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ArribaAbajoThe genesis of La desheredada: Beethoven, the picaresque and Plato

James H. Hoddie

The dedication and the epilogue chapter («Moraleja») of La desheredada leave little doubt that Galdós intended to write a novel with education as the principal theme. The following hypothesis concerning the genesis of the novel may help explain how he went about organizing his thoughts and material around this theme. Exploration of the subject appears to have gone far beyond mere observation of contemporary life. As a devotee of Beethoven he creates Miquis, a lover of that composer's music, and mentions the Prometheus Ballet. In this work Prometheus attempts to educate a man and a woman; and, after failure, he turns the task over to Apollo and other gods. Galdós appears to have made use of the ballet's plot and music as structural models. However, in dealing with characters who will not (or cannot) learn, he had society take over the «educational process»; and, rather than learning virtue and love through music and the dance, the protagonists are initiated into the world of the picaresque. In making this «change» Galdós, of course, did not abandon his principal theme, for the picaresque genre is, in works such as Lazarillo, the Guzmán and the Buscón, the story of education and initiation into life as an outsider. Furthermore, whether because of interest in the theme of education, or in that of Prometheus or as a result of reading a life of Beethoven, Galdós drew upon the contents of at least two of Plato's dialogues, Protagoras and the Republic, for the development of one of his principal motifs and perhaps for other elements of the value system applied in his treatment of contemporary society in this novel.

Schindler's «Beethoven»

Galdós' interest in Beethoven is now well documented, especially in Vernon A. Chamberlin's book on the use of the Eroica as a structural model for Fortunata y Jacinta.42 It seems that Galdós was not making an entirely new experiment in the case of the latter novel, for there are many indications that both the score and plot of «The Creatures of Prometheus» played an important role in the genesis of La desheredada. A reading of Anton Schindler's life of Beethoven43 may well have led to his relating apparently unrelated elements in relatively unusual combinations. After a first chapter which ends with a commentary on the critical reception accorded the Pathétique sonata (Opus 13),44 Schindler's second chapter records as the first event of the year 1801, the composition of the Prometheus: «the beginning of the second period is marked by an event of great significance in Beethoven's life and art, the composition and performance of the ballet "Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus"» (SCH, 91-92). Later in the same chapter a discussion of Beethoven's interests and activities preceding the composition of the Eroica turns to the subject of political thought: «[...] we encounter for the first time a new and unexpected   —28→   interest, one which has to do not with music, but with political science» (SCH). General Bernadotte, ambassador of the French Republic to the Austrian court, suggested that the composer honor in music Napoleon, First Consul of the Republic. The idea found response in Beethoven's strong republican views:

His belief in democratic constitutions arose, too, from his assiduous study of the writings of Plutarch and Plato, which surely nourished republican political thought, though the republics they described resembled the order that become established in France in nothing but name.

Goethe says: «The doers want to make the world secure; the thinkers want to make it logical». The latter applies to Beethoven. He demanded logic from each political system according to the standards he learned from Plato. Above all he hoped for a logical order of things in France, expecting Napoleon to apply, perhaps with some modifications, the main principles of the Platonic republic, thus laying the foundation -as he saw it- of general, world-wide happiness.

(SCH, 112.)                

Although Donald McArdle, editor of the newest English version of Schindler's book (See: SCH, 190), believes Beethoven's interest in Plato to be apocryphal, Schindler's comments, nonetheless, entered into the view others formed of the composer. In the case of Galdós, an enthusiastic student of Beethoven's music, the attraction to the Republic and other works of Plato is quite understandable. And there are numerous points of coincidence between ideas and motifs in La desheredada and in the Republic and the Protagoras (the latter dialogue includes a treatment of the Prometheus myth). The network of relationships among elements in the creative mind at any point does not lend itself fully to analysis. Beethoven himself had in mind the Prometheus as he composed the Eroica using the melody of the ballet's Finale in the fourth movement of the symphony:

one aspect of the work that particularly incensed scores of enemies was the melody of the fourth movement:

The melody of the fourth movemen

which was familiar from its ocurrence in the finale of the Prometheus ballet music. Those who condemned the symphony asked how one melody could be a dance in one place and the commemoration of a hero in another. This melody had been used much earlier in a collection of quadrilles and somewhat later we find it as the theme of the opus 35 variations.

(SCH, 118.)                

The importance of this passage lies in the way that it makes almost impossible thinking of the Prometheus without the Eroica and vice versa. They appear part of a series of elements on a continuurn: Prometheus-Plato-Eroica.

In the «Music Section» of his book Schindler provides a view of Beethoven as the «musical Shakespeare». The parody of Shakespearian characters in Part Two in the various chapters done in dramatic form may have been suggested by the following comparison:

In the piano sonatas named above (including the Pathétique) and in others as well, we find the musical Shakespeare, to use Amadeus Wendt's comparison - the poet who tells us in music all that can be expressed; the struggle deep within the heart, the sweet magic love in the most innocent soul, the bitterest most poignant sorrow... It is not overbold to say that a performance of these sonatas,   —29→   or at least of certain movements, presents problems comparable to those of portraying certain Shakesperian characters if we aim, as we should, at exploring the inner being and at presenting it logically and forthrightly. Just as with Shakespeare, most actors grasp only the word and not the spirit behind the word, so also musicians who play Beethoven sonatas study only the technical aspects of the music, having neither the head nor the heart to penetrate its depths.

(SCH, 405)                

Schindler's biography of Beethoven provides a network of facts and allusions which together could have provided some of the basic materials for the creation of La desheredada: The Prometheus Ballet (music and plot) as structural model; Plato's works for ideas on politics, morality, education and mimetic art (The latter will be treated below) and comparison of Beethoven with Shakespeare as a point of departure for the presentation of characters whose lives consist of the melodramatic replaying of literature.

Miquis' (Galdós') Uniting of Heterogeneous Interests

In the novel Miquis is portrayecl both as an enthusiastic music lover and a student of medicine. In addition, as a kind of Cide Hamete Benengeli he would seem to be the author's alter-ego, a man whose mind has room within it for the most heterogeneous of intellectual and artistic pursuits:

Augusto Miquis, por quien sabemos los pormenores de aquellas escenas, es hoy un joven médico de gran porvenir. Entonces era un estudiante aprovechadísimo, aunque revoltoso, igualmente fanático por la Cirugía y por la Música, ¡qué antítesis!, dos extremos que parecen no tocarse nunca y, sin embargo, se tocan en la región inmensa, inmensamente heterogénea del humano cerebro. Recordaba las melodías patéticas, los graciosos retornellos y las cadencias sublimes allá en la cavidad taciturna del anfiteatro, entre los restos dispersos del cuerpo de nuestros semejantes... Él, posado sobre los libros, como un ave sobre su empolladura, soñaba con un monumento colosal que expresase los esfuerzos del genio del hombre en la conquista de lo ideal. Aquel monumento debía rematarse con un grupo sintético: ¡Beethoven abrazado con Ambrosio Paré!45

Miquis attempts to play a sonata when he and Isidora visit the Aransis palace. However, rather than name the sonata, Galdós here makes reference to the Prometheus Ballet: «Apenas podía leer la enmarañada escritura del autor de Prometeo. Los sonidos equivocados, que eran los más, le desgarraban los oídos (DD, 159)». This is the only reference to a specific Beethoven composition in the novel. Yet it appears intentional when considered in the context of the role played by Miquis as would be teacher of Isidora, in an action that at points is reminiscent of that of the ballet.

