Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 468
The narrator, the main character, a member of a conservative family and observer of the history of Región during the 1920’s and the 1930’s, a crucial period during which Región, as a microcosm of Spain, is preparing for a civil war. He relies on memory to present, again...
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- Critical Essays
The narrator, the main character, a member of a conservative family and observer of the history of Región during the 1920’s and the 1930’s, a crucial period during which Región, as a microcosm of Spain, is preparing for a civil war. He relies on memory to present, again and again, some facts and characters that change and become distorted by time.
Mary, the cousin of the narrator. She is the only member of his clan who crosses the boundary that separates his family from the house of the Ruan family, another powerful clan of Región. Mary weds Julian, the instructor of the Ruan children. Julian is a republican who goes into exile after the Spanish Civil War. In the United States, Mary divorces Julian and marries a physician, with whom she goes back to Región, where she lives for a while with her former family, with the Ruan family, and at their new home. After Mary’s death, the house is abandoned by her husband.
Emilio Ruiz (eh-MEE-lee-oh rrew-EES), the fiancé of Mary’s eldest sister. A rich landowner and the owner of a mine, he is a conservative who becomes—without marrying Mary’s sister—the leader of her conservative family. He succeeds in alienating Mary and her new husband.
Jorge Ruan (HOHR-heh RREW-ahn), the elder of the Ruan family, who cares for Mary when she comes back and is abandoned by her family.
Enrique Ruan (ehn-REE-keh), a poet who dies at the end of the Spanish Civil War. A small gathering of friends makes a pilgrimage to the Ruans’ family dwelling to put a stone there in memory of him.
Muerte (MWEHR-teh), the owner of an inn that doubles as a brothel, where Emilio Ruiz stays when he visits his mine.
Provocación (proh-voh-kah-see-OHN), a daughter of Anhelo and sister of Perturbación—or Persecución, as she is also called on occasion. Provocación is a prostitute in Barcelona who comes to the inn to spend her summer vacation and stay with her sister.
Cayetano Corral (ki-yeh-TAH-noh), a member of another Región family and friend of the narrator. He ends up in a solitary house trying to repair a clock.
Carlos Bonaval (boh-nah-VAHL), a member of another Región family, supposedly an enemy clan of the narrator’s family because one of its members is alleged to have stolen the formula of a liquor that was the pride of the narrator’s family.
The Numa (NEW-mah), the mythical guardian or vigilante of the region. People feel protected under his shadow. He kills trespassers and, although nobody has seen him, maintains order in his domain and enforces a strict law against all intruders.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 541
A Meditation is filled with characters who are governed by strange fixations. For example, the grandfather is so obsessed with his liqueur that he is certain that Carlos Bonaval has stolen and commercially exploited the recipe. Cayetano Corral spends his entire life in his workshop tinkering with clocks. Jorge is fixated on rats. The Indian, who killed his father, masturbates incessantly in front of a picture of his mother. These traits serve to distinguish the characters, who hardly have identities apart from their manias.
Benet’s female characters are distinctly sexual beings. Mary, who left for America with her exiled husband, bore children, and returned with a new mate, is representative of the woman who seeks her authentic self by disregarding society’s norms and following her passions. Instead of finding freedom and happiness, however, Mary degenerates physically and emotionally.
No character acquires depth or develops through the course of the novel. Most are vague. For example, no one knows why the man called the Indian is known by that name; he is not, in fact, an Indian. Many of the characters are easily confused with one another, among them Mary, Leo, and Laura. Nor do the characters communicate with one another. Although there are fragments of speech throughout the novel, there is no real dialogue. There is no “I-you” relationship, but only one “I” existing alongside another. Even the letter from Cayetano Corral to Carlos Bonaval is more a treatise on psychology and physics than a personal letter, and it leads nowhere, for it is interrupted midway.
Only one voice emerges from the morass of words, that of the narrator. He is the existential “I” who confronts an amorphous world composed of “others.” Throughout the novel, he struggles to recall, as precisely as possible, those pertinent incidents and people that influenced the development of his “self.” The frequency of expressions such as “perhaps,” “I imagine,” “how can I know,” “I don’t remember,” and “I can’t visualize it” indicates that he is groping for accuracy. Others, such as “I am sure” and “I can still see it,” indicate that he is sure of his facts. At times, he contradicts or corrects himself. For example, he begins a scene: “The outbreak of the civil war caught us celebrating a birthday, under the wisteria.” Later, he thinks better of it and adds, “Excuse me, a baptism. Cousin Celia had given birth to her second son.” Yet it is not through words that he can capture the essence of his existence, for words convert experience into an “objective narration” that pulls together all the loose ends, destroying the chaos and incongruence that are the core of human reality. Cayetano Corral understands that thought cannot be fixed in words. That is why, although he makes notes constantly, he writes only with chalk and erases everything.
Gonzalo Sobejano has written that Region is the real protagonist of A Meditation. Indeed, the town suffers from the same disintegration that plagues all the characters; it is “a mummified Region, wrapped in decay, boredom, and solitude.” The narrator describes the trash around the trees as “a rotting offer to rottenness.” The rotting of trees—which are a traditional symbol of hope—conveys the despair that permeates Region.