Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Máximo Manso

Máximo Manso (MAHKS-ee-moh MAHN-soh), a thirty-five-year-old preparatory school teacher and doctor of philosophy. This average-looking, nearsighted bachelor, of average height and sturdy build, is precisely what his name implies, the maximum or ultimate example of meekness, gentleness, and timidity. He takes great pride in his high moral standards, his dedication to reason as opposed to emotion, and his concern for others. Comfortable in the absolute world of ideas and ideals, he prefers to stand apart from society and study humankind dispassionately and objectively. When forced into contact with society, he often misinterprets what he sees or refuses to see as the truth. Believing that he has found in Irene the perfect woman of reason, he falls in love. Later, after realizing that she is just the opposite of what he had believed her to be, he illogically falls even deeper in love and loses his treasured inner peace and serenity. After losing Irene, he curses his own rational nature and envies his successful rival’s impulsiveness, irrationality, and spontaneity. Ironically, in the end, Máximo dies of a broken heart.


Irene (ee-REHN-eh), a very attractive nineteen-year-old orphan. She becomes the governess at the residence of José María Manso, Máximo’s brother, where she must discourage her employer’s sexual advances. Born into poverty but having aristocratic tastes, Irene is determined to alter her socioeconomic situation. Idealized by Máximo as the perfect woman of reason who is always composed, studious, and serious-minded, she proves to be capricious, frivolous, manipulative, and more than capable of hiding her true feelings to achieve her goals. Ambitious, socially adept, prudent, and tactful, she becomes the perfect wife for the political prodigy Manuel Peña.


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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Maximo Manso, whose name translates roughly as “great meek one” or “maximum gentleness,” appears to be a self-sacrificing soul of whom people take advantage. He constantly yields to the demands of others. He himself comments repeatedly on his tractability: “When will my painful efforts on behalf of others cease?” he laments. “Fortunate is he who lights one candle to charity and another to selfishness.” As is often the case in Benito Pérez Galdós’ novels, the character’s name is ironic. On the one hand, Maximo is kind and mild mannered. On the other, he is self-righteous and intolerant. Like Don Quixote, a literary creation that greatly influenced Pérez Galdós, he wishes to mold the world in accordance with his own ideals. When Irene fails to conform to his image of her, he is sorely disappointed.

Maximo is the embodiment of Krausism, a philosophy that was popular in nineteenth century Spain. Krausism taught that reality progresses toward higher internal unities. God includes both nature and humanity, while transcending both. Man is the highest component of the material universe. Each individual person is like the cell of a body. The progress of society depends on the perfection of its components; therefore, by educating the individual, one works toward the improvement of society. Maximo sees education as the tool through which he will mold Manuel and Irene. Yet he fails to take into consideration the role of the emotions and the...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

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