Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1156
Adela, age 20, is the youngest, most attractive, spirited, and rebellious of Bernarda's daughters. As Magdalena says of her, Adela "still has her illusions," and thus has difficulty submitting to the strong will of her mother, who keeps all the daughters under tight reign. As a form of rebellion, Adela puts on a green birthday dress and goes out in the yard shouting, "Chickens, look at me!" She craves social interaction and cannot bear to be locked away from the world. She has a deep connection to nature, yearning to be free of the house and breathe the fresh air of the fields. As the conflict with her mother's will intensifies, Adela's defiance is symbolized in her breaking of the walking stick with which Bemarda has beaten her daughters. Ultimately, Adela chooses death as a means of escape from an intolerable life, when the only alternative she can envision—Pepe—is no longer available.
At age 60, she feels out of place in the village, sure that everyone in the town despises her. She feels superior to her neighbors in social station and will not allow her daughters to be courted by the men of the area, whom she generally finds inferior. She curses "this village full of wells where you drink water always fearful it's been poisoned." Bernarda runs her house with an iron hand; La Poncia calls her a "domineering old tyrant." Her husband, Antonio Maria Benavides, has recently died, and the family has gathered at her house for the funeral. Her domination of the family and servants intensifies the day of her husband's funeral. She is hard on her own daughters out of a sense of what is proper behavior for women in a period of mourning. She plans to keep the house shut up for eight years, and requires the daughters to cover their heads in mourning. She is a vicious and manipulative person who keeps a mental record of every scandal that involves her neighbors, so she can use the information as a weapon against them. Bernarda seems unmoved by her daughter Adela's death, more concerned about the perceptions of her neighbors as she orders her daughters to uphold the lie that "She, the youngest daughter of Bernarda Alba, died a virgin."
Of all the characters, Amelia, Bernarda's third youngest daughter at age 27, perhaps stands out the least as an individual. She is kindhearted and hates to hear her mother speak unkindly. She is concerned about Martirio's health even if Martirio is not. Like Martirio, she feels uncomfortable and embarrassed around men. Like Magdalena, she feels that being born a woman is life's worst punishment. Amelia seems to be afraid of almost everything; unlike Adela, who seeks the truth, Amelia would rather close her eyes to it.
The eldest daughter at age 39, Angustias is a half-sister to the others, because she was bom of Bernarda's first marriage. She is therefore the only one with any inheritance worth mentioning, and thus has a suitor, Pepe el Romano. Bernarda strikes her when she learns that Angustias has been looking out the cracks in the door at the men departing the funeral. Angustias knows that Pepe only wants her for her money, but is resigned to this fact. Near the conclusion of the play, Angustias stands her ground when an hysterical Adela orders her to tell Pepe that Adela will be his. She curses her sister: "Thief! Disgrace of this house!"
She expresses bitterness about Bernarda's treatment of her and the other servants (Bernarda must have everything perfect, and works her servants hard to get it). La Poncia, who is 60-years-old, is perhaps the most complex character in the play. A mediator, she is all things to all people, without being a hypocrite. La Poncia is torn between debt to and hatred of Bernarda. Additionally, her sons work Bernarda's fields, so Bernarda...
(The entire section contains 1156 words.)
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