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ArribaAbajoRepetition, Discontinuity and Silence in Galdós' Tormento72

Diane F. Urey

In his incisive study of the narrative structure of Tormento, Germán Gullón describes how the opening dialogue between Ido del Sagrario and Felipe Centeno and the final dialogue between Rosalía and Francisco Bringas frame the main body of the novel. This frame serves as a commentary en the central story, but does not move it forward, according to Gullón. Rather, the frame creates discrepancies of time and truth that the reader must overcome in order to understand the sequence of events which explains the heroine Amparo's relationships with Pedro Polo and Agustín Caballero. Moreover, observes Gullón, these discrepancies are intentionally ironic in that readers who interpret them as Ido, Francisco or Rosalía do are mistaken in their conclusions. Thus our relationship to the framing structure is ironic in that we must overturn these characters' interpretations to find ones which do explain the story73. The narrative frame appears at first to be a structure of discontinuity, therefore, in its exclusion of important information (what happened between Amparo and Polo, and then between Amparo and Agustín) and because it fosters our acceptance of preliminary and incorrect interpretations (Amparo's immaculate virtue). But this structure is also one of continuity, since it forces us to override any mistaken conclusions with our informed view of the sequence of events and of the meanings in the novel. One of the most interesting aspects of this discontinuous continuity is the text's privileging of silence, since the truths we come to perceive are never spoken aloud by the characters or offered by the narrator. In other words, an ultimate textual truth or meaning is never written. Thus Tormento is always discontinuous in that it is never completely written; the reader creates the continuity by filling in the text's empty spaces. This essay seeks to analyze further the ambiguous processes of framing and finding narrative «truths» in Tormento in the context of reader response theory, particularly that of Wolfgang Iser74, of semiotics, especially the work of Roland Barthes on framing, naming and enigma75, and of deconstruction76.

Before proceeding with an analysis of the novel as a whole, we can briefly observe two examples which clearly illustrate the prevalent discontinuities and silences surrounding the principal enigma of Tormento. This enigma concerns Amparo's love affair with the priest Pedro Polo, which we assume took place «between» the two narratives of El doctor Centeno and Tormento. In the first scene, within the first framing dialogue, Ido whispers a «secretillo» which Centeno hears «entristecido»77. Long after this episode, we   —48→   deduce that the secret concerns Amparo's affair, although the narrative never specifically states this. This silent truth, which we only later divine, alerts us from the very outset of the novel to a deficiency in our knowledge of Amparo, a mystery to be solved before she is even introduced. This scene finds a parallel in the final conversation between Amparo and Agustín in her apartment, after which Amparo is forever silent. There her confession to Agustín is as inaudible to us, to the other characters, and even to the narrator, as are her two previous religious confessions. We only guess what she tells Agustín, again filling in those narrative silences with a satisfying meaning, truth or conclusion to the story. Our position is like that of Nicanora -Ido's wife and framing counterpart in this scene. She observes Amparo «susurrando» to Agustín, who listens «como los curas en el confesionario». Yet neither she nor we overhear «aquel secreto» or «misterioso coloquio» (p. 1566).

In these introductory and concluding passages we see that the narrative frames are not only discontinuous in their temporal structure and irony, as Gullón has shown, but also in their silences, signalled by the specific terms «secreto», «secretillo» and «misterio». Neither the fictional or physical readers and interpreters of Amparo can go beyond these terms which mark the novel's enigma, the forever unnamed truth which makes impossible a written resolution to Tormento. Yet these silences at the same time enable us to postulate a narrative continuity. This process functions throughout the novel in many episodes; it is Iser's «gap» which forces us to evaluate and reevaluate until we rest at some satisfactory organization of narrative statements and absences78; it is Barthes' «enigma» which must be maintained if the story is to hold our interest. For Barthes, when the enigma is resolved, the story is over; conclusions stop the narrative play of voices and interpretations79. Yet in Tormento we are forever guessing, never certain of what «really» happened; there is no ultimate closure. To conclude Galdós' story it must become our own as we write its unwritten words through our readings. In this way the text thwarts the realist impulse to close up all loose ends, to finally speak the truth, to complete the sign80. Yet as readers trained in the realist mode, we might ignore the novel's privileging of enigmas and simply resolve them according to our expectations. Realist readers tend to disregard the arbitrary nature of the linguistic sign, as can be seen with a process as seemingly innocent as assigning names.

Barthes writes that «to read is to struggle to name» (S/Z, p. 92), to make all the sometimes seemingly incompatible elements of a character coalesce. This observation pertains not only to the designation of proper names, although obviously Tormento/Amparo and the belatedly named «sombra» Pedro Polo do illustrate the first step in this act of definition and closure. But to name is also to label «coherently» a character's «personality». Thus to name a character is to make continuous what is discontinuous and heterogeneous, like Amparo's virtue and vice or naiveté and calculation, Polo's priesthood and perversity or savagery and generosity. The impetus behind the Name is parallel to the one which seeks to solve enigmas; character is «the nominative form of the enigma» (S/Z, p. 62). As we strive to   —49→   name Amparo/Tormento, her paradoxical personality, we strive to know her secret, by reading the text's telling silences.

