Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The Santa Cruz dry-goods store in Madrid, established in the eighteenth century, provides an income for Juanito Santa Cruz. Graduating from the university at the age of twenty-four, he is not yet ready to take his place in the family business. He wants to enjoy life, and Barbara Santa Cruz, his mother, spoils him. Her chief adviser is a former clerk, Placido Estupiñá, who smuggles goods into the city in his spare time.
At the home of a fellow student, Juanito meets the attractive Fortunata and takes her as his mistress. Shortly afterward, Estupiñá finds out about the affair, and Juanito’s mother contracts for him a marriage with his beautiful but passive cousin, Jacinta. They are married in May, 1871. When they return from their honeymoon, Fortunata leaves Madrid.
Jacinta discovers in the passing years that she cannot have children. Learning some details of her husband’s earlier affair with Fortunata, including the fact that his mistress bore him a son nicknamed Petusin, she wonders whether it is her duty to take care of the child. In the meantime, Juanito is told that Fortunata is back in Madrid. He immediately begins to look for her, but his search ends when a lung infection disables him for a long time.
Among Fortunata’s admirers is the ill-favored and schizophrenic Maximiliano Rubín, the orphan of a goldsmith, who, like his two brothers, is subject to violent headaches. Thin and weak, he was reared by his Aunt Lupe,...
(The entire section is 1161 words.)
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