Plot of the «Prometheus Ballet»

Hugo Rieman published a summary of the plot of the Prometheus which he stated to have come from the Commentarii della vita e delle opere corredrammatiche di Salvatore Vigano e della coregrafia e dei corepei scritti da Carlo Ritorni (Milán, 1838).46 The title of the work as given by Rieman differs slightly from that given by other writers and includes a subtitle: Die Menschen (not «Geschöpfe») des Prometheus oder die Macht der Musik und des Tanzes. The subtitle is intended to point out that   —30→   music and dance (and music is used here as in Plato's Republic to include tragedy and comedy) will have an educational or civilizing effect upon the creatures. The plot, based on Rieman's translation, is as follows: After an overture, Prometheus, who has angered the gods, runs through a wood, hides the flame and rests against a rock. There are two statues on the stage; Prometheus dreams that they are a man and a woman. Upon awakening he is happy to see them, but they disappoint him in refusing to accept his love. They are stubborn and turn away from their would-be teacher allowing themselves to fall down and rest at the foot of a tree. In spite of Prometheus' repeated attempts to show his love and teach them, they fail to understand him. He then thinks of destroying them, but an inner voice bids him not to do so. With a new plan in mind, Prometheus takes the man and woman away. Act Two begins with the appearance of Apollo, Bacchus, Pan and their entourage followed by Orpheus, Amphion and Arion. A beautiful scene in the house of Apollo. Prometheus has brought his children here so that the gods may instruct them in the arts and the fields of knowledge. Phoebus gives Enterpe and Amphion the sign to begin; and the children (man and woman) dance interpreting reason and thinking about the beauties of nature and human passion. Arion and Orpheus join in the harmony with their zithers; finally, even Apollo himself joins them as they dance and give thanks to Prometheus. The Graces, Bacchus and the Bacchantes then follow with an heroic dance. Prometheus and those around him attempt to join in; but Melpomene gets in between them, and, to the astonishment of all, plays a tragic scene. Melpomene shows them that human life may be ended with a dagger. All are frightened; the woman runs to her father (Prometheus), reproaches him and tells him that because he has brought great misfortune he deserves to die. Melpomene kills Prometheus with her dagger while paying no attention to the lamentation of the children. This action is interrupted by a comic scene in which Thalia holds her mask before the faces of the children, while Pan, as leader of the dancing fauns, brings the dead Titan back to life (Rieman, 381-383).

Structure of Novel and Ballet

Before relating this plot to that of the novel, some observations on aspects of the structure of the ballet and the novel are in order. In those novels published immediately before and after La desheredada (1881) and having more than one part, there is no detectable concern for symmetry in the numbers of chapters within each of the parts. Gloria has two parts, the first divided into thirty-nine chapters, the second into thirty-three. The three parts of La familia de León Roch are broken into twenty-two, sixteen and twenty chapters respectively. El Doctor Centeno contains seven chapters of irregular length divided into from five to thirteen subchapters each. La desheredada is divided into two parts, each of which contains the same number of fully developed chapters. In Part One there are eighteen chapters (preceded by the dedication); Part Two also has eighteen chapters and a nineteenth titled «Moraleja», which is even shorter than the dedication. Also, it should be remembered that Galdós numbered the chapters of each part separately (In the Alianza edition the numbering is consecutive).47

The Prometheus Ballet also contains eighteen discrete numbers: An Overture,   —31→   an Introduction and sixteen numbers which make up the body of the work. Although Paul Nettl48 states that «the overture was originally titled "Tempestà," apparently being an attempt to portray the world before creation», it is apparent that he has confused the Introduction with the Overture, or, most probably, he has overlooked the existence of the former («The work is composed of 16 separate numbers not including the overture» (NET, 181).49 The two acts are of disproportionate length: Act One includes only three numbers after the Overture and Introduction; Act Two, the remaining thirteen numbers. In the division of chapters into subchapters Galdós was not guided by Beethoven's indications of tempo changes within the numbers. That is, the Overture, divided into a brief Adagio followed by a long Allegro molto con brio does not lead to the creation of a Chapter 1 divided into two parts, one shorter than the other (Chapter 1 has four parts). However, Galdós' chapters are subdivided in accordance with a pattern like that used by Beethoven in the tempo changes within the numbers, that is, there are chapters of one, two, and three but never more than four parts. On the other hand, strict quantitative comparisons of the length of numbers to the length of chapters offers many difficulties, E. g. Chapter 6, «¡Hombres!», is one of the longer, more complex chapters in the novel and should «match» Number 4 of the Prometheus which occupies only one page of the score, with four bars labelled Maestoso and the remainder Andante. Although a more skillful analyst may be able to demonstrate how Galdós borrowed among the numbers or divided the music differently than in the one-number, one-chapter manner suggested here, it is my belief that in La desheredada he did not go as far in close imitation of the structural model as Chamberlin shows to be the case in Fortunata y Jacinta. Rather it appears that the novel develops as far as possible in line with what was known of the plot and main features of the ballet's action; and the score or a more limited knowledge of the breakdown of the various sections provided a loose structural model. In short, it appears that the composition of La desheredada is a step in the direction of the fuller use of a structural model.

Analysis: Chapters 1-10

After an «overture», (Chapter 1 which presents the principal themes and motifs but which plays a small role in advancing the action, Galdós shows his «creatures», Mariano and Isidora as reluctant to learn in their relationships with both La Sanguijuelera and Miquis. Chapter 2 serves also as a kind of second overture by continuing the presentation of background including the role of La Sanguijuelera as one of the «creators» of the Rufetes. Without her it appears they could not long have existed.50 Chapters 2 and 3 (The first corresponding to the ballet's Introduction, Allegro non troppo, the latter to Number 1, Poco Adagio, Allegro con brio, Poco adagio, Allegro con brio) both deal with the lack of response in Isidora and Mariano to La Sanguijuelera's attempt to make them reasonable and responsible people in accordance with her understanding of life. Chapter 3, «Pecado», like Number 1, moves from serious to lively moods (becoming almost slapstick by the end); at the end of this chapter it is clear that neither of the children will respond to Encarnación's love for them. Chapter 4, «El célebre Miquis» (corresponding to Number 2, Adagio, followed by a longer Allegro con brio) unfolds in the Buen Retiro Park   —32→   and the Castellana (reminiscences of the ballet's woodsy setting) and presents the modern. Prometheus, Miquis, attempting to bring «understanding» and love to Isidora. Like La Sanguijuelera, Miquis, the future healer of mankind, makes no impression on his pupil. The mood of the next chapter, «Una tarjeta» is that of Number 3, Allegro vivace. Number 3 marks the end of Act One and the decision by Prometheus to take the children to the house of Apollo. In the novel, Isidora, who is already a boarder in the Relimpio home, decides to dissociate herself from Miquis and to pursue her hope of a fairytale ending for her story. Nevertheless, Prometheus «has lost»; and the task of the creatures' educations passes to others.

