At the conclusion of a romance one expects to be told that the protagonists lived happily ever afterwards62. When Jacinta is united with her husband's son, Galdós' readers could perhaps believe that their expectations are about to be fulfilled in accordance with such time-honored formulae. However, the narrator goes on to show Jacinta reinventing or revising the story of her life and loves, so that she becomes convinced within her own mind that she is the widow of Antonio Moreno Isla and her adoptive son, the fruit of that «marriage»63. These strange workings of Jacinta's mind suggest that as one desire is satisfied another arises in its place. Even the nature of a realized action may be altered by changing the story of how the action was accomplished. Jacinta's restructuring of her story, like Maximiliano Rubín's redreaming his «novel» in Leganés, makes evident that those elements of the imagination that in the first place led to the protagonists' predicaments can perhaps never be brought under control. While a given novelistic action may appear to form a unit and have an ending, the structures into which men and women cast and recast their experiences have a life of their own. The characters may never be «happy», but in the anticipation of happiness and in the retrospective recasting of lives gone awry, romance patterns or structures are forever present.
Jacinta's «story», one of the «Dos historias de casadas», is invented by José Izquierdo and José Ido del Sagrario, a former novelist who has become a book salesman. As a barren wife, Jacinta listens to and acts upon the tale that Ido tells of Juanito's «long-lost» bastard son, Pitusín, with the hope of restoring him to the bosom of the family on Christmas Eve. This fabrication, the ridiculous «novela pitusiana» (a foundling romance), echoes the story of the Christ child born to the Virgin. Even though the birth to Fortunata of the second Pitusín marks the moment when «Verbum caro factum est» with respect to the prophesy of the self-styled «Josef... el Idumeo... profesor en partos... intelectuales» (p. 969), it happens around Eastertide and years later, so readers must bear in mind this timing of the birth coincident with that period of the Church calendar during which joy is commingled with sorrow in the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection. Literary romance may allow for unmitigated happy endings; but Christian mythology leaves little doubt that new life is born out of death.
Although seduced and abandoned by Juanito, Fortunata always believes in the rights of natural love over social and legal conventions that ought to bind her to Maxi, and Juanito to Jacinta. Despite her agreement to Maxi's plan for her reeducation in the Micaelas' convent, she is primarily preoccupied with regaining the husband that she believes has been taken from her, coming —40→ up with a plan to trade a real nene to Jacinta for her nene, Juanito. Fortunata's knowledge of Jacinta's attempt to realize her dream of a child in accordance with Ido's plot offers her hope for the success of her own plan. And this thought, somewhat modified, becomes the «pícara idea» that leads to the birth of Juan Evaristo Segismundo and her death. The plan of the two Josés to sell to Jacinta a false foundling in order to gain money for themselves, a means to improve their chances of survival and better their social position, provides a structure in which Jacinta can realize her social and biological destiny as wife and mother. This plot then provides a structure in accordance with which Fortunata can realize her dream of being the equal or superior of her rival and so regain Juanito. The romance or folletín plot can be realized in the novel. However, the sacred or mythological action of the underclass of characters is apparently necessary at the inception of the action, so that the everyday world may enter into contact with the world beyond. Those who are most needy, most hungry and most lacking in being are the initiators and also those who follow through on making dreams come true, though the benefit is not for themselves but for the upper-middleclass Jacinta64.
As a student, Juanito Santa Cruz was a voracious reader; but later he developed the «filosofía de la chuleta», his conviction that direct consumption of a chop is preferable to reading about the consumption of a chop by another -in short, that action is preferable to reading or meditation65. For him, romance proves useful in seduction (promising marriage and a happy-ever-afterwards existence to Fortunata) or for the purpose of making himself look good when explaining to Jacinta irregularities in his conduct. That is, romance-like tales help him gain his ends. Nevertheless, he takes a step that has the effect of causing his own subsequent actions to be «written into» romance structure. Because Juanito urges the starving José Ido del Sagrario to eat some chops, Ido suffers an attack, begins to rave about the supposed infidelities of his wife and expresses his determination to catch the adulterers together and cleanse his honor. For Juanito, Ido's ravings are amusing; but Jacinta sympathizes with the victim of her husband's cruelty and another day is taken in by his story of the apocryphal Pitusín. Some forty-five years earlier, Charles Dickens, in Oliver Twist, drew a similar parallel between eating meat and his protagonist's preoccupation with honor. In that foundling romance with its happy ending, Mr. Bumble, the workhouse beadle, explains Oliver's violent reaction to Noah Claypoole's taunts about his mother's lack of honor in the following manner: «It's not Madness, ma'am... It's meat... You've overfed him, ma'am. You've raised an artificial soul and spirit in him»66. In Dickens' and Galdós' novels a parallel is drawn between hunger, the eating of meat and the rise of spirit that is expressed in terms of the affirmation of the social self. In Oliver's case fortuitously arranged events prove him right but not without a struggle such as becomes the hero. Ido's psychopathological ravings presage and mirror the violence to be perpetrated by Maximiliano Rubín, whose intervention is required in order that the «novela pitusiana» be fully realized.
