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ArribaAbajoThe salvation of Torquemada: determinism and indeterminacy in the later novels of Galdós184

H. L. Boudreau

Dialogue between work and interpreter is endless. The hermeneutic understanding is always, by its very nature, lagging behind: to understand something is to realize that one had always known it, but, at the same time, to face the mystery of this hidden knowledge.

Paul de Man185                

La fórmula más próxima a la verdad será la que en giro más unitario y armónico valga para mayor número de particularidades y, como en el telar, un solo golpe anude mil hilos.

J. Ortega y Gasset186                

Despite the fact that the works in Galdós' Torquemada series bear four separate titles and were published over a six-year period (1889-1895), they are as much a single novel as are Pérez de Ayala's Tigre Juan and El curandero de su honra or the three volumes of Valle-Inclán's Ruedo ibérico. In none of these cases can the individual volumes stand alone, critical attempts to prop them up notwithstanding. The once current view that Torquemada en la hoguera, published four years before Torquemada en la cruz, was intended to be self-sufficient and that the other three titles were afterthoughts is sustained by neither internal nor external evidence. Some of the internal indications will be dealt with in the following pages. The external ones are those of the author's preliminary sketches for the last volume, Torquemada y San Pedro, which were discovered in 1967 by Robert Weber and bear the date 1889, publication year of the first of the series.187 Moreover, although Weber does not focus on it, the appearance of both Bailón and la tía Roma (major characters of Volume I) in the 1889 sketches for Volume IV -although in the completed work they do not in fact reappear- is all but conclusive evidence that the four volumes were planned simultaneously and that the fourth was already sketched while Torquemada en la hoguera was being written.

Susan Sontag, in her widely read Against Interpretation (an acutely interpretive book), claims that «if one does not perceive how a work repeats itself, the work is, almost literally, not perceptible and therefore, at the same time, not intelligible. It is the perception of repetitions that makes a work of art intelligible».188 The thematic unintelligibility of Torquemada (the title to be used henceforth in reference to the whole work) would indeed seem to stem from the failure to approach it as a single work in four parts, because the four volumes share a narrative pattern that, once observed, reveals   —114→   a naturalistic thesis and structure, the two elements dependent upon each other.

Emile Zola, in his 1880 essay «The Experimental Novel», a piece fundamental to any consideration of the problem of naturalism, and too often ignored, says:

The novelist is equally an observer and an experimentalist. The observer in him gives the facts as he has observed them, suggests the point of departure, displays the solid earth on which his characters are to tread and the phenomena to develop. Then the experimentalist appears and introduces an experiment, that is to say, sets his characters going in a certain story so as to show that the succession of facts will be such as the requirements of the determinism of the phenomena under examination call for.189

This is what constitutes the experimental novel: to possess a knowledge of the mechanism of the phenomena inherent in man, to show the machinery of his intellectual and sensory manifestations, under the influences of heredity and environment... and then finally to exhibit man living in social conditions produced by himself, which he modifies daily, and in the heart of which he himself experiences a continual transformation.

(pp. 20-21)                

What, then, is Galdós' naturalistic experiment? The all-encompassing theme (comparable to what Roman Jackobson calls «the dominant» of focussing component)190 of Torquemada is the problem of change in man and society. In the novels of Galdós the dominant is deep-structured in the interrelationships of all the characters and has an initial binary form (change/constancy, for example, in the novel under discussion) which fans out into a paradigm of possible individual human resolutions to the internal and external pressures brought to bear on the life of each character by the theme.191 The novel under discussion can be seen as a series of narrative questions on the pattern of «Will he, will he not», some referring to the individual, some to the group. Will Torquemada succeed in being charitable, or will he not? Will he marry into nobility, or will he not? Will he be successful in rising in the world, or will he not? Will the social class mixture that his marriage represents be productive, or will it not? Will the old aristocracy represented by Rafael del Águila bend to the new middle class, or will it not? Will Torquemada be able to move effectively in a world alien to him, or will he not? Will he save his soul, or will he not? And, finally, does salvation mean this, or that? This series of insistent questions could be multiplied almost indefinitely in reference to all the major characters and concerns of the novel. Such narrative questions are not, of course, found only in naturalistic novels, but the problem of change is basic to the experimental method. The naturalist starts with givens and subjects them to bombardment from without, expecting that certain changes are likely to occur and others not. Indeed, unlike the physical scientist, he is free to see to it that the result of the experiment is to his liking or in keeping with his a priori belief -i.e., that certain aspects of man are predetermined while others suffer alteration through friction with the world. The premise of Torquemada is that the bedrock of human nature is predetermined (inherited) and invariable, while social conditions (environment) result only in superficial and inauthentic accretions. Adaptation is possible -but only at great cost to the individual- while seemingly fundamental change is always illusory.

