Cervantes wrote during a period when Spain had sunken into a state of political and economic depression and uncertainty caused largely by adverse consequences of three conquests, the reconquest of lost lands, the reconquest of religious unity, and the conquest of the New World upon which she was depending unrealistically for solutions to perennial economic problems. The oppressive realities of these times seem to have caused readers, including Alonso Quijano, to turn to the fantasies of the novels of chivalry as an escape. Alonso Quijano's escape was complete -he replaced the world of prosaic materialism with a world of poetic idealism.
Galdós' characters live during another period of great distress when Spain is struggling with the social, philosophical and economic materialism of the industrial revolution, as well as with adverse effects of the failures of her third conquest. Galdós seems to have seen in Quijote's evasions of reality a sort of Pandora's box from which illustrations could be drawn of most of the Spaniards' struggles with, and/or reactions against the deeply disturbing realities of their times, times which witnessed the gradual collapse of the aristocracy and class concept, the final loss of a colonial empire, counterproductive political changes, government insolvency, the impoverishing effects of the Concordat of 1851 on the Spanish Church and clergy, the influx of liberal ideas that challenged orthodoxy, and general economic depression. Galdós keenly observed that the Spaniard's «jousts» with these very disquieting realities were not dissimilar to Quijote's unavailing encounters. Not only did he see likenesses between general situations, but he also saw similarities between Quijote and many types of obsessed people in their motivation, the intensity of their illusions, the course of their conduct, and even in their ultimate fate. In quijotismo, then, he found a pattern for representing the most varied of human obsessions, obsessions that range from the coarse greed and materialism of a Torquemada to the exaggerated, saintly acquiescence of a Nazarín.
Ángel Guerra illustrates, possibly better than any other Galdosian work, a sustained use of Quijote patterns, and effectively represents the motivation and development of Quijote-like obsessions. It is, however, a novel that has received very limited critical and scholarly attention, despite the fact that it is unquestionably a major work, a mature, masterful social and human portrayal. Federico Sopeña Ibáñez calls it the «clave y síntesis de la madurez galdosiana»170, and Galdós' contemporary, Emilia Pardo Bazán, refers to it as a «nuevo título de gloria para el autor [que ha] llegado a la madurez y a la plenitud de su carrera»171.—114→
The name, Ángel Guerra, is a form of oxymoron, and can be taken, whether intended to be so or not by Galdós, as symbolical of the opposition between Angel's Leré-inspired illusions and his «carácter iracundo». The first pages of the novel portray Guerra as a man who has «warred» against many common aspects of occidental social convention, Christian morality, marriage, family name and position, social practices and prejudices of the privileged classes, the constituted civil authority, the Church, the clergy, and even his own mother, whom he seems to view, in a way, as the embodiment of most of the above. But along with these largely implied, and inferred characterizations of the Guerra of the past, Galdós describes a period during which things are changing. Guerra is wounded, the political uprising he participated in fails, he leaves Dulce, his mistress; his mother dies, he gains wealth; and Ción, his daughter and his last tie with his personal past, dies. His individuality to this point had been based largely on opposition, but now, one at a time, things he had opposed either disappear or lose significance until he is left in a type of boundless emotional and ideological void. He sees in Leré, Ción's governess, a solution to his emotional void, at least; and moved by purely physical considerations he follows her to Toledo. He wants to be physically near her, and to possibly dissuade her from her purpose of entering an order of sisters of charity.
There are definite suggestions in the novel that ecclesiastical Toledo, which Sopeña Ibáñez calls «el verdadero protagonista de la novela»172, was a factor in Guerra's gradual change. We might say that Toledo, the repository of religious traditions and symbols in Spain, was to Guerra, in a sense, what the composite of chivalric traditions was to Quijote. The Cathedral and churches become frequent centers, physically as well as spiritually of his wanderings. Shortly after his arrival in Toledo «huroneando en las iglesias maravillose de sorprender en sí tentaciones vagas de poner alguna mayor atención en el culto, casi, casi de practicarlo, y de cavilar en ello, buscando como una comunicación honda y clandestina con el mundo ultra sensible»173.