The textual silences in Tormento are consistently and repeatedly framed by other elements besides dialogue, ironic readings and temporal disjunctions. The repetition of these elements tends to induce a sense of familiarity or continuity in our understanding of the novel, since repeated words and symbols urge us to construct coherent themes. Barthes writes that «To thematize is, on the one hand... to yield to an expanding nomination... and, on the other, to return to these various substantive stations in order to create some constant form... for the exchange value of a seme, its ability to participate in a thematic economy, depends on its repetition» (S/Z, p. 93). When this process finally rests upon a name -a process of «retreat» from the unknown to the known, according to Barthes- «a critical level is established, the work is closed, the language by which the semantic transformation is ended becomes nature, truth, the work's secret» (S/Z, p. 93). Yet Tormento never completely offers us its secret, which is why Galdós' work resides between the «classic» realist and the open-ended modern text, between Barthes' «readerly» and «writerly»81. «Only an infinite thematics, open to endless nomination, can respect the enduring character of language, the production of reading, and no longer the list of its products» (S/Z, p. 93). Because Tormento, like so many of Galdós' texts, gestures toward this open process of nomination in language, its so-called «realism» has always been both problematic and productive of often conflicting readings. What we have is a series of frames, each marking a gap -or secret- within the frame itself and also between the next frame. Yet at the center of all of these frames the enigma remains unresolved, the text is silent. Thus the series of frames in Tormento describes the framing process itself, which is ultimately ungrounded, as is representation. As Barthes writes, «the writer... first transforms the 'real' into a depicted (framed) object; having done this, he can take down this object, remove it from his picture... This is why realism cannot be designated a 'copier' but rather a 'pasticheur' (through secondary mimesis, it copies what is already a copy)...» (S/Z, pp. 54-5). Tormento multiplies this framing, depicting or copying process and ultimately reveals the text's silence; this gap of silence is that of the relationship of words to things. The meanings we create for Amparo, for Tormento, are the images of our own reading, the only truth the novel contains.

Some of the important elements that constitute the repetitive processes of naming and framing in Tormento have been discussed in different contexts. Chad Wright and others have analyzed the role of the written word, particularly letters, in the novel. Lou Charnon Deutsch writes of the function of inhabited space, household possessions, pictures, etc., and of the interplay of light and dark82. Equally important are terms pertaining to water and grime, and to the number three. These elements, as well as terms like «bruto» and its synonyms, «billetes -de banco o de teatro», «puertas», «espejos», doorbells, clothing and food almost always constitute the frames of the major forward-moving, though always enigmatic and virtually silent, passages of the narrative. The repetition of the same frame elements surrounding these passages describes the already pre-framed nature of representation.   —50→   Each novelistic «truth» is framed by an arbitrary delimitation of where the truth begins and ends. Yet if these truths are ultimately silent, then the scene or meaning framed is ultimately ungrounded; it is an infinite re-presentation of the never present. The choice of the frame elements is highly significant: money, household possessions, mirrors, clothing and theater are the very stuff of social representation. How appropriate that these elements figure so prominently in this novel about representation. The attention to doors and doorbells explicitly reinforces the idea of frame as demarcation. The characters, their conversations and actions -their meaningful words and silences- pass in and out of doors, signalled by their bells. Such noise, openings and closings mark the onset or interruption of important and never fully written meanings in Tormento. The major portion of this essay, however, seeks to analyze the function of water imagery, the number three, and to a lesser extent, the term «bruto». The insistent repetition of these elements -or «semes»- suggests a productive, though never fully produced, re-reading of the novel.

To begin again with Chapter One, we see that the first and the third words of the opening dialogue are «bruto». Two brutes (two men), whose identities are at first hidden from each other and from us, violently collide while travelling in opposite directions. After naming each other as Ido del Sagrario and Felipe Centeno they compare lives and discover that they both have contact with the life of Amparo Sánchez Emperador. So from the instant that she is first named, Amparo is the subject of two brutes; each interprets her according to his expectations -Ido's literary and Centeno's somewhat idealized. Her secret truth, the whispered exchange between the two men, is the text's first silence. Moreover, the number three is not only implicit in the physical presence of the two men and the implied presence of Amparo, but explicit in Ido's twice mentioned «tres cabezas en una» and the «tres novelas a la vez» that he is writing. The number three describes the triangular romance of the novel: Amparo and the two brutes, Agustín Caballero and Pedro Polo.

Amparo is not named again until Chapter Three when Rosalía screeches: «-Amparo, pero ¿qué haces? Te tengo dicho que no empieces una cosa antes de acabar otra. Más fuerza, hija, más fuerza. Parece que no tienes alma... Vamos, vivo... Yo quisiera que todas tuvieran este genio mío... Pero ¿qué haces, criatura? ¿No tienes ojos?» (p. 1461). Amparo is significantly silent here in this passage which obliquely suggests her future dilemma between her unfinished affair with Polo and her new relationship with Agustín. Immediately prior to this passage there is a detailed description of the three women -Rosalía, Amparo and the maid- cleaning the kitchen in the Bringas' new house. The scene includes dense water imagery:

La moza convirtió en lago la cocina... Maritornes... lavaba los baldosines, recogiendo con trapos el agua terrosa y espesa para exprimirla dentro de un cubo, mientras las otras dos fregoteaban los cacharros, con un ruido de cencerrada que era la música de aquel áspero combate... Ver como del fondo general de la suciedad iban saliendo en una y otra pieza el brillo y fineza del aseo, era el mayor gusto de las tres hembras... El agua negra del cubo arrastraba todo a lo profundo. Así el polvo envuelve a la tierra después de haber usurpado en los aires el imperio de la luz; pero, ¡ay!, la tierra lo envía de nuevo, desafiando las energías poderosas   —51→   que lo persiguen, y esta alternativa de infección y purificación es emblema del combate humano contra el mal y de los avances invasores de la materia sobre el hombre, eterna y elemental batalla en que el espíritu sucumbe sin morir o triunfa sin rematar a su enemigo.

(p. 1461)                

This passage is literally an emblem of the eternal relationships between dust and water, sin and grace, matter and spirit; it is an emblem of the themes and actions of the novel. The elemental and eternal battle is the human combat in general, and even has particular if ironic reference to the personal and sexual combat of Agustín and Amparo through the term «cencerrada». This alternation of identities, without ever resting in one or the other -purification or infection- together with the furious activity intended to break the cycle, describes the crescendoing movement of Amparo's dilemma, which she seeks but fails to resolve in her attempted suicide83.

