Thursday, November 01, 2012

Fortunata and Jacinta Volume 4: an unasked question

I found several (what I call) unasked questions in the novel but I believe there was one that Galdós wanted the reader to consider—what is in store for little Juan (Juan Evaristo Segismundo)? The novel ends on a melancholy buoyant note, which is the best Galdós could do given the body count and other damage in Volume Four. The philosophies presented by Ballester and Maxi in the final subchapter show a trend toward reconciliation and acceptance. Little Juan is with Jacinta and the Santa Cruz family. Juan Santa Cruz has been marginalized in his family. Aurora received the equivalent of a Jerry Springer Show-style smack-down. And yet so much of the novel has been based on perception and reality not being in synch and, as I put it in the previous post, a presentation of false progress. So do these events bode well for the newborn?

The immediate consideration lies with the damning precedent of his father who was coddled at a young age and refused to mature. While it’s not always fair to project what happens beyond the end of the book, the reader can be forgiven for believing little Juan will be treated the same as his father. Whether his behavior/outcome is different than that of his father depends on other events, or so Galdós seems to imply, most importantly depending on the direction Spain takes.

The political overtones play a central role in the theme of false progress. All the reforms have done is entrench bribery and favoritism, with Villalonga embodying this perfectly. There is a tie-in between the individual and the nation throughout the novel, whether it’s the births by Isabel Cordero corresponding with historical events or the alternations between republic and monarchy coinciding with the change in reconciled marriages and mistresses. With this intertwining between individuals and the state little Juan seems to embody, at least to some extent, the future of Spain. Galdós takes pains to show the good and bad points of each class, not just the rich and poor but also the burgeoning middle class. Little Juan's parentage, the mixture of the higher class and the pueblo, also reflects a blending that Galdós seems to imply will be good for him, at least as long as the better parts of each class outweigh their respective drawbacks.

It goes without saying that the ending and little Juan’s future are open to interpretation—feel free to add yours in the comments.

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