In keeping with the narrative pattern previously referred to, each volume of the novel presents the established nature of the protagonist struggling   —115→   with a need to change in conflict with a basic inability to do so. In each case he is simple and passive but responsive to an agent of the press for change (Bailón, Donoso, Cruz, Gamborena), a change aspired to by his ego but denied him by the primitive, materialistic core of his being. In Volume I the problem is a spiritual one. The ignorant Torquemada, in the anguish of his son's desperate illness, is told by Bailón, a free-thinking friend, that since God is humanity, charity is the only virtue, the only possible expiation for past sins against humanity. Torquemada, after heroic but unsuccessful efforts to become charitable and after attempting a money-lender's bargain with God, is deprived of his son, despite what he persuades himself were charitable acts. The death of Valentín results in Torquemada's return to his true materialistic, cruel self. The superficial, inauthentic change brought about by the intervention of the ego gives way to the fundamental and authentic reality of his character. The reader and Torquemada may be falsely persuaded that change took place, but the denouement makes clear that the leopard does not change its spots.

In Volumes II and III the changes that seemingly have occurred are social ones. Having been brought to believe that it is his social duty to marry an indigent noblewoman, her family thereby gaining wealth and he station, Torquemada on the wedding day belies his new veneer and despite his stylish frock-coat, sweats profusely, smells of onion, gets drunk from too much wine (it had to be drunk because it had been paid for), and thereafter reveals his true unchanged self in all its vulgarity and primitiveness. Near the end of Volume III, Torquemada, having become a senator through the good offices of his money, is given a banquet where he delivers a speech that reveals the apparent improvement in his control of language suitable to his station to be illusory, despite an ironic success on the podium. The purging referred to in the volume's title, Torquemada en el purgatorio, has not been effective. The miser himself, in conversation with Rafael del Águila, recognizes that the triumph was hollow and that his nature is not what it at times would seem to be.

The experiment and the design have now been repeated three times and the repetition has become an argument in itself. As Zola put it, «An experimentalist has no need to conclude, because, in truth, experiment concludes for him».192 (The more modern and more purely structuralist perspective of Gregory Bateson reaffirms the view that contextual structures can themselves be messages).193 The narrator of Torquemada en el purgatorio speaks of «novelas... de estructura naturalista» (I, 9). The phrase is a revealing one, considering that naturalism is normally thought of as a thematic element rather than a structural one.

Volume IV returns us to a problem of spiritual change similar to that of Volume I, but this time in more transcendent terms and with a wry twist at the end that has sometimes confused readers precisely because they had not observed the plot pattern of the first three parts. Father Gamborena having set about converting the dying Torquemada to the true faith, Torquemada is told he must detach himself from his wealth, leave a large portion of it to the church, and renounce his will in submission to that of God. Gamborena's battle for the soul of Torquemada is a cruel one. Spiritual terms   —116→   are not understood by the miser. He can deal with problems only by bargaining, and, when a will is written leaving money to the church, it is clear that Torquemada is planning to change it upon recovery if the agreement will first save his life. To be saved means to him only to live, and the doors of heaven are encrusted with gold coins, just as in Volume I the stars were seen as ciphers to be calculated. His financial plans grow more and more unrealistic as he declines, and it is now his intention to save Spain itself through the conversion of the deuda exterior into the deuda interior. (The fantasy, of course, relates to his own problem of exterior and interior change). At last death comes to him while the word «conversión» issues from his lips. The question, it would seem, remains unresolved: was he referring to his soul or to the national debt? The doubt left in the air is handled this way by Galdós:

El profano, deteniéndose medroso ante el velo impenetrable que oculta el más temido y al propio tiempo el más hermoso misterio de la existencia humana, se abstiene de expresar un fallo que sería irrespetuoso, y se limita a decir:

-Bien pudo Torquemada salvarse.

-Bien pudo condenarse.

Pero no afirma ni una cosa ni otra..., ¡cuidado!

(III, 10)                

Cuidado», the reader will recall, is one of Torquemada's own muletillas). Galdós' slyness here relates to two important matters. He counts on our having observed that the narrative of Volumes I through III will have argued the case for him and that the reader will be able to draw his own conclusions, i.e., that Torquemada was not saved because «saved», in this context, would mean that his nature was changed -an alteration not in keeping with any other aspect of the novel's thematic elaboration. The conclusion is indeed, as René Girard claims of all the great novels, «the stationary axle around which the wheel of the novel turns».194 This reading of the work bespeaks naturalistic determinism without possible spiritual redemption in the terms posed. However, Galdós' narrator also shows here -as he does so often elsewhere- his compassionate acceptance of the human condition. Salvation may mean continuing earthly life to Torquemada and eternal life in heaven to Father Gamborena, but to the teller of the tale it means forgiveness because the outcome of the battle was predetermined, a fact that leaves man blameless. Perhaps Torquemada himself sums it up best: «Uno es como es, y no puede ser de otra manera» (San Pedro III, 3).

