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ArribaAbajoReality and fiction in the novels of Galdós

Gerald Gillespie

-No tenga cuidado, padre, que allá le absolverán por loco. Los dos tercios de los procesados que pasan por nuestras manos, por locos se escapan del castigo, si es que castigo merecen. Y presuponiendo que sea usted un santo, no por santo le han de soltar, sino por loco; que ahora priva mucho la razón de la sinrazón, o sea que la locura es quien hace a los muy sabios y a los muy ignorantes, y a los que sobresalen por arriba y por abajo.

(V, 1814)1                

These words, which the guards speak in piety to comfort their broken prisoner, the priest Nazarin, serve as a fitting epigraph. For no discussion of Benito Pérez Galdós' mature realism is, of course, complete without reference to the impact of Cervantine wisdom upon it. The question of truth and illusion has been standard in the European novel since Don Quixote, which became the revered model for English «humor» and German «romantic irony». Cervantes' haunting suggestion that, in addition to the opposites reason and unreason, there was a paradoxical «reason of unreason» also undermined any neat distinction between reality and fiction-perhaps in spite of his own intention of separating them. Through the interaction of Quixote and Sancho, through the treatment of literature as a subject, even the very same mock romance in process of being created, and through the mingling of aspects of the creative personality, was born the «reality of fiction». Nineteenth-century naturalism applied the by then considerable body of psychological theory in its examination of humankind's mental life and tried to effect a clear scientific definition which classified all impulses of the brain as sound or unsound. Two major theses were held, both connected with the «facts» of evolution: the physiological or deterministic, and the developmental or organic. Because of its older realism in the picaresque genre, Spain could not be as impressed by the inroads of naturalism. The nation was more receptive to a developmental view (Hegel, Wundt, et al.) which salvaged its Christian faith. As Sherman H. Eoff has shown, Galdós absorbed the fundamental tenets of the postromantic organic concept of man.2 But it was through the Cervantine tendency to transcend his own subject, that Galdós achieved genuine universality and renewed the mission of the Spanish novel.3 From his more clinical case histories (La desheredada) to his depictions of sublime self-deceiving (Ángel Guerra), Galdós tirelessly ascended from the wry irony of naturalistic truth to indulgent meditation, progressing along a pathway analogous to that of his great predecessor from Part one to Part two of the Quixote.

It is appropriate to affirm this pattern before we focus too exclusively on late works imbued with the spirit of primitive christianity (Nazarín, Misericordia) on the lofty plane of Dostoevski's Idiot. Otherwise we will fail to take seriously the ending of symbolic works like La loca de la casa, which asserts that the «good» cannot live without «evil» (V, 1721). «Mad» Victoria is actually   —12→   not simply a pious fool, but rather in the Cervantine loco-cuerdo tradition. She wins her struggle with her beloved «monster», but out of it grows mutual reconciliation; brute strength of nature in her nouveau riche husband and spiritual grace in her womanhood, with its aristocratic pride, achieve a synthesis. If the story of their marriage is a metaphor for mankind's development, it is only more obviously so than Ángel Guerra's quest to commune with his beloved, the mystic Leré. When Victoria decides to save her family and offers herself to Cruz, she is virtually a martyr challenging the world for recognition; her imperious demands are answered in kind; and the dramatic contest of wills forms our fable set in reality. While Victoria gives up becoming a nun, Guerra moves in the opposite direction toward fulfillment, drifting from his early activity as a radical and original love to a religious vocation that keeps him close to the woman he believes is a true saint. Guerra's «foolishness» ends in a disillusionment without rancor, when «the blow of reality» both clarifies his mind and brings him to death (V, 1573). Simultaneously, he confesses his own self-deception, understands that he has only been sublimating his nature, and declares «que la unica forma de aproximación que en la realidad de mi ser me satisface plenamente, no es la mística, sino la humana, santificada por el sacramento» (1573). No rejection occurs except the banishment of illusion; led by his Beatrice, Laura, and Dulcinea in Leré, Guerra's soul has climbed to heights of noble acceptance.

Guerra penetrates to the «reality of his being» in a process of growth toward self-discovery, not toward bitter disappointment. If we compare Galdós' treatment of the «real» and the «illusory» with that of Balzac and Stendhal, what distinguishes the Spaniard's realism is its Cervantine consciousness. In Le rouge et le noir, for instance, the fundamental contest is between the power of the individual heart and the tyranny of an already debunked world. The established order, wearing many masks of splendor, is a very traditional realm of hypocrisy. Hollow secular and religious glory continually threatens to debase the «happy few», those noble souls who live from the knowledge of their own existence in enmity to everything shallow and corrupt. Sorel literally mortifies himself in order to progress through the several spheres of society to high position; his deepest experience of bliss occurs, correspondingly, in prison under sentence of death. In extremity, he at last lives with sincerity. His execution represents the martyrdom of the heart, and Madame de Renal's beatific passing confirms the unassailable validity and absolute commitment of love. Balzac still renders isolated tributes to an elite of romantic individualists in his Comédie humaine, as, for example, in the case of Madame de Beauséant. But, generally, his more sensitive figures go rapidly up or down in the harsh, money-dominated society which he depicts. All destinies proceed over the crossroads of finance, and those who do not capitulate fall by the wayside. Balzac reinterprets many «virtues» as maladies, tragic but pathological, and unfortunately on a par with many «vices» in a purely abstract, «scientific» sense. All drives and ideals which do not further worldly success rank as obsession. When Balzac's fuller characters like Rastignac «awake», their sardonic consciousness of the incompatibility of noble aspirations and survival under the laws of nature still generates considerable pathos. Galdós does deliberately create similar tensions, but never   —13→   externalices the problem to the same extent. For Galdós «fiction» and «reality» are not dichotomous, but interacting, aspects of human existence.

That Galdós fuses the nineteenth-century theory of man as a creature in evolution and another heritage from the romantics, an elaborate psychology, is clear throughout his works. What provides cohesion is not, however, any particular doctrine that sunders fact and fancy. Rather, the Cervantine interplay of various «fictions» and «realities» -the personaje's, his world's, the reader's, the author's- binds together a complex realism. Returning to our epigraph, we note that even the guards are aware of some puzzling relationship between saint and madman, but certain only of the fact that folly is everywhere causing things to happen. Yet how carefully they phrase this, clinging to their realism which is a comforting surface order -with loopholes. The real trouble for Nazarin comes when he tells the judge what actually went on, because he cannot keep it to himself. Naturally, the judge thinks he is crazy, since the truth, which is much simpler, may not be accepted without certain «revisions» of reality. The confrontation with established reality includes, of course, paradoxical inversions, as when villagers (Part three, ch. three) claim that Nazarin worked a miracle on a child, whereas he claims only that he prayed to God; Nazarin actually believes in scientific medicine, after the exhaustion of whose remedies, one then turns in humble supplication to the All-Mighty. Galdós' fascination for scientific discoveries is alive still, in spite of his attempt to portray a mystic sympathetically. For example, he follows the naturalistic vogue by equating neurosis and unfulfilled desire in Nazarin's disciple Beatriz; as soon as she has met someone who can polarize her in another direction, her symptoms become pleasant and she has visions of angels instead of devils. Galdós nevertheless shows no commitment to Nazarin's or his questioners' opinions, when he is handed from the alcalde to a judge in Madrid. The parallels to Christ are presented typologically, without a breath of dogma; and yet, Galdós introduces himself into the novel as an eye-witness in order to give an the objections to the reporter's accusations, on a rather materialistic level, against Nazarín as anti-social, escapist, parasitical and so forth (Part one, ch. five).

