Study Guide

Saint Emmanuel the Good, Martyr

by Miguel de Unamuno

Saint Emmanuel the Good, Martyr Essay - Critical Essays


Religious Philosophy of the Priest

Unamuno’s central concern in “Saint Emmanuel the Good, Martyr” is with religious faith and religious doubt. As a young woman, Angela expresses complete devotion to the Catholic faith, fully accepting its religious tenets. Her brother Lazarus, on the other hand, returns from America confident in his lack of religious faith. Through their association with Don Emmanuel over a period of years, Angela and Lazarus learn of the priest’s secret loss of faith, which he conceals with an outward display of devotion. Through the writing of her memoir, Angela comes to understand and appreciate the complexity of Don Emmanuel’s lack of faith, as well as his conviction that people need religion in order to live.

Don Emmanuel...

(The entire section is 1476 words.)

He That Eateth of This Bread Shall Live Forever

At the thematic and structural centre of Unamuno’s San Manuel Bueno, mártir (1931), lies a passage whose significance has been completely overlooked. Here, the narrator, Ángela Carballino, describes her brother’s reception of the Holy Communion:

Y llegó el dia de su comunión, ante el pueblo todo, con el pueblo todo. Cuando llegó la vez a mi hermano pude ver que Don Manuel, tan blanco como la nieve de enero en la montaña y temblando como tiembla el lago cuando le hostiga el cierzo, se le acercó con la sagrada forma en la mano, y de tal modo te temblaba ésta al arrimarla a la boca de Lázaro, que se le cayó la forma a tiempo que le daba un vahido, y fue mi hermano mismo quien recogió la hostia y se la...

(The entire section is 3265 words.)

The Elusive Self: Narrative Method and Its Implications

Unamuno’s fictional writings, widely recognised as among the most original and innovative of their time, are, paradoxically, more often approached from a philosophical, rather than a strictly literary point of view. In view of Unamuno’s own insistence on the centrality of existential problems, his oftrepeated scorn for all forms of aestheticism and literariness, and his cultivation of a rather stark prose style which can easily—too easily, perhaps— encourage us to believe that his fictions wear their heart upon their sleeves, this is not too surprising. There are, however, dangers in approaching Unamuno’s novels in this way, dangers which are graphically illustrated by San Manuel Bueno, mártir. Those who approach...

(The entire section is 5874 words.)

The Problem of Truth

We all know that fiction is the opposite of fact. A novel is called fiction, not fact; it is therefore not true. Yet while we are reading it we treat it as if it were true. What we are told in a novel, then, is true in a limited sense, that is to say it is true within the confines of the book. But if we happen to hold that truth is not absolute but relative to the observer, not merely something out there but something in the mind, then this can have interesting consequences for the novel, for it raises the possibility that what was regarded before as the truth within a fiction may now no longer be the truth. In modern novels (those of the post-realist era) there is always the chance that there may be different levels of...

(The entire section is 10113 words.)