It is extremely important to keep in mind when arriving at these conclusions that nowhere in the novel is Galdós addressing a theological problem; it is always a human one: the nature of an individual in conflict with society's expectations and institutions, not with the deity. «Determinism» and «predestination» are concepts that exist in entirely different realms. Whether God (as conceived in nineteenth-century Spain) could save Torquemada in the Christian sense despite his demonstrated inability to change -and Gamborena's insistence that salvation depends upon that change- is not at issue. Whatever might be the divine solution -and God, after all, did not create Torquemada- Galdós makes his own emotions clear. If we mistake the question being asked, there is no hope of a meaningful answer. It is unthinkable   —117→   to accept as the dominant context in this matter that of Father Gamborena, the «domador de salvajes». The reader who doubts this is referred to El doctor Centeno II, IV, 3-6, where a death scene of similar elements is enacted, the narrator openly condemning those who would deal with the dying in the manner of Gamborena. Simple humanity takes precedence over sacraments. The portrait of the priest is an exterior one only and it is more subtle and open-ended than that of many critically-viewed clerics in the novels of Galdós; indeed, one critic, after evaluating all of the priests in Galdós' novels, singles him out as one of the three most admirable.195 But Gamborena is plainly conducting as cruel and materialistic a «deal» in saving Torquemada's soul as the latter was doing in Volume I. It is a question of money for the church, while Cruz del Águila, his ally, only looks to the other world when the money and position of this one are firmly in hand. Moreover, the prospect of salvation as manifested in the «ascending» titles of the volumes is denied in each case. The fire does not purify, the cross produces only suffering, and purgatory does not purge. Neither does San Pedro save -but at the moment that this new question (a theological one) surfaces, the narrator as «el profano» intervenes and concludes the novel with almost 250 words of text on the subject of whether the miser was or was not saved, all the while insisting that one cannot know. How would our reading of the novel change if these words had not been written? Their feigned absence might illuminate their presence.196

Wolfgang Iser claims persuasively that «indeterminacy is the fundamental precondition for reader participation» and that «the act of reading is... a process of seeking to pin down the oscillating structure of the text to some specific meaning».197 He then goes on to consider the effects of just such authorial comments and evaluation as Galdós has made at the end of Torquemada's trajectory:

The author is obviously not exclusively motivated to prescribe, by means of the commenting parts of his text, the understanding of the narrative by the reader... One has the feeling that the author's remarks are made with a view not to interpreting the meaning of the events but to gaining a position outside them, as it were, from a distance. The commentaries, then, strike one as mere hypotheses, and they seem to imply other possibilities of evaluation than those that arise directly from the events described... The commentaries on different situations often reveal different standpoints of the author himself. Are we, then, to trust the author when he makes his comments?... They... frequently uncover many unexpected features of the narrative process, which without these clues one might not have noticed. The commentaries provoke the faculty of judgment... The fact that the novel does not set forth its own intention does not mean that no intention exists. Where is it to be found?

(pp. 18-24)198                

The effect of the conclusion in the case of Torquemada is to draw forth the reader's disagreement with the narrator's pious agnosticism and to plead Torquemada's case on other grounds: those of the novel's theme and structure. Although it has not to my knowledge been commented on, Galdós uses the technique in other works also. A comparable instance of such indeterminacy in Fortunata y Jacinta is the following passage from the honeymoon trip of Part I:

Fue cosa repentina, provocada por no sé qué, por esas misteriosas iniciativas de la memoria, que no sabemos de dónde salen. Se acuerda uno de las cosas contra toda lógica, y a veces el   —118→   encadenamiento de las ideas es una extravagancia y hasta una ridiculez. ¿Quién creería que Jacinta se acordó de Fortunata al oír pregonar las bocas de la Isla? Porque dirá el curioso, y con razón, que qué tienen que ver las bocas con aquella mujer. Nada, absolutamente nada.

(I, V, 7)                

This astonishing paragraph, one of the supreme examples of Galdós' psychological genius, cannot be meaningful on a first reading because the narrator's denial of meaning comes before the reader has the facts with which to refute his «Nada», rather than after as in San Pedro, but future readings will demonstrate that the teller knew otherwise, his denial provoking us to relate these bocas to those of Jacinta's later maternal dream (I, VIII, 2) and the entire elaboration of the contrasting roles of the two women. Note the invention on Galdós' part in this passage of «el curioso», a figure comparable to «el profano» in the San Pedro excerpt: that is, «one who does not know».