Galdós' objectivity is subtle and gratifying in comparison with the usual partisan writings of the nineteenth century. Indeed, it is through this objectivity that he can suddenly overwhelm us with the intensity of «prophetic» statement -a term to which we shall again refer. Nazarín's dream, closing the novel, both expresses his piteous state and removes him from the terrestrial limitations it has imposed. In his own mind, Nazarín reverently is celebrating mass and, when he takes the Host in his hands, he hears Jesus speak to him:

-Hijo mío, aún vives. Estás en mi santo hospital padeciendo por mí. Tus compañeros, las dos perdidas y el ladrón que siguen tu enseñanza están en la cárcel. No puedes celebrar, no puedo estar contigo en cuerpo y sangre, y esta misa es figuración insana de tu mente. Descansa, que bien te lo mereces.

(V, 1814)                

The divine voice asks him not to be discontent and promises that he has «much more» to do, whereby the author, of course, prepares us for Nazarin's career in Halma. The intimacy of this message avoids any question of veracity -a feat which we can compare only with Ivan's vision of the devil in Dostoevski's   —14→   Brothers Karamazov. By allowing Nazarín to hear in his own thoughts, from the highest authority, that his experience is hallucination, Galdós demonstrates convincingly both the priest's sincerity and his probable recovery. This is a moment of crisis that is transcended by profound growth -a mysterious «disillusiomnent» which occurs through dream in the brain of a visionary, a prime example of the reality of fiction on the highest level of storytelling. Objectively considered as a «message» of his own mind reaching the plane of consciousness, the poignantly subjective dream by Nazarín conveys truth. The priest's genuine holiness is deepened and enhanced when his mind integrates his experiences of outside «reality». The validity of his mission is guaranteed by pious acceptance of his natural state.

The general tone of Galdós' novels is so literal that whenever the fantastic is introduced, it produces a very special effect on us. Galdós completely deglamorizes stereotyped romantic situations such as the life of prostitutes. In Nazarín, for instance, he introduces the ugliness of one downtrodden woman by having her nicknamed «Camella» from «Camelia», for her tall, bony frame (ch. two). This rather sympathetic humor may strike us as cruel or sublime, according to our conception of Galdós' role as narrator, in a work like Miau, whose title derives from the insulting sobriquet with which the Villaamil women have been dubbed. Sainz de Robles ably argues that «generalmente el satírico y el irónico no son creadores» (IV, liv); in defending Galdós against the charge of impassiveness and cold isolation, he explains the author's noncohabitation «ni para el bien ni para el mal a sus criaturas» (XXXII) as transcendental humor, in analogy to God's role. While one cannot quarrel with this interpretation, it still avoids a puzzling and intriguing aspect of Galdós' artistry in particular cases. How should we accept the strange interplay of stark realism, vision, and nightmare in a book like Miau, through which even the title runs as a motif of the ludicrous, as a whimsical apprehension of harsh truth. No warm humor of late Dickensonian variety can explain away the commingling of the grotesque and sentimental, as in the «oracular» utterances of little Luis -a sweet boy, who tells his grandfather to commit suicide. A contemporary European phenomenon may be reflected in this novel: the upsurge of a phase of late realism which we can well term «sentimental naturalism». As the strictures imposed by doctrinaire determinism loosened and writers had already grown aware of the new spheres which the novel could explore, their interest in the mental life of the masses increased. Psychology was brought to bear on the condition of the lower classes of society, with the result that hitherto stereotyped figures could be analyzed spiritually. An example would be Gerhard Hauptmann's play Hänneles Himmelfahrt, which contrasts the wretched death of the abused girl in a barren poorhouse with her childish dreams of apotheosis. The dream episodes, fading in and out of reality, integrate materials from Hanna's environment and experiences, including her juvenile crush on a sympathetic teacher, who is transformed into a heavenly redeemer.

Galdós was in many respects in advance of this wave, as we shall indicate below. Likewise, because of his Cervantine heritage, he was independently in the vanguard of a closely associated movement: psychologistic impressionism   —15→   and symbolism. Let us examine these two related sorts of realism, which have in common a considerably developed psychology, now expanded to all reaches of society. The fundamental naturalistic trait of the novel Miau is its depiction of several generations in one family with related, and presumably, inherited mental illness. Luis' visions of God, so filled with pitiable rationalizations about the course of his own and his family's life, are brought on by epileptic fits. His own mother, now dead, had gone berserk and tried to kill him before the time of the novel. His dignified grandfather, driven to his wits' end by the women in his household and constant, debasing rejection by the bureaucratic machine for which he formerly worked, chooses release. The boy's aunt shows the same weakness for his reprobate father, a sexual adventurer, and conceives a similar compensatory hatred for her poor nephew. The night she almost murders him in his troubled slumbers is a ghostly scene, in which the reality of her action is scarcely distinguishable from nightmare, for with terrifyingly irrational logic, she slips back into normal behavior. Our realization that daytime and the waking state are only a patina over horror lifts this story from the ordinary level of naturalism toward symbolic drama, but not quite all the way. The meaningful center of motivation is never shifted fully to external agencies, such as the complex of offices which old Villaamil clings to desperately. There is no monstrous symbol to which people are subordinate that compares with the mine in Zola's Germinal. Rather the pathological symptoms are identified with psychic pressures in a kind of chronicle that represents with continuity the adjustment or failure of a living strand of humanity in the larger fabric of Madrid. Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks exploits this kind of realism more extensively. We might distinguish Galdós by noting that he tends to favor a more horizontal examination of society in a collection of casas in several novels, as does Balzac. Mann follows the fraying life-line through several periods of history, encompassing thereby also many features of the development of European bourgeois civilization.

The symbolic implications of settings and moments are perhaps clearer in the earlier novel of naturalistic bent, Galdós' La desheredada. In the chapter, «Entreacto en la Iglesia», idle, deluded Isidora finds herself staring at a dark, unknown man because she has felt his insistent gaze. Galdós relates-

Mientras Isidora hacía estas y otras observaciones, notaba que algunas de las elegantes cofrades eran miradas tenazmente por los caballeretes, y que ellas solían mirarlos también con afectada distracción, de donde vino a considerar que si tanto flechazo de ojos dejase una raya en el espacio, el interior de la iglesia parecería una gran tela de araña. ¡Mísera Humanidad!

