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ArribaAbajoThe materialism of life: religion in Fortunata y Jacinta

James Whiston

Religion occupies a considerable amount of space in Fortunata y Jacinta. Six of the thirty-one chapter headings have to do with the idea or the institution of religion. Three priests (Nicolás Rubín, Pintado and Nones) pass through the pages of the novel, each attempting to show Fortunata the error of her ways. Fortunata spends the six months preceding her marriage in a convent, almost half the money for which, according to don Baldomero, has come from the Santa Cruz family. One of the principal characters, Guillermina, who has devoted herself to a life of prayer and practical charity, is often referred to as «la santa» and is introduced with the liturgical title «virgen y fundadora», a reference to the fact that she has founded an orphanage for the poor in Madrid. Of the four principal characters who die, two receive the last rites of the church, a third has a priest in attendance. The fourth character, Moreno, dies suddenly and is not discovered until the next day, but shortly before his death he has begun to practise his religion again. We are told that Estupiñá visits three churches every day and attends «varias misas en cada una» (I, 92; 39)86 and Bárbara is a daily worshipper.

Commenting on one of Estupiñá's visits to church with Bárbara, and on Estupiñá's report to her during prayers about the day's shopping, Stephen Gilman remarks on the «grotesque mixture of material and spiritual values which characterizes the society of Galdosian Madrid».87 But are there any «spiritual» values portrayed in the novel? Is there a God in Fortunata y Jacinta? The institutions of religion and people's attitudes to them are not seen in any transcendental or altruistic light. The part played by religion in Fortunata confirms in a general way Robert Ricard's comment of Galdós' «aversion pour l'aspect institutionel et hierarchique de l'Eglise, aspect qui lui reste incompréhensible et où il ne sait voir que politique».88 Ricard's word «aversión» does not fit the tone of Galdós' treatment of religion in Fortunata, or indeed in the contemporary novels of the '80s and '90s (with the exception of the portrayal of Nicolás Rubín in Fortunata to be discussed later). But the latter half of Ricard's statement is true of this novel because in it the institution and profession of religion are subject to the same quizzical, ironic and finally detached view which permeates the rest of the work. Religion is treated in an ironic fashion because it is seen to make so little impact for good on the lives of the characters. Conventional religion in the novel is not a transcendental force in people's lives, but is merely a prop for the indulgence of prejudice or, at best, the projection of one's own point of view. Even «heaven», it is playfully intimated, is not free from the putting of self before others, at least where one of the characters in Fortunata is concerned: the credit for the marriage of Baldomero and Bárbara is claimed by Asunción Trujillo:

Y que no le disputara esta gloria Juana Trujillo, madre de Baldomero, la cual había muerto el año anterior, porque Asunción probaría ante todas las cancillerías celestiales que a ella se le había ocurrido la sublime idea antes que a su prima.

(I, 49; 26)                


The playful tone of the statement should not detract from its content: self love comes first, even in heaven. And so, generally, through the novel: religion is not a force for change for the better, but is something used by people who filter in through «el lente de sus ideas propias» (III, 109; 189).

Although they pay lip service to the notion of the existence of God, many of the characters in Fortunata are in the position which J. Hillis Miller also see s in the Victorian novel:

Victorian fiction may be said to have its fundamental theme an exploration of the various ways in which a man may seek to make a god of another person in a world without God.89

Such is indeed the situation in Fortunata, where a character's hopes may rest so heavily on another person as to give the latter a controlling interest in his or her life. A case in point is that of Juanito and Bárbara. Through his wit and elegance he becomes the oracle of the household (although Bárbara has her way in the matter of his marriage). It is also due to his being an only child and the fact that his birth was expected for ten years. The images describing this relationship, while humorous, reveal the overriding interest that Juanito receives from his mother and are an ironic contrast to the kind of son that eventually results:

Pues Juanito fue esperado desde el primer año de aquel matrimonio sin par. 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... Por fin Dios le mandó en carne mortal.

(I, 51; 26-7)                

As a matrimonial catch, the other half of the alliance holds him in equally high esteem: «el Delfín, por su fortuna, por sus prendas, por su talento, era considerado como un ser bajado del cielo» (I, 117; 46). He himself plays little part in the arrangement of his marriage: all the initiative comes from his mother. At this time she has resumed «aquel ascendiente omnímodo» (I, 113; 45) over him that she had before his affair with Fortunata, and he is prepared to accept her dispositions as infallible: «una voz de su alma le declaraba que aquella gran mujer y madre tenía tratos con el Espíritu Santo, y que su proyecto era un verdadero caso de infalibilidad» (I, 112; 45), and this is the claim that Bárbara makes when she explains her plan to Juanito: «En ciertos casos no nos equivocamos; somos infalibles como el Papa» (I, 112; 45). While Bárbara's activities are at least directed towards the «salvamento» (I, 104; 42) of Juanito, he is content to accept the attentions of those about him: «Estaba satisfecho, cual si se hubiera creado y visto que era bueno» (I, 248; 86). The biblical reminiscence permits us to imply that not only do some characters make gods of others but also arrogate to themselves, whether through misguided love, selfishness or power urges, qualities attributable to God. In the case of two characters with strong power urges, doña Lupe is won over to accept Fortunata into the family because of this despotic urge to dominate, arrogating to herself a quasi divine role in this respect, as the biblical reference indicates: «De una salvaje en toda la extensión de la palabra, formaría una señora, haciéndola a su imagen y semejanza» (II, 347; 261-2); while Guillermina, in spite of being shaken by her encounter with Fortunata and perplexed by other subsequent events, is humorously described in the final pages of the novel as God's «vicario con faldas» (IV, 428; 543), an indication that the core of her dominating personality has remained untouched.