The final paragraph of Ángel Guerra (i.e., Lucía's vision of the salvation of the protagonist), although not in the words of the narrator, also has much the same effect (provocation of judgment) as the last lines of San Pedro. The reader is thereby urged to relate the vision both to Guerra's having died without the last rites (on the same page) and to an interpretation of Lucía's earlier vision (III, III, II) and its implications. This done, the narrator's position clarifies. Likewise, on the last page of San Pedro, Gamborena may not know what the miser's last word indicates, but the attentive reader cannot fail to. Torquemada is a literary character, not a person, and his creator saved him in the only possible literary way.199

If we look back now to the protagonist of Fortunata y Jacinta, we will observe a number of striking thematic and structural similarities to Torquemada. Fortunata is a simple person who, aside from her primitive drive to love, is a passive being. Throughout the long work she is acted upon by a number of agents of change in attempts to educate her, to reform her morals, to teach her to cope with the social world around her -all to no avail because her will, her true nature, each time in the end undoes the alteration to reveal the same Fortunata from volume to volume. As she herself puts it: «Yo, cuando no se trata de querer, no tengo voluntad. Me traen y me llevan como una muñeca» (II, VII, 7). Driven by her illicit love, she feels she is a «ciego mecanismo» and what she does is done «por disposición de las misteriosas energías que ordenan las cosas más grandes del Universo, la salida del sol y la caída de los cuerpos graves» (II, VII, 6). The theme of superficial change and fundamental constancy is identical to that of Torquemada.

Ángel Guerra, written between the publication of the first and second volumes of the Torquemada series, also elaborates this same theme. As Leré in that novel puts it: «El carácter, el temperamento, no se pueden reformar. La razón manda mucha fuerza, la piedad y la fe más todavía; pero las tres juntas no pueden variar la naturaleza de las cosas. Con todo, si el carácter no se modifica, puede domarse con esfuerzos de la voluntad sobre sí misma» (II, IV, 7). Although stated by a character rather than by the narrator, the thematic truth of this belief is made manifest in the action and characters of the novel as one of its major statements.

Galdós' handling of the creation of the characters of Fortunata and Torquemada is similar also, but in a kind of cara y cruz relationship. The characterization   —119→   of Torquemada departs from a negative stance. He is cruel, ugly, of late middle age, his profession is a hated one and his vice (or his nature) is materialism or avarice, one of the seven deadly sins. The change that Galdós is able to effect in the reader's reaction to Torquemada -from revulsion to profound compassion- represents a remarkable artistic achievement. In the case of Fortunata, the author departs from the positive while creating the same pattern. Fortunata is young and beautiful, and her vice (or her nature) paradoxically is love, normally a virtue -except when it finds itself at war with social mores. It is perhaps revealing to note that in the cases of both Fortunata and Torquemada, Galdós is careful to present them dramatically always in a generally sympathetic light and to handle their more censurable behavior briefly in undramatized first-person narrative. As Sheldon Sacks convincingly illustrates in his Fiction and the Shape of Belief, «what we feel about the characters, acts, and thoughts represented in a coherent action depends primarily on the way in which they are revealed to us».200 Torquemada, we are told, is cruel and pitiless, but we are asked to take this on faith. We see him only when he attempts to rise above that characteristic. Fortunata speaks in a vulgar manner, we are told, but we do not hear her do so. She has entered into degrading and promiscuous relationships of a really ugly sort, but we are only told that those things have occurred; we are not shown.

The plateaus of illusory change in the protagonist of Fortunata y Jacinta are as entirely comparable to those of Torquemada as are the relationships of other major characters to the protagonist and as the «Will she, will she not» narrative pattern. Inevitably, Fortunata too must arrive at death with the moral dilemma still unresolved. Both protagonists die as a direct result of the conflict of their nature with the moral laws of man seen in a religious light. The priest thinks that Fortunata's last words are «Soy ángel», uttered as he is saying «Lo principal es tener un interior puro», but she dies without confession and her words may refer to her competition with Jacinta, the ángel of the novel (IV, VI, 14). Galdós, however, has made clear in myriad ways that Fortunata's interior is for him as pure as only the natural can be. Elsewhere in the work the narrator says, «Hay que contar con la índole, con el esqueleto espiritual, con esa forma interna y perdurable de la persona, que suele sobreponerse a todas las transfiguraciones epidérmicas producidas por la enseñanza» (II, V, 7). Both Fortunata and Torquemada illustrate this belief on the part of Galdós; they are two inflectional forms of a paradigm and can be shown to represent a single character configuration.201 Ángel Guerra is a third member of this paradigm of archetypical protagonists -which is to say that Galdós' three longest novels elaborate a single theme at the level here under scrutiny. All three of these characters are driven by social forces to attempt types and degrees of moral perfection which are in conflict with their individual natures. All three fail but all are rewarded with a theologically «ambiguous» death scene and favorable vibrations.202 No character's authentic being is condemned by Galdós.

