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ArribaAbajoThe birth of Fortunata

Stephen Gilman

«[...] el Arte se avalora sólo con dar a los seres imaginarios vida más humana que social». Benito Pérez Galdós71

1. The Birth of a Society

Forturtata y Jacinta is a world of interlaced streets, professions, and classes, perhaps the most complex world ever to be constructed within the frontiers of a single book. But we must not be misled by the imitatio mundi. Like Tolstoy, Dickens, and even Balzac, Galdós thought of himself primarily as a creator of life and of lives. The diorama of buildings and urban thoroughfares and the intricate sociological model were for him accessory to his «dos historias de casadas». In Stendhalian terms, Fortunata y Jacinta is first of all a «chemin», a temporal and biological course running inevitably from birth to death. Birth is the major happening of the beginning, just as death (Mauricia la dura, Feijóo, Moreno Isla and Fortunata, herself) is the major happening of the closing chapters. Casalduero, who sees in the work elements of a latter day Dance of Death, has commented perceptively on its recurrent emblems of human annihilation.72 But he fails to note the complementary role played by birth, particularly in Part I. Galdós, of course, does not look on the way of all flesh with the didactic glee of the 15th century but rather -at least during the years following La desheredada- with the compassionate yet relentless aplomb of the naturalist. When he tells us that in church on the day before the Christmas of 1873 Estupiñá beats not his breast but «la caja del tórax», we realize that even this flattest and most Dickensian inhabitant of the novel (in profile a «cotorra», in full face an «estampa de Rossini») is, like the others, a fragile mechanism of flesh and bone. He too, has emerged from a womb and is destined for a grave.

In Part I, in addition to the birth of Juanito Santa Cruz, Galdós narrates in greater or lesser detail the entrance into the world of his first son, his mother, his wife, his 16 brothers and sisters-in-law, the numberless progeny of the «cuarto estado», and a family of cats.73 It would almost seem that the real «heroína» of this part is not Jacinta but doña Isabel Cordero whose incessant fecundity makes her daughter's sterility all the harder to bear. In fact, Galdós describes doña Isabel -mingling admiration with his inevitable irony- in just such epic terms. During her «campaña prolífica desde el 38 al 60» each birth is accompanied by a major historical event. The newly born infants, Galdós implies by this not unfamiliar juxtaposition of individual and society,74 are by their own right «episodios nacionales». And after the arduous campaign is at last over, the haggard and spent doña Isabel devotes equivalent brio to her «combate social», the bringing up and marrying off of her seven surviving daughters. Of these at least six, particularly Candelaria who begins with twins, were to prove almost as fecund as their mother. Doña Isabel unlike   —72→   her royal namesake,75 thus, represents the daily heroism of Spanish womanhood, and the product of such stamina and biological prowess as hers is nothing less than the society of Madrid.

The first fourth of the novel, may, as a result, be defined in the literal sense as a book of genesis. The linear series of Biblical «begats», however, takes on a social dimension in Galdós' tracing of a family tree for the whole city: «Las amistades y parentescos de las familias de Santa Cruz y Arnaiz pueden ser ejemplo de aquel feliz revoltijo de las clases sociales; mas ¿quién es el guapo que se atreve a formar estadística de las ramas de tan dilatado y laberíntico árbol, que más bien parece enredadera, cuyos vástagos se cruzan, suben, bajan y se pierden en los huecos de un follaje densísimo» (p. 66). Specific and abundant details about the interrelationships of the Arnaiz, Samaniegos, Morenos, Trujillos and other branches follow. To the question as to why Galdós insists on so many boring and apparently unnecessary «pormenores», we can only reply that he wants us to realize that the tree itself -not urban topography or abstract social categorization- is the true skeleton of Fortunata y Jacinta. A work which is to end with the grafting of the Izquierdos into the lineage of the Santa Cruz begins with an appropriate emblem of alliance and fecundity: instead of Homer's falling leaves of death, the intricate and endless burgeoning of the human tree which is the city.76

In addition to this central emblem, Galdós' initial preoccupation with fecundity is expressed in numberless other ways. Two examples -in themselves unimportant- reveal a characteristic irony that is at once social and oral77 and so deserve some attention. The first is a transcription of Estupiñá's whispered report of market conditions during a prayer:

La señora rezaba en voz baja, moviendo los labios. Plácido tenía que decirle muchas cosas y entrecortaba su rezo para irlas desembuchando.