As indicated above, Act Two of the ballet is the longer act; also, it is less clearly explained in the existing summary of the action. Number 4 (Maestoso, Andante) serves as a kind of brief overture to the second act. And the Commentarii suggests a kind of procession of the gods onto the stage. Chapter 6, «¡Hombres!» can be seen as ironically serving a similar purpose, for here the reader is introduced to the world of the streets and a procession of future pícaros. And this is the «school» in which Mariano and the future generation are being trained. The children are rehearsing the tragedy of Spain's future. It is also Mariano's entry into the world of the criminal. Contrasted with the fallen hero Prim, the «new» heros are quite ungodlike. In the novel there are attempts at further education, but this is the real school -which teaches neither the arts nor the finer emotions and makes criminals of impoverished youth. Chapter 7, «Tomando posesión de Madrid», like Number 5 (Adagio, Andante quasi Allegretto) is divided between two tempos, that of the scene in the Church of San Luis contrasts with the quickened pace of the shopping spree in which Isidora goes about demonstrating her lack of ability to exercise rational control over her expenditures in covering her many «needs» (The needs of those addicted to luxury which Plato treats in the Republic). As Mariano becomes a criminal by playing children's games (imitating adult views of heroism) Isidora becomes the snatcher of her own purse, a victimizer of herself in following the model of her novelized -yet learned from society- erroneous conception of reality. With this chapter the procession of the gods is completed and the action shifts to the «house of Apollo».

According to Nettl, Act Two is «in reality a divertimento with individual dances, each of which represents one of the gods instructing the creatures in a particular art» (NET, 181). Nevertheless, Chapter 8, «Don José y su familia» (corresponding to Number 6, Un poco adagio -only four bars- and Allegro) concentrates on setting the social scene in the house of the Galdosian Apollo in addition to showing how the «creatures'» education procedes as they become defined as social outsiders. The description of Don José Relimpio y Sastre seems intended to make of him a compendium -and a parody- of Apollonian characteristics. His surnames suggest both the god's moral cleanliness and dandy-like manner of dress.51 The golden hair of his moustache and the bright shiny face are also reminiscent of Apollo. And the red tinted cheekbones are another possible allusion, if Galdós was aware that the Greek word for Apollo could as well be derived from abol, «apple» as from apolluni, «destroy».52 Like Apollo, Relimpio once had a military career and comes from Muchamiel, a land not unlike that of the Hyperboreans, where, according to mythology, half the year is spring-like, filled with flowers, herbs and the ecstasy of life. In addition, Don José is something of a music lover and his tendency to platonic donjuanism may be counted reminiscent   —33→   of Apollo's many amourous adventures. (However, he is also a character in realist fiction and other characteristics such as his fanatical interest in book-keeping, his uselessness and his participation in Dionysian revelry cannot be entirely ignored in that context.) Isidora resides in this house until the end of Part One and is accompanied by Don José to the end of the novel. In further imitation of the ballet, the three Graces seem present in the persons of his wife and his daughters Leonor and Emilia; and Apollo, that is Don José, does undertake to teach the «art» of using a sewing machine to the distracted, dreamy Isidora. However, Don José and his family are, on another level, a microcosm of contemporary society; and life there seems at the same time an introduction to life in Madrid. In spite of her rejection of the cursi behavior of Emilia and Leonor and the schemes of Melchor, the reader eventually must conclude that she is more like than unlike them. All share in varying degrees in ignorance and miseducation, and all desire to be seen as superior.

The use of the titles «Beethoven» and «Sigue Beethoven» for Chapters 9 and 10 seems to invite comparison between the «true nobility» of the Aransis in the one case (when the music is played well) and the falseness of lsidora's dreams as Miquis raises a mighty din. However, it is possible that Galdós is here engaged in a musical-literary game. Number 7 is marked Grave and Number 8, Allegro con brio and Presto. During the first of the chapters the Marquesa's grandson plays a sonata, possibly the Pathétique. The Introduction to the Pathétique is also marked Grave and is followed by an Allegro molto con brio. Chapter 9 is not entirely Grave but is developed through an interplay between the thoughts of the Marquesa as she moves to emotional equilibrium and the music which passes through a «series of moods», playful, inspirational and mournful. So while the theme of the chapter is serious, the pathos of the situation is controlled. Chapter 10 is by contrast primarily happy and playful only to change rather abruptly at the end as Isidora's feelings are wounded and the scene draws to a rapid (Presto) close.

Interlude: Identification of the «Pathétique»53

Although the composition played on the piano by the Marquesa de Aransis' grandson has been identified as the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and as the «Moonlight Sonata», intensive examination of the text of the novel suggests that there is a greater likelihood that Galdós had in mind the «Pathétique Sonata», Opus 13.54 In Chapter 10 Miquis finds a volume of sonatas when he visits the palace (D, 159). And one may assume this a «clue with a purpose». In addition, Galdós' description of the playing of the piece points to a three part composition. Although he emphasizes the first part in prolonged commentary, it should be noted that this is followed by an «estrofa amorosa, impregnada de candor pastoril» and a rondo (D, 152). Some ten of Beethoven's sonatas end in a rondo. And the rondo seems a sine qua non in establishing the identity of the piece, as no other technical references are made to parts of the composition outside of the First Movement. The «Pathétique» appears to match most closely the description in La desheredada, which begins as follows:

Entonces oyéronse las notas medias del piano, acordadas dulcemente, indicando un motivo lento y sencillo de escaso interés musical, pero que semejaba una advertencia, el érase una vez del cuento maravilloso.

(D. 147)                


Apart from a strong initial chord, it is possible to say that the first measures of the sonata are of scant musical interest, if a steady rhythm, marked dynamics and an easily identifiable theme are what seem «missing» to the listener. Beyond this point the First Movement lends itself to the transcendental programme developed by Galdós. The Second Movement is credible as a «pastoral» and the rondo may suggest to those given to visual reverie during musical performances a series of pictures such as are drawn by Galdós.

The First Movement of the «Pathétique» is structured in the following manner:

  • Introduction: Grave
  • Exposition: Allegro molto e con brio
    • First Theme © minor)
    • Second Theme (First time plaved: E flat minor touching on E flat major: C minor with allusion to E flat major)
    • Closing Theme
    • Return
  • Repeat of the Allegro in its entirety
  • Grave
  • Allegro molto e con brio
    • Development Section
    • Recapitulation (First Theme, Second Theme, Closing Theme)
    • Coda 1
    • Coda 2 (Grave)
    • Coda 3 (Allegro molto e con brio)

All parts of the First Movement are described within the novel except the initial strong chord and the codas. The first four measures of the Introduction correspond well to Galdós' first words describing the piece.55 The remaining six measures of the Introduction correspond to the next passage in which the description resumes:

[...] levantóse de la caja del piano próximo un murmullo vivo, que pronto fue un lamento, expresión de iracundas pasiones. Era la elegía de los dolores humanos, que a veces, por misterioso capricho del estilo, usa el lenguaje del sarcasmo.

(D, 149)                

At this point the Introduction (Grave) gives way to the first playing of the Allegro: «Luego las expresiones festivas se trocaban en los acentos más patéticos que pudiera echar de sí la voz de la desesperación» (D, 147). As this paragraph develops it would seem that Galdós first describes the First Theme then the Second Theme; but his description is only partial, as he wishes to continue the description in the following paragraph where he deals with his subject matter in greater technical detail. For the moment he is content to state in general terms the development of the transition from the First Theme into the Second Theme with the contrast between the sound of the minor key of the Introduction and the development of the Second Theme (derived from the Introduction) in the contrasting key (which touches on the major):

Una sola idea, tan sencilla como desgarradora, aparecía entre el vértigo de mil ideas secundarias, y se perdía luego en la más caprichosa variedad de diseños que puede concebir la fantasía, para reaparecer al instante transformada. Si en el tono menor estaba aquella idea vestida de tinieblas ahora en el mayor se presentaba en luz resplandeciente. El día sucedía a la noche, y la claridad, a las sombras   —35→   en aquella expresión de sentimiento por el órgano musical, tanto más intenso como vago.

