Saturday, February 8, 2014

Doña Perfecta notes

Doña Perfecta
Benito Pérez Galdós
Translation and introduction by Harriet de Onís
Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. (Hauppauge, New York), 1960
ISBN 0-8120-0057-9

I.               Villahorrenda! Five Minutes!

Train station at Villahorrenda, then horse to Orbajosa.

-       Don José de Rey (Pepe Rey): Doña Perfecta’s nephew
-       Pedro Luas (Uncle Licurgo): Doña Perfecta’s servant. Called Solon and lacedemonian in play on name (Lycurgus)
-       Don Cayetano Polentinos: brother-in-law to Perfecta

II.             A Trip through the Heart of Spain

-       Rosario: Perfecta’s daughter

(6) About the difference between place names and their reality: “In this country the blind would be happy, for it’s paradise to the tongue and inferno to the eyes.”
Los Alamillos de Bustanante: the land Pepe Rey’s mother left him. Many neighboring landowners have encroached on his land and farming it.

-       Uncle Parsolargo (‘the Philosopher’): neighbor that farms on Pepe’s land

(9)names of robbers

-       Señor Caballuco: mail carrier; formerly a powerful person in the area (town inspector).

There is a history of guerilla resistance in the area, and there are rumors (in Madrid) of an uprising here.

(15) Description of Obrajosa: a down-in-the-dumps kind of town. Has seen better days.
(16) Pepe: “The historic city of Orbajosa (it has already been said the place names are imaginary) whose name is undoubtedly a corruption of urbs augusta, looks like a big dunghill.” [Definitely not a ‘majestic city.’]

III.           Pepe Rey

Pepe’s father bails out Perfecta after her husband died. Galdós uses the debt the husband was in to make comments about the ruinous nature of life in Madrid (debt, gambling, creditors).

Pepe is an engineer. Due to his father’s money he doesn’t have to constantly work…takes jobs when he wants to. He is approaching 34 years old at the start of the story. (Early months…cold…of the year…probably late 1860s)


Brigadier General Rey (died 1841). Pepe’s grandfather.

Juan (attorney). Marries Maria Polentinos (she dies in 1845). Pepe’s father. One son: José de Rey, or Pepe

Perfecta. Marries Manuel Maria José de Polentinos. Pepe’s aunt (Juan’s sister). One daughter: Rosario (Rosarito)

Cayetano Plentinos: brother to the Polentinos listed above. Pepe’s uncle.

IV.           The Arrival of the Cousin

-       Señor Don Inocencio: Perfecta’s father confessor (note the continual play on names). Over 60 years old.

-       Rosario: not naturally beautiful, but not ugly either. A “girl of delicate and fragile appearance which bespoke a tendency toward what the Portuguese call saudade.” (26) [Saudade is ‘an untranslatable word referring to tender and happy recollections accompanied by thoughts of regret and a vague yearning.’ Note on page 26]

Pepe is charmed by Rosario. Uncle Licurgo keeps saying he wants to speak to Pepe about a matter but keeps hesitating, claiming he doesn’t want to do it now.

V.             Will Dissension Arise?

Pepe claims he hates the “falseness and farce of what’s known as high society,” (30) saying he would like to settle down in a place full of Nature. When asked of his impression of Orbajosa, though, he speaks of the want in the town (all the beggars). Inocencio is very defensive about the town.

VI.           Wherein It Appears That Disharmony May Emerge Where Least Expected

Cayetano is a scholar and book collector.
Inocencio says he hates the way science is currently being taught: (37-8) “[S]cience, as it’s studied and taught today by the moderns spells the death of feeling and of pleasant illusions. The life of the spirit falters, everything comes down to fixed rules, and even the sublime enchantments of Nature are dimmed. Science destroys the wonders of the arts as well as faith in the soul. Science says that everything is a lie… The noble reveries of the soul, its mystical rapture, the very inspiration of poets—all lies.”

Inocencio very knowledgeable of classics. Drops in phrases of Virgil and others often.
The way Inocencio puts things irritates Pepe, who wants to annoy and embarrass him (and his backwards ways).
Pepe admits what the father confessor says is true but it isn’t science’s fault that it “is constantly destroying false idols, superstitions, sophistry, the thousand lies of the past, some of them beautiful, others ridiculous… .” (39)
He’s proud science is dealing a death-blow to the world of illusion and mysticism in religion, just as the pagan gods fell.
“In short, dear Father, orders have been issued to cease and desist from all the absurdities, falsehoods, illusions, dreams, sentimentalities, and preoccupations which obfuscate man’s understanding. Let us rejoice it has come to pass.” (40)
Pepe’s speech is a bombshell at the table, so he tries to defuse it by saying he was only talking nonsense.