«Va a salir la de don Germán en la capilla de los Dolores... Hoy reciben congrio en la casa de Martínez; me han enseñado los despachos de Laredo... llena eres de gracia; el señor es contigo... coliflor no hay, porque no han venido los arrieros de Villaviciosa por estar perdidos los caminos... ¡Con estas malditas aguas!... Y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre, Jesús...»;

(p. 73)                

Not only do we overhear the grotesque mixture of material and spiritual values which characterizes the society of Galdosian Madrid but, even more, the thematic pertinence of the Hail Mary as a daily litany of fecundity has been suggested.

Equally grotesque is the phonetic transcription of the «copla flamenca» sung by a blind child during Jacinta's visit to the «cuarto estado»:

Después de mucho y mucho puntear y rasguear, rompió con chillona voz el canto:

A Pepa la gitaní... í... í...

Aquel iii no se acababa nunca; daba vueltas para arriba y para abajo como una rúbrica trazada con el sonido. Ya les faltaba el aliento a los oyentes, cuando el ciego determiné de posarse en el final de la frase:

lla -cuando la parió su madre...

Espectación, mientras el músico echaba de lo hondo del pecho como un perrillo al que le están pellizcando el rabo. ¡Ay, ay, ay!... Por fin concluyó:

sólo para las narices
te dieron siete calambres.

Risas, algaraza, pataleos...

(pp. 114-115)                


Galdós' social irony, the tacit contrast drawn between the vulgarity of the music and the refinement of the listener (Jacinta) is again combined with an intimation of our common origin. But this is by no means all. As the reader of these chapters can discover for himself, countless other visual and auditory details conspire to remind Jacinta of motherhood.

Jacinta's obsession with child bearing, which is the unique source of novelistic movement before the appearance of Maxi and Fortunata,78 is also expressed in «alucinaciones y desvaríos»: «Algunas noches, en el primer período del sueño, sentía sobre su seno un contacto caliente y una boca que la chupaba. Los lengüetazos la despertaban sobresaltada, y con la tristísima impresión que todo aquello era mentira, lanzaba un ¡ay! y su marido le decía desde la otra cama: '¿Qué es eso nenita?'... '¿Pesadilla?'» (p. 86) The anguish of such moments is further developed in a remarkable Freudian dream79 which occurs while she drowses during a performance of Wagner. The description, too long for full citation, is of importance for understanding the human contrast between the titular rivals and should be read in its entirety.

The central figure of the dream is an homunculus, a «niño-hombre» resembling Juanito, who appears to Jacinta in the white satin environment (she, too, lives in a world of cloth) of an enormous oniric layette:

Hallábase Jacinta en un sitio que era su casa y no era su casa... Todo estaba forrado de un satén blanco con flores que el día anterior habían visto ella y Barbarita en casa de Sobrino... Estaba sentada en un puff, y por las rodillas se le subía un muchacho lindísimo, que primero le cogía la cara, después le metía la mano en el pecho. «Quita, quita... eso es caca... ¡Qué asco!... cosa fea es para el gato...» Pero el muchacho no se daba a partido. No tenía más que la camisa de finísima holanda, y sus carnes finas sobre la seda de la bata de su mamá.

(p. 87)                

The child's later refusal of her surrendered bosom and conversion into a plaster image indicates the extent to which sexual desire for Jacinta -as for Yerma, some of whose fantasies are also cloth-ridden- is maternal. How different is this expensively upholstered nightmare from Fortunata's equally Freudian but aggresively phallic dream at the end of Part III.80 But for the women of Part I motherhood, not sex, is the only authentic fulfillment. In spite of -or perhaps because of- her compassion and her maternal tenderness, Jacinta is unable to equal or even understand Fortunata's passion.

