Realism as Resistance: Romanticism and Authorship in Galdós, Clarín, and Baroja

By Denise Dupont | Go to book overview

5
La Regenta and the Hegemony
of the Female Author

IN LA REGENTA (1884–85), LEOPOLDO ALAS EXPLORES HYPOCRISY IN the provinces during the Restoration period. The primary “story” of the novel is the struggle of the female protagonist, Ana de Ozores, to resist her would-be seducer, the popular Àlvaro Mesía, while negotiating a satisfactory relationship with her confessor Fermín de Pas, who falls in love with her. In the description of these complex dynamics, the novel teems with references to the characters’ previous readings, which structure the protagonists’ conceptions of their relationships with each other. In general, Clarín’s central characters are aware of the pitfalls of quixotism, and at least attempt to resist the idealism they associate with a “poetic” mentality and with immaturity.

At the same time, just as Gabriel Araceli and Manuel Alcázar are drawn to romanticism, Ana craves the excitement she experiences alternately as religious fervor and as worldly passion, while Fermín longs for romantic love with Ana, and Álvaro is affected in spite of himself by poetry and melodrama. Nevertheless, each character is aware that this romantic heritage is out of date—inappropriate for the “prosaic” world of the late nineteenth century. Much of the novel focuses on the characters’ anxieties about their lingering “poetic” conceptions, and we must acknowledge these internal conflicts if we wish to understand the relationships they develop with each other. Recognizing that their idealistic habits of thought do not fit (Restoration) life, Fermín, Álvaro, and Ana all try to diffuse their responsibility for romanticism by projecting it onto a reader. The characters believe that if they can position themselves as authors with a reader dependent on them, even if what they produce are romantic texts, the authorial role accords them superiority and thus protection. In other words,

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