VII.         The Misunderstanding Grows

Pepe claims he is talking nonsense to annoy the priest. The priest is smarter than he lets on (or seems to be), but he is still annoyed that Pepe tries to weasel out of his statement.

Two worlds represented, faith and science, neither valuing the other. Each claims to do so, though.

Pepe speaks out against lawyers and lawsuits: “Spain’s worst and most terrible plague is the mob of young men trained in law, whose very existence depends upon a multitude of law-suits. Disputes multiply in proportion to the supply of lawyers. Even so, a great many of them are idle, and since an attorney can’t turn a hand to the plow nor sit down to the loom, the result is that brilliant troupe of loafers, full of pretensions, who are always jockeying for office, disturbing the body politic, working up public opinion, and fomenting revolution.” (44)

-       Jacintillo: the father confessor’s nephew, just graduated as a lawyer

VIII.       With All Speed

-       Don Lorenzo Ruiz: the best lawyer in Orbajosa.

(47-8) Rosario thinks Pepe doesn’t belong in Orbajosa. “You won’t find what you need here.”

Rosario keeps dismissing herself as a peasant.
Pepe and Rosario declare their love for each other.

IX.           Dissonance Grows and Threatens to Become Discord

Priest gets his agronomy from the Georgics.
Perfecta scolds Pepe for not showing devotion or respect when he visited the church.

(62) Pepe becomes hostile and belligerent when he’s unable to dominate.
(64) He insults everything about the church, including the Most Blessed Virgin of Perpetual Help (Perfecta is a lady-in-waiting to the image and made the dress that Pepe insulted; Rosario made the baby Jesus’ clothes)

X.             Open Discord

(67) Jacinto warns Pepe about an upcoming suit. Uncle Licurgo has hired Jacinto to represent him.

At Perfecta’s house this evening:
-       Judge of the Lower Court (70-71)
-       The Mayor’s wife (71-72)
-       The Dean (72), who scorns Pepe
Pepe—not a good presentation at the social gathering

Orbajosa proud of its accomplishments. “This humble land of the garlic.” (75)

XI.           The Discord Grows

Common belief in Orbajosa on the superiority of the town and its inhabitants. “All of them devoid of lofty ambitions.” (76)

(77) Hostile to everything from outside. Rumors spread about Pepe in the casino. Pepe is frank with his thought, which makes enemies.

(79) Lawsuits coming from every front regarding his property. He is ready to leave but his stubborn side comes out and he stays.

-       Caballuco: the mail carrier mentioned above. Cristóbal Ramos.

Perfecta continues to scheme in order to make Pepe leave. She invites Jacintillo over and shows her sympathy for Uncle Licurgo.

-       Uncle Pasolargo:

XII.         This was Troy

Pepe begins to suspect there is a plot to keep him away from Rosario.

-       Don Juan Tafetán: one of the few men at the casino to be nice to Pepe

-       The Troya girls: stigmatized by poverty. Their frivolous actions fly in the face of Orbajosa’s seriousness.

o   María Juana Troya (Mariquita Juana)
o   Pepa Troya
o   Florentina Troya

-       Maria Remedios: Inocencio’s niece (mother of Jacintillo). The Troya girls call her Suspiritos (“Lady of the Sighs”)

-       Nicolasito Hernández: userer in town

Pepe follows Juan Tafetán to the Troya residence. The girls play pranks on people passing by and neighbors.

XIII.       Casus Belli

The Troya sisters nickname Jacintillo “Don Nominavite” (mispronouncing ‘nominative,’ from Jacintillo practicing his Latin)

XIV.       Discord Grows Apace

Perfecta keeps Pepe from seeing Rosario.

Inocencio’s reasoning: “We take notice of everything the neighbors do. With such a system of vigilance, the public morality is kept at a high level.” (105)

Pepe impulsively says he will leave that evening. Perfeta, the father confessor, and Jacintillo are all delighted and ready to help him leave.

XV.         It Grows Until War is Declared

The chapters are somewhat misleading because it is clear there was already a war. Pepe is only beginning to realize it, though.

Caballuco is a suitor for one of the Troya girls, Marquita Juana. He brusquely deals with Pepe, jealous of Pepe’s visit with the girls earlier that day. The maid gives Pepe a note from Rosario: “They say you’re leaving. I shall die.” (111)

Pepe, defiant, decides to stay. Perfecta looks at the assembly “as a general runs his eye over his favorite troops.” (111) Which is what she I, marshaling her forces.