(IV, 1071)                

The social theme of the secret religion of the magdalenes would be ordinary in itself, were it not for the sinister evocation that springs from the woman's own brain of the very web in which she will perish. This fleeting prefiguration is less a naturalistic statement than an «impression». The author's outcry sharpens our sense of the danger, but also makes us aware of the sickly thought processes of the protagonist, briefly coming to the surface. There are many similar moments in which external appearance and internal pattern merge in an impression that is revelatory, as, for example, when Isidora masquerades as a Carmen type at festival time in the chapter «Flamenca Cytherea», foreshadowing   —16→   her descent into low life. The metamorphoses of the public squares of Madrid occur so subtly that we may not at first notice how unfixed, how lacking in hard classical edges they are. When Miquis and Isidora first contemplate the swirling spectacle of society in ostentatious motion, she is rapt in contemplation of its patches of color, whereas Miquis vainly unmasks the phenomena for her, a «believer» in the aristocratic system headed by the queen. But, after Isidora has failed to convince the marquise, her imagined grandmother, of her noble identity, she equates the external scene upon the banishment of the royal household with her own «transition». Her switch to a dishonorable but effective party is associated with the power to topple established authority, i.e., the marquise.

Galdós' imposing talents as an impressionist transform the novel from a harsh analysis of human ills into a great book with depth and breadth. The chapters entitled «Beethoven» and «Sigue Beethoven» are, of course, a deliberate tour de force, two moods in analogy to major and minor key. They surely rank alongside Mann's depiction of little Hanno Buddenbrooks evoking through the piano the music of his own languishing soul and Tolstoy's «Kreutzer Sonata». And the sheer beauty of these passages painting the marquise's anguish furnish, by aesthetic proof, as it were, all the knowledge we require to grasp what true nobility of spirit is. Among the number of chapters on Isidora's sleeplessness through mental disturbance, «Insomnio número cinquenta y tantos» should be singled out for its brilliant treatment of interior monologue -again an impressionistic technique. Galdós skillfully weaves together, in a compressed simulation of hours of reverie, the train of thoughts stimulated or deflected by minute occurrences. Acutely perceptive, Isidora hears the bells, scratching, and so forth, details which elicit the whole range of her consciousness and reveal to us the roots of mania under the surface. Although Galdós has not yet gone as far as joyce in creating a stream of consciousness by (artistically contrived) totally free association, he ought to be recognized for his rather astonishing proximity to Arthur Schnitzler, the master of psychological impressionism and first great exponent of the associative technique (Leutnant, Gustl, etc.).

The rather obvious analogy to Flaubert's Madame Bovary would be exaggerated, if one took no account of the greater variety of techniques in Galdós' novel. To be sure, Galdós too pursues ironically the romantic type who lives «farsas estudiadas o capítulos de novelas» (IV, 1050) and seeks to «encontrar armonías entre su estado moral y la Naturaleza» (1051); who through this sickly pride would be «mala... si se quiere; pero ordinaria, jamás!» since «mejor es soñar que ver» (1116). But since the naturalistic analysis is set in a framework, the Quixote tradition, a more specific irony reigns over Galdós' story. The region of La Mancha remains throughout the author's works a Spanish hinterland which is the breeding ground for deluded souls and extravagant idealists. A census of the Madrid of Galdosian novels would show a rather extraordinary migration of these types to the capital. To underscore his thematic adaptation of Cervantes, Galdós divides Isidora's history into two parts, the first of which ends with the humorously mad letter from her uncle the canon, Quijano-Quijada, on his death bed. It is filled with superficial,   —17→   vain advice, a shallow conception of things religious, opinions on side issues that rankle Spanish pride, such as French cooking, and unconsciously ironic literary reminiscences, such as his assertion, «Yo tengo gran fe en la fuerza de la sangre» (IV, 1056). Galdós accomplishes much with this reiteration of the context of his narration. He summarizes the illness, points to its roots in the influence of environment, refers to the naturalistic thesis of inherited characteristics, and establishes a parallel for Isidora's case, her foreseeable finish, while temporarily raising our spirits with a comic piece.

The literary context is supremely important, for we note that -unlike Don Quixote- the canon dies sans disillusionment. Thus the scientific realism of Galdós' times, which his careful documentation through Isidora's father at the madhouse, her criminal brother, her macrocephalic son, and touched uncle reflects, also makes sense in «classical» Spanish terms. For her history is not a copy but an inversion of the knight-errant's idealism. Isidora's obsession does not ennoble anything nor lend enchantment to our world. That point is made as an opening statement with consummate irony, when Galdós depicts the delicate beauty of nature which the inmates of the insane asylum ignore in their frenzied self-occupation, in the «Final de otra novela». Isidora's typical statement -«¡Qué feísimo es esto!» (1051) -reveals this «cierta hostilidad contra la Naturaleza». She demeans the ordinary inn which Quixote would have transformed into an enchanted castle (986). She wastes a chance to marry a good man, Juan Bou, and the sound advice of Miquis, who generously elaborates the serious implications of desengaño for her. She finally dies when her illusion is destroyed, but in vileness contrasting with the sober dignity and salvation of Quixote. In a corroborative inversion, her loyal Sancho, the meek gallant Don José de Relimpios, perishes of a broken heart. Galdós uses the Cervantine tradition to show us what a non-poetic obsession is. Not divine madmen, but wretched creatures lacking any true inspiration, fill the asylum and the prison.

La desheredada is a carefully constructed book which conveys through the rigor of its formal repetitions a sense of tragic dissolution under the pressure of given forces. For, unmistakably, Galdós emphasizes the analogies between collective mankind in his city and the above institutions. In the chapter «Navidad», the symbolic season of rebirth, man's activities offer ironic counterpointing to the meaning of the holiday. «Madrid parece un manicomio suelto. Los hombres son atacados de una fiebre que se manifiesta en tres modos distintos: el delirio de la gula, la calentura de la lotería y el tétanos de las propinas» (1037). Galdós' vision of the frenetic upsurge of «pleasures» is more than clinical; the gross appetites, passions, and manias are presented with moral asperity as in the medieval fool tradition. Folly has broken out in an entire population, giving rebirth to thousands of lesser and greater tragedies. Isidora is busy at this sacred turning of the year first getting her brother from jail, and second acting the role of a story-book heroine at the marquise's palace («Anagnórisis»). Miquis, who in this novel demonstrates lively wit and intellectual control over life, explains to Isidora:

La vida toda es cárcel, sólo que en unas partes hay rejas y en otras no. Unos están entre hierros y otros entre las paredes azules del firmamento.



Galdós is scrupulous and unrelenting in this more severe mood, even while joking. The motif of the carnival and its masks, the motif of collective folly, the motif of the world as prison and hospital (favorites of the siglo de oro) support a fundamental proposition that man must, of necessity, pass through darkness in his progress toward a higher state:

[...] el error tiene también sus leyes y... en la marcha del universo cada prurito aspira a su satisfacción y la consigue, resultando la armonía total y este claroscuro en que consiste toda la gracia de la Humanidad y todo el chiste de vivir.