With Maxi, his love for Fortunata leads him to idealise her to such an extent that she might fairly be said to be the motivating force of his life, which once lost or dead leads to his own total detachment from society. The situation is particularly ironic in his case, because he sets out, as he thinks, to be the salvation of Fortunata. The irony is driven home by the description of his reaction on first seeing Fortunata «como a sobrenatural aparición», (II, 29; 164); by the words of love that he uses to her, part of a lover's vocabulary certainly, but ironic in the context of his later designs for her salvation: «¡Que la idolatraré... no, que ya lo estoy idolatrando!» (II, 37; 167); and in his idealised impression of «Fortunata transfigurada» (II, 55; 172). When she enters the convent he makes the daily trip there with such fidelity that «era como ir a misa, para el hombre devoto» (II, 249; 232). Maxi's quasi religious devotion to Fortunata is born out of his persistent habit of idealising the world around him, in particular the women he follows from a distance, and is an offshoot of his peculiar religion which is not at all orthodox:

La religión que él sentía en aquella crisis de su alma era demasiado alta y no podía inspirarle verdadero interés por ningún culto.

(II, 228; 225)                

His religious ideas are seen as another facet of his mistaken notion of reality. These ideas of redeeming Fortunata, springing from his lack of contact with the world, are also viewed ironically. He insists that he is marrying Fortunata «porque me lo manda Dios» (II, 95; 184) and he repeats the sentiment to doña Lupe as follows:

si yo siento dentro de mí una fuerza muy grande, pero muy grande, que me impulsa a la salvación de otra alma lo he de realizar, aunque se hunda el mundo.

(II, 149; 201)                

The last words of the quotation introduce an underlying note of unconscious irony: «La recherche de l'Absolu» in the realist novel, however sympathetically it is portrayed, is something to be distrusted. That Maxi's profession of religious purpose is also something not to be trusted is made plain by the narrator when he comments on Maxi's initial enthusiasm for the Las Micaelas proposal:

El amor le conducía a la devoción, como le habría conducido a la impiedad, si las cosas fuesen por aquel camino.

(II, 207; 219)                

His real attitude to Fortunata's proposed reformation in the convent becomes clear in his reaction to his suspicions that she might take her religious exercises too much to heart. The passage merits quoting in full:

Tenía un presentimiento vago de no volverla a ver, no porque ella se muriese, sino porque dentro del convento y contagiada de la piedad de las monjas, podía chiflarse demasiado con las cosas divinas y enamorarse de la vida espiritual hasta el punto de no querer ya marido de carne y hueso, sino a Jesucristo, que es el esposo que a las monjas de verdadera santidad les hace tilín.

(II, 241; 229)                

This sentence brings out very well the self interested nature of Maxi's conviction that he is Fortunata's saviour. The comic juxtapositions of the images of discase with religious notions («contagiada de piedad», «chiflarse con las cosas divinas»)   —68→   and the colloquialism «hace tilín» aptly express his delusion: Maxi is prepared to tolerate religion as long as it gets him what he wants; otherwise he dismisses it as illness or sexual sublimation. On another occasion, in one of Maxi's imagined replies to doña Lupe, Galdós again calls into question the altruistic basis of Rubín's interest in Fortunata:

a donde voy, voy, y al que se me ponga por delante, sea quien sea, le piso y sigo mi camino.

(II, 136; 197)                

The image evokes more the naturalistic atmosphere of the struggle for life than any religious sentiment. Maxi is one of several characters in the book who are prepared to accept religion as long as things go well. In his case, as soon as his hopes concerning Fortunata are reversed so is his religious faith abandoned. This is due to his initial «fe ciega en la acción directa de la Providencia sobre el mecanismo funcionante de la vida menuda» (II, 229; 225). Therefore when things go wrong and his marriage begins to break up, Maxi's comfortable belief in a Christian Providence is also brought to breaking point; as he exclaims to Fortunata after he suspects her of returning to Juanito: «Me estás haciendo creer que no hay Dios, que portarse bien y portarse mal todo es lo mismo» (II, 417; 238). After the first break with Fortunata, Maxi gives up the optimistic religion of the time preceding his marriage and becomes interested in theosophy and renunciation of the world. These studies, however, are only a compensation for the loss of Fortunata; his interest increases with her absence, but, as the narrator says:

Aquel ascetismo y aquel ver a Dios en sí fueron nada más que obra fugaz de la tristeza, o quizás de las circunstancias, y existían en su mente como esas lecciones, pegadas con saliva, que los estudiantes aprenden en los apuros del examen.

(III, 243; 365)                

and his interest fades away when Fortunata returns. On her second defection Maxi's thoughts are again turned to religion, using it to bolster up his own ideas. On this occasion the consequences are more serious because the supposedly religious retribution that he visits upon Fortunata leads to her death. He uses religion to further his revenge by appearing to Fortunata in the guise of a messenger of a God of retribution:

Di gracias a Dios por aquella luz que hizo venir a mí. Dios es el único que castiga, ¿verdad, señora? ¡Y qué bien que lo sabe hacer! ¿A qué usurparle sus funciones? Dios, realizando la justicia por medio de los sucesos, lógicamente, es el espectáculo más admirable que pueden ofrecer el mundo y la historia.

(IV, 358; 522)                

These remarks are addressed by Maxi to Guillermina who emphatically agrees with them. It is clear that Maxi's notions are what he thinks of as Christian, since when he is meditating on his revenge he considers it preferable to tell Fortunata about the affair between Aurora and Juanito, rather than kill her: «Si la mato no hay lección. La enseñanza es más cristiana que la muerte» (IV, 275; 497); and when he breaks the news to her he claims that his clearsightedness in these matters is «un don que recibí de Dios» (IV, 364; 524).

Maxi's religious notions therefore, cannot be seen as anything other than an extension of his own lack of self-knowledge, of his misguided perception of   —69→   everyday reality, as a cloak for inadequacy, and finally as a peg on which to hang his ideas of revenge. He is prepared to accept institutional religion as long as it gets him what he wants: Fortunata. While he cannot be said to represent unremittingly the materialism of life, his religious ideas and profession are riddled with seif-interest, and the reader is forced to conclude, by the ironic presentation of this aspect of Maxi's character, that, at best, the portrayal of his thoughts and actions illustrates a fundamental scepticism on Galdós' part towards the profession of religion that this character exemplifies, whether it be theosophy, Maxi's own interpretation of Christianity, or his tolerance and use of conventional religion to further his plans to win the love of Fortunata.

