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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 313

The Family of Pascual Duarte is a novel about a seemingly ordinary man of rural Spain in the early twentieth century. It purports to be the confessions of Pascual written over a period of time after he has committed a series of crimes, with the story culminating in his own...

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The Family of Pascual Duarte is a novel about a seemingly ordinary man of rural Spain in the early twentieth century. It purports to be the confessions of Pascual written over a period of time after he has committed a series of crimes, with the story culminating in his own mother's death.

The story is told in stages in which the character's progressive descent into deeper crimes is narrated. Pascual informs us at the start that he is from a village in the province of Badajoz, not far from the Portuguese border. His parents, especially the father, are abusive to him as he is growing up. His younger brother Mario dies from conditions of abuse and neglect, and his sister Rosario becomes a sex worker. All of this is told in a matter-of-fact way that partly indicates rural poverty is such that people in this milieu do not expect much good to come out of life.

Pascual marries a woman named Lola, but she miscarries their first child after being thrown from a horse. He then savagely kills the horse with his knife. Pascual's cruelty thus begins with his treatment of animals; at another point he shoots his dog because he doesn't like the way the dog is looking at him. Another child dies at only eleven months. Pascual is unable to bear the presence of his wife and mother, abandons them for a long period of time, then returns to find his wife is pregnant by the man who had been his sister's procurer called Stretch. Pascual kills him, is sent to prison, but his worst crime and final undoing occur after his early release from jail.

In summary, one has to ask what has motivated Pascual to commit these actions, and what does his story tell us about human nature? Or, is it a random picture of a life gone wrong?


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 798

Sentenced to death, Pascual Duarte decides to write a history of his life to serve as a warning to others, or so he implies. Pascual was born to a poor Extremaduran peasant family and raised in an atmosphere of hate and resentment. Both parents were abusive drunkards, and his younger brother Mario was mentally disabled, unable even to walk. The only saving grace of the family was Rosario, his sister, but she left home to better her situation by becoming a prostitute. She returned home once, ill with fever, but left as soon as she was well. Fifteen years after Rosario, Mario was born. Two days before his birth, Pascual’s father, Esteban, was bitten by a rabid dog. The family, afraid of being attacked, locked Esteban in an armoire, where he died on the day of Mario’s birth, screaming, driven mad by the disease.

Mario, scorned by everyone except Rosario, crawled and lived on the floor with the pigs and dogs. One day, the pigs ate his ears, and, from then on, it was hard for the family even to look at him. Generally unresponsive, Mario would go into shrieking fits at the sight of pigs. During one of these episodes, Don Rafael, who may have been the boy’s father, kicked the child into unconsciousness, blood gushing from the boy’s ear cavity. Pascual’s mother laughed, but although Pascual, fearing to be called soft, also did nothing, from that day forward, his active hatred of his mother grew. Shortly afterward, Mario was found drowned in a vat of oil, perhaps murdered by Rafael.

Pascual fell in love with, and raped, Lola. On discovering that she was pregnant, he married her. On their wedding day, their horse injured an old woman, a bad omen that presaged Lola’s fall from that same horse on the day they returned from their honeymoon. The fall caused a miscarriage. Pascual was not with her. He was celebrating with friends in a bar, on a drinking spree that ended in Pascual’s seriously wounding a friend who taunted him.

Pascual was always given to violence. When he learned of his wife’s miscarriage, he blamed the horse and stabbed the animal to death. One day, while sitting in his favorite spot with his only friend, his dog, nearby, he seemed to read reproach in the animal’s eyes and repeatedly shot the dog to rid himself of that look. Pascual also was tormented by premonitions of ill fortune. When his first child (his wife’s second pregnancy) was born, although the baby seemed healthy, he could not rid himself of a sense of foreboding, and the child died of illness in early infancy. After the baby’s death, Pascual could not endure the atmosphere in his home and fled to Madrid. From Madrid, he traveled to La Coruña, hoping to set sail for America. The trip was too costly, however, and after two years of working at odd jobs, Pascual returned home, only to find his wife pregnant with another man’s—El Estirao’s—child.

El Estirao was the abusive pimp and lover of Rosario who always delighted in taunting Pascual. His seduction of Pascual’s wife maddened the peasant, and, after the effort of confessing the truth to him, Lola suddenly died in Pascual’s arms. When El Estirao returned, looking for Rosario, Pascual killed him, crushing his spine. For this crime he was sent to prison but was released for good behavior after only serving two years.

When he returned home after his imprisonment, he found no one there to welcome him. Rosario was gone again, and his mother’s conduct toward him worsened. He married again, this time to the timid daughter of the local midwife, who secretly cared for him. His mother’s treatment of Esperanza, however, was terrible, and Pascual, now certain that his mother was still the source of all of his trouble, decided he must kill her to survive. Full of loathing, he carefully planned the crime, but at the last moment he was unable to strike. He stood paralyzed by her bed until she awoke. After a fierce struggle, he finally subdued and killed her. Earlier, Pascual might have been responsible for the assassination of the village patriarch, Don Jesús, during an uprising at the start of the civil war. Pascual was captured and is waiting to be hanged, but whether for the death of his mother or Don Jesús is uncertain.

Pascual, in his memoirs, professes to have come to terms with his fate, but, at the end, he is led kicking and screaming to the scaffold. He does not describe this episode, as one might expect, in his memoirs. Other witnesses report his shameful end.

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