On the one hand, the above words spoken by the author evoke the grand outline of seventeenth-century theodicy, the tension of a drama in which our lives are roles and over which hovers a benign Creator, enacting and beholding what to us is largely confusion. On the other hand, it suggests a process toward some higher synthesis; even man's «dark urge» (as in Gothe's Faust) contributes to the evolution of this «claroscuro». The organic view, which was predominantly a product of late eighteenth-century German thought, dovetailed neatly with the Christian conception of a world theatre-an affinity which the romantics thoroughly exploited.4 The distinctive romantic ingredient added to this literary marriage was, then, a developmental view of psychic processes.5 We shall discuss Galdosian traits which are analogous further below. For now, let it suffice to point out the considerable literary consciousness behind the tiniest details in La desheredada. This book, in a positive sense only, is contrived. If, for example, we take too seriously the above quoted reflection, we are missing one of the principal joys in reading the story -an aesthetic delight in form. For the same sentiment appears originally in the mouth of the amanuensis at the insane asylum: «Consolémonos todos pensando en que la grandiosa armonía del mundo consiste en el cumplimiento de la voluntad soberana» (986), and so on. Unknown to us, Isidora, the listener, will disintegrate too. Unknown to her, the philosophizing secretary is about to blow up in a psychic explosion; he is subject to cyclic fits connected with his pondering of the imponderables. With choice self-irony, Galdós as author cites another «writer-philosopher» inside of his own novel. Such self-quotation in altered circumstances is a technique for which perhaps Thomas Mann is best known (e.g., Tonio Kröger); it pertains to the overall «scientific» objectivity which discovers purely abstract patterns behind vital phenomena. But in the case of Galdós, it derives also from the Cervantine irony of being now involuted in one's own fictions, now hovering over them.

Galdós' reworking of Cervantine themes raises questions about man's reality and freedom long before Unamuno. The novel El amigo Manso is appropriately, like Tonio Kröger, an autobiographical relation by an intelligent, sensitive selfobserver. Manso, a professor of philosophy, like Mann's artist, possesses full competence to speak for the mind painfully aware of its own laws in separation from life, nasty life, of which, however trite and shallow it may be, the intellectual is jealous. Indeed, so bitter is Manso as narrator that he begins by declaring, «Yo no existo», and tells his story from the «other world» with sardonic disillusionment; looking back and down from the clouds in his last words, he sees reality as a puppet play:

¡Dichoso estado y regiones dichosas estas en que puedo mirar a Irene, a mi hermano,   —19→   a Peña, a doña Javiera, a Calígula, a Lica y demás desgraciadas figurillas con el mismo desdén con que el hombre maduro ve los juguete que le entretuvieron cuando era niño!

(IV, 1283)                

Since Manso is one of the most lovable personajes created by Galdós, we cannot comfortably ignore his quirks -or the abstraction of reality as a grotesque fiction. Manso's ability to so envision life is bound up with his destiny to suffer deep anguish. His alienation finally passes the mark of «neurotic failure» in life and enters a new realm, the problematic metaphysics of modern forlornness. Even in his «real» or fictionally real supernatural state, Manso remains forever alienated. The scope of Galdós includes both the estrangement of an Isidora from sane living and the alienation of disabused intellect from the ridiculousness of life. Manso does not blindly degrade nature; however, he cannot help perceiving that there is something «unreal» about reality, its factual «inverosimilitud» (1259). An important question which Galdosian criticism must ask is whether the author conceives of such understanding as Manso commands as a kind of «liberation». When Isidora loses her dream, she falls apart too. Manso begins in disillusionment, but does this set him free?

Late figures like Nazarín attain spiritual freedom, yet lack the visible signs of any cerebral dissection of human existence in search of its key. Rather they appear to share something of the instinctive impulse which asserts, against all logic or illogic, life itself. We have noted this reconciliation with existence in the dream through which Jesus tells Nazarín of his insanity. Dreams in Galdós are the first manifestation of psychic forces which, flowing from the darkness of human nature, shape character in the dynamic process so ably expounded by Eoff. Galdós seems to agree-probably by general intellectual omosiswith the post-romantic formulation of human mentality as an organism, whose evident layers interact with hidden layers in a continuum of growth or «unfolding» (Entwicklung, development). The hidden nucleus of the mind never is dormant, even though it is impossible to witness its activity, and we only learn about its operations when, on the surface of consciousness, thoughts happen. Manso is quite aware of the pressures of the mind -in fact, he is a nascent «psychoanalyst» at moments, and his probing is connected with his doubts and malaise about the «fiction of reality»; for example:

No es puramente arbitrario y vano el mundo del sueño, y analizando con paciencia los fenómenos cerebrales que lo informan, se hallará quizá una lógica recóndita. Y despierto me di a escudriñar la relación que podría existir entre las realidad y la serie de impresiones que recibí. Si el sueño es el reposo intermitente del pensamiento y de los órganos sensorios, ¿cómo pensé y vi?... ¡Pero qué tontería! Me estaba yo tan fresco en la cama, interpretando sueños como un Faraón, y eran las nueve, y tenía que ir a clase, y después...


An estimate of the measure in which Galdós reproduces dreams with the stamp of authenticity, as we understand it in the light of modern science, or «contrives» them for romanesque effects is not to the purpose of this essay.6 More important here is the consistency of his use of dreams and reflections about dreaming with his art.

Galdós' novels belong to the dawning period of «analysis», in which art becomes self-conscious to the point of ambiguous self-denial and fastens on «absurdity» for both its aesthetics and metaphysics. But his faith in the integral   —20→   «occurrence» -whether human personality or work of art-still prevails. This confidence in the creative action whose model is nature knits together the amazing variety of his own productions. Doubtless the observable «reason of unreason» in the instinctual pathway of evolution intrigues Galdós as much as anything negative or pathological. The novel Tormento offers us a vibrant example in the earlier Galdós of a positive utterance of inner needs. Amparo, a mere underling in a petty bourgeois household, has emerged from a grisly affair with a priest by the end of the story; she has an opportunity to marry an older man, Agustín, who has made money and seems to crave placid respectability. A deep need to confess overwhelms her, and she experiences the agony of growth in telling him about her life, at the price of rejection. But Agustín is strong enough to develop reciprocally in this confrontation. He rebels against the pretenses of society, religion, the unauthentic «¿qué dirán?» which is not his own voice. To be sure, his heart is not entirely free of prideful lie; however, under the dominant «rules» of life then in force in Spain, his decision to accept Amparo in a common-law marriage, though disgraced, and rescue her by going away to France is a human triumph. The seemingly anarchic impulses of nature deny the «fiction» of our world and proclaim healthy «reality»:

Sal ahora por el ancho camino de tu instinto, y encomiéndate al Dios libre y grande de las circunstancias. No te fíes de la majestad convencional de los principios, y arrodíllate delante del resplandeciente altar de los hechos... Si esto es desatino, que lo sea.