(D, 149)                

In the following paragraph Galdós approaches the Allegro with another focus. The regular playing of the theme is accompanied by tremolo. The Second Theme is played first in the bass, then in the treble. The references to the playing of arpeggios, chromatic scales and imitations seem to belong to the playing of the Closing Theme, although the chromatic scales are of short duration, the arpeggios are largely accompaniment and the use of imitation is quite limited. The «soplo de reacción» which crosses the keyboard may be identified as the concluding portion of the Closing Theme; and the return to the First Theme, however brief, can be taken as the voice which Galdós states to be the expression of antithetical passions. The paragraph follows:

De modulación en modulación la idea única se iba desfigurando sin dejar de ser la misma, a semejanza de un histrión que cambia de vestido. Su cuerpo subsistía, su aspecto variaba. A veces llevaba en sus sones el matiz duro de la constancia; a veces, en sus trémolos, la vacilación y la duda. Ora se presentaba profunda en las octavas graves, como el sentimiento perseguido que se refugia en la conciencia; ora formidable y guerrera en las octavas dobles, proclamándose vencedora y rebelde. Sentíase después acosada por el bravío tumulto de arpegios, escalas cromáticas e imitaciones, se le oía descender a pasos de gigante, huir, descoyuntarse y hacerse pedazos... Creyérase que todo iba a concluir; pero un soplo de reacción atravesaba la escala entera del piano; los fragmentos dispersos se juntaban, se reconocían, como se reconocían, como se reconocerán y juntarán los huesos de un mismo esqueleto en el juicio final, y la idea se presentaba de nuevo triunfante, como cosa resucitada y redimida. Sin duda alguna una voz del otro mundo clamaba entre el armonioso bullicio del clave: «Yo fui pasión, duda, lucha, pecado, deshonra, pero fui también arrepentimiento, expiación, redención, luz y Paraíso» .

(D, 140)                

The difficulty of identifying the relationship between parts of Galdós' description and the «Pathétique» is not diminished by the use made of the imperfect tense with both a narrative and a descriptive function which blurs somewhat the understanding of whether the author is dealing with a chronological ordering or repeated effects. The use of «a veces... a veces» and «ora... ora» works a similar effect.

The return to the Grave is signaled by the sentence: «Oyóse otra vez la voz del clave, con triste elocuencia de salmodia» (D, 151). And the beginning of the Development (Second Allegro) is then marked by the next sentence in the text: «La frase tenía un segundo miembro» (D, 151). In listening to the Development, one may share in the associations suggested by Galdós:

Bien podría creerse que un alma dolorida preguntaba por su destino desde el hueco de la tumba, que una voz celestial contestaba desde las nubes con acentos de paz y esperanza. Descansaba el motivo sobre blandos acordes y este fondo armónico tenía cierta elasticidad blanda que sopesaba muellemente la frase melódica. A ésta seguían remedos, ahora pálidos, ahora vivos, sombras diferentes que iban proyectando la idea por todos lados en su grave desarrollo.

(D, 151)                

The last sentence of this description, however, would not seem to apply to the Return to the First Theme. The contrast which follows cannot possibly be one between the First Theme and the immediately preceding Development, but rather between the First Theme and the Grave passage which is played between the two Allegro sections. «Sencillez soberana» cannot apply to the Development   —36→   section. Again, the problem is a lack of clearly defined chronological successions in the text. Nevertheless, the contrast can exist quite easily between the Grave and the Allegro; and this may be what is intended:

Las sabias formas laberínticas del canon sucedieron a la sencillez soberana, de donde resultó que la hermosa idea se multiplicaba, que de tantos ejemplares de una misma cosa formábase un bello trenzado de peregrino efecto, por hablar mucho al sentimiento y un poco al reciocinio, juntando los encantos de la mística pura a los retruécanos de la erudición teológica.

(D, 151)                

The first coda ends on a loud chord announcing a return to the Grave: «Bruscamente, una modulación semejante a un hachazo variaba el número, el lenguaje, el sentido» (D, 151-152). The remaining bars of the First Movement do not play a role in the novel.

In comparison with the extensive treatment of the First Movement, attention to detail in the Third Movement is slight. And it is concentrated only on the early parts of the movement. The following is a composite of Galdós' observations:

[...] y después, el festivo rondó, erizado de dificultades, con extravagancias de juglar y esfuerzos de gimnasta. Enmascarándose festivamente, agitaba cascabeles. Se subía, con gestos risibles, a las más agudas notas de la escala, como sube el mono por una percha; descendía de un brinco al pozo de los acordes graves, donde simulaba refunfuños de vicio y groserías de fraile. Se arrastraba doliente por los medios imitando los gemidos burlescos del muchacho herido, y saltaba de súbito pregonando el placer, el baile. La embriaguez y el olvido de penas y trabajos.


¡Cómo se reía entonces Beethoven! Su alegría era como la de Mefisto disfrazado de estudiante. Luego entonaba una graciosa serenata, compuesta de lágrimas de cocodrilo y arrullos de paloma.

(D, 152-153)                

The playing of the Main Section of the Rondo may be associated easily with the tinkling of bells and the gambols of a monkey. In the transition from the Main Section to the First Contrasting Theme (Measures 19-25) there are bass chords to which Galdós may have related the grumbling of old men and obscenities of friars. As the First Contrasting Section of the Rondo begins (measure 26), the middle range of the keyboard is in exclusive use for some six measures; this is followed by varied patterns. Such a combination may be interpreted as the feigning and playfulness of the young boy. The return to the Main Section would then be the laughing of Beethoven compared to that of Mephistopheles dressed as a student. Finally, the «serenata» corresponds to the middle section of the Rondo marked Tranquillo. Initially, at least, this is a simple motif presented in contrapuntal form, such that in its first eighteen or so measures it appears songlike.

In La desheredada Galdós has at the ready irony and humor, the Cervantine and the picaresque traditions, in order to avoid lapses into the melodramatic effects which mar his earlier novels. However, such «controls» are of little use in narrating and describing the emotional state of the Marquesa de Aransis. In order to avoid the melodramatic, a solution is found in the playing of Beethoven's «Pathétique». The interplay between the grandmother's recalling the death of her daughter and the performance of a work identified with the sublimation of pathos has the effect of diminishing the direct attention given the pathetic scene itself. At the same time the pathos is raised to another level and «universalized».


It would seem that the role of pathos in art (and in the novel) had been of interest to Galdós for some years. In Chapter 5 of Gloria musical taste and ideas possibly revelatory of Galdós' interest in music as a transcendental art are treated in some detail. Gloria's taste as a musician trained in a convent shool is lamentable:

Gloria repasaba todo su repertorio de fantasías, nocturnos, flores de salón y auroras de pianista, sin poder encontrar lo grave y patético que el alto espíritu de su padre pedía.56

Although Juan Lantigua lacked both musical training and extensive exposure to musical performances, his «espíritu elevado y su sensibilidad exquisita le hacían encontrar diferencias profundas entre las varias clases de músicas que había oído» (G, 37). His words provide some insight into why the «Pathétique» may have seemed an appropriate accompaniment to the Marquesa's meditations:

[...] No me digas que así es toda la música, porque yo he oído en alguna parte, no sé si en la iglesia o en el teatro, composiciones graves y patéticas, que penetrando más allá de los sentidos, conmueven el ánimo y nos sumergen en dulce meditación...

