Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 331
In Our Friend Manso by Benito Pérez Galdos (Columbia University Press, 1987) was first published in 1882. The narrator, Maximo Manso, claims that he does not exist. He is a philosophy professor in Madrid whose neighbor, Dona Javiera, invites him to tutor her son, Manuel. Manuel demonstrates a unique ability for oratory, though he is not a flawless student. Manso enjoys working with him and admires his enthusiasm and spirit.
Another neighbor, Dona Candida, is a pretentious woman who was friends with the narrator’s late mother. Manso obliges her with money, which he gives to her niece, Irene. Irene is young and charming, and she seems to take an interest in Manso’s literature. Manso also gives her candies when she visits. When Irene grows up, she enters a teacher’s institute. Meanwhile, Manso’s pupil Manuel briefly courts a wealthy girl.
Eventually, Manso’s brother, Jose Maria, arrives from Cuba with his family, which includes his wife, Lica, his three children, and several servants. His large and overwhelming family disrupts Manso’s quiet life. Jose Maria takes Irene, who becomes a governess in his household, as a lover. He also conducts a successful political campaign and wins an election to Congress as a representative from Cuba.
Rather suddenly, Irene’s aunt, Dona Candida, states that she is moving into a nicer home with Irene, as a result of the former having come into money. Manso suspects the truth: that his brother is paying for Irene’s new apartment. When Manso reveals that he knows this, his brother relents. Meanwhile, Manso himself has developed an attachment to Irene, only to realize that she and his pupil, Manuel (now politically successful himself), are in love. Though Manso loves Irene, he advocates on her behalf to Dona Javiera (who resents Irene’s social status as a teacher). The two are married, with Manso’s blessing (as he realizes that Irene truly loves Manuel), and Manso dies, thus proving the novel’s opening line.