(IV, 1556)                

The complexity of Galdosian art prohibits any simple tragic dualism from usurping the larger Reality, which encompasses both the historical milieu and the myriad intrahistorical dramas within it. The success of Agustín is not canceled out by the failure of Isidora; nor do Manso's own discoveries about himself and his world negate its independent validity. There is no easy formula for a Reality that is not classically fixed, but in flux -very like a Story. Hence Galdós' maturest vision offers us not statuesque, representative «truths» wrapped in the mask of a personality as persona, but organically «happening» personalities who appear to be polarized around basic drives and ideas. His Cervantine framework proves to be exactly that: a matrix of storytelling, through which we learn something also about the nature of a «story». This can be demonstrated by a comparison of La familia de León Roch, a novel which marks a turning point in Galdós' own development, and his acknowledged masterpiece Fortunata y Jacinta. Superficially, they have in common obvious elements of a very traditional plot arrangement. Disregarding the considerable differences, we might name the type after Goethe's famous novel, Die Wahlverwandtschaften, whose title is borrowed from older chemical theory of the «elective affinities» of primary substances. Since only the plot type is of concern, we may oversimplify and define it as an exposition of natural laws which operate when «molecules» (i.e., couples) encounter and, through inner forces or needs, break apart and their «atoms» (i.e., individuals) either form new molecules, or separate. To the compassionate «scientific» eye, such an encounter in the turbulent «solution» of society has «tragic» implications, because it may set loose events which gainsay established morality.

The significant point is the recognition of «atoms» which need to «elect»   —21→   other atoms for reasons of inner nature and can be subsumed in a molecule, or synthesis, whose bond varies in strength according to that fateful involvement in the flow of existence known as fate. Galdós, however, only makes a half-hearted try at a configuration of lives in an aesthetic pattern in La familia de León Roch. He appears to initiate the lines of an «hour glass» when he allows the childhood friends Pepa and León to diverge. León, the idealist, is drawn to María Egipcíaca, one side of whose life is dominated by religious fanaticism. Pepa drifts to the cynic Cimarra. The first couple are both deluded as to their total needs and motives; the second couple are both more truthful, Pepa in a vital way, Cimarra as a decadent. Emotionally, we hope for a repolarization of León and Pepa, who do again come together but do not quite meet, because of the separation forced on them by her family for its own selfish reasons. Galdós does not seek symmetry, however, and any formal design is secondary to the dynamics of the tragedy. The forces are internal -mainly in the self-deceivers María and León. León is less interesting, for Galdós obviously wishes to make him, as the noble champion of liberal idealism, virtually invulnerable to criticism from bigoted quarters. María's case is more dramatic, because she is split between her suppressed sensual drives and religious obsessions; she is, as León aptly puts it in anger and disappointment, not his dream of «una esposa cristiana» but «una odalisca mojigata» (IV, 799). In part one, María falls under the malign influence of her brother, who would dominate her in a «spiritual» marriage of twin souls. This polarization to the sickly mystic effectively splits her from León, whose relationship with Pepa and her daughter occupies most of part two. But through wounded pride, María reorients to her love for León and, changing her habits of mortification for a stunning outfit, she sets out to win him back. Her failure entails devastating consequences for her; she pines away, appearing to the innocent eyes of Pepa's daughter to be a «muñeca muerta» (887).

The death of Luis Gonzaga, ending the first third of the novel, generates new events -the passing of León into Pepa's orbit, and the wrongheaded isolation of María. The near death of Monina draws together her mother and León, who worships this image of Pepa. María's dying, which is a major section of part three, leaves León, at least in his own mind, morally isolated and bereft. For when Cimarra intervenes to enforce a pact of mutual separation of those left in a triangle, León's principles prevent him from escaping with Pepa into an illicit union outside society. The novel opens and closes with letters, by María and Fúcar, which exude the hypocrisy of a blind and greedy aristocracy that holds sway over Spanish mores. We may think of the novel as three unwieldy acts, conflict, climax of doomed happiness, and dénouement, with distinct raisings and lowerings of the curtain. But these external parallelisms do not grip us with the same intensity as Galdós' revelations, mostly through his characters' dreams, of the course of the hidden drama in the depths of their souls. For example, though largely prevailing in her stubborn campaign against her own husband, María's suppressed anxieties bubble to the surface (Part one, ch. fifteen):

-¡Qué sueño!... ¡Figúrate..., soñé que te habías muerto y que desde lo más hondo de un hoyo negro me estabas mirando, mirando, y tenías una cara...! Después   —22→   aquello pasó... Estabas vivo; querías a otra... Yo no quiero que quieras a otra.


This «message» occurs right after León's angry charge that she is «una odalisca mojigata». María's suppressed desire is manifested in her nightmare of the viper nesting in her (Part two, chapter thirteen). The conflict in her soul is brilliantly exposed through her vision of hell, which integrates scenes from a visit to the Krupp works in Germany (Part three, ch. one). Despite her need to see León punished in fires of damnation, she cries out to save him (889).

These various disclosures of psychic happenings are not just planted like flags on certain high points in the terrain of the book. In María's case, for instance, the seeds of all future mental development are present in part one. Even the possibility of her own love-death is prefigured in the sudden reversal of the above quoted dream:

-¡Qué horrible visión! Ahora me he visto a mí misma muerta, y mirándote desde el fondo del hoyo negro y profundo... Estabas abrazando a otra, besando a otra... ¿Pero es ya de día?


Galdós' considerable reliance on, and talent for, dream sequences doubtless indicates that he is not the kind of writer in love with plot. His moments of dreaming, such as the outstanding chapter «Batiéndose con el ángel» (Part one, ch. twenty-one), do not really interrupt the book but give it a «substitute» for the missing drama of outward facts. The briefer announcement of dreams reminds us off and on that this hidden drama is continuously at work under the surface. To state that Galdós does not manipulate outward facts in a dramatic configuration implies no criticism, for the ghostly «reality» of León's struggle with his «adversary», just after contemplating the splendor of the night heavens, lifts this book above successful artificiality to the poetic plane. Galdós here approaches the realm of the great masters of prose who have time for fantasy and prophecy, because they also have the ability for it. Our standard of comparison, to which Galdós may not measure up, must nonetheless be Mann and Dostoievski: Hans Castorp's watching the constellations (Der Zauberberg) and Dimitri's visionary ride through a lugubrious, wasted steppeland (Brothers Karamazov).

Fortunata y Jacinta7 has been extensively treated elsewhere, and is mentioned now only to corroborate that Galdós is more concerned about characterization than plot. His interest in the individual lives occupies him so thoroughly that he «allows» their story to develop out of the given materials of their existence, and often devotes great attention to «secondary» figures. If some critics object that Galdós is diffuse, rambling, lacking in style, they mean precisely that he is not out to offer us neat narrative shapes. The book Fortunata y Jacinta, for example, is really a tetralogy of unwieldly acts. Fortunata is actually off-stage throughout part one, except for a single glimpse. Then part two recapitulates the earlier beginning (Ch. one, «Juanito Santa Cruz») by introducing the male half (Ch. one, «Maximiliano Rubín») of a new «molecule» and its particular chemical history. But parts three and four no longer pursue the very ready possibilities of «pattern», and are concerned, rather, with the psychological unfolding of the principals. As Eoff has shown,   —23→   both of the women «grow» in the measure that each approaches the nature of the other and their characters interact in the depths of the mindand heart; so much so that, with the consciously symbolic exchange of the child, we may be tempted to interpret their essence as some sort of allegory in motion. True, plot too demands a certain interdependence of protagonist and external history, parallels between individual reality and visible happenings in his world, a degree of subordination to the unity of the work. But the requirement of «unity» never curtails the validity of Galdós' treatment, because he does not need to set events in relief according to their causality by means of plot.

