(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

La Regenta (the magistrate’s wife) is the history of three years in the life of Vetusta, a small city in northwestern Spain, the fictional counterpart of Leopoldo Alas’ native Oviedo. The narrative begins with an event that will become the focus of the novel. Ana Ozores, a beautiful, cultured woman married to the ex-magistrate of the city, Victor Quintanar, makes her confession to Fermin de Pas, the priest who has just been assigned to her as spiritual guide. Ana reveals her frustration with her husband, who cannot give her a child, and her attraction to Alvaro Mesias, a handsome bachelor who has a reputation in the city as a ladies’ man.

As the novel progresses, Ana develops a dependence on Fermin as her savior from her sexual frustration and her unfulfilled longing for a child. Fermin tries to help Ana control her desires, which conflict with her strong sense of duty and responsibility to her husband. In the process of performing his priestly duties, however, Fermin falls in love with her. Victor spends his evenings in his bedroom, reciting passages from seventeenth century Spanish plays, imagining himself in the role of the betrayed husband who avenges his honor by killing his wife and her lover. Alvaro, meanwhile, becomes aware of Ana’s attraction to him and pursues her, at first discreetly, then more openly.

The members of the prominent social circle in which Victor and Ana move become aware of the competitive struggle...

(The entire section is 422 words.)