By indulging himself, Juanito turns loose the romance structures that he had reserved for his own purposes. At the same time that Juanito, as a character in a novel, makes Ido eat the chops, he creates discomfort for the —41→ reader, who realizes that while he is reading he stands at the very same remove from consumption and life that Juanito believes least satisfactory. Reading the description of Ido's eating the chop confirms the reader in his role as reader. At the same time, Juanito's reaction to Ido exists only in the same sense as do Ido's actions. Consequently, it is impossible to think of Juanito or the other characters as anything other than characters sharing in a novelistic action. This irony undercuts any reservation a reader might hold concerning the presence of an improbable romance action in this «realist novel». Remarks made by the characters afraid of being ridiculous for appearing to be too literary have a similar effect. Yet the middleclass character dooms himself if he fails to work actively at self-affirmation out of fear that melodramatic behavior will make him appear ridiculous. Juanito's fate as weary, disillusioned philanderer suggests that want, hunger and lack of social position make one dream or strive for the fulfillment offered by romance and, conversely, that lack of want and lack of illusion lead nowhere. The overall effect is comparable to that of El amigo Manso in the sense that characters engaged fully in the drama of life become more real than the reader67.
Galdós' selection of a foundling romance as the structure for Jacinta's and Fortunata's stories follows the associative pattern evident in the Quixote that is, the use of variations on romance structure for secondary stories woven into the fabric of a work executed in a primary romance form. In Fortunata y Jacinta, elements of the picaresque and the Cervantine stand in conjunction with the primary foundling romance68. The picaresque mode is evident in the narrator's creation of suspicions that Maximiliano Rubín may be descended from a family of conversos and that he and his brothers did not share the same biological father. Furthermore, the act of marrying a fallen woman whose sins are known to many inevitably recalls the likes of Lazarillo de Tormes, whose marriage served to make public in his adult life the sins of his progenitors. The narrator's picaresque allusions are more than malice; they prepare readers to witness the revelation of non-being (dishonor) at the same time that being is anxiously sought. While living out his picaresque romance, Maxi shares in yet another world of romance, that of the chivalric and quixotic. In falling in love with Fortunata, Maxi contravenes his determination to marry a virgin; and he sets out to force reality to conform to his idealized Petrarchan conception of love. By making Fortunata into his Dulcinea, he renews for her the romance that Juanito had instigated in proposing marriage. If Juanito promised marriage to Fortunata in order to attain dishonorable ends, Maxi's coincidence with Juanito in renewing the hope that she will become a señora has the paradoxical effect of bringing Fortunata and Juanito together again. Maxi's own lack of being as bastard, cuckold and impotent husband lead him to try to play out the conclusion of the honor drama prefigured in Ido del Sagrario's ravings69. He cannot avoid revealing to others his want of being. Trapped by reality and tempted by traditional solutions to his dilemma, Maxi appears to cure himself by taking refuge in an excessive rationalism that proves to be a means to disguise his continued concern with traditional solutions to dishonor. At Fortunata's bedside, bent on teaching a lesson, he is able to analyze how his feelings of emptiness and loss transformed themselves into what he terms Mesianitis: «Era... una modificación —42→ cerebral de los celos. ¡El Mesías... tu hijo, el hijo de un padre que no era tu marido! Empezó por ocurrírseme que yo debía matarte a ti y a tu descendencia... Examínalo bien, y verás que todo era celos, celos fermentados, y en putrefacción» (p. 962)70.