Causality is buried in the seeds of character; it unfolds within the circumstances of the story, which thus appears to be a relation according to simple time sequence, close to the most primitive mode of story telling dominated by a «voice». This recognizable tone, no matter how faint it may be at moments, runs through every utterance about what is «happening» and keeps us captive, waiting for the next detail. Of course, in switching back and forth among locales -or minds- Galdós actually operates on the simpler level of plot as well, in the sense that we must suspend our knowledge about some things while proceeding with others, must ponder, relate, anticipate. Yet, as Eoff emphasizes, Galdós never falls back on «static» character to bring about confrontations. This Galdosian preference for life rather than style (in its limited sense) is the core of his artistry, and criticism has rightly concentrated upon his convincing portraits with their palpable substance. But this judgment is only a partial explanation for the fact that Galdosian novels have ample proportions, without having the titanic sense of space and history which, for instance, Tolstoy's War and Peace commands. And the matter of Galdós' expansiveness is not resolved by pointing to his borrowing of the Balzac «panoramic» technique for the purpose of achieving vast scope. The totality of Galdós' creations exhibits a nation and society, of course, but the particular works after the Episodios nacionales usually dilate upon the «ordinary» in various corners of Madrid. The romantic writers had discovered that one could write about a single room because it contained a «story», then that one could examine a building whose inhabitants offered a microcosm, finally that the city was a universe with its own laws. Galdós moves about mainly in interior spaces, secondarily over streets and squares. The royal palace in La de Bringas, a symbolic city within the city, is a visible complex not far removed from Mann's sanatorium in the Zauberberg. But even the latter gives way to the spaciousness of the enveloping landscape of the mountains in many an excursion.

Except for dream passages, Galdós' novels are cut off by their own kind of realism from the universals of Heaven and Hell, Jack the vastness of God's arena, and reach few epiphanies as transcendent as those in the great Russian works of the nineteenth century. The Spaniard may occasionally suggest the shadows of «myth» in the complementary questing of two beings like Fortunata and Jacinta for intangible wholeness in their femininity, but he generally bypasses the enormous for the local and limited sphere. Yet Galdós is exciting, because we sense that he is performing an amazing anatomy, baring the skein of «reality», without reference to any pre-existing Galenic chart. He gives us the simulated experience of being observers, simultaneously, on the informed,   —24→   scientific level and on the more obtuse, involved level. The Galdosian method of characterization is also a distinct statement about reality.

Our world is not peopled by «round» characters alone. Indeed, most individuals of the human race are in our vision quite limited to a few exaggerated traits and features. We cannot see anything but their «flatness» until we learn about their inner life-and even then, we remain to one another and to ourselves largely hidden. From chapter to chapter and novel to novel, Galdós bridges the way as do our own minds. After fleetingly perceiving, we may discover more profoundly. Fortunata, for example, appears briefly in part one in a stark encounter with Juanito. The attractive woman is sucking a raw egg on the doorstep of her aunt's poultry shop. She possesses all the qualities of an artistically achieved «flat» character, because she radiates meaning and implications like an intense apparition. In the back of our minds, we keep waiting impatiently to discover the secrets under the surface vanished from direct view. A similar moment is when María Egipcíaca receives a sudden visit in La familia de León Roch from the mysteriously «ignored» figure called Doña Perfecta. The blood of those who have already read the novel by that name freezes, for they at once sense the meaning of an entire human existence approach; that destiny is fully attested elsewhere in the annals of reality. The complexity of life converges in a symbol, and that is what Galdós «flat» characters make us feel upon first encounter as well. The ability to expand into three and four dimensions his own stereotypes, or to see his formerly «round» figures as accessory shadows on the fringe of a tale, permits Galdós to use the so-called panoramic technique without the introduction of burdensome doctrines to govern or explain their behavior. Naturally, the author sheds his polemical commentary step by step during his career, and not all at once; however, we may point to his achievement as a definite trend after 1880, with the serie contemporánea.8

Galdós' ability to convince us that we experience not shaped art, but life shaping itself, is, of course, the power to conjure illusion -which brings up several subjects for later discussion: his turning to pure dialogue, and his very modern examination of the relativity of «reality». The linkages between clusters of personalities do give us the feeling of experiencing mankind at large in social context. But Galdós does more than depict customs or exposit naturalistic tenets; he is not the secretary listening to Spain's unvarnished dictation, or to any «spirit» which determines and directs our lives. Because his figures develop organically, the creative process is always flowing from the particular to the universal, and institutions are composite products of lives interacting. The energies emanate from within his individuals, and not from any «world spirit» that impinges on humanity; the world is co-existence and nothing more. The rhythm of the psyche informs the individual in reaction to its bodily, social, and intellectual environments. Galdós doubtless conceives his obligation as a realist not merely to record the external, historical «facts», but to listen to the pulse of the secret generator, the flow into consciousness of creative and harmful desires. Because he does not believe in a determinant physical environment, we should not conclude that his interest is solely the «complex of social and moral ideas». Galdós does not penetrate into the intrahistorical flux just for   —25→   «confessional» glimpses; he is out to capture the symphonic simultaneity of humankind.

Individual lives are allowed to sound, fade, interact, now dominate in variations upon themselves, cede to other passages in the music. This musical analogy touches again on the fundamental contrast between pictorial and psychological realism, between «classically» fixed patterns and organic rhythms. In this regard, Galdós' collection of novels should not be associated with Balzac's La comédie humaine, but with Proust's continuum held together by the musical threads of interior existence. Let us not exaggerate the relationship. Galdós is not conscious, as are Proust and Mann, of the literary leitmotif principle based on Wagner's operas. The connection is rather through the artistic affinity of Galdós' developmental characterization and the late nineteenth-century trend toward impressionism -the capturing of moments in their peculiar subtlety which depended on subjective, as well as objective, «reality». Imitation of nature cedes to the orchestration of vital continuity. Galdós must have felt the pull of this creative urge to achieve what Wagner called «total art» -a favorite romantic term. The romantics had already postulated at the start of the nineteenth century the possibility that the novel might become the vehicle for «universality»; also, that every work of art is merely a «fragment». Considering this typical paradox, we can understand that Galdós' period had several choices for the direction it would take in developing romanesque form. The novel did not need to be a sealed unity, in order to avoid being chaotic; it did not have to present a microcosm, in order to reflect an established macrocosm.

