of bourgeois ascendancy. The influence which writers such as Dickens and Balzac exercised on him is generally recognized. In the work of all these writers the narrative structures and development of characters are similar. Their narrators are all more or less omniscient and they all utilize the discourses of important characters as means of exploring their «world». The major characters are at once «individuals» and «types». That is, while they have well developed individual «psychologies» and «personal lives», their development also reflects major social contradictions.129 The constellation of individual-typical characters presents a social space homologous to the real world. This space is articulated through characters who represent different social classes, groups, institutions, and values. A fundamental structuring of this constellation involves the opposition of the problematic individual (frequently an outsider) to society. Thus, for example, the oppositions Pepe Rey/Orbajosa, Fortunata/middle class society (of both the Santa Cruz and Rubín varieties), Ángel Guerra/the world of his mother, Halma/the practical world of her brother. As these oppositions are worked out, the nature of both the individual and the society in question is revealed.

The appearance/«reality» contradiction is another important constituent element in the novels of this tradition. It can be found in Galdós in such simple manifestations as the ironic use of names like Doña Perfecta and Don Inocencio and in more complex forms such as Benina's «creation» of Don Romualdo. The contradiction is, in fact, a convention which Galdós utilizes extensively. Frequently linked to this convention is another, the «education» of the protagonist. That is, the protagonists «learn» in so far as they move from a naive to a more mature vision of themselves and society by learning to discern the «reality» lying behind deceptive appearances. Of course, not all characters overcome their naïveté. Some, for example Isidora Rufete and Alejandro Miquis, remain trapped in their world of illusions. But others, like Agustín Caballero and Pedro Polo shed their illusions and achieve a new level of self and social awareness.130


Tormento is the fourth in the series of novelas españolas contemporáneas. It is in this series that Galdós developed most fully his portrayal of individual-typical characters. Here there is also an extensive examination of the appearance-reality theme which is developed through the individual-society opposition. In this respect Tormento represents a kind of turning point. In La desheredada, El amigo Manso, and El doctor Centeno the falseness of the romantic visions of the protagonists was revealed. Social criticism was provided only in so far as the prevalence of such visions in society was demonstrated. As far as the individual-society duality is concerned, the emphasis fell on what was revealed about the individual. Thus, for example, the moraleja of La desheredada urges the reader to take Isidora as a model of what not to do. In Tormento, on the other hand, we find the beginning of an unmasking of society, an unmasking that is continued in more thorough fashion in La de Bringas.

The social space in Tormento is primarily petty bourgeois. Francisco Bringas is a middle level bureaucrat, and his family's house is the principal geographic center. Agustín is the only bourgeois of importance; relations with aristocrats are merely mentioned, and the pueblo is virtually absent.131

The plot is based on the development of the traditional love triangle formed by Polo, Amparo, and Agustín, and the relation of these three characters to the Bringas household (and to a lesser extent Marcelina Polo). The Bringas stand as the principal representatives of the status quo. They are fierce defenders of the pre-capitalist values of the ancien régime and the outmoded institutions of the church and the monarchy. Rosalía is guilty of «cierta manía nobiliaria» (1459), and life for the family is defined as the art of living «bien relacionado». Although each of the three lovers is somehow distinct from the Bringas, the clearest opposition is established by Agustín. Agustín is an outsider, first of all in a geographic sense, for the has come to Madrid from America. He is uncomfortable within Madrid society (e.g. he does not like to go to the theater), and that society views him as different. He is further differentiated from the Bringas through his relation with Amparo, the daughter of a deceased pharmacist who seems condemned to lead a humble existence. For this reason the Bringas treat her in a patronizing way. Agustín, however, loves her in spite of her social rank and because of her simplicity. Because of his timidity, however, he has a difficult time expressing his feelings. This difficulty is especially obvious in chapters VIII and IX where he struggles to propose marriage but fails since «aquel maldito freno que su ser íntimo ponía fatalmente a su palabra» (1476) keeps him from finding the words with which to begin. Agustín does not lack the sentiment of love, but he is missing its rhetoric.