Guillermina is another character whose profession of religion is looked at ironically. In spite of her charitable work for the poor she is all too readily identifiable with the social class that she has supposedly left behind. While apparently acting out of religious motives she, unwittingly or otherwise, bolsters up the social status quo. If Maxi, in the pursuit of what he sees as religious ends, is prepared to trample upon anybody who gets in his way, Guillermina in the pursuit of her religious interests can count on the support of the civil authorities. Felisa, one of the inmates of Las Micaelas, has been enclosed there by Guillermina who has acted in this way on many occasions:

Llevóla a las Micaelas doña Guillermina Pacheco, que la cazó, puede decirse, en las calles de Madrid, echándole una pareja de Orden Público, y sin más razón que su voluntad, se apoderó de ella. Guillermina las gastaba así, y lo que hizo con Felisa habíalo hecho con otras muchas, sin dar explicaciones a nadie de aquel atentado contra los derechos individuales.

(II, 293; 245)                

The semi-ironic use of «cazar» to describe Guillermina's methods is brought into striking relief in the story of her encounter with the protestantes who take Mauricia off the streets. Guillermina comes to claim Mauricia for her own faith and, as Maxi, who is telling the story, humorously puts it: «Religión frente a religión, la cosa se iba poniendo fea» (III, 238; 363). Guillermina goes to the Governor of Madrid, who orders the Protestant couple to hand over Mauricia, but she refuses to leave. She finally tires of her situation, however, attacks the pastor's wife and wreaks havoc in their chapel: «Costó trabajo echarla a la calle... Al salir, ¡tras!... doña Guillermina, que me le echa un cordel al pescuezo y se la lleva.» (III, 239; 364). Whether Maxi's final image is literal or metaphorical, it is not out of character with the authoritarian attitude of Guillermina and her abiding conviction that she knows what is best for others. Mauricia, as we shall see later; is one of her signal failures. Guillermina's religious motives and effectiveness in the case of Fortunata are also ironically scrutinised. A feature of the second Pituso episode which shows where Guillermina's true interests lie, is that her concern is almost entirely for the Santa Cruz heir, and only for Fortunata inasmuch as the latter can harm or advance the welfare of the child. Thinking that Ballester is Fortunata's lover, she tries to get him on her side to persuade Fortunata to give the child to «personas que le habrían de cuidar mejor que ella» (IV, 343; 518), that is, the Santa Cruz family. When Ballester protests that his relationship with Fortunata is of the purest, Guillermina replies ironically: «Si, yo creo todo... Pero no se trata ahora de esto. ¿A mí qué me importa?». Moral considerations are less important   —70→   when the kind of society represented by the Santa Cruz family is not implicated. When Fortunata finally returns from her confrontation with Aurora, Guillermina pushes her, calls her names and threatens to take the child from her (IV, 352; 520). Once inside, «la santa no atendía más que al pequeñuelo» (IV, 351; ibid.). When she sees Fortunata's highly nervous and dangerous condition her only concern is for the child: «Está esa mujer excitadísima, y me temo que se seque... ¿Hay aquí antiespasmódica?» (IV, 353, 521). She pays more attention to Fortunata when Estupiñá runs to tell her that she is dying, but this is after Fortunata has made over the child to Jacinta. Her ministrations at the death bed of Fortunata are also viewed in an ironic light. As she attends the dying girl Guillermina attempts to lead her to a religious repentance by getting her to forgive Aurora and Juanito. Fortunata's response is that she is «arrepentida por mitad» (IV, 382; 530), the half repentance being her willingness to forgive Juanito. With regard to Aurora, Fortunata cannot understand what would be lost if Aurora were to depart this world: «Esto lo decía con tanta naturalidad, que Guillermina, por un instante, no supo si indignarse o tomarlo a risa» (IV, 383; 530). Very shortly after this, Fortunata is insisting that it is she who has given life to her child, Guillermina that it is God's work (IV, 384; 530). Guillermina also tries to persuade Fortunata that her claim to be married to Juanito «era un error diabólico a fuerza de ser tonto» (IV, 416; 540), while among Fortunata's last words are «soy ángel» (IV, 417; 540).

Guillermina is also placed in a dilemma with Maxi when she is left alone with him in the room adjoining Fortunata's after the latter has given birth to Juanito's child:

Quiso la dama hablarle, y no pudo decir una palabra... ¿Acometería el estado real de las cosas? Ni pensarlo. ¿Lo tomaría por el lado religioso y de la resignación? Tampoco. ¿Por el lado mundano? Quiá... Nunca se había visto la buena señora enfrente de un problema de ciencia social tan enrevesado y temeroso... Aquel enigma superaba a cuantos enigmas había visto ella en su vida infatigable.

(IV, 355; 521)                

It is clear that in this case the religious solution is only one of many that occur to Guillermina and is rejected in any case (in the complete paragraph, not given above, she thinks of five different ways of tackling Maxi); and in the narrator's summary the question is presented as «un problema de ciencia social», the morality of the situation being left aside. When she finally decides to speak to him «tirando por la calle de enmedio», Maxi's reply is to talk of his «former» religious mania, but he thanks God that he is now a new man. Such a resigned and religious sentiment leaves Guillermina speechless: «estaba pasmada y no se le ocurría nada que oponer a aquellas razones». Why «oponer» since the «razones» are entirely in conformity with orthodox religious sentiment? Thus, the relationship between religious profession and more practical considerations once again comes under Galdós' ironic scrutiny.