The sense of this reworking of folkloric versions of St. Joseph's story as the jealous husband's reaction to an unexplainable pregnancy is clear to Maxi: «Era aquello un reflejo de las ideas comunes, el pensar general modificado y adulterado por mi cerebro enfermo» (p. 962). The joining of the theme of the virgin birth to the honor theme permits the fusion of sacred myth with romance. The melodramatic reaction to this situation in terms of the honor code permits the realization of Fortunata's martyrdom. The final encounter between husband and wife confirms that lack of love, manhood and honor on the one hand and the urgent need for love and self-affirmation on the other hand tie together the actions. Fortunata observes to Maxi: «no eres hombre; que has perdido la condición de hombre y no tienes... vamos a decir, amor propio, ni dignidad... ¿Qué creías, que yo iba a sufrirte tus lecciones y no iba a darte de las mías?» (pp. 994-95). Fortunata's promise of renewed love suffices to send Maxi on his way to avenge the wrongs that Juanito and Aurora Fenelón have done to Fortunata and Jacinta. Fortunata's ability to see into Maxi's thoughts works the same effect as Irene's upon Máximo Manso. He understands that the other by whom he hoped to be loved is as aware as he is of his non-existence. His non-being as a man is the result of his inability to enter life's conflicts and succeed. With Maximiliano's failure to take action comes an end to his hope of realizing his romance in marriage with Fortunata. Although later he does understand that their mistake involved a failure to take into account the ways of nature (p. 1036), he returns, quite like a Petrarchan, chastened, but faithful to his idealization (p. 1037). In honor plays and in the picaresque, protagonists seek to obliterate or silence the other who can reveal to the world their lack of honor or wholeness. Beyond such concerns, Maxi, whether tragic or comic, sane or insane, is free to dream of attainment to wholeness, of the realization of his romance.
Maxi, as the character with the active role in the honor play foreshadowed by the honor-crazed Ido del Sagrario, gains perhaps the best insight into the nature of the role played by reason in the discovery and revelation of truth: «Es que la inspiración poética precede siempre a la verdad, y antes de que la verdad aparezca traída por la sana lógica, es revelada por la poesía, estado morboso...» (p. 979)71. The reader sees little of «sana lógica» leading to discovery of the truth. Rather, he is left with the inner logic of events brought about by poetic inspiration and morbid states coalescing into courses of action that together make up the novel. It is perhaps fitting that these are the perceptions of the most quixotic character, the one who would attempt to impose on life the Petrarchan poetry and the Christian theology of the rationalists and so reveal the ironic relationship between rationalist constructs and life72. It must be noted that his words also obliquely call attention to the ontological processes developed in the novel, the incarnation through the Word.
Fortunata's story could have been no story at all, had others only left her to marry an obrero. Juanito's promise to her of marriage and life as an upper-middleclass señora and Maxi's plan for her religious regeneration and —43→ marriage should have seemed unrealizable dreams to a woman able to discern the difference between the happy endings of literature and the usual experiences of poor women. But, like Isidora Rufete, Fortunata is not prepared to calculate the likelihood of success in her undertakings73. She is practically unable to read and lacks a command of language sufficient to understand elementary abstract thought. Furthermore, her religious and moral training have been neglected; and the rudimentary ideas she possesses concerning love and sexual morality are assimilated to her own purposes and ends. Mentally and emotionally she functions on a level that precludes rational discourse: «No sé decir más que lo que sale de entre mí» (p. 320). Maxi's evaluation of Fortunata as a salvaje, «la más hermosa figura de salvaje que se pudiera imaginar» (p. 320), turns out to be correct, as does his intuition that she somehow shares in a mythical, biblical world or context: «Otras veces le parecía mujer de la Biblia, la Betsabé, aquella del baño, la Rebeca o la Samaritana, señoras que había visto en una obra ilustrada...» (p. 330). Maxi, whose love life exists primarily in the imagination, entrusts Fortunata's education and regeneration to his brother Nicolás, a priest who believes that «la única manera de amar es enamorarse de la persona por las prendas del alma» (p. 400) and is determined to proscribe the imagination, «la loca de la casa» (p. 401). But Fortunata's lack of education and the priest's use of a literary frame of reference guarantee that she will be little enlightened by his preaching against the evils of contemporary folletines: «Las mujeres de estos tiempos se dejan pervertir por las novelas y por las ideas falsas que otras mujeres les imbuyen acerca del amor. ¡Patraña y propaganda indecente que hace Satanás por mediación de los poetas, novelistas...! Diránle a usted que el amor y la hermosura física son hermanos, y le hablarán a usted de Grecia y del naturalismo pagano...» (p. 400). This irony does not escape the narrator, who observes that Fortunata's imagining that she will become a señora works a positive effect: «La misma imaginación, a quien el maestro había puesto que no había por dónde cogerla, fue la que le encendió fuegos de entusiasmo en su alma, infundiéndole el orgullo de ser otra mujer distinta de lo que era» (p. 404). Lack of understanding of the role that the imagination can play in the educational process makes a failure of education aimed only at the extirpation of imagination. The narrator seems to hold that imagination, by providing motivation, the hope of fulfillment of the kind offered by romance, could work a positive effect in the proper environment. However, convent life offers little or no hope of romance-like fulfillment, with the result that Fortunata is forced to suppress her personal feelings rather than confront and transform them within an orthodox religious context. The romance instigated by Juanito never is replaced by an orthodox faith in the promise of salvation which offers a happy ending analogous to that promised by romance, union with God or a mystical lover74.
