Critical Evaluation

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 515

Although this novel presents a vivid and realistic picture of life in one corner of Spain, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez did not want himself to be cataloged as a regional novelist. Proud of his country and its efforts, he felt that he, his work, and his countrymen in general were often misunderstood, particularly by Americans. Like many other Spanish authors, also, he could not understand why Americans knew so little about Spain and its culture, and so much of his early fiction dealt with his native section of Spain. Even so, he did not want to be thought of as associated with any one district or as the chronicler of the manners of any one region. Many of his novels achieved greater popularity, but most critics believe that THE CABIN was his major contribution to the art of the novel.

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As is obvious in THE CABIN, Blasco Ibáñez had both superficial and deep qualities as a novelist. His superficial qualities can be seen in the THE CABIN’s occasionally slovenly style, its spotty characterization, and attendant minor defects. The novel’s virtues are numerous, however, and they stem from Blasco Ibáñez’s storytelling skill, his strong descriptive ability and knack for selecting topics that are perennially fresh and timely. Still magnetic today are the novel’s basic themes of the land, human malice, and the heroic tenacity of Batiste, who never surrendered. Even THE CABIN’s handling of the key rural problem of water rights represents one of the infrequent treatments of this topic in world literature, although water rights have been historically a crucial factor for ranchers throughout the world, including in the American West.

THE CABIN has a firm structure. Artistically brilliant, its clear plot is not cluttered with secondary plots, and it gives one of the best pictures of peasant life in any language. Some of the characterizations live with the reader (for example, Batiste), and the peasant is portrayed as a product of the land. In keeping with Blasco Ibáñez’s belief that the novelist should observe things closely and clearly, both the pathos and the harsher emotions of the Valencian peasant are drawn, especially his stubbornness and durability. Readers also see the whitewashed houses, green fields, and blue coastline of the area so clearly that the author’s use of color and sheen has been compared to the canvases of Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923), the noted Valencian painter and friend of Blasco Ibáñez.

Shortly before his death, Blasco Ibáñez advised those youths who were excessively impatient for literary glory to reflect on the history of THE CABIN and its almost accidental publication. He also commented that despite his apparent haste in writing, he composed novels in his mind slowly, over a long period of time, before writing them down at a furious pace. All novels, he added, are actually something seen through an individual temperament, or comparable to a mirror passing down a road. The best critic of the true literary worth of a novel, he insisted, is the public, not other novelists or literati.

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