XVI.       Night

Don Cayetano, the scholar (page 114-5), on the idealized vision of Orbajosa. : “Thanks to me, it will be clear that Orbajosa is the illustrious cradle of Spanish genius. But what am I saying? Isn’t their illustrious stock already widely recognized in the nobility, the chivalry of the present urbsaugustine generation? We know of few localities where the plants and shrubs of the virtues grow more luxuriantly, free from the noxious weeds of vice. Here all is peace, mutual respect, Christian humility. Charity is practiced here as in the times of the Gospel; here envy is unknown; here criminal passions are unknown, and if you hear talk about thieves and murderers, you may be sure they are not the sons of this noble land, or if so, that they belong to the number of those unfortunates who are led astray by demagogic preachments. You will see here the national character in all its purity—upright, honorable, incorruptible, clean, simple patriarchal, hospitable, generous.”

XVII.     Light in the Darkness

Rosario and Pepe secretly meet in the family chapel. Rosario really is sick, confirming Perfecta’s story. They talk—Pepe reassures her. He declares he isn’t an atheist. He tells her she is being manipulated and bewitched (without going into detail). She allows herself to be reassured.

Humor—Pepe hits his head on the feet of the image of Christ in the chapel.

The sound of a bugle—soldiers coming?
Rosario returns to her room but does not come to the window as promised.

XVIII.   Soldiers

Orbajosa “boasted of a kind of rebellious independence, regrettable traces of anarchy which on occasion had caused the governor of the province many headaches.” (129)

“In spite of its decadence, it still felt from time to time a violent urge to great things, even though they might prove in the end to be follies and barbarous acts. (129)

Good things may still cause “an infinity of detestable results.” (130)

Orbajosa—“neither very near nor very far from Madrid”. Galdós repeatedly makes clear he’s making the place up.

Billeting orders for soldiers in houses of Orbajosa. Perfecta puts the soldier assigned to her house into the same room as Pepe Rey. They turn out to be old friends.

-       Pinzón: the soldier billeted to Perfecta’s house. (a lieutenant colonel)

Pinzón on Orbajosa (133): “Here’s a town dominated by people who teach suspicion, superstition and hatred of the whole human race.” Perfecta is one, of course, although no one ever talks bad about her. She protects her own with a fanatical tenacity.

XIX.        Heavy Fighting—Strategy

Even the language in the chapter takes on military tones: “like a merciless artillery barrage,” for example.

Perfecta’s mien: “a sinister radiance”

Pepe on Perfecta’s plot (139): “I did love and I do love Rosario. You seemed to accept me as a son. After receiving me with deceitful cordiality, you employed from the beginning every trick to thwart me and to prevent the fulfillment of the promises you made to my father. From the first day, you set out to irritate me, to wear me down, and with smiles and loving words on your lips, you have been trying to destroy me, roasting me over a slow fire. You have turned loose a swarm of lawsuits, attacking me in the dark with perfect safety to yourself. You have stripped me of the official commission I brought to Orbajosa. You have destroyed my reputation in the town. You have had me expelled from the Cathedral. You have constantly kept me away from the girl of my choice. You have tortured your daughter with an inquisitorial confinement which may cost her her life if God does not intervene.”

Perfecta—quite the monster
(140) Perfecta confesses to his accusations, but asks him not to judge.
(141) “Isn’t it permissible sometimes to use indirect means to achieve a good and honorable end?” (contrast to the detestable results from good events) “My conscience is clear. Do you understand? I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.”
(142) She believes her religious faith gives her additional insight: “You see the effect but not the causes. Anyone who doesn’t believe in God can’t see causes.”
Perfecta comes clean on her intentions: don’t marry my daughter. She’s guilty of judging, the same as she asks Pepe not to do to her.
Pepe as defiant and disrespectful as Perfecta.

(147) Pepe’s logic: “I’m doing only what societies do when brute power, as illogical as it is exasperating, stand in the way of their progress.”
Progress? In this case, it’s his happiness.
Pepe notes that each party is guilty and leaves the house.

XX.          Rumors, Alarums

-       the widow Cusco: owns the inn where Pepe moved after leaving Perfeta’s house.
Pinzón—angry at Orbajosa for a) the murder of his father in 1848, and b) his second stationing there, and c) the way the city treats Pepe. He helps Pepe how he can, trying to stay on Perfecta’s good side.

-       Librada: maid in the household. Pinzón bribes her to smuggle notes from Pepe to Rosario.
-       Brigadier Batalla: leader of the soldiers in the area.

