(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Matías Alvear is transferred by his government employer from Málaga, where his children were born, to Gerona. Though Matías is indifferent to religion, his wife Carmen is very devout and gives her children a strong religious upbringing. Ignacio enters the seminary when he is ten but after a few years decides that he does not want to be a priest. He goes to work in a bank while going to high school at night. In the meantime, César enters another seminary when he is old enough. During this period, Spain becomes a republic in 1931.

After being reproached by Ignacio for being indifferent to the poor, César learns how to be a barber, shaving and cutting the hair of the disabled and the poor. He teaches the slum children reading and arithmetic, but he is forbidden by the railroad workers to teach them the catechism. Ignacio begins studying with David Pol and his wife Olga, a very modern couple. His anarchist cousin José visits from Madrid and gets involved in heckling at conservative political meetings. José and Ignacio are involved in a riot disrupting a dance called to distract attention from a strike.

Ignacio is upset after visiting the insane asylum and finding that the inmates are fed spoiled food. He is expelled from an anarchists’ meeting when he objects to destroying the printing press, housed in the local orphanage, on which the conservative paper is printed and which provides the orphanage with much of its income. Doña Amparo, wife of the policeman Julio García, seduces Ignacio.

The anarchists destroy the orphanage’s print shop and are arrested, but they are released since no one can prove their guilt. Ignacio passes his examinations and, while vacationing at the seashore with his family, meets Ana María. She is of a higher social class (her father is a businessman) but tired of the señoritos (little gentlemen) and finds Ignacio refreshing. After the summer visit, Ignacio does not answer her letters but instead has an affair with the prostitute Candela, from whom he contracts a venereal disease. After his recovery he reforms, makes a good confession, and is forgiven by his family.

Catalonia declares autonomy from the Spanish central government. A general strike in Gerona called to support this autonomy is...

(The entire section is 934 words.)