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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 379

In the tight-knit religious town of Orbajosa, Dona Perfecta is a wealthy widow who has grand designs concerning the marriage of her daughter, Rosario. In the effort to benefit from the wealth of her brother, Juan, who is a successful attorney in Madrid, Perfecta arranges to have her daughter marry...

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In the tight-knit religious town of Orbajosa, Dona Perfecta is a wealthy widow who has grand designs concerning the marriage of her daughter, Rosario. In the effort to benefit from the wealth of her brother, Juan, who is a successful attorney in Madrid, Perfecta arranges to have her daughter marry Juan’s only son, Pepe Rey. Pérez Galdós’ story tracks the evolving conflict between these two characters as both Perfecta and Rey attempt to best articulate their desires in Orbajosa’s conservative world. Perfecta is an artful woman. Bigoted and full of self-interest and vice, Perfecta demonstrates that she is willing to engage in hateful activities in order to maintain the fidelity and financial stability of her family. Over the course of the novel, she grows to hate Pepe Rey, particularly as he demonstrates his progressive attitudes and unwillingness to be persuaded by the doctrinaire religious morality that guides much of the community’s activity. For his own part, Pepe is a beacon of modernity, a representative of city life, scientific-learning, and individualism. His infatuation with Rosario stems in large part from his desire to see her escape the confines of conservative religious life that her mother has forced upon her and take her to a place in which “falseness” does not predominate.

Throughout the course of the story, Don Inocencio, the Catholic canon (priest) of Orbajosa, becomes irritated with Pepe Rey’s presence in the town, his modern sensibilities, and his unwillingness to accept the superiority of Orbajosa, its inhabitants, and way of life. He hatches a plot with Perfecta in order to have Pepe expelled from the city, in which the two agree to mobilize the town’s religious fanaticism against Pepe, a self-proclaimed non-believer. Convinced that they need to rid themselves of the presence of such a heathen, villagers of Orbajosa pressure Pepe into returning to his father in Madrid, while Perfecta refuses to allow him to marry his daughter. However, both Pepe and Rosario are deeply in love, leading the two to attempt to flee the town together. Privy to their plan, Perfecta ambushes Pepe in the garden outside of her house, killing him. The death of Pepe causes Rosario to go insane, and Perfecta is denied inheritance of her brother’s fortune.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 484

The city of Orbajosa, with its 7,324 inhabitants, is proud of its religious atmosphere. It boasts a cathedral and a seminary but possesses nothing else to make it known to the rest of Spain, having no manufacturing. Its only agricultural activity is growing garlic. The leading citizen of Orbajosa is Doña Perfecta Rey, a widow whose wealth is the result of legal victories her brother, an Andalusian lawyer, won over her husband’s family. Since her brother has a son, Pepe Rey, and she has a daughter, Rosario, the idea of marriage between the two young people seems a natural arrangement to their elders. It is for this purpose that Pepe is first sent to Orbajosa.

In his busy life as a road construction engineer, Pepe thinks little about matrimony, but he begins to do so after seeing the lovely Rosario. The girl, for her part, is attracted to her cousin, and in the beginning Doña Perfecta, too, is much taken with Pepe.

Doña Perfecta, like the other inhabitants of Orbajosa, is dominated by the Church, and as the town’s most exemplary citizen she feels it necessary to be especially devout. Don Inocencio, the canon of the cathedral, has other plans for Rosario. Urged on by his sister, María Remedios, who wants the Rey fortune for her son, Jacinto, Don Inocencio, who is far less innocent than his name implies, begins conniving to end all talk of marriage between the cousins.

Pepe, through his wide travels and training, is unorthodox, though not without regard for religion. Before long, Don Inocencio makes him appear a heretic, and Doña Perfecta, forgetting her indebtedness to his father and ignoring the feelings of her daughter, refuses to let him see Rosario. The girl, made meek by strict education and dominated by her mother, lacks the courage to assert herself in declaring her love for her cousin. Soon everyone in Orbajosa—from the bishop to the working man in the fields—becomes convinced that it is a matter of religious and civic necessity to rid their city of the heretic. The unsuspecting Pepe tries to explain that he has no intention of attacking religion, but his attempts to make his position clear only make matters worse.

Finally, after several stolen interviews with Rosario in the family chapel, Pepe and Rosario decide to run away together. At the very time, however, that the conscience-stricken Rosario is revealing the plan to her mother, María Remedios arrives to warn Doña Perfecta that Pepe is entering the garden. Knowing that Pepe is coming to take Rosario away, Doña Perfecta orders one of her acquaintances to shoot. Pepe falls, mortally wounded. His death drives Rosario insane. Don Inocencio feels himself cut off from the world, and Doña Perfecta dies of cancer. Nobody gains anything, but Orbajosa is convinced it won a victory for the faith.

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