Maximiliano Rubín, insane at the end of Fortunata y Jacinta, expresses the common theme very well: «No contamos con la Naturaleza, que es la gran madre y maestra que rectifica los errores de sus hijos extraviados. Nosotros   —120→   hacemos mil disparates, y la Naturaleza nos los corrige. Protestamos contra sus lecciones admirables, que no entendemos, y cuando queremos que nos obedezca, nos coge y nos estrella, como el mar estrella a los que pretenden gobernarlo» (IV, VI, 16). We cannot doubt the novelistic truth of this statement because we have seen it incarnated in the characters of the work. The fact that the words come from the mouth of a madman should not mislead us. This novelist's blind men sometimes see. The ridiculed ideas of Bailón («Dios es la humanidad») in Volume I of Torquemada are close to those elaborated positively in later novels. Misericordia makes that point incontrovertibly. A nineteenth-century narrator, unlike Torquemada, could not say in his own voice: «Todo eso de religión es música..., no hay más que Naturaleza» (San Pedro II, 8). Yet the novel expresses this quite forcefully in more sophisticated terms. Readers of Galdós, in the thrall of his profound Christian altruism, are often led to ignore such conclusive evidence of his religious attitudes as are expressed in a letter to Pereda: «Carezco de fe, carezco de ella en absoluto».203 Father Gamborena's approach to soul-saving, perhaps acceptable to his time and place, reveals a concept of religion that is simplistic, inhumane, self-serving, and ignorant of human nature as the latter is understood in this novel -and in many other novels of Galdós. The critic, as Quentin Skinner puts it, must «focus not just on the text to be interpreted but on the prevailing conventions governing the treatment of the issues or themes with which the text is concerned... To understand what any given writer may have been doing in using some particular concept or argument, we need first of all to grasp the nature and range of things that could recognizably have been done by using that particular concept, in the treatment of that particular theme, at that particular time».204 If Galdós wished to retain his audience, he had perforce to work under severe restraints -but his art was fortunately more than equal to the challenge. Torquemada and Fortunata were saved -but not in the eyes of society and not in the eyes of the church. Their creator saved them because nature, having predetermined them, had also redeemed them in a natural world.

Three interrelated critical focusses have vied for attention in this essay -those on naturalism, on character paradigms and their archetypes, and on Galdosian death scenes. All have already been touched upon but deserve further elaboration; all are being viewed paradigmatically, class and individual members helping to illuminate each other. Again the death scene.

Because nineteenth-century novels tend to deal with the entire life spans of their principal characters, the works often bear a striking resemblance to biographies of real people and particularly to those written in the nineteenth century; indeed, the relationship may in some instances be reciprocal. A. O. J. Cockshut, in his Truth to Life: The Art of Biography in the Nineteenth Century,205 devotes an entire chapter to the death scene in these works. It provides an illuminating context for such scenes in the novels of Galdós. In Cockshut's view

the biographer himself reads the evidence of the life as if it were a novel, and God were the novelist.

(p. 21)                

If a man's life is seen as a work of art shaped by forces outside his control, and partly outside his knowledge, then the moment of death has a peculiar significance. Not only   —121→   is it the last line of the play, the long prepared aesthetic climax, but it is the moment of launching in another world, mysterious but unavoidable. At the moment of death a man is nearest to that other world; possibly... he even has a glimpse of it. Perhaps his last words indicate his future.

(p. 41)                

All sensitively-written death scenes are a product of tension between fact and interpretation. The most trivial remark or gesture can be endowed in the minds of onlookers with symbolic significance because it is the last.

(p. 104)                

In real life, as portrayed in biography, the death scene was thought to be «a uniquely significant pointer to the quality of life», the implication of many scenes being «as in life, so in death» (p. 45). Cockshut speaks of the «holy death formula» (p. 43) and of the agnostic death scene, but notes that «their literary tone and moral intent is often curiously similar» (p. 49). This is one of the contexts in which Galdós wrote his fictional biographies, imitating life in its recording of last words and biography in its interpretation of them in relation to the meaning and structure of a specific life. Few novelists have made such eloquent use of the last words and the death scene as has Galdós in the study of inner character realities, in thematic statement, and as a structuring device.