It is Leré, however, who is the prime mover in Guerra's transformation. In this role she may be thought of as representing the books of chivalry -she provides specific examples to follow. Guerra's emotional void remains unfilled, but Leré moves him to seek to replace his emotional-physical longings with a spiritual idealism which turns out to be just as elusive to him as were the physical victories of chivalry to Don Quijote. And Leré's influence is just as telling as was that of the chivalric novels. Galdós describes this effect with sprinklings of Cervantine phraseology: «[Leré] allí [en San Clemente] pasó parte de su infancia, y allí le inspiró el Cielo la divina ciencia con que había trastornado el seso a su amo» (1352). And subsequently:
Leré comes to assume at least two other roles in Ángel's eyes as well. First, she is the almost too fleshly physical exemplar of his spiritual idealism; she is, paradoxically, the spiritual beginning and the subconscious physical end of his obsession; the inspiration of his most idealistic reveries, and the object of his most abject passions. She is Ángel's Dulcinea, and Guerra's Aldonza Lorenzo. In his devotion «Ángel [está] tan fascinado por la bendita hermana del Socorro, que ante ella rendía la voluntad y el alma toda, como el caballero andante ante la señora ideal de sus pensamientos» (1421). And in his appraisal of her, physically, no gallant knight was ever more rapturous:
But Quijote-like his illusions rise to the most exalted heights only to be dashed to earth by insidious reality. One night while accompaying Leré in discharging a mission of mercy in the home of the ailing D. Tomé, Guerra's libido does become highly aroused when he contemplates her in slumber. He gives the following account to Juan Casado:
Only with near superhuman effort was he able to suppress this passion.
Leré also assumes the role of preceptress. In this role she repeatedly speaks with the authority and confidence of Quijote, and Guerra listens with the humility and acquiescence of Sancho:
Ángel's jousts, as has been suggested, are with his old self, «el viejo de marras», or, to be more accurate, with his true self. And like those of the Caballero de la triste figura they result repeatedly in defeat. When under the aegis of Leré his fervor surges, but when he confronts one of the Babel family, who seem to represent most of the abject forms of reality, and to be modern symbols of the depravity of the people of the Tower of Babel, and thus counterposed to Leré, Ángel falls victim to Guerra. In the preceding quote Leré is counseling Guerra to break definitively with his mistress, Dulce —116→ Babel. He goes and severs relations with Dulce, but on leaving the Babel household he is challenged by her brother, Arístides; and he settles the heated verbal exchange that follows with his fists, «Y tan violentamente le sacudió a su contrario, golpeándole la cabeza contra el suelo, que al fin no mugía ni siquiera respiraba». And Guerra «se decía, oyendo el tumulto de su conciencia, 'Le he matado... he matado a un hombre'». Faced with the absoluteness of this spiritual defeat, he exclaims, «¡Vaya un amor al prójimo, vaya una caridad!» (1417). He later learns, no thanks to his fury, that Arístides is not dead.
Guerra also reacts furiously to a rumor, that the Babel family had apparently circulated, that relations between him and Leré were something less than ascetic. And Francisco Mancebo, Leré's uncle, queries, «¿Y quién es el guapo, quién es el Quijote que se mete a deshacer un entuerto como este?» Whereupon Guerra answers, «Yo, yo, yo lo deshago, ¡vive Dios!... aunque tenga que habérmelas con todo Toledo. ¡Pues no faltaba más!» (1449).