Pinzón informs Perfecta and guests of government changes. The Lower Court Judge, Periquito, removed from office. As well as the Governor, Mayor, and others.

XXI.        Arise! To Arms!

154-5: names of bandits

Cristóbal Ramos meets peasants going to Perfecta’s house:
-       Señor Pasolargo (and son, Bartolomé)
-       Frasquito González (boy)
-       Vejarruco (José Estéban Romero)

Meeting at Perfecta’s house (with Lucurgo present)
Perfecta scornful of C. Ramos (nichknaed “the Centaur”). His nephew is Juan, age 13.

Perfecta manipulates the men, especially Ramos, against Pepe. Riles them up against her nephew and the soldiers.

XXII.      Awake!

-       Francisco Acero: leader of the rebels in the Orbajosa area

Perfecta effectively fomented the revolt, first passively, then actively
Incencio join in shaming/prodding Ramos.

(169) Constantly overstating Madrid’s flaws, calling it a “cesspool of corruption, of scandal, of antireligion and unbelief, a handful of evil men, bought by foreign gold” trying to “destroy the seeds of the faith in our Spain.”
Yet their behavior is just as bad. At least their sins are for a good cause, of course. Their rumors and scare tactics are so over-the-top to be laughable.

Everything is cloaked in religion. Incencio appeals to the peasants’ nobility while refusing to incite them to arms. Calling a man a coward is more powerful than the appeal to religion.

Caballuco smashes the table with his hands, breaking it in two.

QUOTE: (174)
Then their eyes moved to the never sufficiently admired Rinaldo, or Caballuco. Undoubtedly there was a kind of air or greatness, a vestige, or rather an echo, of the great races which have ruled the world in his handsome face, his green eyes alight with a peculiar feline glare, his black hair, his herculean body. But his general appearance reflected a pitiful degeneration, and it was difficult to see traces of his noble and heroic stock in his present brutishness. He resembled Don Cayetano’s great men as a mule resembles a horse.

The degeneration of Spain as summed up in Caballuco’s character. He has allowed himself to be manipulated by Perfecta and Incencio. Doubly pitiful.

XXIII.    A Mystery

Rosario temporarily missing. Librada confesses her part in the knavery, passing letters between the two lovers. Librada believes the wooer, though, is Lt. Col. Pinzón.

Incencio and Perfecta suspect Pepe immediately.

XXIV.    The Confession

Rosario’s confession. She is torn between feelings: love of Pepe and love of God (as she has been taught).

She is a victim several times over—very sympathetic character. And very moving. She equates rebelling against her manipulative mother as rebelling against God.

She also confesses “Lord, I abhor my mother.” (179)

Rosario’s dream: She dreams she is out in the garden, looking back inside the house. The usual occupants were distorted, almost like animals and dragons. She feels she is being watched, too.

XXV.      Unforeseen Happenings—A Passing Disagreement

Perfecta in Inocencios’ library. Titles by Virgil, Ovid, Martial, Tibullus, Cicero, Titus Livius, Tacitus, Lucretius, Juvenal, Plautus, Seneca, Quintilian, Sallust, both Plinys, Suetonius, Varro, Livius Andronicus, Rutilius.

María Remedios spying for Perfecta. She keeps counseling Perfecta to scare Pepe, maybe break a few bones, “but of course no serious wounds.” (184)

The reasoning of Perfecta: (186) “God will send him his punishment by one of his own admirable means. The only thing we can do is to work to remove any obstacles to God’s designs, María Remedios.”

Many arrests, although many get away to Villahorrenda. As with everything else, the powerful get awy “while the little fellows are persecuted mercilessly.” (192)

XXVI.    María Remedios

(194) Commonly, maternal love not always “accompanied by complete purity of heart and by perfect honesty, it may run wild and become transformed into a frenzy, which, like any other uncontrolled passion, can lead to great errors and catastrophes.” The bold-faced section has become a recurring theme.

(197-9) Inocencio admits defeat on the dreamed marriage. He admits his part in the plot with Perfecta. Perfecta’s mind was initially troubled by all the plots but Inocencio calmed her. (probably put the ‘clearing of obstacles’ in her mind)

“Subtle stratagems without sin” were OK, but he has given up hope.

XXVII.  A Canon’s Torment

-       Tinieblas: Inocencia’s father, the sexton of San Bernardo.

María Remedios can’t let go of giving Pepe a good scare, thinking that will solve everything.

So much bragging by Orbajosa people. They talk a good game. A verbal dance between Inocencio and Ramos.

(211) Inocencio turns into Pilate with the continual prodding of Perfecta and others: “I wash my hands.”