Cervantes directly, and not the romantics, taught Galdós about subjectivity. His tendency to shift the «point of view» is evident in his earlier novels. Now he catches the secret revery fading from a character's mind, now he describes persons from without in a context of history, now he projects three-dimensional figures in a scene, with stage directions and dialogue, now he meditates, withholds comment, merely smiles. It is a river fed from many sources. That is why Galdós' interesting experiments in form are not actually complete departures from his predominant method. It may be that the urge to espouse a thesis induces him to move toward pure drama. Dramatization helps tighten form into clear configurations, principle contending with principle. But it also flattens out Galdós' personajes, since their being is concentrated into the explicit words, gestures, motions, the mainly surface phenomena of events subordinated to «plot». Unless mixed in as scenes in the body of a narration, dialogue tends to make figures more opaque and symbolic. What makes Galdós' best creations great art is the third dimension of the mind. A serious objection may be raised that Galdós infrequently treats persons of intellect, or blunts their consequence by making them ineffectual in the management of their lives (e.g., León, Manso). The charge is justified, with the reservation that the author does, nevertheless, demonstrate the possibility of human success on all levels of intelligence. Both a Dr. Centeno and a Benina can redeem life from the powers of decay and despair. Naturalism was in many regards a bad influence on Galdós, keeping his attention too often on human weakness and vice. But since great artists are our only witnesses to reality, except for the chronicle of outward happenings which historians record, we are obliged to accept the   —26→   Galdosian vision of a «disappointing» era. Artists are not good or bad according to the quality of the parade which passes before their eyes, but according to the sharpness of their eyesight. Hopefully, the time is past when chauvinists or hispanophobes will fasten on Galdós personally as «hero» or «villain» for his contribution.

Galdós does not belong to Spain any more than Mann does to Germany or Tolstoy to Russia. Galdós belongs to a great tradition whose standards were established by Cervantes. As an artist, dealing with reality through fiction, he is -in a different context from Nazarín's- «un árabe manchego» (V, 1729), a Benengeli and indulgent critic of him, a strange mixture of different layers of consciousness. Galdós' modernity is seen in his matching of two novels about the same subject. La incógnita is his only fully epistolary work, and tells its story through the exchange between two friends. Manolo writes to Equis about the strange events which are the talk of Madrid and with which he has intimate connection, yet the lowest level of understanding. Even in observing himself, Manolo can but dimly see through the opacity of the living persons whose relationship -a love triangle- he explains only obliquely to Equis. Equis and the reader must probe and construct hypotheses through the agency of the distant viewer on the spot, and through his reports of the numerous theories current in Madrid. Realidad (novela en cinco jornadas) brings the principals and Manolo on stage; now we witness directly the dramatic action whose surface was reported. Much of the play consists of internal monologues with many analogies to O'Neill's technique in Strange Interlude, except that Galdós' figures, especially Federico, often ponder the enigma of their relationships and the problematic aspects of «deception». Augusta, his lover, seems impelled to recreate ordinary life as a higher, exciting «reality»: «Yo apetezco lo extraño, eso que con desprecio llaman novelesco los tontos, juzgando las novelas más sorprendentes que la realidad» (V, 851). Orozco, her husband, is attempting to discover «ultimate reality by and within himself», elevating himself through spiritual discipline and abstractly observing his own reactions, with increasing alienation from the world he pretends to serve.9 If we follow the detective work of Manolo as a figure inside of the drama and accept his conclusions about the participants, it is only to find out he is wrong.

Introspection dominates the being of these uncommon personages in quest of reality -and certainty. But in their world truth is not fixed; it changes with their groping, and in a sense, they are producing it as they move along the pathways of the psyche, rather than «discovering» it. No one character possesses it, nor by implication do we have more than a partial view as audience to the spectacle of our own existence. Galdós seems to foreshadow the modern theatre's theme of inexorable loneliness within the walls of one's own mind: «No hay simpatía espiritual» (924). Only the symbolic perceptions and occurrences such as Orozco's vision of the suicide's image, have convincing intensity; and yet, these we understand to be not supernatural, but psychological epiphanies. They too are not final guides. For all the differences in possible philosophic intent, the writing of two works, one about the other, foreshadows the twentiethcentury «novel of a novel» -as done, for instance, by Mann for Doctor Faustus or by Gide within Les faux-monnayeurs. Galdós does not revive the old romantic   —27→   technique of purposeful, ironic disruption of the simple «illusion» of fiction by constant commentary upon the work of art itself. Nevertheless, his separation of the same story into two generic presentations forces upon us the task of reflecting about such an «illusion» and relating it to the human condition. Federico puzzles over the fact that «fictions» of the mind have their own strange validity: «La realidad del hecho [a talk with «la sombra de Orozco»] en mí la siento; pero este fenómeno interno, ¿es lo que vulgarmente llamamos realidad?» (899).

These paired «novel» and «novela dialogada» offer us many insights: into Galdós' artistry, for in one respect they are an analysis, i.e., a «taking apart», of his realism. On the one hand, there is the historical method. In La incógnita, a «witness» interprets and records somewhat as would a Jamesian obtuse narrator. Characters are introduced, described according to visible traits, and their known statements about one another, as well as reportable observations of other parties concerning them, are given. Our task is to assess all this information for what it may be worth; we too become «historians». On the other hand, there is the psychological method. By a direct intrusion into the intrahistorical mind processes, we learn what it is ordinarily impossible to know. In this regard, Realidad is «unreal»; it goes so far beyond the limited asides and glimpses of dreams in older drama that it is part of the symbolic «realism» of a new age in art, when distinctions between hard fact and meaningful fantasy dissolve. These distinctions are only a further subject for profound meditation, but no longer divide the realms of our experience into that which is «false» versus that which is «true». In dialogue passages set within his novels, Galdós does not use this fuller revelation of psychic truths but simply portrays an action which we must look at from the outside. In La desheredada, for example, or in Miau, he is only affording us a close-up experience of actual scenes, tiny documentaries still part of outer, historical reality. Just as dramatization of stories can suddenly force us to change our perspective, so now in Realidad omniscient peering into the hearts of dramatis personae jolts us from any complacent projections into the artistic illusion's mere surface. Basically, the Galdosian method of narration comprises several points of view; the author's «reality» is multidimensional, in keeping with his Cervantine heritage.

Our theme has been limited to one aspect of Galdós, his ability to move back and forth with multiple vantage points. This was not a kind of intellectualism that could enfeeble the Spanish novel of the nineteenth century, which was in the rut of simply describing habits and customs, and only rarely motives.10 While one may admire the aesthetic accomplishment of a writer like James in maintaining a unified point of view and perfect plot, that order of mastery is at a price too. Jamesian characters are usually so subordinated to the beautiful pattern of his books that their lives are held in check; lives are nasty, uncooperative, always threatening to go off on their own with the «reason of unreason» that impels them, and must be «domesticated» to conform to his pattern. Galdós is quite aware of himself as a creator, with his own way of doing things. The subject matter of which he wants to speak -life in Spain- seems paramount to him; the subject itself suggests the shape of a plan.

