(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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,...

(The entire section is 484 words.)