Before this emblematic statement and the naming of Amparo we also observe cleaning in other rooms, read of the Bringas' three children (p. 1459), of Bringas' repetition of Franklin's phrase, «Tres mudanzas equivalen a un incendio», (p. 1460), understand that «Tarea tan cansada y desesperante no se realiza nunca por completo en dos días ni en tres, pues aún después de que parece terminada, quedan restos insignificantes, que son tormento del aposentador» (p. 1460). And the moving day ends with Rosalía spanking the children «de esta suerte no concluyó sin lágrimas un día de tantas satisfacciones» (p. 1462). The repetition of references to three, water, and even to the term «tormento» itself as observed in these passages is consistent throughout the novel. And just as we might see in the kitchen «cencerrada» a foreshadowing of Agustín's relationship to Amparo, or in the «restos insignificantes» a reflection of Amparo's unerasable past -her personal torment, and then Agustín's- there are countless similar allusions which frame both as prefiguration and reiteration the events yet to be read and those never written. Thus this continuity through repetition has a constant back and forth, past and present process of «recursion» which works to destabilize or make discontinuous a temporal progression of events or a sequential reading. For only by knowing Amparo's past can we make sense of her present; only in retrospect and through re-evaluation do we come to see the relationships between these opening chapters and later chapters and even the earlier and later novels El doctor Centeno and La de Bringas. When we finish Tormento, however, and arrange its elements chronologically, when we know what Ido knew at the beginning, we remain faced still with the text's ultimate silence. Re-reading, re-ordering and re-constructing Tormento unveil the already re-presented process of the narrative. The original act which set the characters in motion cannot be temporally recuperated or truly known, even within its fictional guise, since it is never written. The secret that Ido knows about Amparo from the beginning, and that we guess later, is never spoken, nor read. What Ido does offer Centeno and what Tormento offers to us are written, already literary interpretations or distorted repetitions of her story. Thus the novel is a story of the endless process of repetition and difference which is representation. The novel's truth is to be found only within writing, not outside of it; yet within that   —52→   system there is no beginning or ending, no origin or truth to Amparo's history or to Galdós' story.

The enigmas surrounding Amparo move forward again in Chapter Five, when Rosalía tells Agustín that Amparo wishes to become a nun and needs a dowry. Both Amparo and Agustín are silent here. When Agustín refuses to say what Rosalía wants him to say (i.e. «Yo doy la dote por esa señorita monja» (p. 1470), she exclaims in the last words of the chapter: «siempre tan brutote» (p. 1470). This narrative silence is preceeded by references to Rosalía as «atormentada dama» and to mineral water (p. 1469), and by Agustín's offer of three theater tickets to the family. Following this silence at the beginning of Chapter Six are references to a fountain with «el agua henchida y ruborosa» (p. 1470), several to the Bringas' ablutions (pp. 1472-3), to Rosalía's «desconsuelo atormentador» (her despair over the unattainability of Agustín's money) and to her «tormento» and «tormento delicioso» (i.e. her corset, p. 1473).

Chapters Eight and Nine constitute the first major romantic confrontation between Amparo and Agustín, as Chapter Eight opens «Tres noches después». Here we read their thoughts through monologue and free indirect speech, but they are unable to speak directy to each other84. Finally, before the doorbell rings at the end of Chapter Nine, Agustín breaks his silence, saying «pienso retirarme a Burdeos... cuando usted se haga monja» (p. 1477). Amparo, as usual, «No sabía qué decir». And though she implicitly consents later to marriage by accepting his money, she never utters any words of acceptance. This scene is particularly interesting because during their silences and mental conversations, they look at three pictures from the Bringas' illustrated edition of the Bible. Each Biblical representation is a repetition and a prefiguration of the novelistic situation.

The first of these «láminas» is of «un ángel entre dos columnas rodeado de luz». The caption reads: «Y he aquí un varón cuyo aspecto era como el de un bronce» (p. 1476). This is Ezekiel 40.3: «When he brought me there, behold, there was a man, whose appearance was like bronze, with a line of flax and a measuring reed in his hand; and he was standing in the gateway». God's messenger brings Ezekiel visions of the religious and political restoration of Israel. Ezekiel 40.1-48.35 is a detailed description of the magnificent if idealized temple of Solomon. Ezekiel's marvel at the temple as he follows his guide through it corresponds of course in Tormento to Agustín's house as described by Centeno to Amparo and then shown to her by Agustín himself. The salvation and restoration of Israel proclaimed in these chapters of Ezekiel resemble the social, economical and psychological salvation that Amparo might see in Agustín. (See p. 1520 where Amparo «le miraba a él como la Providencia hecha hombre».)

The caption of the second picture reads: «¿Quién es este que viene de Edón?...» (p. 1476). This is Isaiah 63.1: «Who is this that comes from Edom...» Isaiah 63.1-6 describes the return of one who has triumphed in bloody battle over God's enemies. This poem on divine vengeance offers a parallel to Pedro Polo's savage internal battle. However, neither of these passages is unambiguously identified with either male character. Agustín, who has literally just returned from savage lands, must fight his own internal   —53→   battle over his love for Amparo and the dictates of society. And several passages describe Polo with bronzed features, as in Ezekiel 40.3. The ambiguity in the relationships of the two Biblical texts to Tormento is that between the two male protagonists; surprisingly alike in their desires and struggles, neither is identified as completely angelic or vengeful. Like the entire framing process of Tormento, these two characters frame Amparo in curiously inverted and repetitive ways.

