Villahorrenda (vee-YAH-or-EN-dah). Impoverished, ugly town on the railroad line out of Madrid at which the young engineer José (Pepe) Rey stops while on his way to Orbajosa. Villahorrenda—whose name means “horrid village”—is a gateway to a hell of backbiters, hypocrites, and thieves. Pepe contrasts the poetic beauty of regional names (Flowervale, Lilyhill, Amiable Valley, Richville) befitting his mother’s peaceful pastoral memories with the desolate wasteland of prosaic reality, concluding that this region’s inhabitants live in the imagination, seeing what they will, not the miserable, arid reality. The worst land of all is his inheritance, untended and diminished by predatory neighbors. His journey progresses from this hellhole to a cold, dark place of ignorance, violence, and bigotry from which there is no return.
Orbajosa (or-bah-YOH-sah). Provincial city that is home to Doña Perfecta Rey and her daughter, Rosario. The town’s name is both a corruption of the Latin term urbs augusta (“majestic city”) and a mocking play on ajosa, the Spanish word for garlic. The city looks like a large “dunghill” to the visitor from Madrid, but its 7,324 inhabitants are proud of its cathedral and wealthy homes, such as the seven mansions along the Adelantado, including that of Doña Perfecta. The city lies in a valley famous for its garlic, a symbol of its close ties to the land and of its residents’ tendency to focus on the soil, not the heavens, to turn inward, cavernously, not outward.
The Nahara River passes through the valley, providing Pepe with a...
(The entire section is 681 words.)