(G, 27)                

In the scene from Gloria and in Chapter 9 of La desheredada concern with expression of the pathetic is related to music. In Lantigua's view good music is by definition pathetic and grave. The lengthy commentary centered on the First Movement of the «Pathétique» suggests that Galdós' search for an adequate expression of pathos in literature advanced along a trajectory having had an early articulation in Lantigua's observations.

Analysis: Chapters 11-18

In the last chapters discussed no reference has been made to the ballet's plot, as, in fact, Galdós seems to have taken advantage of the independence of the numbers to develop aspects of his plot and characterizations which go beyond the requirements of ballet plot. However, knowledge that a model such as the Prometheus was used makes understandable the seeming lack of connection between the various chapters, many of which are not tied logically to the preceding and some of which seem almost independent units in themselves.

Chapter 11, «Insomnio número cincuenta y tantos» seems to parallel the tempo indications of Number 9, Adagio, Adagio and Allegro con brio. The action narrated moves to a faster tempo after the initial pages (D, 163-165) as the night advances and the hours seem to pass with increasing rapidity.

Chapter 12, «Los Peces (Sermón)», corresponds to one of the few titled numbers in the Prometheus, Number 10, «Pastorale». The association of a «Pastorale» with a sermon about the Manchegan Peces is not altogether illogical. The use of Old Testament quotations and the choice of the name Manuel (Immanuel) for the «savior of the nation» summon both the association with the «pastoral» world of the Bible and through the form of a sermon the work of the pastor. The heavy handed sarcasm is not misunderstood by readers who know that the Peces have their origins in the pastoral world of La Mancha, as do Miquis, Isidora (to a lesser   —38→   degree) and, of course, Don Quixote. The Peces have made the play of illusion and reality work to their own advantage. The «festive» Allegro of the «Pastorale» thus sets the tone for one of the best of Galdosian satires.

Chapter 13, «¡Cursilona!» parallels in its building to a climax Number 11, a brief Andante which moves through two crescendi, ending in a sustained fortissimo. In «¡Cursilona!» a rising tide of suspense is built into Joaquín Pez's attempt to seduce Isidora. He finally meets the insurmountable obstacle of her pride and responds with the epithet which gives the chapter its title.

Chapter 14 parodies aspects of Larra's «Nochebuena de 1836» the celebration of the spiritual through gluttony, the description of the markets, and, most significantly, in Mariano's playing upon Isidora's concept of self in imitation of Larra's Asturian servant. Like Larra's Saturnalia, that of Isidora and Mariano turns out rather melancholy and sad (cf. saturnino). The contrast between the festive spirit of the holiday and the «children's melancholy» organizes the chapter. Number 12 (Maestoso, Adagio, Allegro and Mosso) is reflected in the growing animation of the Relimpio family feast: Don José (Apollo), the «three graces», Miquis (Prometheus) and an episodic character, the poet Sánchez Barande (Orpheus) celebrate the birth of Christ. Ironically, the festivities are used to underscore Isidora's growing alienation, for, with Mariano's release from prison, she is excluded from the dinner. Celebration of the creatures' education in the arts in the Prometheus is replaced with their growing isolation. And Galdós steadily develops picaresque allusions to this end. Their rejection by «respectable» society, their poverty and hunger, their apodos, Mariano's recitation of picaresque verse (the surname Rufete suggests rufián) -all of these elements, in addition to their love of riches for selfish motives, their sense of beleaguerement (especially Isidora's) and their seeking defence in pride (orgullo) seem to confirm that their education is progressing towards their ultimate alienation from society, the opposite of the conclusion one would expect in view of the structural model. As Miquis leaves Isidora alone and joins in the celebration his ironic remark, «Pero es tan tiránica la sociedad (D, 199)», marks the end of his Prometheus role in line with the ballet's plot.

In Chapters 15, 16, and 17 («Mariano promete», «Anagnórisis», and «Igualdad: Suicidio de Isidora») Galdós completes the «tragic» picaresque initiation of both protagonists and launches them into a trajectory leading to their ever increasing degradation in Part Two.

Chapter 15, «Mariano promete» is structured in four episodes which lead to a conclusion opposite that suggested by the title. Isidora's first attempt to make Mariano into «una persona decente (D, 206)» ends with his apparent repentance, but also with a demand for money accompanied by a threat-insult: «¡Dinero! Ya sé cómo se encuentra cuando no hay. Los chicos me lo han enseñado» (D, 206). The second episode: Mariano steals Isidora's earrings and disappears for a week. Again repentance and again a lesson from the chicos: «-Ya, ya. Las mujeres son todas unas... Bien sé lo que hacéis para tener siempre dinero. Los chicos me lo han dicho» (D, 209). Mariano is now joining with those who through maliciousness believe the worst about Isidora's relationship with Joaquín Pez. By giving a label to Isidora's supposed conduct, Mariano and the chicos provide her with the «solution» that all had expected (and already had taken for granted) when later her illusions are threatened. When Isidora takes Mariano to the theatre (the ballet   —39→   is subtitled «The Power of Music and the Dance») she believes there is improvement in his behavior:

[...] y llevó a su hermano al teatro, de lo que éste recibió tanto gusto, que en algunos días apareció como transformado, encendida la imaginación por las escenas que había visto representar y manifestando vagas inclinaciones al heroísmo, a las acciones grandes y generosas. Contenta Isidora de esto, comprendió cuánto influye en la formación del carácter del hombre el ambiente que respira, las personas decentes con quienes tiene roce, la ropa que viste y hasta el arte que disfruta y paladea.

(D, 210)                

However, Mariano's experiences in school put the finishing touches on his role as outcast. Already not disposed to formal learning, the boy is laughed at for his backwardness:

La mortificación de su amor propio al ver que le eran superiores niños de su edad... Era casi un hombre y en todas las clases ocupaba el último lugar. Era el burro perpetuo, burla y mofa de los demás chicos.

(D, 210)                

His defence is pride (as was Isidora's when she escaped Joaquín and when she was excluded from the Christmas feast); the effect is withdrawal into himself:

La poca estimación que se le tenía mató en él sus escasos deseos de aprender. Concluyó por despreciar el colegio como el colegio le despreciaba a él, de donde vino su costumbre de hacer novillos, la cual aumentó de tal modo que, sin saberlo su hermana, dejó de asistir un mes entero al estudio.

(D, 210)                

[...] En sus compañías, que al llegar al colegio fueron de niños decentes, descendió poco a poco hasta el más bajo nivel, concluyéndose por incorporarse a las turbas más compatibles con su fuerza y condición picaresca.

(D, 211)                

Number 13 of the Prometheus contains two sections marked Allegro and Comodo and a coda (marked Mosso toward its close). The tempo and volume of the music builds to the end, presumably (for we have no more exact way to proceed), marking the threat of death to Prometheus at the hands of Melpomene. Here society, not a dagger, is shown to be lethal to the creatures themselves made victims, rather than to the god who in the ballet is sacrificed and resurrected.