This reticence contrasts with the empty rhetoric that is so much a part of life in Madrid. For example, the education of Paquito Bringas and Joaquinito Pez: «Ambos habían principiado la carrera de leyes, y se adiestraban en el pugilato de la palabra espoleándose desde tan temprana edad por la ambicioncilla puramente española de ser notabilidades en el Foro y en el Parlamento. Paquito Bringas no sabía Gramática, ni Aritmética... Y no obstante esta lumbrera escribía memorias sobre la Cuestión social que eran pasmo de   —76→   sus compañeritos» (1472). Pompous, vacuous rhetoric is so essential in Madrid that it becomes the most important part of a young man's education.

This difference provides one example of the relation between the oppositions appearance/reality, Agustín/society. Although Agustín has a difficult time expressing himself, he is motivated by a genuine sentiment. On the other hand, Paquito has mastered rhetorical forms, but he has no knowledge to communicate. An impressive appearance masks substance-less reality. This opposition receives further expression through the difference between Agustín's utility and sincerity and the indolence and ostentatiousness of Spanish society: «En verdad, aquel hombre que había prestado a la civilización de América servicios positivos, si no brillantes, era tosco y desmañado, y parecía muy fuera de lugar en una capital burocrática donde hay personas que han hecho carreras por saber hacerse el lazo de la corbata» (1468). Knowing how to dress, like knowing how to talk, is important in a society which strives to present itself as sophisticated and wealthy although it lacks the knowledge and the «iniciativa individual» necessary to attain these qualities.132

Along with being sincere, Agustín is also naive. He does not recognize just how profound the differences which separate him from Spanish society are. In fact, in his desire to «start a new life», he seeks to adapt himself to society's demands: «Allí [in América] no había religión, ni ley moral, ni familia, ni afectos puros; no había más que comercio, fraudes de género y de sentimientos... ¿Cómo encontrar en semejante vida lo que yo ansiaba tanto? Cuando me vi rico, dije: 'Ahora, ellos', y me embarqué para Europa. Por la travesía pensaba así: 'Ahora, en la vieja España, pobre y ordenada, encontraré lo que me falta, sabré redondear mi existencia, labrándome una vejez tranquila y feliz...'» (1478). Essential to this vision of order is a search for a wife, and Agustín believes that Amparo is the ideal choice. He explains to his cousin: «Vi a una mujer que me pareció reunir todas las cualidades que durante mi anterior vida solitaria atribuía yo a la soñada, a la grande, hermosa, escogida, única, que brillaba dentro de mi vida por su ausencia y vivía dentro de mí con parte de mi vida... Todo lo que de ella necesitaba yo saber, lo sabía sólo con mirarla. Sospechas de engaño, de doblez, de mentira... ¡Oh! nada de eso cabía en mí viéndola. El amor y la confianza eran en mí un mismo sentimiento...» (1479). Agustín has fallen in love with a preformed, idealized vision of Amparo that parallels his idealized vision of Spanish society. In both instances he is wrong, and the process through which he is disillusioned becomes the most important tension of the novel. When he finally does learn the truth about Amparo's past, this discovery leads him to reject his vision of an orderly society. Since a crucial part of that vision was his projection of the ideal Amparo, when that ideal is shattered, the whole vision vanishes. Agustín now sees his entire effort as having been nothing more than the interaction of a deceitful society and his «yo falsificado» (1564). After discovering that he has been living behind a mask, Agustín understands that masks and façades are the reality of the principles of Spanish society. As mauvaise foi gives way to sincerity, selfawareness leads to social awareness.

Although motivated by different needs, Pedro Polo's development is similar to Agustín's. Against his natural inclinations, Polo is attracted to both   —77→   his profession and Madrid because of economic necessity. He tries to adapt himself to the role of a conventional urban priest, and in El doctor Centeno he is apparently successful in this role. But living behind this mask becomes intolerable for him, and he recognizes the falseness of the role he had been playing: «Era un hombre que no podía prolongar más tiempo la falsificación de su ser, y que corría derecho a reconstruirse en su natural forma y sentido, a restablecer su propio imperio personal, a efectuar la revolución de sí mismo, y derrocar y destruir todo lo que en sí hallara de artificial y postizo» (1496). Like Agustín, Polo rejects the «yo falsificado» that society had forced him to create. Once again hypocrisy gives way to sincerity. Like Agustín, Polo is portrayed as being energetic, hard working, and sincere. Therefore although Polo and Agustín are socially distinct, they are morally similar. As such Polo is also differentiated from the Bringas and, more particularly, his hypocritical sister.