Although Jacinta's aspiration is of a lesser magnitude than that of Fortunata and although it leads her to spoil her husband in infantile terms (here reality imitates dream) cloying to a reader forced to overhear their «vida íntima», it is nonetheless authentic. It impells her to descend into the hell of the «cuarto estado»,81 and, even more, it intimates from time to time the heavenly delights of babyhood. Galdós, seemingly inspired by her feelings, moves from irony into tenderness when he describes the first bath of the spurious Pituso:

Sacado al fin de aquel suplicio y bien envuelto en una sábana de baño, Jacinta le estrechó contra su seno diciéndole que ahora sí que estaba guapo. El calorcillo calmaba la irritación de sus chillidos, cambiándolos en sollozos, y la reacción junto con la limpieza, le animó la cara tiñéndosela con ese rosicler puro y celestial que tiene la infancia al salir del agua. Le frotaban para secarle, y sus brazos torneados, su fina tez y hermosísimo cuerpo producían a cada instante exclamaciones de admiración...

(p. 135)                


Such rewards make the grotesqueness of pregnancy («La de más allá tenía cinco hijos y vísperas, de lo que le daba fe el promontorio que le alzaba las faldas media vara del suelo» (p. 119) desirable. But, whether by birth or by adoption, the possession and nurture82 of a child is what most matters. Severiana whose infants were all still-born (Galdós unrelentingly explores every biological possibility) explains to Jacinta the solace she finds in her niece, the daughter of Mauricia la dura. She loves the child, she says, «como si la hubiera parido». The avowal is perfectly comprehensible to Jacinta, willing as she is to accept either physical discomfort or social embarrassment in exchange for just such felicity. To bear or at least to bring up an infant is for the daughter of doña Isabel the ultimate good, the caress and palpitation of life in a world of cloth and stone. Societies -Galdós seems to be saying- may be studied by novelists or guided by politicians, but the soil from which they grow is maternity.

2. The Birth of a Prince

Galdós, in spite of his evident sympathy for his culture's worship of babies and children, poses an unanswerable question: to what purpose if the grown up product is stunted or worthless? The birth of Juanito Santa Cruz, an adorable baby, a prodigious child, and a prince of a fellow, is the crucial case history of this book of genesis. Years before his career as a novelist Galdós had written in a newspaper column: «La corte ha partido para La Granja... Pero en torno de la Corte propiamente dicha, se han levantado poco a poco otras cortes y otros tronos; junto a las rancias y apergaminadas aristocracias se han levantado otras aristocracias. Si la nobleza de la sangre sigue a la corte, la nobleza del dinero permanece en Madrid; las lujosas tiendas continúan abiertas, ofreciendo al público sus variados adminículos; el lujo y la moda que no abdican ni son destronados jamás...» (VI 1516). And now in 1886 the sardonic substitution is exemplified by a dynasty of dry goods merchants83: don Baldomero I, don Baldomero II, and the heir to their throne, «el Delfín», Juanito Santa Cruz. If maturity of the last betrays the expectations of his childhood, the society over which he is to reign will be in bad shape indeed.

Juanito was born with every advantage, not only those accompanying his bourgeois rank but also those endowed by nature: good fortune, good looks, good disposition, good taste, and all the rest. Conceived with traditional delay («Los felices esposos contaban con él este mes, el que viene y el otro, y estaban viéndole venir y deseándole como los judíos al Mesías» p. 26) and appropriate omens (not only Barbarita's dreams but Arnaiz' unwitting prediction of things to come, «Este ternero lo has traído de la inclusa para engañarnos» p. 27), the young prince is the archetype of the Restauración hero. Which is equivalent to saying that he is the «señorito» incarnate, the «fils a papa» dedicated only to polishing his external image and to satisfying discreetly his biological needs. Or as Pereda puts it, «sin otra ocupación que la de regalarse el cuerpo».84 Juanito is justly described as an «hombre de trapo» (Galdós alludes both to his impeccable clothes and to his dynastys commercial vocation) and, as such, he justifies Ortega's remark that «señoritos» are «la especie de criatura más despreciable y estéril que puede haber».85   —75→  