Baroque pairing of characters, observable in the Maxi-Ido relationship in which each is in some measure the other's double, also appears in the case of Fortunata and Mauricia la Dura. Ido, the storyteller who becomes «drunk» as a result of eating meat, provides the structure by which the Word is to be made flesh. Now Mauricia's actions and words prepare for Fortunata's release from the alienating norms that others try to impose upon her so that —44→ the birth of the second Pitusín may take place. Mauricia's activity as outsider is bound, through a complex action, to Fortunata's movement to a similar position. Her close relationship with this alcoholic, who seems also the embodiment of religious heterodoxy, leads Fortunata to pursue her «natural rights» to the detriment of her self-interest. «Drunkenness», whether resulting from the ingestion of cognac or flesh, recalls Dickens' rising of spirits and, moreover, allows for the release from usual behavior necessary to go beyond the world of consciousness. And in a world in which a melodramatic personal manner is considered in bad taste, it is not surprising to discover that such release leads to behavior that is usually associated with the primitive, the pathological, the heterodox, the criminal and the politically subversive.
The language used to describe Fortunata's behavior suggests that selfdestructiveness such as may be related to alcoholism is an essential characteristic of her manner of striking back at those who hurt her. The following relates her reaction to having lost Juanito's love for the first time: «en la primera temporada de anarquía moral se había divertido algo, olvidando sus penas como las olvidan los borrachos... Llegó a creer que encenagándose mucho se vengaba de los que la habían perdido, y solía pensar que si el pícaro Santa Cruz la veía hecha un brazo del mar... se le antojaría quererla otra vez» (p. 324). Estupiñá's observations on Fortunata's condition as she lay dying continue and amplify the above comments: «Es como los borrachos, que aunque estén expirando, si les nombran vino, parece que resucitan... Le nombro a Nuestro Divino Redentor... Sorda como una tapia. Pero le nombro al señorete y ya la tiene usted avispada, queriendo vivir, y sin duda con intenciones de pecar» (p. 1020). In this light Fortunata's attachment to Juanito is analogous to an addiction to alcohol. At the same time, this love seems a form of diabolical religion that replaces other forms of religion.
Mauricia la Dura plays an essential role in the heterodox religious experience, with its natural morality and belief in the transmigration of the soul, that grows up between them. Mauricia's manner and appearance are those of a she-devil (p. 457)75. In Fortunata's and Mauricia's experiences centered on the Monstrance in the Micaelas' chapel, Galdós subordinates conventional religious symbolism to their individual problems. The Monstrance, given the nuns by doña Barbarita, is a reminder to Juanito's victim of what it is that she is to sacrifice. Fortunata's attention is fixed on the Monstrance itself, as if it were the object of her worship and Juanito, her god76. However, the Hostia in the Monstrance admonishes her to put aside dreams of happiness with Juanito and resign herself to becoming Maxi's wife, thus making possible a good life in society while she saves her soul. Mauricia's alcohol-induced mystical vision of the Virgin and her later dream present another aspect of the conflict. Mauricia's visions of Christ and his Mother seem a projection of her own sorrows. Separated from and longing for her daughter Adoración, Mauricia (as mother) is rejected by the Savior (child, daughter instead of divine son) because of her unworthiness (and because the daughter is protected by the same Jacinta who tried to buy Pitusín). These shared experiences indicate that convent life does not have the intended effect of reconciling the women to Christ-like acceptance of their lot; rather, their —45→ meagre understanding and their feelings turn the content of religion and its symbols to the representation of their wordly concerns with an intensification of their feelings of alienation. The juxtaposition of these two mothers makes clear that Galdós did consider in some measure parallels between romance (estranged lovers reunited, estranged children reunited with family) and religious mythology (with its beliefs and practices intended to bring the soul to reconciliation and union with God).
