I mentioned some strong women in the novel in an earlier post and I want to ramble about a similar topic here. In Volume Four we meet Aurora, another clever and apparently strong woman character (I mention in this post how Galdós initially introduces her via a portrait in Doña Lupe’s parlor). Aurora pretends to be the friend of Fortunata while stealing Juan from her and planting the story of Jacinta’s unfaithfulness with Moreno-Isla. Maxi tells Fortunata about Juan and Aurora. Maxi, the weakest of weak men in the novel, knows how to injure her deeply and asks Fortunata “What did you want—to wound and not be wounded?” Fortunata believed in Jacinta’s unfaithfulness, using that false story to help justify her affair with Juan. Just as Aurora led Fortunata around the Samaniego household, arms entwined, Aurora’s actions and stories lead Fortunata to desperate actions.
But not everything is as it seems. Aurora: did Galdós mean her character to symbolize the dawn of something? Galdós mentions that she was unable to work for one of the big stores because of the salesmen, “professional loafers,” “usurp from girls their only respectable way of earning a living.”(The comparison of Paris’ shops to Madrid’s stores reminded me of a similar comparison of Paris shops to Warsaw’s stores in Bolesław Prus’ The Doll.) Aurora may represent a new opportunity for women to earn a living but it’s only because she owes the position to her cousin Pepe Samaniego and Don Manuel Moreno-Isla (Aurora’s former lover). Aurora turns out to be just one example of what falsely looks like progress in Spanish society in the novel, a subject worthy of its own post which, alas, won’t happen here.
Moreno-Isla's infatuation with Jacinta is apparent in the “hand chapter” at the opening of “That Idea, That Crafty Idea” in Volume Three (so much goes on in that subchapter...it's worth a re-read or two). The “Insomnia” chapter in Volume Four details his obsession with Jacinta, weaving an inner monologue with what resembles a modernist stream-of-consciousness technique. His heart can’t handle his passion, literally and figuratively. (Another topic worthy of its own post is the parallels between Morena-Isla and Fortunata.)
I’m probably only going to have one more post on the novel itself and address one of its unasked questions.