The unmasking of society is therefore effected primarily through a process of differentiation. First of all the narrator points out how Polo and Agustín are different from the status quo. But more important is the fact that these outsiders are not able to adapt themselves to the conventions which govern the lives of the Bringas. In spite of their efforts to achieve this adaptation, their faithfulness to themselves does not allow them to accept the hypocrisy of the social norm.133 Their realizations of the hypocrisy of society and of their attempts to adapt to its demands represents the culmination of their learning experiences and of the process of differentiation. The discrepancy between appearance and reality is most clearly delineated when Agustín and Polo recognize it, precisely because initially they had been fooled by a deceptive façade. The trajectories of both of these characters, then, is characterized by a movement from illusion to disillusion.

The same movement informs the narrative structure, which is based on the interpenetration of the discourses of the narrator, Amparo, and Agustín. Thus, particularly Agustín's learning process is an important focus of attention. Moreover, the reader must also overcome illusions. For example, Amparo's past is presented as a mystery. In both El doctor Centeno and Tormento there are clues which suggest the nature of her relationship with Polo, but the structure of interpenetrating discourses in the first chapters of Tormento serves to hide it. Agustín, following the suppositions of his preconceived vision of an orderly society, lauds Amparo's «virtue», and other characters, including the narrator, lend support to this belief. For example, the narrator describes in the following way Amparo's situation immediately after her father's death: «Luego que a su padre dieron tierra, instaláronse las dos huérfanas en la casa más reducida y más barata que encontraron, e hicieron voto de heroísmo que se llama vivir de su trabajo. El de la mujer soltera y honrada, era y es una como patente de ayuno perpetuo... Muy a mal lo hubieran pasado sin la protección manifiesta de Bringas, y la más o menos encubierta de otros amigos y deudos de Sánchez Emperador» (1464). The narrator here ir misleading us. He suggests that the two girls followed the dictates of social convention although we find out later that Amparo had an affair with Polo. He also implies that friends other than Bringas helped the two girls because of an allegiance to their father, when Polo had been of   —78→   major assistance because of his love for Amparo. Deceptive comments like this one lead the reader to share the widely held opinion about Amparo's situation. Even the voice of the narrator cannot be trusted. Like other characters, he too can be fooled by appearances. Therefore this illusion can be shed only as the characters act to clear up the mystery.

Appearance-reality. The education of the protagonist. Interpenetrating discourses. Illusion-disillusion. Mysteries. All of these constituent elements of this novel are to be found throughout the work of Galdós, for, as we have noted, they are conventions common to the literary tradition within which he worked. In Tormento the appearance of an orderly, prosperous, society hides the reality of the conflict of selfish interests and stagnation. Because of this discrepancy, as well as because of their own needs, Agustín and Polo have certain illusions about their existence in this society. The shedding of these illusions is their education. This process is portrayed through the structure of interpenetrating discourses through which the characters' weaknesses and the hypocrisy of society are revealed. This process also resolves the mysteries that were presented to both the characters and the reader.

Therefore the specific function of these conventions is determined by the ideological preoccupation demonstrated by the work as a whole, the search for a means of regenerating a stagnant society. This preoccupation can be seen most clearly in the duality of the differentiation represented by the characters as types. This duality is first suggested by the pairs of adjectives referred to before, puntillosa/linfática and vana/perezosa. 1. Agustín, Polo and the Bringas are socially different. Agustín is an example of that capitalist hero, the self-made man. He comes to Madrid in search of a tranquil, orderly existence. Polo is a poor priest. He comes to Madrid in search of economic stability. Although their economic situations are different, they are socially similar in that they are differentiated from the bureaucracy and the institutions of the ancien régime, represented by the Bringas. Whereas that society is linfática and perezosa, Agustín and Polo are hard-working. 2. Agustín and Polo, on one hand, and the Bringas, especially Rosalía, on the other, are morally different. The two outsiders are sincere while the Bringas are puntillosa and vana. Although Polo and Agustín accept temporarily the established conventions which govern the Bringas' lives, eventually their sincerity leads them to reject those conventions. This duality suggests that what is needed to regenerate Spanish society are: 1. hard work and iniciativa individual; that is a bourgeois alternative to the stagnating monarchical structures; 2. sincerity, a moral honesty to replace the hypocrisy of the old order. In Tormento, then, the two aspects of the type are complementary, and through the differentiation they trace, the isolation, as well as the social and moral degeneration of the institutions in question is made clear.134