In another age in accord with the possibilities and necessities of his station, Juanito would have converted the infidels by force of arms or at the very least -like Calisto- have excelled in tournaments. But now he has been brought up to do nothing. His amateur and flighty86 interest in politics only serves to bring out the irony of his name, of his being a «Santa Cruz» without a mission. Only his doting parents and Fortunata -impervious as she is to personal betrayal and to history87- never lose their faith in him. On the other hand, whether truly believed in or not, he is admired by a society which seems to have no purpose other than that of having brought him into being. «Porque hay que tener en cuenta -Galdós comments- que el Delfín por su fortuna, por sus prendas, por su talento era considerado como un ser bajado del cielo» (p. 46). In the sense that he is a living model for his society, Juanito is a hero as authentic as Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar -and, at the same time, for Galdós a means of knowing and exposing the emptiness of contemporary history. Were he the protagonist, his novel would fully justify the familiar definition of the genre as a «bourgeois epic».

But he is not the protagonist. For Galdós, as with Américo Castro's later intuition, understood that the highest form of novelistic life must be gifted with «incitación».88 That is to say the internally generated passionate yet often random propulsion that Faust, Pére Goriot, Julien Sorel, Captain Ahab and many others share with Don Quixote. Of this quality Juanito Santa Cruz -in vivid contrast to Maxi and to the deeply incited Fortunata of the third and fourth parts- demonstrates not a single spark. His resulting triviality for the novel is already apparent in the opening paragraph. There Galdós brings into being (Barbarita's turn will come a few pages later on), first as a mere name and, second, as the subject of puerile and deservedly forgotten anecdotes of university mischief. These characteristic «mocedades» are introduced with an opening sentence which forsakes Cervantine irony («En un lugar de la Mancha...») for total indifference: «Las noticias más remotas que tengo de la persona que lleva este nombre...» It is almost as if the author were engaged in composing a dossier. Only at the end of the stale resume of noticias», do we sense Galdós' malice. On the first page of a narrative which is to continue for almost 800 more he writes: «Otras muchas tonterías de este jaez cuenta Villalonga, las cuales no copio por no alargar este relato». If Juanito's two other progenitors Barbarita and Restoration Madrid (representing heredity and environment) respectively worship and admire him, Galdós disdains him so much he begrudges him even a paragraph of space. The novel of «señoritismo» is by definition pointless.

3. The Birth of an Angel

At this point our earlier question, «Why does Galdós insist on so many boring and apparently unnecessary 'pormenores'?», may be asked again in a different way. Why does Galdó spend chapter after chapter describing the Santa Cruz family, their multiple social relations, and their heroically born but insignificant heir? Why does he have to «alargar su relato», in spite of his statement that he does not wish so to do? The answer that Juanito isstructurally indispensable, that he is the inert male fulcrum supporting two incited women,   —76→   may be true, but it is hardly sufficient. We must also realize that the harshly emphasized disparity between his elaborate birth and his spiritual futility as an adult stands in contrast to the genesis of Fortunata. She is, in effect, the only major character whose birth is ignored or rather dismissed in one casual sentence: «¿Quién era la del huevo?... Pues una chica huérfana que vivía con su tía, la cual era huevera y pollera en la Cava de San Miguel» (p. 49).

In a novelistic world constructed upon genealogies Fortunata has none -which is to say she is as unique in her own way as her heroic seducer is in his. He is created, determined, and celebrated by his background, carnal and social; she, as Galdós repeatedly emphasizes, has no background at all. She is a tabula rasa, sheer human raw material. Juanito (it is significant that in Part I she is presented exclusively through his awareness of her) puts it as follows: «El pueblo es la cantera. De él salen las grandes ideas y las grandes bellezas. Viene luego la inteligencia, el arte, la mano de obra, saca el bloque, lo talla...» (p. 152)89 But, as befits the speaker, the comparison is superficial. Juanito, born a prince, ends by realizing the emptiness of his own existence («el vacío de la vida»). But Fortunata, emergent from nothingness, can finally proclaim with exaltation and a valid claim to our belief, «Soy ángel». He is the one who has been «tallado» and discarded; she is the sculptress of herself.