Mauricia's death prepares for Fortunata's «tercera salida» and prefigures her death. While Fortunata witnesses and participates in Mauricia's death scene, the narrator stresses Mauricia's alcoholism; and the reader witnesses a breaking asunder of the controls that Fortunata sought to impose upon herself in order to gain respectability. In her first encounter with Jacinta, Fortunata cannot exercise self-control; she is transformed into an animal-like mujer del pueblo (p. 723). Her release from the norms of respectable society allows the fulfillment of her role in accordance with Evaristo González Feijoo's views on the love of the sexes (p. 638)77.
Guillermina Pacheco's attempt to persuade Fortunata to give up her rancor towards Jacinta and her love for Juanito undoes any progress made toward reform of the mujer del pueblo and assures the triumph of the primitive, the unconscious78. In Fortunata's view Guillermina inhabits two worlds: that of upper-middleclass orthodox Roman Catholic values and that zone beyond the mind-set and conventions of society that Fortunata had shared with Mauricia79. However, encounters between the two women reveal that Fortunata's good, love of Juanito and the conviction that she is his natural and legitimate wife, is incompatible with Guillermina's good. To prove herself good in Guillermina's view requires that Fortunata renounce her values and goals; but, without these, there is no reason for Fortunata to embrace establishment values. The climactic comedy-scene encounter between Guillermina and Fortunata underscores the incompatibility of these two kinds of good, with the consequence that Fortunata is reduced to working out her solution on her terms within her world. Guillermina's defense of Jacinta as «una mujer angelical» (p. 761) brings a real transformation in Fortunata; she is articulate, even eloquent: «sacó de su cabeza un gallardísimo argumento, y se lo soltó a la otra como se suelta una bomba explosiva» (p. 762). Her manner is comparable to that of anarchists and disciples: «-Es idea mía -prosiguió la otra con la inspiración de un apóstol y con la audacia criminal de un anarquista-» (p. 762). Fortunata's giving expression to her view -that she is superior to her rival because she can give birth to children- has the same effect as the acts of anarchists and criminals: she definitively becomes an outsider to respectable society. Guillermina informs her that she has the passions of the pueblo, that her idea is really the expression of her intention to sin again and that such ideas can only bring a return to a savage state (p. 765). Jacinta's intrusion into this scene adds allusion to criminality: «¡Bribona... infame, tiene el valor de creerse!... No comprende que no se la ha mandado... a la galera, porque... no hay justicia...» (p. 767). The reference to the practice of sending criminals to the galera brings back the picaresque motif. Recognized for what she is (for others), Fortunata is no longer inhibited about behaving naturally as a mujer del pueblo: «La ira, la pasión y la grosería del —46→ pueblo se manifestaron en ella de golpe, con explosión formidable... No parecía ser quien era, ni debía tener conciencia de lo que hacía» (p. 767). Fortunata has only the memory of her friendship with Mauricia. And with these thoughts appear allusions to alcohol; continued suffering works alcohol-like effects: «A la media [hora] le entró... la embriaguez aquella, el desvanecimiento de las ideas, que se emborrachan con tragos de dolor y se dormían» (p. 770). These «alcoholic dreams» prepare for Fortunata's finally acting in such a way that her «pícara idea» is realized in the flesh.