Guillermina, then, is by no means «una llama viva, la caridad ardiente», as Casalduero holds.90 Her religious witness, far from being a transcendental and altruistic way of life, is bound by the narrow confines of social class and depends upon a conservative and often institutional framework to support it. As such it is inadequate to deal with the complex social and psychological situations that arise. Unlike Maxi's, her religion is not a cloak for inadequacy, but her motives   —71→   are equally suspect and her final effectiveness in communicating her point of view to those outside her class is minimal. While her religious profession is insistent throughout, her effectiveness as seen in the novel is in the main based on political, middle class support, and her situation aptly confirms Ricard's judgement, quoted earlier, that Galdós «ne sait voir que politique» a religion that is professed in such a way. The two most «religious» characters, therefore -Maxi and Guillermina- are presented in such an ironic and sceptical fashion that their religious profession is seen as not being finally higher than the more materialistic preoccupations of other characters.

Although religious sentiment pervades the novel it makes no impact and is indistinguishable from materialistic or social concerns since characters use it for their own ends. For Bárbara, prayers are a «pararrayos» to keep Juanito healthy:

Si antes sus oraciones fueron pararrayos puestos sobre la cabeza de Juanito para apartar de ella el tifus y las viruelas, después intentaban librarle de otros enemigos no menos atroces. Temía los escándalos que ocasionan lances personales, las pasiones que destruyen la salud y envilecen el alma, los despilfarros, el desorden moral, físico y económico.

(I, 15; 16)                

Somewhere in the catalogue of Bárbara's fears there is a religious sentiment, but it takes third place to the social and physical evils of «escándalos» and «pasiones». Juanito's Sunday evening entertainment depended upon his unwilling religious observance earlier in the day. The narrator's judgement on him at the end of Volume I shows how Juanito uses religion as a pretext in his search for Fortunata: «quería cohonestar su inquietud con razones filantrópicas y aun cristianas que sacaba de su entendimiento rico en sofisterías» (I, 476; 156), and in Juanito's own reasoning: «Mi mujer... no puede hacerse cargo de los motivos morales, sí, morales que tengo para proceder de esta manera» (ibid.; ibid.).91 When he tires of her he again uses the excuse of religion to be free: «Yo soy casado, tú también; estamos pateando todas las leyes divinas y humanas» (III, 103; 322-3). On this occasion the criticism of Juanito's hypocrisy is put into Fortunatas's unspoken response:

en su buen instinto comprendía que toda aquella hojarasca de leyes divinas, principios, conciencia y demás, servía para ocultar el hueco que dejaba el amor fugitivo.

The portrayal of Juan Pablo Rubín's conversion to naturalism suggests Galdós' generally sceptical attitude to preaching and evangelising. Juan Pablo's newly discovered religion of nature is summarized as follows: «La Naturaleza es la verdadera luz de las almas, el Verbo, el legítimo Mesías» (III, 49; 306), and Rubín is then described in Christ-like terms, as he attempts to put across his ideas on nature to his café audience, ideas that deny the existence of a Christian God: «Pues el mismo Jesucristo, ¿no escogió por discípulos a unos infelices pescadores, hombres rudos que no conocían ninguna letra, y a mujeres de mala vida?» (III, 50; 306). So it is with Juan Pablo as he attempts in the café to sow the seeds of his «Evangelio al natural». His style of preaching is based on gospel phrases:

La que tenga oídos, oiga.

(III, 51; 307)                

«En verdad os digo que no hay Infierno ni Cielo, ni tampoco alma» afirmó Rubín con acento apostólico.

(III, 52; 307)                


His exclamations of exasperation at the ingenuous questions of his audience are also an ironic reminder of the Christianity that he is trying to explain away, and his unthinking use of Christian expletives indicates the very precarious hold that any kind of religion has on him: «María Santísima, con lo que sale usted ahora» (III, 51; 307), «Doña Nieves, por amor de Dios» (III, 52; 307), and (a particularly ironic example): «Señora, por los clavos de Cristo» (III, 53; ibid.).92

Such an unthinking jumble of religion and naturalism that characterizes Juan Pablo Rubín is not to be found in the character of Feijóo. His attitude to religion is amiably cynical and his religious observance does not go beyond what society requires: his advice to Fortunata is to conform outwardly:

Yo bien sé que lo mejor es que uno sea un santo; pero como esto es dificilillo, hay que tener formalidad y no dar nunca malos ejemplos.

(III, 139; 333)                

Feijóo is so insistent on this in his «curso de filosofía práctica» that Fortunata remembers his advice as a «religión de las apariencias» (III, 396; 03). Feijóo himself practices this religion: on one occasion he is thought to be near to death and he accepts the last rites of the church, not as a believer in them but as part of his social duties:

Yo creo en Dios -dijo-, y tengo acá mi religión a mi manera. Por el respeto que los hombres nos debemos los unos a los otros, no quiero dejar de cumplir ningún requisito de los que ordena toda sociedad bien organizada. Siempre he sido esclavo de las buenas formas. Tráiganme ustedes cuantos curas quieran, que yo no me asusto de nada, ni temo nada, y no desentono jamás.

(III, 209; 355)                

When the priests of the parish ask him about leaving money for masses after his death, «replicó que no había olvidado ninguno de los deberes de la cortesía social, y que para no desafinar en nada, también quedaba puesto el rengloncito de las misas» (III, 211; ibid.). Feijóo's conformity with the rules of what he sees as a social game has its desired effect on Nicolás Rubín and others, as the priest's description to doña Lupe indicates:

Que D. Evaristo es un cristiano rancio, y que cuando le administraron, recibió al Señor con una edificación y una santidad tan grandes, que todos los concurrentes al acto lloraban a moco y baba.

(III, 221; 358)                

Feijóo's declaration of his belief in God, coupled with his unorthodox and essentially social attitude to organised religion also occurs when he and Fortunata are making their farewells prior to her restoration to the Rubín household: «Yo juro por Dios, en quien siempre he creído» (III, 198-9; 352), which leads to the narrator's remark about «la santificación de las relaciones que entre ambos habían existido». Apart from these references, Feijóo's religion is essentially a religion of living according to the law of nature, as his statements on that theme indicate, particularly in his advice to Fortunata.