The third and most telling passage from the Bible reads: «Estoy hundido en cieno profundo donde no hay pie; he venido a abismos de agua, y la corriente me ha anegado» (p. 1480). After seeing this, Amparo «Cerró bruscamente el libro», silencing the Biblical text's repetition of her own story. The passage which so disturbs her is the opening verse of Psalm 69. The Psalm is a cry for help from the persecuted sinner who confesses to sin and shame and pleads for mercy, salvation and protection from vengeful enemies. The idea of drowning in sin and shame poignantly evokes the novel's framing water imagery, for example: «Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me» (Psalm 69.1-2) and «rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me» (Psalm 69.14-15). These texts within the text Tormento repeat and interpret Amparo, Polo and Agustín in the same ways that the opening and closing dialogues do; they contain many of the same images and the same telling silences. We receive only part of the truth in these unfinished, yet allusive Biblical texts. They are partial texts, partial resolutions of the enigma, which serve to spur us on in our recursive processes of constructing themes and meanings.

In Chapter Ten there is a more definite indication that Amparo is not all she appears to be. Her sister, Refugio, rebels against her lectures on morality, saying: «Si fueras mejor que yo, pase... pero como no lo eres...» and «pero conste que yo no soy hipócrita, señora hermana. Aunque estamos solas, no quiero decir más... no quiero que se te ponga la cara del color del terciopelo de ese sillón...» (p. 1484)85. Amparo does not respond; her silence leaves us puzzled and suspicious. Nicanora's comments on the girls' bathing habits frame this scene. She speaks of Amparo's beauty, saying: «He tenido ocasión de verla cuando íbamos juntas a los baños de los Jerónimos... Me río yo de las estatuas que están en el Museo» (p. 1482). As Refugio prepares to leave for what she says is the theater, «se lavaba los brazos con verdadero furor» (p. 1482), a passage which contrasts and compares interestingly with Rosalía's more elaborate dress but less thorough cleansing before the theater. Nicanora believes that too much cleanliness of body marks an unclean soul, as she says in the closing sentences of the chapter: «-Esta que emplea tanto tiempo en lavarse, no puede ser cosa buena... Digan lo que quieran, la mujer honesta no necesita de tanta agua» (p. 1484).

Chapter Eleven increases the enigma surrounding Amparo since, when the doorbell rings at the outset, she is so frightened that she determines to hurl herself out the window if it is someone whom she names not even to herself (p. 1485). It is Felipe Centeno with the «billetes» «no muy aseados»   —54→   from Agustín -his implied, but unspoken marriage proposal. This scene is filled with references to the number three and to water: Felipe could look at Amparo «sin pestañear tres semanas seguidas» (p. 1485); he reports that Agustín said «Caramba, estoy tan aburrido, que una de tres: o me pego un tiro, o me caso, o me pongo a trabajar; es decir, una de tres: o me mato, o me alegro, o me embrutezco para no sentir nada» (pp. 1485-6); he describes the «armario de tres espejos para ropa de señora» in Agustín's house (p. 1486) and that «constantes no van más que tres» friends to visit him (p. 1487). Felipe also describes at length the cold and hot running water and all the other marvels of the house (p. 1486). As Amparo listens «sus ojos se humedecieron» (p. 1486), echoing Agustín's housekeeper's statement that «la casa parece un valle de lágrimas» (p. 1487). Amparo's confusion as to what to do with the money after Felipe leaves (Chapter Twelve) suggests that she is not as virtuous as she appears. Refugio's statement, «Guarda tu dinero, hipocritona... No lo quiero... Me quemaría las manos. Es de pie de altar» (p. 1490), which sends Amparo into tears, continues the process of enigma or silence and naming. Amparo's ready tears, her desire to clean her own house at the end of the chapter, like her mental vision of Agustín's house at the beginning, frame Refugio's allusive comments. Not surprisingly, the first item Amparo imagines is «los grifos del baño» (p. 1488).

Chapter Thirteen offers a partial resolution to Amparo's secret. She visits Polo's house, crossing in his courtyard «un arroyo de agua verde» and «un riachuelo de líquido rojo» (p. 1492). The detailed descriptions of the filth of the building, of Polo's own dirty quarters, and of Amparo's cleaning again suggests an eternal cycle of water and grime. The references to the «polvo» which has piled up for «tres meses» because Polo cannot collect the «tres mil y pico reales» owed to him, and to the many letters that he wrote to Amparo «hace tres meses» frame the disconnected conversation between Polo and Amparo (pp. 1492-4). The most significant word in this chapter is the solution to the enigma of the novel's title, Polo's name for Amparo, «Tormento». As Polo names her (p. 1492), Tormento begins to cry: «parecía que se ahogaba. Rompió a llorar, ¡y de qué manera!... Vertía lágrimas antiguas, lágrimas pertenecientes a otros días y que no habían brotado en tiempo oportuno. Por eso tenían salobridad intensa, y le amargaban horriblemente cuando se las bebía» (pp. 1492-3). Amparo appears as a representation «con su llanto eterno [de] la salvación con el arrepentimiento» (p. 1493). Although she never tells what occured at that «tiempo oportuno», this scene evokes the emblematic passage during the cleaning of Rosalía's house and Psalm 69. Thus we deduce that Amparo's dilemma is also one of sin and repentance. The repetition of the Biblical text is even more evident when we read of Polo that «Su cara era cual mascarilla fundida en verdoso bronce» (p. 1493). But it is actually not until the next chapter that we are offered the name of this bronzed man, and the fact that he is a priest.