XXVIII.         From Pepe Rey to Don Juan Rey
(letters from April 12 to April 20)

Stubbornness and honor have become so conjoined and commingled in my mind that the idea of desisting and yielding would shame me.” (211)

Pepe explains why he’s not following the dad’s advice. He finds himself capable of wrongdoing much easier now because of anger and love—the swings in emotion (uncontrolled passions). He let’s his dad know that Perfecta (his dad’s sister) is responsible for all that has happened to him.

In a sense Pepe and Perfecta act as if their responses are natural—the other person is responsible, and their response is in defense.

(213) Truth is no longer as important to Pepe as resolving everything in his favor. His conscience has become a hell because of this, “equally disposed toward good and evil.”

(214) “The Orbajosans have in their very spirit this hostility toward us [city dwellers] and the Government, and it forms a part of them like a religious faith.”

(215) Pepe’s take on the situation:
Here the most antiquated ideas concerning society, religion, the State, and property are generally accepted. The religious fanaticism which impels them to use force against the Government in the defense of a faith which no one has attacked and which they themselves don’t actually possess, revives feudal feelings in their souls; and since they would settle their disputes by brute force and by fire and bloodshed, slaughtering anyone who doesn’t think as they do, they believe that no one in the wide world would use other methods.”

Last letter—April 20, letting his father know he will see him soon (implied with Rosario.

XXIX.    From Pepe Rey to Rosarito Polentinos

Employing Estebanillo, in the Perfecta household.

XXX.      Stalking the Game

Ramos and Remedios—follow Pepe through streets during the night. They hear Pepe enter the garden. María Remedios goes to knock on the door to rouse the household.

XXXI.    Doña Perfecta

(221) “Just as some people although ugly, repel, Doña Perfecta repelled.”

(222) Perfecta encased in a shell. “Her irreproachable conduct and outward benevolence” … “were the basis of her great prestige in Orbajosa.”
Her relationship with important ladies in Madrid provided the basis for her to get Pepe fired.

The key to Perfecta was her hate.
Hating, she possessed the fiery vehemence of a guardian angel, of hatred and discord among men. This is the effect of religious fervor on a character which is hard and without native goodness when it draws its lifeblood from narrow dogmas which serve ecclesiastical interests only, instead of nourishing itself on its conscience and the truth revealed in principles as simple as they are beautiful. (222)

Rosario confesses to Perfecta she is leaving with Pepe.

(225) Perfecta thinks she is the only one who can absolve Rosario of sin.
Rosario faints when María Remedios tells them Pepe is in the garden. Perfecta urges Ramos to shoot. Shots are fired.

XXXII.  From Don Cayetano Polentinos to a Friend in Madrid

A series of letters from Cayetano, initially focusing on books he wants. In the previous chapter Galdós ties up loose ends, explaining how Perfecta manipulated things.

Perfecta lies about Pepe’s death, saying he shot himself. Cayetano says Perfecta is a good Christian.

The war in Spain (the reason the soldiers sent to the province) parallels the war between science and religion. Peasants declare the “audacity of the government” while they don’t realize that religion claims the same purchase over them. The misunderstanding between the state and the people seems to be the same between religion and science.

I deplore this war which is taking on alarming proportions; but I recognize that our brave peasants are not responsible for it, for they have been provoked to bloody battle by the audacity of the Government, by the demoralization of its sacrilegious delegates, by the systematic fury with which the representatives of the State attack what is most venerated by the conscience of the people—religious faith and pure Hispanicism—which have luckily been preserved in places not yet infected by the devastating pestilence. When an attempt is made to despoil a people of its soul in order to implant another soul; to despoil it of its birthright, let us say, by altering its feelings, its customs, its ideas, it is natural that the people should defend itself like a man on a solitary road when assailed by vicious thieves. (230-1)

Earned? Very quixotic.

Rosario goes mad. (A so-called family congenital illness)
Inocencio quits and doesn’t receive guests—guilt?

(232) Word goes out how Pepe’s death “as it did indeed occur”

Inocencio shuns his job and life. Don Cayetano mourns his loss: “I think many years will pass before we have another like him. Our glorious Spain is finished, it is annihilated, it is dying.” (234)

Ironic, of course, since that is what should be dying off.

Perfecta deteriorates, tries to absolve her guilt in religion and charity. “Thanks to her, the faith has regained its former splendor in Orbajosa.” (235) Purchased through guilt and Pepe’s life, of course.


(No title given) Here’s the chapter:

This story is ended For the moment, it is all we can say concerning people who appear to be good and are not.

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