Mancebo, a good-hearted old priest, after meeting Guerra and learning of his desire to marry Leré, becomes caught up with the dream of bringing about the marriage. He is almost the sole support of a household of nephews, nieces and in-laws. The great burden of this «casa de las once bocas», as he calls it, has made him a highly practical man. His dream becomes so compelling to him that, while on an errand in behalf of Ángel to inquire about how Leré's status in the convent has been affected by the abovementioned rumors, he sits down, and Sancho-like mentally manipulates facts to his liking. In his monologue he concludes that there is really no need of going to the convent because he knows what the chaplain's words will be, that is, that it would be best that Leré leave the convent. So he conveys to Ángel a picture of Leré's situation which is just as erroneous as was Sancho's «Dulcineaizing» of the peasant girl (1455). When Guerra almost ecstatically confronts Leré with Mancebo's account, her reply is: «Mi tío debe estar un poquitín trastornado, pobrecito» (1460).
We also see in Leré's attitude toward the serious implications of these rumors something more than the calm, sure resolution that has thus far characterized her words and actions. Her attitude of complete acquiescence, and even of joy that she is being persecuted as was Christ, reveals an obsession of very much the same ilk as that of Nazarín.
Ángel's recurrent relapses or «defeats» reinforce the tendency we see in him in the early chapters of the novel to vacillate. He seems incapable of making firm and final decisions concerning becoming a priest, attending the seminary, and even in making final plans for and setting up his Domus Domini. He seems to want to continue to live in his world of illusion, and is as evasive of reality, in this matter, as was Don Quijote. It appears that Galdós wishes to represent the lurking fears or doubts that seem to underlie these vacillations by Guerra's recurrent hallucinations of a physical alter ego, apparelled as a priest, whom he encounters in the Cathedral, or on the streets of Toledo:
Galdós gives as physical reasons for these hallucinations the fact that «Durante toda la cuaresma, parte por desgana y parte por imposición propia, Ángel comía muy poco, y a veces tan sólo lo preciso para tenerse en pie; no reparaba con el sueño la falta de nutrición, porque apenas dormía, y se pasaba las horas meditando o leyendo, sin sentir la necesidad del descanso» (1481). And Ricardo Gullón has significantly observed in referring to these abstinences: «Recuérdese que Don Quijote desvaría a causa del mucho leer y el poco dormir»174.
The three priests that are portrayed in the novel, interestingly, do not participate in, nor even encourage, Leré's and Ángel's lofty idealism, although all are honorable men in their priestly conduct. Their concerns are very much of this world. Juan Casado devotes most of his time to care for his orchards and vineyards, and Eleuterio Virones' major concern each day is that of getting the food necessary for bate physical survival. When Ángel offers Virones refuge in his Cigarral, he exclaims: «Voy, sí que voy. No más pobreza vergonzante, no más humillaciones en silencio. Vale más vestir el chaquetón de un hospicio. Que me quiten los hábitos. Para lo que me han servido, ¡carambo!» (1514). Don Francisco Mancebo's material preoccupations approach obsessive dimensions, and Galdós refers to them on at least one occasion as «ascendrado positivismo» (1534). As Mancebo contemplates Ángel's charitable ministrations in which he himself has given some distributive assistance, he muses:
These men seem to represent in a special way the effects of the materialism and economic distress of the times, effects so acute that they even turned the heads of honorable men of the clergy whose dominant concerns should have been those of the opposing realm of the spirit. This surrender of concerns for sublime values to mundane, pressing reality has a foil effect, placing the idealism of Leré and her «caballero» in even sharper relief in much the same way that Sancho's earth-boundness heightens the loftiness of Quijote's illusions.