Chapter 16 reflects some of the mood and tempo of Number 14 (Andante, Adagio, Allegro and Allegretto) in the slow movement of the beginning followed by the faster pace of the preparations for the meeting and the «happy mood» of Isidora as she enters the Palace. Finally, the slower Allegretto with the alternating of the theme between the violin and basset horn may suggest the exchanges between Isidora and her supposed grandmother. Titled «Anagnórisis» the chapter presents the discovery of truth destructive of Isidora's illusions and fantasies. Isidora protests against the truth manifested to her by the Marquesa; and in the ballet the woman raises accusations against Prometheus for having created man and woman as creatures susceptible of death. It is the «mortal» nature of her illusion -the result of deception- which brings the action of Part One to its climax. Chapter 16 also parallels the development of the picaresque motif of the preceding chapter. When the Marquesa informs Isidora that her claim is   —40→   false, the latter takes refuge in her pride, which is transformed into brutal soberbia and ira:

Era toda convicción y la fe de su alto origen resplandecía en ella como la fe del cristiano dando luz a su inteligencia, firmeza a su voluntad y sólida base a su conciencia. El que apagase aquella antorcha de su alma habría extinguido en ella todo lo que tenía de divino, y lo divino en ella era el orgullo. Al oír a la Marquesa, creía escuchar los términos más terribles de la injusticia humana. La pena que con esto sintiera la colmó de confusión y espanto en los primeros momentos, pero después su orgullo contrariado se hizo brutal soberbia. Su ira surgió como una espada que se desenvaina y le dio concisa elocuencia para decir: -Por Dios que nos oye. Juro que soy quien soy y que mi hermano y yo nacimos de doña Virginia de Aransis...

(D, 220-221)                

Despite the echo of the «Yo sé quien soy...» of the Quixote, the protagonist continues within her picaresque trajectory. Isidora leaves as one sentenced to death on the scaffold:

Andaba con teatral arrogancia y la serenidad terrible de que se revisten algunos al subir al cadalso. Las salas del palacio se iban quedando atrás, como se desvanece el mundo cuando nos morimos.

(D, 213)                

And as she comes out, definitive judgement is passed in the glance of the man standing in the portal with Alfonso: «En el portal estaba Alonso y un hombre muy gordo, el cual al pasar, la miró con intención picaresca» (D, 223). Although criticism generally concentrates on Isidora's being forced to renounce her illusions in prison with the subsequent fall into lowest degradation at the end of Part Two, the paradigm of her subsequent action is completed here. And the rest is... «variations on the pattern».

Even with the moral death of Isidora and Mariano and the absence of a sacrificial god to be resurrected, Galdós does not abandon imitation of some aspects of Number 15 (Andantino, Adagio and Allegro) in Chapter 17. Having been «killed» in Chapter 16, Isidora is now reborn, transformed, and thus completes her picaresque initiation:

El mundo era de otro modo... La gente y las casas también se habían transformado; y, para que la mudanza fuera completa, ella misma era punto más o menos otra persona.

(D, 225)                

The action of the chapter itself must conclude, however, before readers understand fully what is so announced at the chapter's beginning. In the ballet Thalia masks the crying children while Pan, leading the dancing fauns, brings Prometheus back to life. In this chapter Pan seems to be the former «Apollo», Relimpio. The merrymaking population is faun-like, drinking and behaving somewhat libidinously -at least in Don José's view. Relimpio and Isidora wander the streets in the midst of a celebration of sorts marking the end of the reign of Amadeo and the establishment of «Equality». Isidora's own interpretation of «equality», now that all «are alike», leads her to some peculiar conclusions: (1) that the law will allow her to prove that she is «more equal» than others by «dethroning» her grandmother and (2) she ends up as Joaquin's paramour. And, paradoxically, it is contact with the crowds which first rekindles her ambition to gain her inheritance:

El contacto con la muchedumbre, aquel fluido magnético conductor de misteriosos apetitos, que se comunicaba de cuerpo por el roce de hombros entró en ella y la sacudió.

(D, 231)                


Thus Galdós says that she is clearly part of the pueblo which she despises; and her reborn ambition and her immediate fall become confirmation that she is an integral part of the society dominated by cursilería. As the action of Part One thus ends «tragically» it includes a parody of the comic ending as well, with the «wedding of Isidora and Joaquín». In some measure the music of Number 15 is reflected in the chapter's action passing from the embittered and somewhat romantic initial moments to a middle section in which questions of politics slow things down until finally, the faster moving conclusion to the chapter in which Isidora goes to her meeting with Joaquín. As the action becomes livelier Galdós insinuates what may be reminiscences of his model.

Deteníanse los vehículos, y la gente, refugiándose en las aceras, se estrujaba como en los días de pánico. La tienda del viejo Schropp detenía a los transeúntes. Como se acercaba Carnaval, todo era cosas de máscaras, disfraces, caretas. Estas llenaban los bordes de las ventanas y puertas, y la pared de la casa mostraba una fachada de muecas.

(D, 230)                

In the ballet Pan (etymological root of pánico) leads the fauns and the children are masked.

The Finale, Number 16, consists of a long Allegretto, followed by a somewhat shorter Allegro molto, then a brief Presto. The title of the last chapter of the novel, «Últimos consejos de mi tío, el canónigo» is ambiguous in the use of the possessive adjective. If my uncle is Isidora's, the use of the adjective implying a first person narrative perspective is out of place in an otherwise third-person narrative. Of course, in some measure Galdós is imitating Isidora's own references to her uncle. But the usage by the narrator also suggests that he too is related to Santiago Quijano-Quijana (and so to Isidora!). And, in fact, Quijano-Quijana and Galdós are «related» in that each is in some measure her creator and the creator of her madness. Using the surname(s) belonging to the sane man that Don Quixote once had been and becomes at his death, Galdós has named the fool Santiago. And in imitating Cervantes in his own fashion Galdós has brought himself into the author-creator confusion in ways reminiscent of the Quixote. In this framework, the parody of Don Quixote's giving advice to Sancho Panza becomes ironic. Quijano-Quijana is giving debased Quixote-like advice to Isidora who is closer to sharing Sancho's ambitions. Yet all of this can be missed should one insist overmuch in seeing Isidora as Quixote-like. The lively festive mood of the ending of Part One relects the joyful ending of the Prometheus and is also a celebration of the creator of the creatures, whether Quijano-Quijana or Benito Pérez-Galdós.57

Plato: Arithmetic and Reality

Whether following Schindler's lead or a more general curiosity concerning Plato, Galdós appears to have found his way to the Republic (the only platonic text mentioned by Schindler) and, most likely, also to the Protagoras (for its treatment of the Prometheus myth).58 Whether or not virtue and good citizenship may be taught is the dominant theme of the Protagoras, a theme related to the social and political focus of La desheredada. Also, the theme of Arithmetic, a major motif in the novel, is given extensive treatment here and in the Republic. In the latter   —42→   work is found an analysis of the consequences of good and bad education as well as a carefully developed analysis of the relationship between mimetic literature and morality.