Francisco Ruiz Ramón, who considers the question of salvation at the deaths of Galdosian characters a «sugestivo e inédito tema», claims that «nunca responde el novelista a la tremenda pregunta. Por el contrario, la esencia misma del morir parece ser una cuestión cuya respuesta no se encuentra aquí, sino siempre más allá. Para Galdós terminar de contar la muerte de cualquiera de sus entes de ficción es dejar vibrando una honda interrogante».206 A more recent study concludes: «No vamos a plantearnos aquí, evidentemente, si dentro de la concepción católica logra Fortunata su salvación. Cerca la ha puesto Galdós de ella pero el tema no está claro y el narrador, como casi siempre, expone nítidamente los profundos hechos que forman la realidad y deja las conclusiones para los otros».207 But despite the partial truths of these views, the question is being misread and the resolution of the difficulty is to be found in the data given us in each novel. Then, should any doubts remain, comparison of the death scene with other like ones in the author's production will serve as corroboration. I have used Fortunata's case as supportive evidence for a reading of that of Torquemada. It might have been done in reverse, or still another scene could have been used (such as that of the death of Mauricia la dura) because this type of ironic ambiguity is very nearly a constant in Galdós' portrayal of the last moments of beloved characters. He is able to give the device ever-changing freshness, but the truth being elaborated is always the same: human nature is constant. Even the deaths of Doña Lupe, la de los Pavos, and Villaamil of Miau, different as they may seem at first, can be shown to be variations of this technique.

What is commonly viewed as true ambiguity has often resulted from the reader's appropriate but incomplete response to Galdós' provocative invitation to resolve a question on the basis of detailed evidence found throughout the novel. Carlos Blanco Aguinaga's telling study of the historicity of Torquemada holds that «no sabemos bien qué significa la última palabra que pronuncia al expirar: Conversión. Queda el futuro abierto en su ambigüedad porque Galdós no era ni pretendía ser profeta (por lo menos en esta etapa de su obra)».208 The fact of the matter is, however, that no prophecy is required, even if it   —122→   were legitimate to use such a term when speaking of a literary character. It is often not recognized, for example, that the problem of the (super)nature of Luisito's visions is indeed resolved at the end of Miau, when not to recognize it is to have ignored exceedingly important aspects of the work. In instances of true ambiguity -as one finds it, say, in Henry James' The Turn of the Screw or The Sacred Fount- resolution is false; that is, even the author has no answer. James achieves active reader involvement and consciousness of novelistic art through irresolution (i.e., equilibrium or suspension) by providing incomplete evidence for a variety of readings, while Galdós produces the same participation by providing incomplete evidence for one or more readings and subtle but complete evidence for another. Galdós' novels are extraordinarily rich but not often truly ambiguous.209

In any case, logic would seem to dictate that a study of avarice in a realistic novel not present a miser who changes in ways that would deny his identity. What is avarice but getting and keeping? What are Torquemada's social changes (his rise) but further getting? He will «naturally» cling both to life (his salvation) and to possessions. Should he truly change (renounce his will to live, leave his money to the church), he would thereby falsify his very being. Torquemada is not Scrooge and Galdós did not write a romance. The great originality in the portrayal of Torquemada -who, after all, is in one sense merely another figure in the long tradition of literary misers- lies in the sympathy generated by the novelist for his representative of the hated archetype. This compassion or understanding only finds expression in Dickens' Scrooge when the miser's character is arbitrarily made to reverse itself. The caricaturish Uriah Heep of David Copperfield is entirely negative as the tradition urged. Likewise Balzac's Gobseck and his Père Grandet in Eugénie Grandet, perhaps the nearest thing to a model for Torquemada within the realistic novel. What Balzac's narrator explicitly tells us, Galdós dramatizes: «Misers have no belief in a life to come, the present is all in all to them».210 This bit of folk wisdom -an example of what Roland Barthes calls the cultural codes of the society and times of a novel's action-211 is elaborated in both novels along with other accretions concerning materialism and spirituality. A comparison of Grandet's death scene with that of Torquemada illustrates both the idées reçues that they have in common and the difference in Galdós'outlook:

When the curé came to administer the sacrament, all the life seemed to have died out of the miser's eyes, but they lit up for the first time for many hours at the sight of the silver crucifix, the candlesticks, and holy water vessel, all of silver; he fixed his gaze on the precious metal, and the wen twitched for the last time.

As the priest held the gilded crucifix above him that the image of Christ might be laid to his lips, he made a frightful effort to clutch it -a last effort which cost him his life. He called to Eugénie, who saw nothing; she was kneeling beside him, bathing in tears the hand that was growing cold already. «Give me your blessing father», she entreated. «Be very careful!» the last words came from him; «one day you will render an account to me of everything here below». Which utterance clearly shows that a miser should adopt Christianity as his religion.