Holy Week provides a contrasting background for one of Ángel's most grotesque hallucinations. The festivities and ceremonies in the Cathedral; Angel's humbly and unaffectedly acting as a lazarillo to the blind woman Lucía, to whom he has also given a home in his Cigarral; and, on their return to the country house, being met by the young boy, Jesús, who, to Ángel, in looks and in purity of disposition, is «un Niño Dios»; seem to betoken Ángel's victory over the flesh. But suddenly a violent thunderstorm breaks upon them, which is almost cataclysmic in its physical effects on the people —118→ of the humble procession. It also seems to signal a capitulation of Ángel to Guerra. Galdós, in speaking of the storm, says: «Y... concordaba muy bien... con la tempestuosa opresión que [Ángel] en su espíritu sentía» (1524). Ángel pursues Jesus' pet goat which flees to the shelter of the gorge of the Tajo, and after following a nightmarish labyrinth of paths he comes to a grotto in which he sees Leré dressed in the habit of the sisters of el Socorro. Guerra tries to embrace her and she pushes him off; he tries again and she vanishes; whereupon he falls, and the little goat, transformed into «el más feo y sañudo cabrón que es dado imaginar», places its front hooves on Guerra's chest. Guerra cries out, «Huye, perro infame. No tentarás al hijo de Dios» (1526). Leré reappears, and tears out a portion of her breast and hurls it to the beast which the latter immediately devours. In a dream Guerra had had the morning after he had been tempted by the sleeping Leré, Leré also tore out a piece of her breast and threw it to him with the words, «Toma... para la pobre bestia» (1498). We understand from this that Guerra subconsciously identifies the «bestia» in him as the devil himself. In the gorge hallucination, after consuming the flesh, the cabrón continues to nudge and bite Guerra while Leré looks on with «ojos de enfermera piadosa como si contemplara un cruel padecimiento imposible de remediar» (1526). She finally picks up pebbles and throws them as far as she can, and then walks away disregarding Guerra's desperate pleas for help. He later sees her in a procession of women dressed in white, singing the hymn, Vexilla Regis, as they carry water from a well. He tries to approach the well and cannot. Leré pays no attention to him and leaves in procession with the other women (1526). The water seems to be identified with Leré and her saving powers, as well as with the water that Jesus spoke of to the woman of Samaria which would bring forgiveness and eternal life. The entire scene, then, seems to symbolize a blessed state that, subconsciously, Guerra realizes he is unable to attain175.
This descent into the gorge led by the goat bears some resemblance in its grotesqueness, and by the presence of the devil at the bottom to Dante's descent into the Inferno; but more significant are its similarities to Quijote's descent into the Cave of Montesinos176. In the cave Quijote reported having seen the «enchanted» Dulcinea, who, when he spoke to her, did not answer but turned her back on him and fled. As I have noted, Leré also treats Guerra in a very cool and detached manner. This detachment is emphasized by her picking up pebbles and throwing them, which is reminiscent of Jesus' apparent manner of showing indifference toward the accusers of the woman caught in sin by stooping and tracing in the sand. Also, in the cave, Quijote, like Guerra, sees a procession of singing women. In the cave the women are wearing white turbans and are following Belerma, the fair damsel of Durandarte, who is carrying the latter's mummified heart. It is also significant that both the happenings in the cave, and those in the gorge are of a hallucinatory or dream nature. But the most important affinity of these two descents to each other is in the effects they have on the respective «caballeros». Seeing Dulcinea again in the person of a gamboling country wench seems to give Quijote absolute confirmation of her enchantment, and from this point in the novel his dominant concern becomes that of bringing about her disenchantment. He is a man whose guiding star has fallen into eclipse. This experience —119→ seems to be a definite turning point in his life as a knight errant. Gloria M. Fry suggests that Cervantes uses the episode «as a kind of forge, a crucible in which Don Quijote is recast so that he may be reinstated as Don Alonso»177. Others have made similar observations178. After this episode Quijote seems to forfeit initiative to other characters, and even comes to be almost completely manipulated by others.