In an analysis of the social function of art that has special relevance for classical bourgeois realism, Georg Lukács observes:

This representation of life, structured and ordered more richly and strictly than ordinary life experience, is in intimate relation to the active social function, the propaganda effect of the genuine work of art. Such a depiction cannot possibly exhibit the lifeless and false objectivity of an 'impartial' imitation which takes no stand or provides no call to action. From Lenin, however, we know that this partisanship is not introduced into the external world   —79→   arbitrarily by the individual but is a motive force inherent in reality which is made conscious through the correct dialectical reflection of reality and introduced into practice. This partisanship of objectivity must therefore be found intensified in the work of art -intensified in clarity and distinctness, for the subject matter of a work of art is consciously arranged and ordered by the artist toward this goal, in the sense of this partisanship; intensified, however, in objectivity too, for a genuine work of art is directed specifically toward depicting this partisanship as a quality in the subject matter, presenting it as a motive force inherent in it and growing organically out of it. When Engels approves of tendentiousness in literature he always means, as does Lenin after him, this 'partisanship of objectivity' and emphatically rejects any subjective superimposed tendentiousness: 'But I mean that the tendentiousness must spring out of the situation and action without being expressly pointed out'.

(p. 40)135                

According to Lukács, partisanship is «a motor force in reality» itself and is not to be imposed subjectively by any individual. A novelistic reflection of reality should then sharpen the focus of this partisanship, while making certain that it is always portrayed as a force inherent in the world of the novel itself and is not the product of «any superimposed tendentiousness», for example, excessive moralizing on the part of the narrator. Such a novel should then provide readers with a fuller understanding of their situation, and as such would constitute a new «call to action».

Of course literary forms experience their own relatively autonomous development which has a determinate effect on the kind of expression an artist can give to his ideas about society.136 If we view the artist as a producer of texts, the material with which he works is provided first of all by social history of which a work is necessarily some kind of a reflection,137 and next by literary history, for each artist and work also defines him/itself in relation to literary tradition(s).138 There are, then, specific social and literary conditions which allow for the production of any given literary text.

How does Tormento fit into this schema? Certainly it does portray an anti-Restoration partisanship as inherent in the world of the novel. This partisanship is developed through comments made by the narrator and the specific structuring of the different novelistic conventions we have examined, in particular the interaction of individual-typical characters. Through its unmasking of Restoration society, it clearly takes a stand and provides a call for action against the status quo. We will return later to an examination of the nature of this call.

Nonetheless Tormento is not a «correct dialectical reflection» of the reality of contemporary Spain. Nor do the contemporáneas as a whole provide such a reflection. In fact, it is probably wrong to suggest that a novel can provide one. For if we are to speak of a novel (or group of novels) as a «mirror» of reality, we must see it as a mirror that provides only a partial reflection.139 For example, the reflection provided by Tormento and La de Bringas fails completely to take into consideration the transformations that the Spanish economy was experiencing. Thus, for example, there is no mention of the economic crisis of 1866, a crisis which was an important condition for the overthrow of the monarchy.140 Nor is the development of a capitalist economy taken into consideration, although it is during the second half of the nineteenth century (boom of 1856-1866, fiebre de oro) that the bases of this economy are firmly established (Basque and Asturian mining, Catalan textile industry, establishment of the red ferroviaria, growth of the industrial   —80→   proletariat, etc.). Of course this development occurred primarily on the periphery, and Galdós' focus is Madrid where the social transformation was less striking than in Barcelona or Bilbao, for example. Therefore, while the call for a capitalist alternative for a «capital burocrática» may be appropriate, it would make little sense in those other parts of the country where the industrial bourgeoisie had established its predominance.

