The House of Bernarda Alba

by Federico Garcia Lorca

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What are Adela's characteristics and what does she represent in "The House of Bernarda Alba"?

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Bernarda's behavior toward her daughters is abusive, even in the context of the time in which Garcia Lorca's drama takes place. She seems not to care or even to recognize that by keeping the girls under lock and key, she's depriving them of basic human needs. Adela is the one who rebels most fully against the mother's dominance by having a relationship with a man, Pepe, albeit covertly.

In doing this Adela is in conflict with not only her mother but her sisters as well. Angustias, the oldest daughter, is the one the young man is supposed to marry, and at least one of the other girls is interested in Pepe as well. The situation in the household is the proverbial powder-keg set to explode. Since Adela is the one who asserts herself, she's the one who actually pays the price for her rebellion, but by her own hand: she kills herself when she assumes that Pepe has been killed.

It would be facile to say that Adela represents feminism. The setting is one in which conditions are so backward and hopeless with respect to gender issues that Adela's actions unfortunately, and tragically, misfire, and she ends up destroying herself. But at least she has tried to make her own life, so to speak, and her self-assertion is, in fact, a statement in favor of not just women's rights, but human rights. The tragic irony of the play is that it is a woman, Bernarda, who is herself cruelly victimizing other women.

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In Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca's La Casa de Berdarda Alba we find strong evidence of the use of Spanish Gothic characteristics that are more obvious in the female characters. In other words, it is the characters that bring out the literary devices more strongly than the plot or the setting alone.

An example of this is Adela. Adela is the youngest daughter of the bitter Bernarda Alba. She represents the world outside; a world where people can roam free, make choices, and accept both victories and defeats. As a young woman in love with Pepe, Adela symbolizes the freshness of youth complete with its growing passions, its fantasies, its dreams, and its hopes.

This is tragic, considering that Adela's mother is none other than Bernarda- a woman so negative, imposing, and paranoid that her idea of safety is to beat her daughters and keep them prisoners in their own homes.

Adela rebels against all of this as naturally as any other young woman would. When Pepe is killed and Bernarda attempts to strengthen her control of the family, Adela chooses to kill herself rather than to live her miserable life. Hence, Adela dies young, in love, and choosing to become free through death than imprisoned alive. That is a message in itself: Life is meant to be lived, not survived.

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