If not born into the novel like all the others, Fortunata's curious manner of entry is no less significant. It is, in fact, described with a premeditated complexity of allusion that has attracted more critical comment than any other passage or chapter. All readers will remember the circumstances. Estupiñá has been taken ill for the first time in his life. Juanito is sent by Barbarita to visit him in his rooms «en lo más último de arriba» of an ancient edifice opening (like the «two-faced» church of San Sebastián in Misericordia) both on the Plaza Mayor and on the Cava de San Miguel three stories below. Unaware of the possibility of entering at the plaza level, he chooses the lower portal, a «tienda de aves», where chickens are killed and cleaned and eggs are sold. The fastidious young gentleman is repelled by the crudity of the spectacle and hastens through to the stone stairway. He stops one flight up to look curiously in a door which happens to be open and notices a girl who impresses him as being «bonita, joven, alta». These three adjectives -apparently corresponding to the rapid and predatory glance of the young male- constitute the whole of Fortunata's description in Part I. It is a noteworthy departure from usual naturalistic techniques of characterization. But what is the point of introducing the protagonist in this unexpected way? Quite evidently Galdós wants to emphasize as strongly as he can that Fortunata (here is the primary implication of her name) appears by chance. As he himself says, «Y sale a relucir aquí la visita del Delfín al anciano servidor y amigo de su casa, porque si Juanito Santa Cruz no hubiera hecho aquella visita, esta historia no se habría escrito. Se hubiera escrito otra, eso sí, porque por doquier que el hombre vaya lleva consigo su novela; pero esta no» (p. 40). In the creation of Juanito all is or seems inevitable; in the creation of Fortunata all is or seems casual.

The paradox of such an explanation is that chance does not and cannot operate in the novel -or at least not in the 19th century novel. The novelist   —77→   arranges for it. He is by definition the chance maker, the chance chooser. Hence the shrewdness of Robert Petsch's advice to the effect that examination of chance and hazard in a given novel is often the most direct path towards its comprehension.90 In the case of Fortunata y Jacinta, at any rate, the suggestion is illuminating. For, if Juanito's omens and «mocedades» -in contrast to those of Julien Sorel and Fabrice del Dongo- are ironically insignificant, Fortunata's sudden appearance is surrounded by intricate layers of social, literary, and even mythological implication. Precisely because she is a creature of chance, her creator introduces her to us garbed with significance.

Let us begin with the obvious, the social implications. When Juanito looks through the door (what reader has not been tempted by the clear invitation to symbolic exegesis?), he is fascinated by the sight of Fortunata sucking a raw egg and afterwards throwing the empty shell against the wall. The contrast between his background and hers could not have been more underlined. The scion of a dynasty dedicated to dry goods, to the decorous and fashionable covering up of human life,91 with irresistible curiosity now confronts it in its primitive condition. The slaughter of the chickens in the store below, the rapid plucking off of their feathers, and their pitiful and somehow disgusting «anatomías» hanging in rows form a fitting prelude to this sudden revelation. Fitting not just because of the egg motif, but because these two naturalistic confrontations taken together foreshadow the simultaneous attraction and repulsion which make up Juanito's novel-long ambivalence of feeling for Fortunata. That is to say, Juanito, being who he is, can neither accept Fortunata's state of nature nor can he leave it alone. Like the age for which he is a hero -Galdós seems to imply- he prefers to toy with life, to hide it and peck at it, to dress it and undress it, to decorate it with bustles and manners, to cook it, but not to live it to the full:92

«No sé cómo puede usted comer esas babas crudas» -dijo Santa Cruz, no hallando mejor modo de trabar conversación. «Mejor que guisadas. ¿Quiere usted?» replicó ella ofreciendo al Delfín lo que en el cascarón quedaba. Por entre los dedos de la chica se escurrían aquellas babas gelatinosas y transparentes. Tuvo tentaciones Juanito de aceptar la oferta, pero no; le repugnaban los huevos crudos.

«No, gracias».;

(p. 41)                

In their first interchange, Galdós has touched the core of «esta historia».