Ya sé que mi estilo no parece estilo a muchos que buscan...; buscan otra cosa.   —28→   Creen que lo mío es fácil. Yo les entiendo; comprendo que trabajen. Pero sería demasiada inocencia si yo me entretuviera en esos perfiles con tantas cosas que tengo que contar. Para mí el estilo empieza en el plan... Comprenderá usted que dando tal extensión al estilo, ya puedo despreocuparme un poco de lo que para ustedes es esencial y casi cínico... En general, los arrepentimientos que yo tengo no son por errores de estilo, sino por precipitaciones de plan.11

Galdós does not eschew practicing any tricks of the trade, but they are secondary. Considering him as one of that breed of writers of mammoth appetite, the hearty digestion which absorbs life without too many qualms or finickiness, we must, however, also ask whether Galdós is merely robust or indeed has a sensitive palate.

We may apply his own standard here to the theme of man's many-layered world of dream and waking, illusion and reality. For purposes of illustration, one example must suffice of the growth of his artistry. In the chapter «El deshielo» in León Roch, María is traveling in great perturbation of soul by coach to reclaim her husband. The moment is masterfully portrayed. Her anxiety that is nigh to blindness, the internal ruminations as she rehearses and worries over her encounter to come are put in compact relief in this paragraph:

No se fijó en ningún accidente del camino ni en nada de lo que veía. Para ella, el coche rodaba por una región vacía y oscura. No obstante, como acontece cuando en el pensamiento se embuten ideas de un orden determinado y exclusivo, María, que no observaba las cosas grandes y dignas de ser notadas, se hizo cargo de algunas insignificantes o pequeñísimas. Así es que vió un pájaro muerto en el camino y un letrero de taberna al que faltaba una a; no vió pasar el coche del tranvía, y vió que el cochero de él era tuerto. Esto, que parece absurdo, era la cosa más natural del mundo.

(IV, 880)                

This passage already reveals the greatness of a maturing novelist. The veracity of his pinpointing of salient details, the successful impression of vague psychological time, while a large measure of external time must be flowing by, and the irrational suggestiveness of the «things» of a peculiar reality which her mind isolates all combine convincingly. There is also the virtually «surrealistic» quality of her journey that makes it into a «sign», like appearances of the balloon-man as a «herald» in Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Yet Galdós is so taken with his own achieved «truth» and the theory behind it that he cannot refrain from interpreting for us. Or perhaps he is eager that we not miss the point, because it is important.

In chapter thirty of Miau, Galdós portrays a similar traumatic moment when Abelarda, meeting Victor in church for what she thought was an amorous tryst, is fathoming the scoundrel's smooth speech -and needing to look at the statue of the saint by his name with the question «si aquello era verdad o sueño» (V, 669). Victor has cruelly toyed with her and now is breaking their relationship. Abandoned, in a state of shock, Abelarda kneels at the altar unable to pray.

El Cristo, mucho mayor que la imagen de su madre, extendíase por el muro arriba, tocando al techo del templete con su corona de abrojos, y estirando los brazos a increíble distancia. Abajo velas, los atributos de la Pasión, exvotos de cera, un cepillo con los bordes de la hendidura mugrientos, y el hierro del candado muy roñoso; el paño del altar goteado de cera; la repisa pintada imitando jaspe. Todo lo miraba la señorita de Villaamil, no viendo el conjunto, sino los detalles más ínfimos, clavando   —29→   sus ojos aquí y allí como aguja que picotea sin penetrar, mientras su alma se apretaba contra la esponja henchida de amargor, absorbiéndolo todo.


The dream-like reality of her emotional crisis simply happens. The outer «facts» and the inner pressure interact. Instead of explaining what is occurring and why, Galdós demonstrates it with immediacy. And the fundamental human experience of desolation flows naturally into the symbolism of the environment itself. The author still intervenes to a certain extent, by speaking about her «soul», but since we have already submitted with Abelarda to the moment, this statement only lifts us gently onto a slightly higher plane, from the intensity of inner truth to a conscious paradigm.

Not many hours later, Abelarda conceives a strange antipathy toward her nephew Luisito, whom she has hitherto treated affectionately, and it develops steadily into an urge to murder him. Here Galdós slips back into «scientific» explanation, because he may fear that the reader will balk at the next events. He links her insane desire with the already violent hatred for her own father, «hostilidad contraria a la naturaleza, fruto, sin duda, de una de esas auras epileptiformes que subvierten los sentimientos primarios en el alma» (671). But such naturalistic asides do not very much upset us, for they are less frequent and more and more offset by the penetrating veracity of what he narrates. The scene in the bedroom which aunt and nephew share is uncanny, a plunge into the grotesque region of human mentality from which tragedy springs, and yet a sublime moment of insight into the affinity of «dream» and «reality». Little Luisito cries out in his sleep:

-Le veo las piernas negras, con manchurrones de sangre; le veo las rodillas con unos cardenales muy negros, tiíta..., tengo mucho miedo... ¡Ven, ven!


Even while his aunt is on the verge of killing him, Luis' thoughts turn to the «other God», a dignified grandfathergod who does not frighten him like the image in the chapel. Galdós weaves together the motifs of divine immolation and human agony. Thus Luis' nightmare assumes a quality of truth, becomes as it were oracular. The ominous linking of the two figures, the victim Son-of-Man and the Father, is later confirmed when grandfather Villaamil kills himself. Luisito translates the vibrations of other minds into his own distorted dreams; however, these specters have validity in analogy to the evident symbolism of our world, notably the «mythic» pattern in Christian belief.

Not patterns of plot, but patterns of reality come forward in Galdós' novels. They are clearest in a novel like La de Bringas, with its odd beginning -a thorough description of a picture made of bits and pieces of hair. This frivolous composition progresses parallel to the Galdosian relation of events in the life of a government employee's family up to the revolution; a space of months, during which we explore the ever more ramshackle «inner city» of the palace, until the evanescent reality there established is swept away, like the hair-picture. It is a fitting «cenotafio» (IV, 1562) for the period coming to an end, and in it we sense Galdós' powers of whimsical irony over our transitory show. Likewise, the fevers and vomiting fits of the little Bringas girl are not just arbitrary local «color», but hint at a pattern in the larger world -which we first understand fully when the nation has its fever and casts out its tokens of indigestion (including   —30→   Bringas, hair-artist). Rosalía de Bringas is also cast out, economically, or rather, must expel any unrealistic moral principles: «El tiempo ahogaba; la situación no admitía espera» (1645). Galdós could have ended his novel here and earned the reputation of constructing a neat plot shape. But he cannot resist continuing with several confrontations which Rosalía now has to experience. The meeting with Refugio really forms a short story in itself. But Galdós does not believe that a pat fiction can be superimposed on reality; fiction ultimately subserves realism. And he knows, as he often enough says in his chapter headings, that where one story ends another begins. All these stories together first suggest the story of humankind, for the telling of which great patience and lofty irony are required.

State University of New York, Binghamton.