In the gorge episode Guerra also receives forceful confirmation that his real motives in serving his «Dulcinea» and subscribing to her idealism are mainly physical; and his illusions are dimmed. After his emergence from the gorge he seems to suffer from a sense of a lack of spiritual capacity, and from an almost paralyzing dependence on Leré. As he contemplates the faith of Lucía, the blind woman, he expresses deep concern that he is unable to accept miracles: «Dichosos los que no llevan aquí el terrible espejo de la razón... Yo, con mi razón firme y bien educada, siéntome sujeto cuando quiero lanzarme a creer, y mi propio sentido desvanece la dorada ilusión del milagro» (1537). And when he tries to sleep he finds it impossible because of «un deseo vivísimo de ir al Socorro». This desire grows until it becomes:
This «mad» desire to see her even causes him to sink into a dream-like stupor which could be taken as a prefiguration of his death: «'Me muero si no voy, si no la veo al instante'. Pero intentaba moverse y no podía. Su cabeza era de plomo, sus piernas de palo insensible. 'Este sueño, este maldito sueño me mata, porque esto no es dormir, sino morirse, y morir sin verla es tristísima cosa'...». (1537).
As has been mentioned, after the Cave of Montesinos episode, Quijote becomes almost completely passive; his detachment from reality is seen principally in the absurdness of his commentaries rather then in his actions. Similarly, after the gorge experience, Ángel turns to visionary projections of his proposed charitable institutions that are so unrealistic that they border on the ridiculous. Galdós heads his accounts of these fantasies, Ensueño dominista. After listening to Ángel's chimeric dreams for a few moments, Juan Casado exclaims, «¡Don Ángel, por Santa María! (tentándole la cabeza), ¡que se le afloja, que se le cae el tornillo!» (1556). And, acting as a devils advocate, Juan Casado questions Ángel's exalted idealism further, repeatedly emphasizing the distance there is between theory and practice. Ángel responds with a heedlessness of patent reality comparable to that of Quijote in his volitive transformation of the barber's basin into the helmet of Mambrino:
Juan Casado, persisting in his efforts to bring Ángel down to earth, becomes specific in his questioning wanting to know how a recalcitrant trouble-maker would be handled in the Domus Domini. Ángel replies: «Lo único que debo añadir es que en esta Casa de Dios se prohíbe castigar al prójimo aun en defensa propia. El o la que recibe un ultraje de palabra o de obra se aguanta y espera más. Se ha dicho no matarás y hay que cumplirlo a la letra» (1551). While Ángel and Casado are conversing Leré makes a brief appearance and with deft and telling reasoning brings Ángel back to reality, on one point at least, causing him to see the need of housing men and women in separate buildings in his Domus Domini. When she leaves Angel again reveals his complete dependence on her: «Ella se encarga de pensar por mí. En la esfera del pensamiento, yo no soy yo, soy ella. Ya lo ve usted: me da forma como si yo fuera un líquido, y ella el vaso que me contiene» (1554).
Shortly after this conversation, as a gesture of forgiveness and charity, Ángel extends refuge in his Cigarral to the destitute and desperate Arístides and Fausto Babel, and even insists that the feverish Arístides occupy his own bed. However, to the sly Arístides the spirit of Ángel's gesture is definitely suspect, and with lewd suggestions with regard to Ángel's future relations with Leré he manipulates him into an intense fury. Suddenly he is Guerra again imagining the enormouscabrón stomping on his chest, and he mutters in terror, «Huye, maldito, y no tientes al hijo de tu Dios» (1566). But Arístides eggs him on, until he finally jumps on the prone Arístides and almost chokes him to death. Moments later Fausto and Policarpio Babel appear, and Ángel Guerra realizes that the threesome's intention is to rob him. The Babeles, then, constitute the challenge not only to the viability of dominismo, but to Ángel's credibility, and to the validity of his exalted theories and appraisals of reality cited above. Ángel, «el caballero cristiano», and his utopian dreams are poised against the symbols not only of the crass reality, but of the criminal depravity of the times. Ángel does not respond to this challenge with «el temperamento seráfico del dominismo»; he attacks Guerra-like. With one knife thrust Policarpio Babel fells not only the dreamer but his dreams, much as Sansón Carrasco does with his lance on the beach of Barcelona (1567).
