What attitudes to men are conveyed through the play The House Of Bernarda Alba?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The House of Bernarda Alba can be summarized in one sentence spoken by La Poncia to the servant when the latter expresses her opinion that the Alba girls are wicked. La Poncia retorts:

They're women without a man that's all. In such cases blood ties are forgotten.

With these words we can extrapolate the different attitudes regarding men. The assumptions are:

  • "Man" liberates- The rivalry among the sisters over Pepe el Romano denotes that their lives can only have any form of value if a man "saves" them from their household, offering some form of freedom. The Alba girls, dominated psychologically by an alpha-female, desperately need to find their own roles as females and Pepe seems more than willing to play the game.
  • "Man" dominates- It is clear that Pepe el Romano chooses Angustias as his bride because of her recent inheritance. He also sleeps with Adela and uses her sexually despite the social rules of the time. Maria Josefa describes him as an "ogre", and the sisters as "grains of wheat" that he will "devour". Adela is aware of being used, but she does not care. In fact, she is willing to risk her reputation in town, and face the wrath of her vicious mother, just to continue to see Pepe. Equally, the other sisters are drawn to his apparent sex appeal, his age, and his good looks.
     In addition to Pepe, the death of Bernarda's husband completely rules the lives of his surviving daughters, who will have to endure eight years of confinement and bereavement.
  • "Man" chooses- All throughout the play we understand that women will always be second class to men. La Poncia tells Adela to wait until her sister dies after childbirth, "for she is old and narrow of the waist" because Pepe will do what "every other widower does" which is to marry one of the surviving sisters. This denotes the strong social power of men over women and the type of subservience that women were expected to give men.
    In this same scenario we have the example of Poncia's opinion of marriage. The dynamics of men and women are very specific; a man visits a woman from a distance, then marries her and then, in her own words, "a fortnight after the wedding a man forgoes bed for table and then table for tavern". She then says that a woman who cannot handle that will just have to be satisfied with crying in a corner.

In all La Casa de Bernarda Alba brings out the cultural and social assumption that women are at the mercy of "man's" whims, desires, and emotions. The attitude is that of obedient servant (Angustias), or willing sex partner (Adela). In the end, with Adela's suicide and Pepe's escape, we find that women have very little chance of happiness; they are still expected to sacrifice themselves on behalf of men.

sesh | Student


sesh | Student
  • Male liscense to misbehave- La Poncia advices Adela to get away from Pepe that time and points out there's a chance for her to be his second wife but rebellious Adela doesn't listen to her. La Poncia pokes her finger at Adela's mistake, but not a single word of accusation or disapproval let out of her mouth for Pepe's dual behaviour. The older generation seems to follow the traditions and, prevailed injustice towards females seems forever to be continued.
  • Effect of males upon females- It's very powerful. Throughout the drama these women feel hot and warm wanting to quench thier thirst so like to satisfy their burning sexual desires. But they don't get any chance. Martirio loves Adela the most. "Adela, she's your sister. Besides, she's the one who loves you the most" But at the end, we see how Martirio disregards sisterly love giving prominancy to her unilateral love, being jealous of Adela. Her jealousy puts nails to her coffin. Therefore, the effect of men upon women is far more powerful than any effect of others.
  • Actually domineering attitude of men is conveyed. (eg. Pepe's dual behaviour/ Bernarda's second husband's who seduced maid/ Librada's daughter's fate/ Adeleida's father's behaviour and fiance's control over her life) Women is portrayed as weak, inferior and submissive creature whom to be treated like objects by males.