In Protagoras' retelling of the myth of Prometheus, Epimetheus is a bungler who distributed to the animals all means of self-protection as well as means to guarantee survival; when he came to man, he had left no powers to give him. To assure mankind's survival, Prometheus broke into Zeus' citadel and stole Hephaestus' art of working fire and Athena's knowledge of the arts. However, mankind still lacked the art of politics and that of making war, both of which are essential to civilization. Because he feared for the future of the race Zeus sent Hermes to distribute to all «the qualities of respect for others and a sense of justice, so as to bring order to our cities and create a bond of friendship and union» (PRO, 322C). The distribution of these virtues to all, and not to a limited few, is fundamental for the existence of a just and orderly state:

Let all have their share. There could never be cities if only a few shared in these virtues, as in the arts. Moreover, you must lay it down as my law [Zeus is speaking] that if anyone is incapable of acquiring his share of these two virtues he shall be put to death as a plague upon the city.

(PRO, 322C)                

Protagoras, however, is a Sophist; and, although the above is consistent with Plato's view, other statements clearly are not, for, despite his expressing these ideas on civic virtue, Protagoras seems most interested in the question of individual survival... through appearances of justice. He states that the proof that all men believe in justice is that it would be madness for an evil man to admit to injustice:

Everyone, it is said, ought to say that he is good, whether he is or not, and whoever does not make such a claim is out of his mind, for a man cannot be without some share in justice or he would not be human.

(PRO, 323C)                

In short, a working principle of assumed justice in all allows for a social structure in which injustice may work its weal. This view contrasts with that of the just society described in the Republic in which all would learn to value and practice justice and virtue as well as to do one thing as well as possible for the good of the state (whether one be shoemaker or ruler). In this society busybodies, lawsuits and the like have no place. The world of La desheredada, in this light, would seem the opposite of the ideal state and very much like that of the Sophist -and states dominated by democratic and tyrant-types as described in the Republic. Lack of education in virtue and in justice as well as in work useful to oneself and others and the tendency to moral laxness and lawsuits -all of these are contrary to the ideal.

However, it is the adaptation of the Arithmetic theme in Plato to use as a motif in La desheredada which best serves to show how Galdós kept the question of education at the heart of his work. In attempting to explain the primary role of wisdom and knowledge in making choices between good and evil, pleasure and pain and in calculating the advantages of distant good over immediate pleasure, Socrates works around to a process of quantification:

In weighing pleasures against pain, one must always choose the greater and the more; in weighing pains against pains, the smaller and the less; whereas in weighing pleasures against pains, if the   —43→   pleasures exceed the pains, whether the distant, the near, or vice versa, one must take the course which brings those pleasures; but if the pains outweigh the pleasures, avoid it.

(REP, 356, 356b)                

As the discussion procedes the application of mathematical vocabulary becomes more specific:

If now our happiness consisted in... choosing greater lengths and in avoiding smaller, where would lie out salvation? In the art of measurement or in the impression made by appearances?

(REP, 356b)                

[...] the metric art would have canceled out the effect of the impression by revealing the true state of affairs and would have caused the soul to live in peace and quiet and abide in the truth, thus saving our life? Faced with these considerations, would people not agree that out salvation would lie in the art of measurement.

(REP, 356d and 356e)                

Finally, Plato has his Socrates reveal that the knowledge which is the basis for reasonable and virtuous decisions is «arithmetic»:

Again, what if out welfare lay in the choice of odd and even number, in knowing that the greater number must rightly be chosen and when the less, whether each sort in relation to itself or in relation to another and whether they are near or distant? What would assure us a good life then? Surely knowledge, and specifically a science of measurement, since the required skill lies in the estimation of excess and defect-or to be more precise, arithmetic, since it deals with odd and even numbers.

(REP, 356d and 357a)                

Since Plato does not allow his dialoguers to name the specific branch of knowledge about which they are speaking (ethics), the reader is left with the metaphorical explanation, that virtuous action arises from the right application of «arithmetic» and evil from ignorance of arithmetic or its misapplication. Plato was concerned with the pursuit of pure knowledge and the study of arithmetic would be, after that of literature, the first step towards such knowledge:

It is befitting... that this branch of knowledge should be prescribed by our law and that we should induce those who are to share the higher functions of the state to enter upon that study of calculation and take hold of it, not as amateurs, but to follow it up until they attain to the contemplation of the nature of number, by pure thought, not for the purpose of buying and selling, as if they were preparing to be merchants and hucksters, but for uses of war and for facilitating the conversion of the soul itself from the world of generation (appearances) to essence and truth.

(REP, 525b and 525c)                

Such fine distinctions seem to have been taken seriously by Galdós as he developed from these ideas a motif to be applied in distinguishing virtue and vice among his characters.

The dedication of the novel to schoolmasters marks it first appearance:

Saliendo a relucir aquí sin saber cómo ni por qué, algunas dolencias sociales nacidas de la falta de nutrición y del poco uso que se viene haciendo de los beneficios reconstituyentes llamados Aritmética, Lógica, Moral y Sentido común, convendría dedicar estas páginas... ¿a quién? ¿Al infeliz paciente, a los curanderos y droguistas que, llamándose filósofos y políticos, le recetan uno y otro día?... No; las dedico a los que son o deben ser sus verdaderos médicos; a los maestros de escuela.

The primacy of position accorded arithmetic by Plato is repeated by Galdós. And morality follows arithmetic and logic in the Platonic view because morality   —44→   should be based upon reason. Galdós blames the lack of means required for making right decisions upon false teachers, without referring to them as Sophists. However, he has made the best «teacher» in the novel a physician, one very able with arithmetic. Miquis, in discussing the cause of Isidora's failure with Sánchez Botín observes, «¡Tonta, si hubieras sabido aprovecharte!... Pero tú no sabes hacer números y en esta época el que no hace números está perdido» (D, 331). Later when Isidora seeks his prescription for her salvation his prescription turns out to be nearly a summary of platonic thoughts:

[...] has de considerar que empiezas a vivir de nuevo. Tienes que educarte, aprender mil cosas que ignoras, someter tu espíritu a la gimnasia de hacer cuentas, de apreciar la cantidad, el valor, el peso y la realidad de las cosas. Es preciso que se te administre una infusión de principios morales, para lo cual, como tu estado es primitivo, basta el catecismo.

(D, 358)                

In his plan for Isidora's reform Miquis combines calculations -even if at first only on the huckster level- with learning the nature of reality and the development of a moral sense. The aim is a fife of reason and moderation, a thought not at all compatible with the patient's insistence on extremes («O en lo más alto o en lo más bajo. No me gustan los términos medios» [D, 360]). In the remainder of the same chapter can be seen the rewards which come to Miquis as a result of his weighing pains against pleasures (His resistance to Isidora's «charms» for the sake of distant satisfactions) as well as Isidora's temporary improvement brought about through a period of enforced moderation.

Juan Bou is another character who proves mostly virtuous and very able in mathematics. Although engaged in business, his facility for arithmetic calculation does not seem incompatible with his growth in a moral sense as well. His development recalls the following from the Republic: «Again, have you noticed this, that the natural reckoners are by nature quick in virtually all their studies?» (REP, 526b). Galdós describes Bou's mathematical skill as extraordinary:

Un hombre acompañaba a Melchor, trabajando con él en la misma mesa. Del cerebro del hombre descendía al pupitre una invisible corriente de cálculos que al tocar el papel se condensaba en números como al influjo de la helada la humedad de la atmósfera cristaliza sobre el suelo.

