Doña Perfecta Analysis
by Benito PérezGaldós

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Doña Perfecta Analysis

Doña Perfecta is an 1876 fictional, realist novel written by Spanish realist novelist Benito Pérez Galdós, who is considered one of the most prominent and most influential writers in Spanish literature, coming second only to Cervantes. The novel tells the tragic love story between two cousins—Don José (Pepe) Rey and Rosario, whose marriage was arranged by Doña Perfecta—Pepe’s aunt and Rosario’s mother. Set in nineteenth-century Spain, in the middle of a civil war, the novel is filled with rich and vivid scenery, well-developed characters and numerous plot twists. Thus, many analysts consider Doña Perfecta to be a historical novel as well.

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Aside from love and tragedy, another main theme of the novel is the metaphorical battle between science and modernity versus religion and tradition, which Pérez Galdós presents through his main characters. Thus, Don Jose is a man of science; he is a young engineer who is greatly inspired by Darwin’s theories and German philosophers. In contrast, Doña Perfecta and her brother, Don Juan, are religious, traditional and intolerant people, who are highly respected by pretty much everyone in their small community; they represent religion and intolerance. The novel’s main antagonist—Don Inocencio is an intelligent man who constantly argues with Pepe, and even manages to turn Doña Perfecta against him.

Rosario is perhaps a bridge between the three of them, as she is innocent, sweet and a little bit naive, and her mental health is quite fragile. She falls in love with Pepe almost immediately, however, their love is doomed to fail, as the clash between Pepe’s and Doña Perfecta’s personalities is so big, that it results in Pepe’s untimely death, and Rosario’s madness. In fact, Pepe and Doña Perfecta are basically a metaphor of the Spaniards’ liberal versus traditional political opinions.

Many analysts believe that Pérez Galdós’ characterization is, in fact, one of the best elements of the novel. Furthermore, the novel received mixed reviews; some critics and readers praised Pérez Galdós for his interesting prose, while others criticized him for his overly descriptive and, at times, confusing narrative, as it is somewhat unclear whether Pérez Galdós intended to condemn or glorify the Catholic Church.

The novel received three adaptations: two eponymous film adaptations in 1950 and 1977 and one TV adaptation made in Venezuela, in 1985.

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Villahorrenda

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

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 entire section is 1,315 words.)