(p. 184)212                

The fact that all of the elements in play in Balzac's scene are also present in that of Galdós -a ruling passion and metaphors of materialism and spirituality in the same «ultimate» crucible- may serve to throw Galdós   —123→   treatment into relief. In Balzac the idée reçu about misers is accepted whole and elaborated in a totally consistent character portrayal; Grandet, if he is to die in the novel, must die as he does, unredeemed and unmourned even by his literary creator. The theme of Eugénie Grandet is the corrupting power of money in social and political life; the narrator makes this explicit and the action demonstrates it throughout. Balzac is not concerned with the possibilities of change vs. constancy. Grandet is never tested, and the possibility of his Christian salvation is denied categorically in the first half of the novel. This is not Balzac's subject; he is simply using the miser (literary type) as a given in the service of his views about money and its evils. Moreover, he need not be concerned with the novelistic problem of possible reader rejection of a negative protagonist, portrayed negatively: Grandet is not the novel's protagonist -despite his being much the most memorable of its characters. His daughter is the protagonist; he is the antagonist -a role that in Torquemada changes from volume to volume. Galdós, on the other hand, although he too accepts and elaborates the folk wisdom about misers, presents his character to us (in the phrase of Sherman Eoff) as dynamic process. The change vs. constancy conflict common to the four volumes and to all the major characters keeps before the reader at all times the seeming possibility of change (exemplified in the many outward changes. Torquemada does achieve) and thereby dramatizes what in Balzac is static. In the Spanish novel, moreover, the negative attitude of the narrator is compromised by what reads out as a growing sympathy or compassion for the cruelly tested character who, according to the unquestioned received idea, is doomed to his fate no matter how strenuous his efforts to escape it may be. The sense of a favorable authorial attitude toward the protagonist, brought about in part by the tone of the novel -so different from that of Balzac- subtly prepares the reader to entertain other attitudes about Torquemada, despite four volumes of crushing evidence that interior change is only illusory. Galdós has successfully met the formidable challenge he had set himself in portraying a negative archetype sympathetically and persuading his readers -to quote Sheldon Sacks- «to react to the characters, their acts, and their thoughts in a manner consonant with the artistic end to which all elements in his work are subordinate».213

Naturalism in Galdós has been recognized and accepted as informing only such early Novelas contemporáneas as La desheredada and Lo prohibido. This view was made current by Joaquín Casalduero in his Vida y obra de Galdós, first published in 1943.214 A serious critic such as Sherman Eoff -one who has studied more than most the ideological foundations of Don Benito's art- says flatly, «His naturalism... should be largely discounted»,215 and expresses the belief that even Casalduero's limited attention has over-emphasized the matter (p. 169). Although the scholarly mania for categorizing often leads to neat but procrustean results, in this case the lack of recognition of naturalistic underpinnings in many of the mature works (Miau, for example) is impeding full critical understanding of their esthetic elaboration. Casalduero's essentially undocumented and very general view has too long guided our judgment, as Robert Magliola phrased it in another context, «by imposing too exclusive an image of the aesthetic object».216 The point at issue is, finally, not whether Torquemada is yelmo or bacía, but rather what is the human statement it   —124→   makes. There are few «pure» naturalistic novels, even among those of Zola, and Torquemada is certainly «impure» in that sense. The term has also come to be applied in a very general sense to any work of a certain tonality, thereby ignoring the ideology (the essence) of naturalism. Torquemada, which exhibits the essence, may lack the inessential tonality but, in addition to its documentation, its naturalistic theme and structure, its deterministic study of heredity and environment, its experiments, it does contain an array of the lesser characteristics found in other naturalistic works. Among these are emphasis on man's animal nature (cf. Zola's La Bête humaine, Frank Norris' Vandover and the Brute) in the characterization of Torquemada as jabalí and salvaje and in the miser's dichotomous nature as manifested in his two monstrous sons (genius and savage -the numerical and the primitive), who represent the symbolic poles of their father's materialism. This latter view of inheritance finds frequent expression in Zola's novels in which the Macquart blood line produces abnormal types who may be either geniuses or depraved criminals. Varieties of this configuration are frequent in Galdós. An excellent example is that of Leré's family in Ángel Guerra: she is saintly, one of her brothers is a musical genius and another a physically subhuman idiot. As in the case or Torquemada's offspring, the two ends of the scale (genius/idiot) are monstrous and in Ángel Guerra are so called (I, IV, 3). Other typical naturalistic concerns that find expression in Torquemada are the relationships among physiology, psychology, and morality. The study of the course of a degenerative disease, like that of Torquemada, is a favorite subject. Certain corollaries of naturalism -such as crude language, drunkenness, emphasis on the revolting- are considerably attenuated in Galdós, but not absent. These corollaries have too often been taken for the essence of naturalism. Nineteenth-century critics of the movement usually did so -and, as a result, tended to see them merely as extensions of realism; thus, both Pardo Bazán (La cuestión palpitante, 1883) and Galdós («Prólogo» to the third edition of Alas' La Regenta, 1901) can claim that naturalism is as old as Spanish literature. It is not as simple as that, of course, and the question of what is corollary and what is essence is considerably confused by the movement's having developed a whole repertoire of naturalistic motifs that appear in novel after novel and yet can have no essentiality.217 In Torquemada the language matter is transformed into the study of the miser's mode of speech in its relationship to the need for change, the drunkenness makes a significant contribution to the wedding scene,218 and the tavern episode of the fourth volume (one of the capstones of Galdós' art, where technique, theme, symbolism, characterization, organic form, and emotional expression all coalesce), as well as the horrifying description of the dying Fidela are very much of the naturalistic school of realism.219 Galdós, however, like all other naturalistic novelists, adapts the techniques and tenets of the movement to his own talents, beliefs, and tendencies and to the type of statement open to him in the Spain of his time. If his naturalism is spiritualistic (a term in need of further explication in relation to his work), the concept of spirit is also very much his own. Part III, Chapter VI of Fortunata y Jacinta is entitled «Naturalismo espiritual». Most commentators have merely pointed out these words without attempting to see what they mean in   —125→   the chapter, while Pattison's casual attempt at explication is unpersuasive.220 Juxtaposition of the chapter's title with its subject matter and the passage (quoted on page 5 of this essay) that appears elsewhere in the novel concerning an individual's «esqueleto espiritual» (i.e., his nature), might lead us to understand that the word espiritual, in the context of the novel, has nothing to do with the sacraments -as Pattison would have it- or even, indeed, with anything religious, as that word is popularly understood.