The presentation of Nicolás Rubín continues the scrutiny of religious profession in the novel. Indeed it might be argued that with the portrayal of the priest, Galdós, uncharacteristically at this stage of his career, has let anti-clerical sentiment gain the upper hand and that at times he has made the priest the butt of his sarcasm. The portrayal is out of harmony with the tone of the rest of the work. We are   —73→   given little background information about the character, and the single sentence referring to his fatherless upbringing goes no way towards explaining the nauseating characteristics of the priest. He preaches the values of the spirit to Fortunata but he himself is the least spiritual character in the work: he is filthy, gluttonous, pompous, vain, hypocritical, affected, selfish, ambitious and emasculated. His heart is set on advancement to a canonry (a political appointment, in the hands of Villalonga). When he achieves it he is unaware of its ironically unreligious provenance, since it is part of Feijóo's secret manoeuvering to reunite Maxi and Fortunata, as Fortunata realises later: «Si no hubiera sido por mi maldad, ¡cuándo habría sido canónigo este tonto de capirote, ordinario y hediondo!» (III, 317; 388).

Two of the chapters of the novel are entitled «Las Micaelas por fuera» and «Las Micaelas por dentro», and the institution receives a good deal of attention from Galdós' pen. It is mentioned in Volume I when Guillermina and Jacinta are visiting Severiana, Mauricia's sister. Mauricia has «escaped» from the convent by climbing over the wall, and as Severiana says, «ahora la estamos buscando para volverla a encerrar allá» (I, 359; 120), to which Jacinta replies «Allí la enderezarán... Crea usted que hacen milagros». Fortunata also has high hopes for her six-month stay in the convent: «De seguro me volveré otra sin sentirlo» (II, 209; 219), the narrator remarking that «lo particular era que veía su purificación como se ve un milagro cuando se cree en ellos» (II, 208; 219). But there are no miracles in Las Micaelas: the supposed miracle that occurs is the result of intoxication, when Mauricia, having acquired Sor Marcela's bottle of brandy and consumed the contents, begins to imagine that she has seen the Virgin. The supposed vision is not only not miraculous, but is a simple psychological reflection of Mauricia's subconscious anxiety about her child Adoración, who has been taken from her and put in the care of Severiana: the Virgin of the vision «no traía nene Dios; paicía que se lo habían quitado» (II, 317; 252): Mauricia sees the apparition in terms of her own situation. The entire Las Micaelas episode illustrates Galdós' view of such institutions as being, however well-intentioned,93 ultimate failures because they are unable to make any impact on the spirit of the inmates. The ineffectiveness of Las Micaelas is particularly striking in the cases of Mauricia and Fortunata, and the friendship between the two women that is consolidated by the enforced proximity in the convent further illustrates what little impact institutional religion makes on them during their prolonged and intense exposure to it. With typical Galdosian irony the conversations between the women in the convent are always shown to concern Fortunata's position vis-à-vis the Santa Cruz family. Mauricia reminds Fortunata of her time spent with Juanito, as they reminisce about the past (II, 259; 234) or discuss Jacinta, «esposa de tu señor» (II, 277; 240), as Mauricia calls her. In the convent Mauricia becomes an influencing force on Fortunata and an «autoridad en cuestión de amores» (II, 295; 246). She also imparts her opinions on religion to her friend, which are highly unorthodox, heretical indeed. Her view is that the practice of religion makes women more attractive to men:

si una se mete mucho a rezar y a confesar y comulgar, se les encienden más a ellos las querencias, y se pirran por nosotras desde que nos convertimos por lo eclesiástico... Pues qué, ¿crees tú que juanito no viene a rondar este convento desde que sabe que estás aquí? Paices boba. Tenlo por cierto.

(II, 263; 236)                


which turns out to be true: when the friends meet in doña Lupe's house Mauricia confirms that Juanito has reacted to Fortunata's religious enclosure in the way she had predicted. Another of the advantages of the religious life, according to Mauricia, is that it predisposes the heart to love affairs. She also imparts this opinion to Fortunata in the convent: «la religión lo que hace es refrescarle a una la entendedera y ponerle el corazón más tierno» (II, 297-8; 246).94 Her advice to Fortunata as to what attitude she should have towards Jacinta is very much at odds with the profession of Christianity which they should both be making in Las Micaelas: «Chica, no seas tonta, no te rebajes, no le tengas lástima... Siempre y cuando puedas darle un disgusto, dáselo, por vida del santísimo peine» (II, 299; 247). Her advice to Fortunata on the day before her wedding further illustrates what little religious impact her second confinement in the convent has made on her. In the face of Fortunata's doubts about her marriage, Mauricia advises her to proceed with it, so that she will then be able to do what she likes: «La que tiene un peine de marido, tiene bula para todo» (II, 358; 265).

On her death bed, where Mauricia expresses the wish to die «lo más católicamente posible» (III, 246; 366), the ineffectualness of her religious training and its scanty hold on her is also in evidence. Guillermina's attentions and insistence on observing the solemnity of the administration of the last rites see to it that Mauricia refrains from using profane language, but the deeper recesses of her moral life are never touched. Even the curbing of her language is probably not due primarily to the religious occasion itself but to the judicious administration of sherry. In the very act of dying, however, Mauricia reverts to swearing and cursing and Guillermina gives her a glass of sherry «llena hasta los bordes» (III, 333; 393), at which Mauricia becomes religious again. (The chapter is appropriately entitled «Naturalismo espiritual».) Her advice to Fortunata on her death bed and her ideas on marriage are as anarchic as ever. She assures Fortunata that Juanito will return to her and that love is above all: «en el querer, ¡aire, aire! y caiga el que caiga» (III, 259; 370), and she suggests that Jacinta may have a lover. Her death agony is accompanied by intermittent bouts of religiosity, during which she offers to pray for Fortunata to have Juanito restored to her (III, 288; 379) and says that God will agree: «el Señor te arreglará, haciendo justicia y dándote lo que te quitaron». She tells Fortunata that she will not sin if she takes back Juanito «por la santidad que tengo entre mí» (III, 289; ibid.), referring to the last rites of the church that she has received earlier in the day.95 The description of the death of Mauricia is full of the ironic approach to religious motivation that also characterizes the description of the death of Torquemada. Torquemada's final word is «Conversión», and one of the characters asks «¡Conversión! ¿Es la de su alma o la de la Deuda?»96 It is similarly so with Mauricia: was her final word «ya. Como quien dice: Ya veo la gloria y los ángeles», or «más..., a saber, "más Jerez"» (III, 334; 393). Doña Lupe, the speaker, takes the latter view. Far from being a constructive force in Mauricia's life, therefore, her convent experience produces in her a religiosity that is confused, has nothing to do with orthodox Christian profession, indeed is nearer to a naturalistic struggle for life, and even then needs intoxicating drink to promote it.