After the temporal discontinuity of Chapter Fourteen, which traces Polo's history up to his current situation, Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen continue the confrontation between Amparo and Polo. The insistent water images in these chapters, together with those of Chapter Thirteen, form a frame for the naming of Polo in Chapter Fourteen. Within these chapters too, there   —55→   are telling silences. While the text never offers the details of «aquellos tiempos» (p. 1497) or of the «materia» that Tormento evades (p. 1498), we readily surmise what she considers to be «el mayor tropiezo y la única mancha de su vida» (P. 1498). Her constant tears, the conscience that drowns her (p. 1499), and Polo's dry sobs, his incapacity for tears -«si fuera hombre capaz de llorar con lágrimas, las habría derramado» (p. 1498-, are silent testimony to an unspoken, past meaning. As the chapter ends, as Amparo leaves, she un-names herself: «Ya no me llamo Tormento» (p. 1501), just as at her entrance into his rooms, Polo utters that name. Amparo seeks to assume a new identity by refusing a name; she attempts to be different from herself. Yet with Agustín she will be only a distorted repetition of what she was with Polo. Just as every repetition requires a difference, so every difference contains a repetition. The trace of Tormento will always be present in Amparo, however opposite these names appear to be. Like the eternal cycle of water and dust, one becomes the other in a process which forever turns back on itself. Amparo/Tormento is neither one or the other, neither virtuous or sinful, but a third thing, the mutual compromise and inevitable sameness in difference that is representation. She seeks to sever the relationship between her two names, to create discontinuity where there will forever exist the continuity which forms the metonymical system of language.

Chapter Seventeen is Polo's confession to Padre Nones, a confession which, like Amparo's, we never read. This chapter's silent truth-telling is framed by Polo's conversations with Amparo, and then with Nones in Chapter Eighteen, who advises a cure of «el agua tibia del tiempo» which will eventually bring «sobre tu cabeza la bendición de Dios, esta lluvia blanca, esta nevada que todo lo tapa, emblema del olvido y de la paz...» (p. 1505). The juxtaposition of this passage to a description of «la venerable cabeza de Nones, blanquísima y pura como el vellón del cordero de la Pascua» (p. 1505), links forgiveness, purification, Christianity and water (snow or rain). The images of the rain storm which lasts three days, of Agustín's forgiving hand on Amparo's head, and of their journey through the snowy border to France that we see in later chapters reinforce this structure of symbolic repetitions. Nones' final recommendation that Polo must put «mucha tierra y mucha agua» between himself and Amparo (p. 1506) again reminds us of the cyclical relationship between sin and grace or earth and water.

Agustín literally proposes marriage to Amparo in Chapter Nineteen -«que no se ha de casar usted con Jesucristo, sino conmigo» (p. 1508)- but Amparo never replies directly. Her words, through her tears, sound like the «primeras gotas de una lluvia que amenaza ser fuerte» (p. 1509). This scene is frequently interrupted by the Bringas' maid, who at one time goes out to buy mineral water (p. 1508), and finally by the doorbell announcing first Francisco and then Rosalía (p. 1510). Also framing this scene are the Bringas' morning ablutions (p. 1507) and their concern with the Palace ball, which Francisco says «nos desnivela para tres meses» (p. 1508). When Agustín walks Amparo home in Chapter Twenty, he calls himself a «bruto»   —56→   (p. 1512) and the narrator laments that the only adornment Amparo has is «el aseo» (p. 1512).

Chapters Twenty-one and Twenty-two frame the next narrative enigma -which is also a name- with references to the kitchen and bathroom waterworks of Agustín's house (p. 1513), to his three friends, to Agustín's visits to Trujillo's house every three months (p. 1515), as well as with numerous references to «espejos», «bronces» and «porcelanas».86 When Rosalía attempts to guess the «secreto» (p. 1517) of Agustín's betrothal, and then when he does tell her -but not us- even Rosalía cannot speak her name completely: «¡Con Amp...!» (p. 1517). Her shock is «como si le administraran una ducha con la catarata del Niágara» (p. 1517).

In Chapter Twenty-three, Amparo decides to confess to Caballero. She repeatedly tells him her «secreto» (p. 1519) in monologue, but when he visits her «la penitente estaba yerta, y la confesión era tan imposible como darse una puñalada» (p. 1520). Now it is not only the reader, but Agustín who does not hear the truth. This chapter's silence is framed by repeated references to Amparo's frantic cleaning of self and house and by her tears in passages such as: «Lloró en silencio, mojando con lágrimas sus almohadas, y se durmió sobre la tibia humedad de ellas... A las tres o cuatro horas despertó»; «Vistiose, y el agua fresca aclaró sus ideas» (p. 1519). The number three frames this episode further as Amparo says to herself in its first paragraph, «Señor Caballero, yo no puedo casarme con usted... por esto, por esto y por esto» (p. 1518); at the end of the chapter we see her efforts to conform to «el triple mecanismo del Estado, la Religión y la Familia» (p. 1521).

Amparo's decision to make a religious confession (p. 1522) occurs three days after her silent confession to Agustín (p. 1521) we learn in the first sentence of Chapter Twenty-four. But she waits for three days after her resolution to actually go to church: «Dejó pasar tres días, y al cuarto... se fue a la Buena Dicha» (p. 1523). We have also learned that the Bringas must save for «tres meses» (p. 1522) to go to the ball. Amparo now feels capable of telling Agustín the truth, but the chapter and her resolution come to and end when the doorbell announces the mailman with a letter from Polo (pp. 1523-4). This letter announces in the next chapter his impending departure for the Philippines and silences Amparo. Polo describes himself as «bestia» and «salvaje» and closes with a request for «dos o tres lágrimas» from Tormento (p. 1525).

Chapters Twenty-five and Twenty-six contain repeated references to Amparo's fears about Refugio, Rosalía and Ido knowing her «secreto» (pp. 1526-1527, 1528, 1529 respectively). And in Chapter Twenty-seven, after another religious confession (p. 1529), Marcelina Polo is Amparo's silent and accusing observer, as she was during her previous visit to church. Amparo again resolves to tell Agustín, but realizes that she cannot:

Además, ni él ni nadie la comprenderían si hablara. Sólo Dios descifraba misterio tan grande. Creía conservar ella pureza y rectitud en su corazón; pero ¿cómo hacerlo entender a los demás, y menos a un celoso? Nada: callar, callar, callar. Dios la sacaría del pantano.