This partial reflection, however, is also related to the uneven development of the bourgeois revolution in Spain. For one, it reflects the important duality periphery/center we have noted, as well as the failure of the Spanish bourgeoisie to articulate a coherence on the level of the entire state. Moreover, it reflects the unevenness of the relation between the economic and political processes, for although capitalist relations were established throughout Spain during the nineteenth century, the bourgeoisie failed to take political power and continued to rely on the institutions of the ancien régime. Thus Spain never experienced a stable, long term period of parliamentary democracy; the Restoration cortes were merely a parliamentary farce.

Understanding the partial nature of this reflection helps us to focus better the development of anti-Restoration partisanship. The development of this partisanship as a function of the internal dynamic of the novel is an important feature of the contemporáneas. For one, it differentiates them from the works of the «primera época», which suffered from «subjective superimposed tendentiousness». It also helps us to understand what differentiates Tormento from La desheredada, El amigo Manso, and -although to a lesser extent- El doctor Centeno. In Tormento with respect to the individual/society duality, the emphasis begins to shift in the direction of society. The experiences of Agustín and Polo are different from those of Isidora, Manso, and Miquis in that their illusions are clearly related to a specific social situation. They are seeking a better life within a society that fools them. Thus it is seen that it is social relations that are the ultimate source of illusions, rather than the particular condition of a given character. This relation between illusions and a stagnating society is then developed more fully in La de Bringas.

The first «stand» evoked by the anti-Restoration partisanship of Tormento is a product of the unmasking process. By equating the boom years of the early 1880's with the last gasps of the Isabeline monarchy, the Restoration is portrayed as a society behind whose best-of-all-possible-worlds façade lies a profound stagnation. Therefore Tormento urges readers to be suspect of all social appearances. This warning is to be drawn from an examination of the learning experiences of Polo and Agustín and from the reader's own experience with the deceptive narrative voice.

But the line of action Agustín and Polo follow to resolve their problems is inadequate for them and for society. They abandon Spain. To an extent, of course, they are forced out, and when they leave, it is clear that society is losing the possible regenerating force they might have provided; the depth of the stagnation they leave behind is portrayed in La de Bringas. Their «solution» is also shallow and illusory with respect to their own development. Polo dreams of «tierras que son paraísos, donde todo es inocencia de costumbre y verdadera igualdad; tierras sin historia, donde a nadie se le pregunta lo que piensa» (1499). In just such a land, however, Agustín had   —81→   found: «Allí no había religión, ni ley moral, ni familia, ni afectos puros; no había más que comercio, fraudes de género y de sentimientos». Moreover, Polo will still be a priest, and therefore subject to restriction on his need for physical love. And in the case of Agustín, how much less hypocritical can society in the Bordeaux of the second empire be?

At least in Tormento, then, the most important aspect of the propaganda effect is the process of unmasking it initiates. The question it poses is more important than the solutions it suggests. As we have seen, these questions are posed through the development of individual-typical characters, the individual/society duality, and the interpenetration of the discourses of characters and the less-than-omniscient narrator. Through these structures the question is posed: how can stagnating Spanish society be regenerated? The capitalist alternative proposed in Tormento does not work out. Nevertheless, the methodology developed suggests other possibilities. We have already seen the way in which problems initiated in El doctor Centeno were carried into Tormento, and those of Tormento developed in La de Bringas. But Galdós' literary search for solutions also leads to Fortunata y Jacinta where the social space is expanded to include the pueblo whose representative, Fortunata, rather than fleeing society, develops an idea aimed at the transformation of social conventions and the regeneration of society.141

We can see, then, that just as there were definite social and literary conditions which allowed for the production of Tormento, so that novel also produced social and literary effects. Through its anti-Restoration partisanship it should lead readers to a further questioning of their reality and perhaps alter their social practice. Through its literary unmasking process and the way in which it poses the question of social regeneration it provides a basis for continuing that process and posing different solutions so that in Fortunata y Jacinta, for example, Galdós is able to go beyond the limitations of middle class answers and to perceive the possible impact of a working class alternative.

Anterior Indice Siguiente