Themes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1128

Beauty
Beauty—specifically the beauty of Adela, Bernarda's youngest daughter—is a source of conflict in the play. Beauty becomes corrupted, Lorca suggests, in an environment where people are not permitted to pursue their desires and passions. Pepe el Romano is passionate for Adela, but is bound by economic necessity to court Angustias instead. "If he were coming because of Angustias' looks, for Angustias as a woman, I'd be glad too," Magdalena comments, "but he's coming for her money. Even though Angustias is our sister, we're her family here, and we know she's old and sickly, and always has been the least attractive one of us!" The daughters are all in such a state of repressed isolation that they will resent both Angustias, for having a suitor, and the beautiful Adela, for possessing Pepe as a lover.

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Fate and Chance
The characters' attempts to control their own lives bring them into contact with the inevitable and result in the tragedies that conclude not just The House of Bernarda Alba, but each of the plays in Lorca's trilogy. Destiny is intermingled with the repetition of the life cycle; what occurred in the past is often fated to occur again. For example, all the women in Adelaida's family suffered before her, and she is destined to suffer, too (Martirio observes elsewhere in the play, "History repeats itself. I can see that everything is a terrible repetition."). In the scene with Prudencia, several symbols of bad luck appear (spilled salt and an engagement ring of pearls rather than diamonds). All the bad luck predicted in this scene comes to pass. Martirio comments, "Luck comes to the one who least expects it." But good luck does not seem to come to anyone in Bernarda's house, whether they expect it or not. Adela, meanwhile, struggles against her fate and fails. The other sisters are resigned to their fate, lacking Adela's faith that she can control the course of her life.

Death
Each of the three plays in Lorca's trilogy ends with a significant death. Death is a mounting inevitability as the frustration of the characters grows more intense. Death comes to characters in situations with no hope, who are helpless victims of their desttny. 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. Adela seems bound by fate not to survive, but Bernarda brings about tragedy through actions that have the opposite of their desired effect. In this, she appears more like a heroine of Greek tragedy, although she survives, perhaps to make the same mistakes again.

Freedom
The play is formed by Lorca's sense of social justice, warning society at large about the tragic cost of repressing any of its members. Adela's dilemma is Lorca's central concern. She has more to lose than the others in the dashing of her two hopes, men and freedom. Her optimism is irrational because of the isolation in which Bernarda keeps her and her sisters, and because she should be able to see from the society around her that men and freedom are mutually exclusive possibilities for a Spanish woman. But even servitude to a husband would likely provide Bernarda's daughters with more freedom than they have under her tyrannical authority. The land, which produces wealth, also serves as a metaphor for procreative power and other freedoms. The fields are a source of refreshment and escape for Bernarda's daughters. They see the men who work the land as free and independent, as having everything the women who are prisoners in the house do not have.

Honor
Honor is closely related in the play with themes such as status, money, and gossip. Bernarda feels she has a social position to maintain in the town; she won't let her daughters marry beneath this imagined station, and she won't give up her social airs. The...

(The entire section contains 1128 words.)

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