Fortunata on this famous occasion is not -as she might well be in novels written 80 years later- naked. Such a meeting would have been much too crude for Galdós as an artist and much too indecorous for his public. Instead of this, he makes the contrast far more effective by dressing his heroine as an «animal»93 -or, to be specific, as a chicken waiting her own turn for death:

La moza tenía un pañuelo azul claro por la cabeza y un mantón sobre los hombros, y en el momento de ver el Delfín se infló con él, quiero decir, que hizo ese característico arqueo de brazos y alzamiento de hombros con que las madrileñas del pueblo se agazapan dentro del mantón, movimiento que les da cierta semejanza con una gallina que esponja su plumaje y se ahueca para volver luego a su volumen natural.

(p. 41)                

Fortunata's picturesquely popular display of her «mantón de Manila» had, of course, been prepared for in an earlier section of Galdós' «gloriosa historia»   —78→   of fashion and dress. Barbarita's father, «el gordo» Arnaiz, was almost ruined when the colorful «género de China» in which he specialized was abandoned by aristocratic and middle class buyers and turned over to the people.

For our purposes, however, the historical explanation is less significant than the ornithological comparison. Fortunata in her first appearance not only eats a raw egg with a primitive lack of manners; she is herself a wild thing, a bird acting instinctively in the state of nature. Other details confirm the intentional quality of the metamorphosis. When Fortunata «sacaba del manton una mano con mitón encarnado y... se la llevaba a la boca», does it not correspond in color and position to the wattle?94 Again, when she is called from downstairs, «[...] la chica se inclinó en el pasamanos y soltó un yiá voy, con chillido tan penetrante, que Juanito creyó se le desgarraba el tímpano. El yiá, principalmente, sonó como la vibración agudísima de una hoja de acero, al deslizarse sobre otra. Y al soltar aquel sonido, digno canto de tal ave, la moza se arrojó con tanta presteza por las escaleras abajo, que parecía rodar por ellas» (p. 41). After her initial display of feathers and wattle, Fortunata now sings and flies away. Such bird imagery is frequent in all of Galdós95 as in other naturalists,96 but in Fortunata y Jacinta, it is so abundant and emphatic as to deserve separate consideration. But for now we must limit ourselves to observing its function in this one scene, a scene in which Fortuna, as a bird, is at once wild and innocent, colorful, and intensely alive. This is no allegory. In the context of the novel we are led to sense the surprise and the breathless intensity of encounter with a marvel of nature. Fortunata has, as it were, been flushed from cover by two skilled and avid hunters, Juanito and Galdós.

This interpretation of the encounter is supported by Galdós' continued, yet never emphatic, rapprochement of Fortunata to «la república de las aves» -a phrase appropriately used by Segismundo Ballester.97 That is to say, the metamorphosis, once presented, remains as a subterranean metaphor which from time to time comes to the surface of the heroine's anguished «chemin». For example, Juanito remembers Fortunata tenderly as a mother of doves, feeding them at her breast and singing them to sleep, (p. 60). Her one described ornament is a brooch in the shape of a swallow (p. 212), and she prays to the Virgen de la Paloma (p. 412). Her very thoughts are birdlike «deja [a su idea] revolotear por el techo» (p. 417); «una idea pasaba por su espíritu como pasa un pájaro fugaz por la inmensidad del cielo» (p. 332 ),98 as well as the climactic, «Esta es mi idea que vengo criando aquí desde hace tantísimo tiempo, empollándola hasta que ha salido como sale el pajarito del cascarón» (p. 504). It is, of course, not surprising that the other characters should often refer to Fortunata with the traditional expression, «pájara», but when Doña Desdémona uses it as a kind of oral cipher, it seems more significant. As we remember, she is trying to send a message to doña Lupe through Maxi without letting him in on the secret: «Hágame el favor de decir a Lupe que la pájara mala sacó pollo esta mañana... un polluelo hermosísimo... con toda felicidad» (p. 497). Once again Fortunata is a bird -just as her «polluelo» by another linguistic transformation is a singing «canario de alcoba»: «El piar de pájaros también se precipitaba en aquel sombrío confín, y los chillidos con que Juan Evaristo   —79→   pedía su biberón» (p. 536). Until the very end Fortunata is accompanied by birdsong and the fluttering of wings.99