Ángel Guerra lingers, just as Quijote does after receiving Carrasco's fatal blow to his spirit. Also, like Quijote's, Ángel's thinking clears, and recognizing death as the only solution to the bemuddled motives in his life, he confesses: «El morir no me asusta. Al contrario, entendiendo voy que es mi única solución posible. La muerte resuelve el problema de mí mismo, embrollado por la vida» (1570). To Leré he says: «Tan seguro es que me muero como que tú eres santa. ¡Y cuán a tiempo me voy de este mundo! El golpe que he recibido de la realidad, al paso que me ha hecho ver las estrellas, me aclara el juicio y me lo pone como un sol. ¡Bendito sea quien lo ha dispuesto así!» (1573). Then before all, with Quijote-like lucidity, he renounces his dreams, and faces the reality that these fancies were an expedient for getting closer to Leré: «Declaro alegrarme de que la muerte venga a destruir mi quimera del dominismo, y a convertir en humo mis ensueños de vida eclesiástica, pues todo ha sido una manera de adaptación, o flexibilidad de mi —121→ espíritu, ávido de aproximarse a la persona que lo cautivaba, y lo cautiva ahora, y siempre» (1573).
Don Pito Babel, who in several ways in the final pages of the novel reminds us of Sancho, expresses his grief with simple sincerity, shedding uncontrollable tears, and pleading with his benefactor not to die, much as Sancho does at the bedside of Quijote:
In the final hours, Ángel Guerra, surrounded by his friends, could also be called «el Bueno». He refuses to reveal who attacked and robbed him. And in the provisions of his will he disposes in favor of the humble folk, the have-nots of society who are exposed constantly to the buffetings of reality because of deformity, handicaps, age, human weaknesses, inadaptability to a profession, humbleness of birth, or of being deprived of support by the death of a loved one. The only institutional donation is to the Congregación del Socorro which is dedicated to ministering to the sick and suffering. And he suggests that with their new endowment the sisters may elect to implement in part or in toto the plans of dominismo.
After Quijote's final dispositions of his property tears were wiped away and «Comía la Sobrina, brindaba el Ama y regocijaba Sancho Panza; que esto del heredar algo borra o templa en el heredero la memoria de la pena...»179. It is the fear of not inheriting that causes the practical-minded Francisco Mancebo to forget the sadness and solemnity of the occasion; he muses: «¡Ay de mí! Y al fin y a la postre, ¡zapa!, para los verdaderos necesitados, no habrá más que unas cuantas misas... Si este mundo está perdido» (1577). When Ángel does make a generous provision for the monstruo, Leré's grotesquely deformed brother, Mancebo does not understand his reference to a monster, «[ y cae] en la cuenta, algo tarde, de que había cometido la enormísima desconsideración de echarse a reír» (1577).
Ángel even designates some of his mother's jewels to be given to Dulce Babel, apparently with a view to conveying to Dulce a measure of the social acceptability Doña Sales had enjoyed, and also possibly to ironically flaunt his mother's prejudices against Dulce. He also seems to further abjure the snobbery and insensitiveness of the monied class by insisting that all family pictures be burned. This is possibly related to my suggestion at the beginning of this study that he considered his mother, and his family, the embodiment of the aspects of society that he opposed.
Also with the burning of the pictures, the Guerras and all physical evidences of them will come to an end with Ángel; this will be a complete end; they will not be «resurrected» by physical reminders. The burning of the pictures, then, gives Ángel's life of «chivalric» dreams a note of finality as absolute as that given at the end of El Quijote: «que deje reposar en la sepultura los cansados y ya podridos huesos de don Quijote... donde real y verdaderamente yace tendido de largo a largo imposibilitado de hacer tercera jornada y vida nueva»180. This ending also lends corroboration to José —122→ Montesinos' perceptive judgment: «Aunque hecho en la novela de Cervantes; Galdós da también... un estentóreo '¡Muera Don Quijote!' como lo hará el joven Unamuno, exasperado por circunstancias análogas a las que descubrió Galdós»181.
Brigham Young University