Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fortunata and Jacinta Volume 2: summary and miscellanea

Volume 2 focuses on Fortunata’s story. First, though, we meet the Rubín family, headed by Doña Lupe, a widow who has been tutored in financial dealings by Sr. Torquemada. Her nephews are Juan Pablo, Nicolás, and Maximiliano, nicknamed Maxi, a sickly pharmacy student. Maxi meets Fortunata (after her affair with Juan) and is smitten. Fortunata has no interest in the would-be lover, although the dream of respectability proffered by marriage captivates her. Maxi, displaying willpower previously unknown to him, convinces Doña Lupe he intends to marry Fortunata. The family strikes a compromise, sending Fortunata to a convent (the Micaelas) for social redemption, or at least the appearance of respectability. In the Micaelas, Fortunata meets an acquaintance, Mauricia, who informs Fortunata of the trap Juan has set for after her marriage—he has rented the apartment next to Maxi’s room. After her release from the convent and marriage to Maxi, Fortunata falls into Juan’s trap. Maxi finds out about the affair and despairs. Juan grows tired of Fortunata and dumps her. Having shamed the Rubín family with her affair, Fortunata leaves their house.

I mentioned in a previous post that Galdós' humor extends to the chapter titles. Volume One has a chapter titled “The Honeymoon,” covering the trip taken by Juan and Jacinta after their wedding. Volume Two has a chapter titled “The Wedding and the Honeymoon,” covering the wedding of Maxi and Fortunata. There is no honeymoon, though. Maxi is taken ill with a migraine during the wedding feast. As Fortunata puts it, within hours of the wedding she was committing adultery with Juan. But here’s the catch—Fortunata views Juan as her real husband since she had a child with him, so in a perverse sense she does have a honeymoon.

At the start of the year I had a post that included an excerpt describing Doña Lupe. Here’s one of many descriptions of Maxi and his pharmacy classmates that succinctly summarizes their characters:
The boys in botany class amused themselves by giving each other nicknames based on Linnaeus’ nomenclature. One named Anacleto—who considered himself very elegant and genlemany—was dubbed Anacletus obsequiosissimus; they called Encinas, who was very short, Quercus gigantean. Olmedo was very slovenly, so Ulmus sylvestris fit him perfectly. Narciso Puerto was ugly, dirty, and smelly, so they called him Pseudo-Narcissus odoripherus. Another boy who was very poor and had a little job on the side received the name Christophrorus oficinalis. And finally Maximiliano Rubín, who was terribly homely, clumsy, and dull-witted, was called Rubinius vulgaris throughout his career as a student. (Vol. 2, Ch. 1, 2)
Maxi’s idolization of Fortunata echoes other venerations so far in the novel. Estupiñá worships Barbarita Santa Cruz and is always at her disposal. Fortunata adores Juan despite everything he has done to her. But Maxi’s reverence has quite different implications—he intends to marry a fallen woman. The intended “purification” Fortunata goes through in the Micaelas will make her a respectable woman in conjunction with marriage. Even though her past may be noted, the acceptance she receives after her stay in the convent seems exceptional in European nineteenth-century novels. The convent exists to school young girls as well as reform fallen women, although the two groups are kept separate. Even with that separation, the combination seems symbolic since there is a great mingling of classes and social statuses in Fortunata and Jacinta. Some of this anticipates the more explicit treatment of this topic by Galdós in later novels (see Dr. Davies’ quote in the above-referenced Torquemada post).

More stray thoughts:
  • Galdós opens The Spendthrifts (La de Bringas) with a chapter on a painting that provides some underlying themes and symbolism. I found it funny (and maybe coincidental) that the reader’s introduction to Aurora, a character who plays an important role in the final volume, comes as Maxi stares at a portrait of her and her sister. (See the opening paragraphs of Chatper III: A Portrait of Doña Lupe.) 

  • Galdós always provides much to compare and contrast, but Volume 2 seems very heavy on such evaluations. Maxi feels ripped open by love, causing him to smash open his piggy bank. Torquemada teaches Doña Lupe how to treat borrowers, which coincidentally happens to be how she treats her nephews, especially Maxi. Maxi’s wish to redeem Fortunata has the precedent of Doña Lupe taking Papitos in as a maid in order to “straighten her out” and “make a woman of her” (and Nicolás’ attempt to reweave Fortunata’s “torn moral fabric”). And so on… 

  • Galdós’ humor includes direct comments on his characters. The end of this Volume closes with Nicolás berating Fortunata for her adultery, commanding her to leave the house and noting they will need to burn holy incense to purify it. The narrator’s earlier descriptions of Nicolás’ slovenly manners and poor hygiene are alluded to in the closing passage as well as an apology:
    Nicolás repeated the figure of speech he found so satisfying: “Burn incense, burn incense.” And as far as lavender was concerned, it wouldn’t have done him any harm, physically. No offense meant.

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