The return of the pregnant Fortunata to the Plaza Mayor echoes the picaro's return to his point of departure, the confirmation of his definition. Although the house now belongs to Guillermina Pacheco, it had belonged to Antonio Moreno Isla. In short, Juanito's victim has always inhabited a house belonging to his family. Frequent references to the sign, «Al ramo de azucena», as well as the presence of palomas, bring to mind traditional symbols for the Annunciation, the lily and dove; and these appear in the text when Juanito first comes to know Fortunata. However, on her return the narrator suggests a parallel between her life as represented for her by this staircase and the way to Calvary: «En ella, desde el portal hasta lo más alto de la escalera de piedra, veía pintada su infancia, con todos sus episodios y accidentes, como se ven pintados en la iglesia los pasos de la Pasión y Muerte de Cristo» (p. 903). Fortunata returns to this place in order to vindicate herself and affirm the rights conferred by nature over those of civilization (p. 956).
The entry of Fortunata's son into the «corte celestial» marks the realization of her romance and is, above all, proof of the legitimacy of her claim to a place in the house of Santa Cruz. Nevertheless, the honor-mad, vindictive Maximiliano, longing for being in accordance with the code of the dominant society, plays the role of judge and executioner in getting Fortunata to leave her bed, attack Aurora Fenelón and consequently bleed to death. In this way, both the honor play and the martyrdom of society's outcast are intertwined in their climactic moment. The adoption of the infant by Jacinta and Juanito underscores the fact that Fortunata's victimizer(s), especially Juanito, who has never shown the least understanding for the plight of the pueblo, are the beneficiaries of Fortunata's sacrifice and of her will to affirm her being.
No theologian is likely to believe that Fortunata saved her soul; but she seems convinced that her romance has reached a happy conclusion80. In accordance with her natural ethics, she has proved to her own satisfaction that she is Juanito's «real» wife. And through her generosity she has demonstrated her moral worth. The use of the alcohol metaphor in the description of Fortunata on her deathbed recalls the roles played by Ido and Mauricia, he for revealing poetic truths while inebriated from eating flesh, she, as the devil-priestess who through inebriated states enters into contact with the unconscious and leads Fortunata to realize her «idea», or the Word. Though expelled from society and martyred by her «St. Joseph», Fortunata becomes the mother in Jacinta's Christmas story and the means by which that story is brought to its conclusion. The elements of the myth of Christ have been redistributed in the principal plots of the «Dos historias de casadas»; Pitusín is born (Christmas) and returns to his mother and father in heaven (foundling romance, Resurrection and Ascension). The Passion and Crucifixion are reserved —47→ for Fortunata. The unity of the novel lies in the realization of don José Ido's story.
The role of the pueblo needs to be viewed in the context of Juanito's attitudes towards consumption. He pedantically expresses patronizing admiration of the pueblo, which he characterizes as «lo esencial de la Humanidad, la materia prima, porque cuando la civilización deja perder los grandes sentimientos, las ideas matrices, hay que ir a buscarlas al bloque, a la cantera del pueblo» (p. 518). Juanito's visits to the cantera occur when he is in need of rejuvenation: «Tiempo hacía que él notaba cierta sequedad en su alma, y ansiaba inmergirla en la frescura de aquel afecto primitivo y salvaje, pura esencia de los sentimientos del pueblo rudo» (p. 777). The narrator, on the other hand, echoes such a thought to different ends when he comments on Guillermina's view of Fortunata. His interpretation of the cantera suggests, rather, that in the pueblo are found in elemental forms the very same materials present in contemporary society but weakened through the over-refinement of civilization (p. 766). Return to the cantera is inevitable in civilizations that lose contact with nature. But Juanito's engaging in «recreational sport» at the expense of the pueblo is an expression of his attitude as consumer; and his explanation operates on the same level as his beguiling speeches to both Fortunata and Jacinta. His words are intended to attain immediate ends or to justify his self-centered activities. Just as he failed to guard against the magic of Ido's romance-spinning, he cannot prevent nature and the pueblo from affirming themselves. The language used by Juanito for the purpose of protecting his amor propio functions at but one remove from that of the foundling romance that sets Jacinta in action; and his action causes Fortunata to reenter the world of the «primitive», the myth-generating world of the pueblo. Juanito's use of language to alienate others from reality is the means by which his family is reunited with nature and reality. But the family's happiness is purchased through Fortunata's reversion, in contact with romance, to the dimension of religious myth. In the end, Juanito's use of language is also the means by which he alienates himself from that world that he sought to dominate. The opposition between civilization and nature forces us to take into account the interrelated roles of language and romance-myth. Debased romance is proper in contemporary manners for purposes of self-justification and dissimulation. Melodramatic versions of romance like those invented by Ido are in bad taste; and those who take them seriously «simply do not belong». However, it falls upon these individuals to guarantee, through their reintegration into the world of myth, the survival of life and civilization. Though the pattern of Fortunata's martyrdom may recall that of Christ, it is also that of the gods and heroes in a more universal context.