(p. 1530)                

Her secret, her truth, is the paradox that no earthly mind can resolve. These enigmatic passages bring us to the last and most incriminating scene between   —57→   Amparo and Polo, which takes place in Chapters Twenty-eight and Twenty-nine.

This episode is framed first by the viewing of Agustín's house in Chapter Twenty-seven. Among the numerous wonders of that dwelling the most amazing, and given the most description, is the «cuarto de baño... y su aparato de ducha circular y de regadera» (p. 1533). The thought of so much water on a naked body horrifies Rosalía and when Agustín turns it on, his audience screams with surprise. Amparo is less interested in the «cuadros, bronces y muebles» than in admiring Agustín's face «en cuyo rostro daba de lleno la luz que él mismo sostenía para alumbrar los objetos. En su barba negra brillaban las manchas canosas como hilada plata, y su tez amarillenta, bañada en viva luz, tomaba un caliente tono de terracotta, comparable a cosas indias, egipcias o aztecas» (p. 1533). This passage again reminds us of the Biblical figures. For a moment Amparo is happy, enjoying «aquel olvido de sus penas que le había caído sobre el corazón gota a gota como un bálsamo celestial» (p. 1534).

The chapter ends, as does Amparo's repression of her past, with the arrival of another letter from Polo. In Chapter Twenty-eight we read that he will do «todas las barbaridades posibles» to prevent her marriage. She again goes to his house, crossing the red and green streams of dye (p. 1535). This last and most revealing encounter between Amparo and Polo, corresponding to Chapters Twenty-eight through Thirty-one, contains two principal silences. Polo recriminates her saying, «Tu boca preciosa, ¿qué me dijo? ¿No lo recuerdas? Yo sí. ¿Para qué lo dijiste?» (p. 1537). Amparo's only answer is to burst into tears; we never recover the original words which define their relationship. The other silence is the glove that Amparo dropped and which Polo's sister Marcelina finds, saying, «-Yo conozco esta mano- [...] examinando el cuerpo del delito... Después lo sopló para hincharlo con aire y ver la forma de la mano» (p. 1543). This glove is the mark of Amparo's incriminating silence throughout the novel, and here, as she hides in a closet; it is an absence which reveals her secret presence, the truth of her affair with Polo. The hand of air -the formed, but empty glove- is as real to Marcelina as if Amparo's hand itself filled the glove. This mark of presence which is absence, these silences which speak louder than narrative words to us and to Marcelina, epitomize the process of representation. Marcelina's curiosity to know the «truth» of Amparo's presence in Polo's house is like Rosalía's to find out Amparo's secret. (Marcelina here, like Rosalía, is «atormentada por su idea fija», p. 1544.) These two women -along with Refugio, who is also curious about the source of Amparo's money and about the relationships between Amparo, Polo and Agustín- form a feminine trilogy of curiosity in the novel, seeking to reveal Amparo's secrets. Padre Nones also wants the truth, he says to Polo: «Busco la verdad bruto, y por la verdad, ¿qué no haría yo? No quiero vivir en el error... Pero quiero saber, quiero saber, quiero saber...» (p. 1545). He seeks to sound Polo's soul, to know whether he can save it or not. Nones, and to a lesser extent Francisco and Ido, seek to penetrate and interpret the relationships of Amparo, Agustín and Polo. Eventually, Agustín as well is driven to seek the truth about Amparo, which he does find, but which neither Nicanora   —58→   nor the reader can overhear. All these seekers of truth -the women in their malevolency, Nones' mission, and Agustín's tortured drive to discover Amparo's innocence of guilt- are manifestations of curiosity, of the desire to organize disparate narrative elements into coherent meanings, and of the process of reading which is also ours.

The incriminating silences in this scene are surrounded by insistent repetitions of the frame elements. Polo is repeatedly called «bruto» (pp. 1536 twice, 1537, 1539 twice, 1545), «bestia» (pp. 1534, 1541), «fiera» (p. 1534), and «bárbaro» (pp. 1535, 1536, 1538, 1541, 1545). Marcelina says that Polo could cry «tres días seguidos» and loose nothing (p. 1543); Amparo's tears flow almost continuously; and Polo cries with «bramidos, como de bestia» (p. 1541). Numerous water images again suggest the idea of drowing. Polo squeezes Amparo, saying, «te voy apretando, apretando, hasta ahogarte. Te arranco el último suspiro y me lo bebo» (p. 1539). Both Polo and Amparo frequently complain that they are suffocating. The term «ahogar» (which occurs at least six times in these chapters) -to drown and to suffocate- is the silencing of meaning.

The scene ends as Amparo finally and forever leaves Polo, escorted by Nones and observed by her silent accuser, Marcelina. The temporal shift between this moment and what occurs in her absence from home is marked at the beginning of Chapter Thirty-two as Nicanora, another observer and interpreter, tells her that Agustín left, tired of ringing her doorbell (p. 1547). From now on the sequence of events is framed by explicit temporal discontinuities in the same way that Tormento contains an implicitly discontinuous temporal structure in its relationships to the «originary» narrative, El doctor Centeno, and the ironic denouement of La de Bringas.

In Chapter Thirty-two Amparo faces Rosalía who now divines her truth. Rosalía alludes several times to Amparo's «secreto» and «misterios» (pp. 1548-1549), without saying what she knows. Amparo's response to her insinuations is to faint, breaking a cup of tea, whose «agua de tila» spills on Rosalía (P. 1549)87. Amparo is rendered as though deaf and dumb. Her emotion is expressed «en un llorar seco y convulsivo. Sollozos y ayes la sofocaban; pero sus ojos permanecían secos» (p. 1549), and finally by «pocas y ardientes lágrimas, que con dificultad salían de sus ojos enrojecidos» (p. 1549). Her difficulty in crying, once the truth is exposed, recalls Polo's earlier incapacity for tears (pp. 1498, 1541) and anticipates Agustín's inability to cry later (p. 1562). The dry tears in each of these passages mark the actual or perceived dissolution of a love relationship and the exposure of truth (Amparo's abandonment of Polo, the inability of a marriage between Agustín and Amparo to take place); in all cases the dry tears mourn the loss of an illusion, the end of a story, the cesation of production, it might be said, of tears or meanings.