Mauricia's influence on Fortunata, in spite of being made in the name of religion, also encourages her friend to cultivate feelings that are far from religious. Fortunata's own experience in Las Micaelas confirms what little impact that religious   —75→   institution makes. Again with typical irony Fortunata, far from being removed from worldly concerns and thoughts of Juanito by her enclosure, is frequently reminded of him in the convent. Apart from her daily contact with Mauricia, another of the arrepentidas that she meets in the convent is a doña Manolita, who knows the Santa Cruz family and who describes Juanito as «un excelente chico, y muy simpático, pero mucho» (II, 283; 242). It is she who tells Fortunata about the Santa Cruz's endowment of the convent and that the monstrance has been donated by Bárbara. This means that even Fortunata's time supposedly spent in prayer before the Sacrament is a reminder of Juanito:

Lo malo era que en aquellas largas horas, a veces aburridas, que pasaba de rodillas ante el Sacramento [...] la pecadora solía fijarse más en la custodia, marco y continente de la sagrada forma, que en la forma misma, por las asociaciones de ideas que aquella joya despertaba en su mente.

(II, 304: 248)                

The long hours in front of the Sacrament allow Fortunata to think of Juanito, and she also admits to Mauricia that she dreams of meeting him and even dreams that she is his wife and that Jacinta is the mistress (II, 298; 246). Jacinta's visit to the convent is yet another reminder of the past and produces in Fortunata an «inmenso trastorno» (II, 286; 243). Her adultery within forty-eight hours of her marriage is, of course, the conclusive proof of the ineffectualness of the religious life that she has led for the previous six months. The religious veneer which she received in the convent is lost when she meets Juanito again. She apparently makes great strides in religious knowledge during her stay in the convent. Before her entry, we are told, «su catecismo era harto elemental y se reducía a dos o tres nociones incompletas, el Cielo y el Infierno, padecer aquí para gozar allá, o lo contrario» (II, 199; 216). Towards the end of her stay «había adelantado mucho en la lectura y escritura, y se sabía de corrido la doctrina cristiana» (II, 301; 247). But in Juanito's arms the day after her wedding to Maxi «toda idea moral había desaparecido como un sueño borrado del cerebro al despertar; su casamiento, su marido, las Micaelas, todo esto se había alejado y puéstose a millones de leguas» (II, 395; 276), and her exclamation on seeing Juanito, «Nene, ¡bendito Dios!», shows where she feels on whose side religion should be in the tug-of-war between her affections and the demands of an institution such as Las Micaelas. The resulting confusion which this tug-of-war causes in her may be seen in the way she replies to Guillermina when she tries to explain her idea that Juanito was really her husband, and not Jacinta's: «Mi conciencia me aprobaba... vamos al caso, me decía una cosa muy atroz» (III, 369; 404), where the juxtaposition of the moral and the immoral («aprobaba» and «atroz») indicates the urcertain hold that conventional religious dictates of conscience have upon her.

Like Pardo Bazán's chula (see note 10), and probably under the influence of Mauricia, Fortunata also has a tendency to see religion «por el lente de sus ideas propias». In one of her more optimistic moods she imagines that the «idea blanca» (the exposed Sacrament) tells her that she will come round to loving Maxi (II, 314; 251). But when she is with Juanito again she tells him that she prayed to the Virgin to love Juanito: «Lo que me aconseja la Virgen siempre que le rezo con los ojos cerrados, es que te quiera mucho y me deje querer de ti» (II, 404; 279) and according to Juanito she also prays to have a child by him (III, 97-8;   —76→   321). If Maxi's religion depended on Fortunata, she in her turn at one stage depends on the example of Jacinta's conduct. When Aurora tells her of her suspicions with regard to Jacinta and Moreno Isla, Fortunata is stunned by the revelation, and her response is:

ja, ja, ja... ¡Ya no había virtud! ¡Ya no había más ley que el amor!... ¡Ya podía ella alzar su frente! Ya no le sacarían ningún ejemplo que la confundiera y abrumara. Ya Dios las había hecho a todas iguales... para poderlas perdonar a todas.

(IV, 103; 444)                

So even Fortunata, in many respects the most attractive character in the novel, also uses religion in a way that is lacking in altruism. In the passage just quoted, her response, based on hearsay, is to drag Jacinta down and leave the way open for her to continue her affair with Juanito with religious impunity.

When Maxi breaks the news to her of the affair between Aurora and Juanito, Fortunata meditates her revenge on her new rival and uses the expression «me paseo por encima de su alma» (IV, 395; 533). The last word of this sentence was changed at the galley stage from «cuerpo». The result is certainly more expressive, but it also creates an unconscious juxtaposition of the material and the spiritual on Fortunata's part. As she attempts to overcome her post natal weakness and put her plan of revenge into action, she exclaims: «yo le he de refregar la jeta con la suela de mis botas. Si no lo hago, Dios mío, me va a ser imposible ser ángel, y no podré tener santidad» (IV, 395; 534), a further indication that, as also in the case of Mauricia, orthodox religious tenets had taken no root during the enclosure in Las Micaelas. A similar unconsciously ironic use of religion occurs again when she considers Maxi's report that Aurora is suggesting that Ballester is the father of her child. If Juanito were to say such a thing, she thinks to herself,

si yo supiera que lo había dicho, juro por esta cruz (haciéndola con los dedos y besándola), por esta cruz en que te mataron, Cristo mío, juro que le he de aborrecer... pero aborrecerle de cuajo, no de mentirijillas.