Minor characters present variations on romance-related activity; and their presence suggests that every life shares in romance-like qualities. José Izquierdo, with nothing but good looks and a formidable appetite, lacks the ability to articulate his ideas in standard Castilian and cannot document his heroic role in historical events. Even when he attempts to sell Jacinta and Guillermina the false Pitusín, he is most interested in playing a role in which he will look important, for, to his mind, role-playing confers being. Taking Guillermina's advice, he becomes a model for painters of historical subjects. This —48→ Platón (who eats from a large plato and whose name is also the Spanish for «Plato») realizes his dream, but only as a professional imitator of heroes. It appears that Galdós elaborates this «Platonic joke» in order to call attention to Izquierdo's role in breaking down the frontiers between art and reality. After all, Platón is also the man who helps create, with Ido del Sagrario, the situation that makes the principal action of the novel into an imitation of foundling romance. As Izquierdo plays all heroes, he serves to remind us that the hero earns being through his deeds, while picaresque characters only expose their lack of being. Lacking in being, like his niece Fortunata, he becomes the model for the representation of the heroic yearning for enduring existence. Although he unintentionally plays a role in moving his fellow characters towards self-realization, Platón is denied the opportunity to achieve being on his own beyond success as an imitation. His presence at Fortunata's side at the end of her days may be seen as an index of the contrast -and similarities- between contemporary life and mythical greatness81.
Although emphasis falls on the participation of female characters, Galdós integrates romance into the lives of bachelors in the novel. He had explored the problems of bachelorhood in El amigo Manso, Tormento, El Doctor Centeno and Lo prohibido and had given serious attention to the morbid attraction of males to married women in Lo prohibido. In Fortunata y Jacinta almost all of the male characters are presented as bachelors; and practically all have been formed in an atmosphere in which the new biological sciences, German philosophy, British customs or modern literature have stimulated thinking and feelings at variance with orthodox views. In spite of their alienation, they hold onto some version of a romance-like dream that some day the right woman will appear. Feijoo regrets only that he meets Fortunata when he is approaching physical decrepitude. And, as death nears, Moreno Isla, afflicted by a lifetime spent in the pursuit of forbidden fruit, begins to imagine a more enduring kind of relationship with the married Jacinta. Ballester desires Fortunata for himself but is able to see the effects of marital life on his colleague Maxi. Even Juanito, who runs the full gamut of amorous adventures and experiences, finds in the end that he is alone, written off by a wife weary of his trapisondas (p. 1030). The narrator, who has structured the novel in order to reveal Juanito's blindness to the force the imagination may have in the lives of others, comments on his awakening to the fleeting nature of life: «experimentó por primera vez esa sensación tristísima de las irreparables pérdidas y del vacío de la vida; sensación que en plena juventud equivale a envejecer, en plena familia equivale a quedarse solo, y marca la hora en que lo mejor de la existencia se corre hacia atrás, quedando a la espalda los horizontes que antes estaban por delante» (p. 1030). The search for love offers Galdós' characters little promise of fulfillment. But they have only that scant hope or must face the possibility of suffering forever longing for experiences dreamed but never enjoyed.
Need, whether emotional or physiological, is the point of departure for the generation of the romance and myth-related activity of the characters that in turn leads to their attempts and, sometimes, successes in affirmation of their being. Juanito Santa Cruz's use of romance, promises of ultimate happiness to Fortunata and playing the role of both victim and hero for Jacinta —49→ may be interpreted as the expression of his role as master of his world. His control of that world, inhabited by others who have little choice other than to live with «cool» rhetoric and somber colors, is, in my opinion, related to the Hegelian master-slave relationship that provided inspiration for the «dynamic» in which the author of El amigo Manso forces Máximo Manso to realize himself as a writer. In Fortunata y Jacinta, the upper-middleclass Juanito causes weaker members of the society to enter a life of action and commitment, one that is perhaps tasteless by upper-middleclass standards, but does allow them to make a claim to a reality or existence that, in the end, is judged superior by reader and narrator to that of Juanito himself.