Other references in Amparo's confrontation with Rosalía evoke the same emotions, images and actions of the previous scene with Polo. Rosalía says, for example, «No correrá la sangre al río» (p. 1548); «tenemos que apretar de firme» (p. 1548); «desahógate» (p. 1548). The colors and the verbs signal the parallels between the two scenes, as does, particularly, the ironic reference to Rosalía «kindly» caressing Amparo's hand: «Rosalía llevó su   —59→   bondad hasta tomarle una mano y acariciársela» (p. 1548). Instead of an empty glove, however, Amparo is physically present here; her secret is known, if not spoken. The hand that Rosalía holds is of flesh, not an airfilled glove, just as is the hand which grasps Agustín's at the end of the novel and finally confesses the truth.

Chapters Thirty-three and Thirty-four describe Amparo's agony and attempted suicide. These chapters are framed by the conclusion of the previous chapter and the beginning of Chapter Thirty-five which note Rosalía's progress in dress, and by the temporal discontinuity following Amparo's drinking what she believes to be poison at the end of Chapter Thirty-four. As Gullón illustrates, there are three interpretations to this event, but we only see hers at first88. We are left with the narrative's death-like silence until we again go back three days in time and trace Agustín's steps to the death scene and Centeno's correct resolution of that enigma, i.e. Amparo's mute, yet live presence.

Chapters Thirty-three and Thirty-four and Chapters Thirty-five and Thirty-six -Amparo's and Agustín's respective torments- contain very similar evocations of the frame elements. The central silences in these scenes result from the characters' inability to communicate directly with one another. Their anguished interpretations of each other are largely products of their imaginations alone. As Amparo lies awake, she hears a rooster crow at three a.m. (pp. 1551-2); she breakfasts on «chocolate crudo y agua» (p. 1552); and she drinks two kinds of water -one sweet and one she thinks is poisoned (p. 1555). The days preceding her suicide attempt and that day itself -the third after her episode with Rosalía: «Aquella tarde, no; por la noche, tampoco. Sería prematuro. Al día siguiente», p. 1551- are characterized by several references to the sympathetic weather. For example, «Para que fuera más triste, ni un momento dejó de llover... y en la mortaja líquida que envolvía la Naturaleza, veía como una ampliación de la misma lobreguez de su alma» (p. 1551); «Las líneas todas temblaban ante sus ojos doloridos y secos, y la lluvia misma era como un subir de hilos de agua en dirección del cielo» (p. 1551); «Amaneció lloviendo también, la tierra bebiendo lágrimas del cielo» (p. 1552). These passages again contain the cyclical relationships of water and dust or sin and grace traced throughout the novel.

Meanwhile, Agustín goes to Rosalía for information, «tres horas después de haberse ido Amparo a su casa... Fue la tarde del lunes» (p. 1556). Agustín's torment, through Rosalía's half-truths, his monologues, and finally his visit to Marcelina's house, are also accompanied by the sky's tears. In Chapter Thirty-five we read: «Al día siguiente, martes, día de lluvia y tristeza, Agustín pasó toda la mañana dando vueltas en su despacho» (p. 1557). Chapter Thirty-six opens with a paragraph which recalls specifically the images accompanying Amparo during the same period:

¡Miércoles!... Digno sucesor del día precedente, fue todo humedad y penumbra, el cielo llorando, la tierra convertida en lago sucio y espeso. Creeríase que una gran masa de chocolate gris se había derramado sobre las calles... Los chorros de los canalones tocaban sobre [los paraguas] redobles de tambor... Veíanse sombreros parecidos a manantiales, y caras semejantes a las de los tritones y náyades de mármol que desempeñan el más húmedo de los papeles en las fuentes públicas.

(p. 1558)                


The term «lago» here also reminds us of the emblematic scene in Chapter Three. Agustín, like Polo, is also a «bruto», as he recriminates himself for creating an illusion -of self as well as of Amparo- (pp. 1558, 1562). He is driven by his «friends» to seek the truth which they assure him lies in the love letters possessed by Marcelina Polo. When he goes to her house, the novel's enigma finally seems to be resolved -named. But this apparent meaning or identification of Amparo's secret also illustrates the ultimate impossibility of such a resolution.

Marcelina says to Agustín that «hay verdades que no son para dichas» (p. 1559), and throws the incriminating letters into the fire. Watching them burn, Agustín is able to read the signature: «Nada pudo leer sino un nombre que era la firma y decía: Tormento. Con la o final se enlazaba un garabatito... Sí; era un garabatito, su persona autografiada en aquel rasgo que parecía un pelo rizado» (p. 1560). He subsequently compares this signature to the suicide letter that Amparo leaves him, which reads: «'Todo es verdad. No merezco perdón, sino lástima'. Después seguía el nombre de Amparo, y tras de la o, el garabatito... ¡Infame garabatito!» (p. 1561). The function of the «o» here emblemizes the various textual processes at work in Tormento as a whole. As a circle this letter at once symbolizes perfect closure and, as a line with no origin or end, infinite open-endedness. Thus the «o» describes the illusion of closure and ultimate meaning that representation suggests and that our reading (re-) pursues. Yet it also reveals the impossibility of such meaning and the ungrounded nature of representation.