(IV, 396; 534)                

The jumble of religious and naturalistic attitudes that characterizes the novel is particularly marked in this instance, where the image of the cross and the expression of hatred is repeated and sustained, and yet in spite of this, Fortunata is unaware of the irony of her remark.

A further indication of the slight hold that conventional religion has on the characters in the novel and that it is tolerated only as long as things go well, is the feeling that some of them have about God: if they are not in agreement with Him, that it is He who is in the wrong, is not to be trusted, or is «chocho». Thus, Baldomero and Bárbara, when childless «empezaron a quejarse de la Providencia y a decir que les había engañado» (I, 52; 27). The narrator makes-this kind of observation on occasions in Volume I; for example, Jacinta's affluent childlessness when compared to the fertility of her two elder sisters, particularly that of Candelaria who has had twins: «¡Y ella, que era rica, no tenía ni siquiera medio!... Dios estaba ya chocho sin duda» (I, 180; 65). This remark is repeated, again in playful terms, when the narrator is commenting on the obsessive nature of Jacinta's longing for children:

¿Pero qué hacía Dios que no mandaba uno siquiera de los chiquillos que en número infinito tiene por allá? ¿En qué estaba pensando su Divina Majestad? Y Candelaria, que apenas tenía con qué vivir,   —77→   ¡uno cada año!... Y que vinieran diciendo que hay equidad en el Cielo... Sí; no está mala justicia la de arriba... sí... ya lo estamos viendo.

(I, 197; 70)                

When Ido visits her, his reaction to Jacinta's plight is to take God to task for not having given her children. As in the lines just quoted, his comment is also striking for the tone of familiarity and the way it reduces God to someone who does not really know what is good for man, and who sells justice short:

«La señora no tiene hijos... ¡Qué lástima!» -exclamó Ido- «Dios no sabe lo que se hace... Y yo pregunto: si la señora no tiene niños, ¿para quién son los niños? Lo que yo digo... ese señor Dios será todo lo sabio que quieran; pero yo no le paso ciertas cosas.»

(I, 273; 93)                

Mauricia also comments on the unwillingness on the part of Providence to fall in with man's plans: «como que [Jacinta] está rabiando por tener chiquillos y el Señor no se los quiere dar. Mal hecho, ¿verdad?» (II, 277; 240). Mauricia's remark to Fortunata may have influenced the latter's thoughts in that direction, because she too sets to thinking of the lack of harmony in her own life after her marriage to Maxi: «Todo va al revés para mí... Dios no me hace caso. Cuidado que me pone las cosas mal» (II, 392; 275), and the narrator calls her attempts to explain this to Juanito «aquella corrección de las obras de la Providencia» (II, 403; 279). The birth of Fortunata's second child is a further reason for Jacinta's discontent, as Guillermina reports: «Jacinta, furiosa, dice que Dios está chocho y que no hace más que disparates» (IV, 329-30; 513). In the final pages of the novel Jacinta, looking back at the events that have included the deaths of Moreno and Fortunata, her possession of the latter's child, and Moreno's love for her, turns her thoughts again to

lo desarregladas que andan las cosas del mundo... haciendo, en fin, unas correcciones tan extravagantes a la obra total del mundo, que se reiría de ellas Dios, si las supiera.

(IV, 427-8; 543)                

The gentle tone is in keeping with the quiet detachment of the novel's closing pages, but it is intriguing to speculate on the irony contained in the words «si las supiera»: the narrator in assuming his detached and wise stance can tell the reader about Jacinta's secret fantasies and suggest that God does not know about them! Whether the irony is intentional or not on Galdós' part, the God conjured up by the sentence is an anthropomorphic one, with less power than the omniscient author.

Although when in Spain Moreno Isla is in daily contact with his aunt Guillermina, the example of her religious activity makes no impact on him and he is another character who uses religion for his own ends. Very much a sceptic, he begins to practise again the religion of his upbringing by going to Mass with Guillermina. Moreno's motive, however, is to impress Jacinta with whom he is in love. He, like Fortunata, also appears unaware of the irony of his situation in which religious practice and adultery are bound up in this way. He himself is convinced that if Jacinta were to love him he would regain his lost religious faith (IV, 129; 452). His final thoughts before his death are a jumble of feelings of love towards Jacinta and religious sentiment, generally expressed in financial terms (notice especially in the following passage the grotesquely unorthodox juxtaposition of «mi niña adorada bien vale una misa»). Self-interest, love, money   —78→   and religion are so inextricably bound up together that only a full quotation will serve to bring out the irony and pathos of his situation:

¿Y quién me asegura que el año que viene, cuando vuelva, no la encontraré en otra disposición? Vamos a ver... ¿por qué no había de ser así? Se habrá convencido de que amar a un marido como el que tiene es contrario a la naturaleza; y su Dios, aquel buen Señor que está acostado en la urna de cristal, con su sábana de holanda finísima, aquel mismo Dios, amigo de Estupiñá, le ha de aconsejar que me quiera. ¡Oh! sí, el año que viene vuelvo... En Abril ya estoy andando para acá. Ya verá mi tía si me hago yo místico, y tan místico, que dejaré tamañitos a los de aquí... ¡Oh!... ¡Mi niña adorada bien vale una misa. Y entonces gastaré un millón, dos millones, seis millones, en construir un asilo benéfico. ¿Para qué dijo Guillermina? ¡Ah! para locos; sí, es lo que hace más falta... y me llamarán la Providencia de los desgraciados, y pasmaré al mundo con mi devoción... Tendremos uno, dos, muchos hijos, y seré el más feliz de los hombres... Le compraré al Cristo aquel tan lleno de cardenales una urna de plata.