Aside from these allusions to natural history, Galdós also hints at a possible comparison derived from literary history: the traditional meeting of knight and shepherdess. We begin to suspect what he is up to when he insists repeatedly upon the «aspecto feudal» of Estupiñá's abode. The first description is representative:

El piso en que el tal vivía era cuarto por la Plaza y por la Cava séptimo. No existen en Madrid alturas mayores, y para vencer aquellas era forzoso apechugar con ciento veinte escalones, todos de piedra, como decía Plácido con orgullo, no pudiendo ponderar otra cosa de su domicilio. El ser todas de piedra, desde la Cava hasta las buhardillas, da a las escaleras de aquellas casas un aspecto lúgubre y monumental como de castillo de leyendas.

(p. 40)100                

But what about Fortunata. Juanito as the modern version of the heroic young knight trusted because of his «caballerosidad» and «hidalguía»101 is hardly in need of further demonstration, but how can she, as a creature of the city, be converted into a shepherdess? Juanito's drunken portrait of her suggests an answer: «Fortunata tenía las manos bastas de tanto trabajar; el corazón lleno de inocencia... Fortunata no tenía educación; aquella boca tan linda se comía muchas palabras y otras las equivocaba. Decía indilugencias, golves, asín. Pasó la niñez cuidando el ganado. ¿Sabes lo que es el ganado? Las gallinas.» (p. 60) Innocence, natural beauty, mispronunciation (the «sayagüés» of Madrid), the care of «ganado», all the essential elements are present. The mediaeval version of corrupted innocence has been renovated in 19th century terms. As Juanito says, «Los hombres, digo, los señoritos, somos unos miserables, creemos que el honor de las hijas del pueblo es cosa de juego...» (p. 60)

The mythological implications of Fortunata's first appearance must be approached with even greater caution. Although we may be reassured by other examples of Galdós' crafty reworking of classic patterns,102 there is in the text no overt reference to the well-known description of the birth of Eros in The Birds. Affirming nothing, therefore, we can only speculate on the coincidences revealed: «At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night, dark Erebus, and deep Tartarus. Earth, the air, and heaven had no existence. Firstly black-winged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebus, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings, swift of the whirlwinds of the tempest».103

However inconclusive the resemblance may seem, the emergence of Eros from the unfertilized egg points to a truth about Fortunata which we might otherwise have overlooked. It is simply that she -the one character lacking in genealogy and birth, itself- has been hatched from the egg which she holds in her hand. On the literal and sociological level, of course, she eats it, but on that of myth she emerges from it. She sheds it, and, as an infant without infancy, as a candid bird in her «mantón», she sets forth undetermined except by instinct on her hazardous and airy «chemin». The point is that, whether or not we accept Aristophanes' story as an intentional substratum, Galdós, like his naturalistic comrades, was a mythmaker and Fortunata is perhaps the most profoundly mythological being to be produced in 19th century Spain. She   —80→   is not Eros, of course, in spite of her sudden erotic impact on Juanito Santa Cruz on the occasion of their encounter. Rather, as he later admits, as other lovers affirm, and as she proclaims on her deathbed, she is a related but quite distinct winged creature. She is an angel. Thus the resemblance of her genesis to that of the natural counterpart of both Eros and angels, to that of a bird.

To conclude, part I of Fortunata y Jacinta with elaborate imagery and calculated contrast recounts the birth of an angel, an angel who is also -and there is no contradiction- a bird and a woman. Later parts will continue the amalgamation of myth and novel with the apparently vain fluttering of her life here among us («era de estos ángeles que hacen muchos disparates») and with the sublime purposefulness of her death and transfiguration. Hatched from an egg, she at long last flies to heaven accompanied by a chorus of birdsong: «el piar de pájaros también se precipitaba en aquel sombrío confin...» Who would dare to doubt her salvation?

Harvard University. Cambridge, Mass.