A recent characterization of naturalistic determinism claims correctly that it «suponía a la voluntad humana regida, esclavizada, por la materia, y por eso era materialista, en cuanto que desconocía la existencia de Dios y en su lugar colocaba a la naturaleza. La aceptación del principio expuesto de esa forma implicaba la negación de la libertad humana, doctrina que rechaza la teología católica».221 This judgment is applicable to Torquemada -but it is also insufficient because the implications of all those terms (la voluntad, lo humano, la materia, Dios, la naturaleza) in the work must be taken into account. The artist redefines what he incorporates into a context. Every novel is a departure from a norm; the norm is only a critical composite. In Galdós, for example, although his novels usually end negatively (in one sense), one does not feel the weight of a pessimistic world view. Torquemada and Fortunata are good examples of this effect. The lack of pessimism (or the presence of an affirmative view of the human condition) for many readers dilutes Galdós' naturalism, yet Charles C. Walcutt in an excellent study of the movement claims that «it is not possible to deduce that a naturalistic novel will be optimistic or pessimistic merely because naturalistic theory as it appears in scientific and philosophical writings, is optimistic or pessimistic. The question of whether a novel is optimistic or pessimistic is surely irrelevant. Yet this issue is central in most recent writings about the naturalistic novel».222 I have no quarrel with a view that considers Galdós' mature works «antinaturalist», thereby stressing their humanely positive aspects, those which are at war with the frequent negativism of many typically naturalist pieces -as long as it is recognized that Galdós is dealing with naturalistic concepts, motifs, and techniques.223 Whether critical emphasis falls upon the novelist's ties to his models or upon his departure from them, the subject remains the same. As René Girard's Violence and the Sacred puts it, «the converse is always the other face of the same coin».224

Haskell Block, in his Naturalistic Triptych: The Fictive and the Real in Zola, Mann, and Dreiser, is in agreement with Walcutt that the naturalistic novelists' «theories must be derived from their art, as an expression of what Renato Poggioli has called 'unwritten poetics'. The naturalists' conception of their art is far more imaginative than most descriptions of naturalism would suggest».225 The Pattison study of Spanish naturalism has given us a very tentative «historia externa de un movimiento literario».226 The «historia interna», at least in the case of Galdós, is still to be essayed.227

Whatever the verdict may finally be, the last page of Torquemada is a most original variation on René Girard's demonstration in Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, that the great novels, from the Quijote to our day, end with the hero's conversion:


This time it is not a false but a genuine conversion. The hero triumphs in defeat; he triumphs because he is at the end of his resources; for the first time he has to look his despair and his nothingness in the face. But this look which he has dreaded, which is the death of pride, is his salvation. The conclusions of all the novels are reminiscent of an oriental tale in which the hero is clinging by his fingertips to the edge of a cliff; exhausted, the hero finally lets himself fall into the abyss. He expects to smash against the rocks below but instead he is supported by the air: the law of gravity is annulled.

(p. 294)                

Torquemada is sustained above the abyss by his creator's understanding and his compassion for the human condition. As Girard suggests, the hero and his creator -separated throughout- have come together in the end. When the novel's narrator declines to express a personal judgment concerning Torquemada's salvation, the reader should remember the oft-cited advice of D. H. Lawrence: Never trust the teller; trust the tale. ¡Cuidado! As in life, so in death.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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