The «o» itself is not sufficient to identify Amparo with Tormento; it must be «supplemented» with the «garabatito». By equating these two «garabatitos», Agustín chooses to ignore the difference between the two signifiers Amparo and Tormento and see one signified woman. But of course the signatures are different from each other, as two separate signifiers, and the «garabatitos» themselves must contain the difference which enables the repetition. This is the contradiction which Jacques Derrida reveals: «For the concept of the supplement -which here determines that of the representative image- harbors within itself two significations whose cohabitation is as strange as it is necessary. The supplement adds itself, it is a surplus, a plenitude enriching another plenitud, the fullest measure of presence» (Of Grammatology, p. 144). This is the reading of the «garabatito» which Agustín chooses here: the presence of Tormento in Amparo and the presence of the woman -the thing- in the signature -the word. Yet «the supplement supplements. It adds only to replace... If it represents and makes an image, it is by anterior default of a presence» (Of Grammatology, p. 145). This is the aspect which Agustín chooses not to see, and that readers might refuse to see in Tormento, or in any novel, when we seek an ultimate meaning or stop the play of deferred enigmas and satisfy our desire to close the text. «But what is no longer deferred is also absolutely deferred, The presence that is thus delivered to us is a chimera... The sign, the image, the representation, which come to supplement the absent presence are the illusions that sidertrack us» (Of Grammatology, p. 154). Thus Agustín is momentarily sidetracked by the supplementary «garabatito». When he allows the contradiction Tormento/Amparo to function again, by making her a mistress   —61→   who is a wife and a wife who is a mistress, the story and the open-ended text of Tormento continue. Agustín's equivalent reading of the names Amparo and Tormento or of sin and virtue, like our equivalent reading of language and meaning, relies on the identity of necessarily different marks such as the two «garabatitos».

The difference between the identical «garabatitos» defines the scandalously ambivalent moral that the novel would have appeared to offer to contemporary readers. Amparo and Agustín refuse to perpetuate the pursuit of right or wrong, sinful or virtuous, clean or dirty, honorable or dishonorable meanings. Their withdrawal from the pursuit of meaning ends the repetition of its framing images and the story itself. Thus the scene of Marcelina's house, before the appearance of the «garabatito», contains the last intensive incidence of the number three (three «cómodas»; Polo leaves for the Phifippines in «tres días», p. 1559). Likewise the water images in the novel diminish: Agustín leaves Marcelina's house through the rain, after seeing one «garabatito» and before reading the next (p. 1560). He finds Amparo, not dead, but with «los ojos... cerrados, secos» (p. 1561), and as Chapter Thirty-six concludes, he too is incapable of tears: «Si no lloraba era porque no podía, que ganas no le faltaban» (p. 1562).

Just as neither Agustín nor Amparo can cry, the sky becomes dry and silent: «El día era espléndido, y mirando aquel cielo no se comprendía que existiera el fenómeno de la lluvia» (p. 1566). After Amparo's confession to Agustín in this Chapter Thirty-nine, inaudible to us and to Nicanora, her eyes are bright and clear: «los ojos despidiendo luz» (p. 1567). Thus the repetition of frame images diminishes, although their force in Spanish society is inescapable, even up to the borders of the nation itself; Francisco finally notes, as they are about to leave for France, «En el puerto hay mucha nieve» (p. 1568).

The end of the repetition of the terms traced in this essay coincides with the suggestion of Amparo and Agustín's new roles in the story. Amparo withdraws completely from the perpetuation of terms whose meanings had tortured her; she speaks to no one again except to Agustín, represented only by two incomplete and brief sentences in the text (pp. 1556-7). Agustín himself wanders without reference to any fixed points: «Agustín salió sin saber adónde iba» (p. 1565). Although he ends up at Amparo's house, he believes that he has come to say farewell and end their relationship: «-Vengo a despedirme... Todo se acabó entre nosotros...» (p. 1556). But instead they leave for France together. Most of Agustín's words are directed to himself in these last chapters, and even these reveal his withdrawal from the pursuit of meaning. Because he finds no place for himself in society's values of «Orden, política, religión, moral, familia» (p. 1563), he cannot name himself: «Bruto, necio, simple, o no sé qué nombre darte» (p. 1562). When he rejects these values, finally, «No te fíes de la majestad convencional de los principios» and chooses «la anarquía», he chooses Amparo, France, contradiction: «Recréate, hombre sin mundo, en tu contradicción horrible» (p. 1567). For Agustín and Amparo there is now no longer any need, any sense/meaning/signified to be achieved in their identity with or difference from the terms society imposes upon them. Thus they are no longer repeated in the text. They have   —62→   elected to live within the anarchy of difference, in the space between these terms and their signified social values -sin/virtue, honor/dishonor, clean/ dirty. In this space there is no signification, no union of sound and sense, but simply silence.

Others continue to speak of Amparo and Agustín, just as we continue to read their story. As Francisco reports the scene, falsely89, to Rosalía, he says of Amparo: «En el vagón reservado estaba, bien abrigadita, sin decir esta boca es mía, y tan contenta que echaba lumbre por los ojos» (p. 1568). Her clear eyes speak without words, just as out eyes read the absent words of this narrative. Amparo and Agustín escape the confining framework of Spain, with its rain, tears, dust, threesomes, brutes and secrets, and disappear into the freedom, the spaces of difference, of France. Likewise, what seems to be the end of the story, marked by its last dialogue frame and the closing of the book, instead announces this novel's open-endedness, since we continue to supplement this text in our use of the language that includes both it and ourselves. The end of Tormento is only the end of its written text; but just as Amparo cannot silence the Bible by closing it, neither does the absence of the written word mark the end of the presence of Amparo/ Tormento, water, threes, brutes or any other signifying terms. just as we seek to «know» Amparo's secret, although it is never written, so we seek to fill the narrative's ultimate silences in a satisfactory, «meaningful» way, and thus to write the rest of the story in our own language. Thus the function of the «happy ending» in Tormento is no ending at all, but rather the text's attempt to escape the framework of images that we ourselves impose because we prefer sense to nonsense, reading to non-reading, language to silence.

Illinois State University

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