(IV, 156-7; 461)                

Religion and money are often linked in the novel. Bárbara's response to Juanito's trip to Paris is to give «más limosnas que de costumbre». She thinks of having the Sacrament exposed while he is away, but decides that this «recurso gordo» is «un lujo desmedido» (I, 17; 16). The scenes in church between herself and Estupiñá are obviously on a comic, innocent level; nevertheless commerce and religious practice, church and market place are jumbled together as Estupiñá sidles over to Bárbara and fills her in on the details of the day's victuals:

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.

(I, 205; 73)                

The commercial aspects of the Juanín deal in Volume I have been mentioned in a previous article.97 In her effort to beat Izquierdo down to a modest price for the child, Guillermina uses a torrent of rhetoric that leaves Izquierdo speechless. She urges him to admit that he would accept a «portería» in exchange for Juanín; «confiéselo por la pasión y muerte de nuestro Redentor, en quien todos creemos» (I, 370; 123), she exclaims, also unconscious of the irony of using religious language to bolster up what is at best an ill-considered, if not indeed a shady deal. When Fortunata remembers handling the Virgin's mantle in Las Micaelas, which was a donation from the Santa Cruz family in thanksgiving for Juanito's recovery from pneumonia, the narrator himself seems to pause and ponder on the strange juxtaposition of money and religion that is involved: «aquel mismo manto que había servido para pagar, digámoslo así, la salvación del chico de Santa Cruz» (II, 284; 242). Perhaps the most striking juxtaposition of this kind in the novel, apart from Moreno's remark, is doña Lupe's matter-of-fact description of the death of Melitona Llorente, Maxi's aunt: «Murió como una santa, recibió todos los Sacramentos y dejó treinta mil reales para misas» (II, 83; 181).

The relationship between the daily commerce of shopping and the daily act of worship has just been mentioned: the scene between Estupiñá and Bárbara in church, where the shopping strategy is plotted between prayers. The church is also used as another kind of market: the marriage market. For Isabel Cordero, the Sunday Mass is a place where she can «exhibir y airear el muestrario, por ver si caía algún parroquiano, o por otro nombre marido» (I, 73; 33). God, included among the clientèle, «echó una mirada de benevolencia sobre el muestrario y después lo bendijo» (I, 73; 33). Other references to the Mass in the novel might   —79→   not unjustly be seen as further illustrating the link between underlying commercial attitudes and the practice of religion. On three occasions there are references to the length of time the priest takes to celebrate the Mass. Estupiñá, indeed, takes it upon himself to advise intending members of the congregation where they can attend a Mass said by a «quick» priest. On two of the occasions the verb used to describe the act of worship is not «celebrar», «rezar» or «decir», but «despachar» (I, 208; 74; II, 329; 256). It may not be an overinterpretation to say that the use of such a verb suggests yet again how ingrained is the commercial mode of thought that runs through the novel.

The religious surface that covers so much of the action and conventional motivation in Fortunata is Galdós' method of pointing to the materialism of life that lies beneath such religious profession. He sees conventional religion as not being in any way divorced from the struggle for social favour, money, jobs, husbands, wives or lovers. Religion may be effective in putting together the bricks and mortar of an institution (although ironically the vital donation for the «piso principal» of Guillermina's orphanage is produced by Moreno's interest in Jacinta) but it makes no impact as a genuinely altruistic force. Doña Lupe probably epitomises the true attitude of many of the characters when their religious motivation is scrutinised:

sabía dar a Dios lo que es de Dios y al César, etc. Este estribillo lo repetía muy orgullosamente la viuda siempre que saltaba una oportunidad, añadiendo que creía cuanto la Santa Madre Iglesia manda creer; pero de que mientras menos trato tuviera con curas, mejor. Oía su misa los domingos y confesaba de muy tarde en tarde; mas de este paso regular no la sacaba nadie.

(II, 168; 207)                

Such is doña Lupe's uninspiring if pragmatic attitude to religion: for her, religious profession is reduced to a trite display of biblical erudition, apparently used so often that it becomes an «estribillo» not worth finishing.

Galdós's approach to religion in Fortunata is a mixture of realist irony and naturalistic content, where the materialistic realities of money, desire, and the social struggle are clothed with the conventional expression of idealism represented by religious profession. The presentation of religion in the novel is not a doctrinaire and scathing condemnation of decadent religious practice, even though the characterization of Nicolás Rubín is sometimes sarcastic. Typical of the tone of the novel is the materialistic way in which his colleague in religion, León Pintado, is presented. In Las Micaelas the chaplain is obliged to hear the confession of nuns like Sor Facunda, who have such scrupulous consciences

que el capellán se reía para su sotana. Como el pobre D. León Pintado tenía que vivir de aquello, lo oía seriamente, y hacía que tomaba muy en consideración aquellos pecados tan superfirolíticos... Y la monja se ponía muy compungida... y él, que era muy tuno, decía que sí, que era preciso tener cuidado para otra vez, y que patatín y que patatán.

(II, 319; 253)                

The tone of this passage indicates an amiable conspiracy of attitude between narrator and chaplain to the practice of religion. Some of the characters at least, such as Pintado, Feijóo and the narrator, recognise the anomaly of such a close juxtaposition of the material with the conventionally religious and the way that religious practice and physical, social and economic needs are jumbled together. To the question, where is the practice of true religion in the novel? The answer   —80→   must be that there is none. Guillermina is presented too ironically to support Casalduero's view that «en la tierra lugar de desolación y de tristeza, hay una llama viva, la caridad ardiente de Guillermina». But neither are we left with a «lugar de desolación» in the Zola fashion, rather with the serene march of nature and time, and the author's final detachment from the forces of society and religion, which at the time of the writing of Fortunata y Jacinta Galdós sees as having their parts to play, but only parts, and these mostly negative and tragic ones, in the discovery of the law of nature.

Trinity College, Dublin.

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