(D, 328)                

Not long afterwards Bou realizes that Melchor's plan is dishonest and abandons it. But it is mathematics which has made him a successful businessman:

¡Qué iniciativa la suya! Fue el primero que imaginó hacer en gran escala las cenefas con que adornan las cocineras los vasares. Antes que él nadie había hecho el siguiente cálculo: Hay en Madrid 92.188 viviendas, que son 92.188 cocinas...

(D, 283)                

Bou's calculations falter when he falls in love with Isidora; and his fanaticism and dogmatism sometimes are quite irrational. However, with Miquis he is closer than other major characters to the ideal of the just man who attends to his own affairs. Two other characters, the orthopedist Juan José and the lawyer Muñoz y Nones seem equally admirable in the author's view, but the arithmetic motif is not applied explicity in these cases. In that of La Sanguijuelera there is little question of mathematical skill, but the weakness of the Rufetes takes a terrible toll on her resources (See Note 9).


Against this group of «good mathematicians» the disorders arising from ignorance and poor arithmetic become very apparent. Isidora is poorly educated, mostly on bad literature. Melchor was graduated from the university a «pozo de ignorancia» (D, 138). Joaquín Pez is a victim of erotomania. These characters are shown worthy of one another or quite near parallel in development. Mariano (a poor student) and Isidora represent but differing aspects of a common trajectory. Isidora despises Melchor; but Galdós recognizes similarities between them (See: D, 139-140). Finally, Joaquín and Isidora live from similar illusions; and the two come to realize (though without effect) that the fault lies in perverse education (D, 395). Before considering these characters in relation to the arithmetic motif, further examination of Plato's thoughts on the role of individuals in society may prove useful.

In Plato's concept of the state and the roles to be assigned individuals a central part is played by the three principles which operate within the individual soul: The rational, the irrational or appetitive and that of high spirit (the latter referring to capacity for impassioned response). The latter, when not corrupted, would tend to the side of reason. Men controlled by reason should be counselors or rulers, those dominated by the appetitive should be businessmen and the like, and the high spirited should be helpers (See: REP, Bk. IV). As reason should predominate in the highest form of city, unbridled irrationality and corrupted high spirit would reign among individuals forming the lowest form of civic life, that of the tyrants, having evolved through miseducation during the immediately preceding era, that of the democratic state. Since Plato held that the type of man dominant in the next step of political evolution was prepared in the preceeding one, it is quite likely that Galdós was thinking in accordance with Plato's belief that the «equality» of democracy leads to a freeing of the appetitive or acquisitive principles with the result that men are dominated by drunkenness, the erotic and the maniacal as a preparation for the onset of the rule of the tyrant. The important role of madness in the souls of Isidora and Mariano, of the erotic in Joaquín and Isidora and of the appetitive and irrational in all of them is evident. Thus they are more than simply examples of the consequences of a poor education and incomplete moral development, for they are also indicators of the nation's future, as individuals give reign to dreams and emotions which under other circumstances would be repressed (REP, 574d, 574e, and 575). Although Isidora and Joaquín despise cursilería, it is also certain that, despite their much discussed sensitive and superior nature, ignorance and lack of ability to calculate lies at the heart of their problem. For Isidora equality means only a right to the satisfaction of her appetites. And in her case literature and erotic tendencies seem to be as important causative factors as a failure to understand calculation. However, when Miquis would cure her, he brings up arithmetic first. And her shortlived attempts at reform at other points in the novel also involve attempts at keeping accounts.

Melchor's interest in arithmetic is tied closely to his single purpose in life, instant and illegal wealth. However, it is Mariano's envy of him that turns the younger man to his emulation; and, in this relationship arises the opportunity to show that among the solitary and underprivileged there is a «black arithmetic» (one which Plato does not discuss), which permits Galdós to develop the motif in relationship to other principal characters.


La soledad en que vivía le despabiló antes de tiempo. Su precocidad para comparar y hacer cálculos no era común en los chicos amparados por padres o parientes cariñosos. Porque el abandono y el vivir entregado a sí propio favorecen el crecimiento moral en el niño. De la índole nativa depende que este crecimiento sea en buen o mal sentido, y es evidente que los colosos del trabajo así como los grandes criminales, han nutrido su espíritu en una niñez solitaria...

[...] El ejercicio de la vida independiente le dio cierto vigor de voluntad, que es propio de los vagos: aguzó su ingenio, precipitó su desarrollo intelectual. Conviene estudiar bien al vago para comprender que es un ser caracterizado por el desarrollo prematuro de la adquisitividad, del disimulo y de la adaptación... El vago adolescente, otra manera de salvaje, sabe más mundo y más Economía política que los doctores recién incubados en la Universidad.

Hallábase Mariano a la sazón a punto de consumar su sabiduría en aritmética parda se le habría desarrollado ya el genio de los cálculos, el furor de la adquisitividad y las facultades oscuras de la adaptación, del disimulo y de la doblez.

(D, 334-335)                

Arithmetic in Galdós thus serves the ends of both good and evil. However, when not used as Miquis uses it the result is not happiness. One of the most evil men to appear, Sánchez-Botín, is an excellent calculator. Miquis says of him, «[...] no hallarás otra fiera como ésta. No hay dos Botines en el mundo» (D, 331). His hypocrisy, lack of generosity and manipulation of the state to his own ends are sufficient to make him the «devil» of dark arithmetic. As a member of the «Comisión» and a specialist in governmental administration his activities affect the whole nation. Yet he is not a happy man.

The congenital madness of the Rufetes, their obsession with acquisitiveness, envy and power, is linked to the arithmetic motif from the first pages of the novel as the reader first sees Tomás Rufete attempting to fix a sum in his memory. In the same chapter Canencia, the pacific madman who seems quite able with numbers, also appears. Here too, Isidora's madness begins to be revealed so that it is seen to be closely related to that of her father. The juxtaposition of the three cases with the first appearance of Miquis (the good mathematician) provides an introduction to this principal motif of the novel, the relationship between madness or a proper sense of reality and the world of numbers. One's sense of reality can be judged in relation to mathematical ability, provided of course, that moral growth keeps pace. The case of Don José, the master of double entry bookkeeping is perhaps most in accord with the platonic view: Mathematics employed in hucksterism is of the kind, after all, that leads not to pure knowledge but further attaches the individual to the world of appearances. And so he turns out as much a sensuous type as those who are not professionals in mathematical operations!

Platonic and Cervantine Mimesis

When considered in relation to earlier novels it is apparent that in La desheredada Galdós made a serious attempt to increase the distance between author and narrative by means which go beyond some employed in the Quixote. If Cervantes copies from the Manchegan archives and «translates» from the work of Cide Hamete Benengeli, Galdós at various points lets his reader know that he is recounting what Miquis has related to him about Isidora's adventures and misadventures. Beyond this he also makes of her father and uncle co-authors   —47→   in the creation of her madness. The novel, then, is more than simply one within the tradition which began with the Quixote; it is clearly imitative of and strives in places to go Cervantes one better. In addition, parody of portions of the text of the Quixote and allusions to its characterizations keep the reader alert to the author's concern with the question of mimesis.

Nevertheless, the imitative act in which Galdós engaged in writing his text differs significantly from that of Cervantes. The latter's novel was born of a fundamental paradox: the novel imitates earlier fictional forms and pretends to imitate life at the same time that it condemns «vital mimesis», the imitation of «bad» art by living men. Cervantes and Don Quixote imitate the same literary models; but the author is «right» and the character is «wrong». In La desheredada author and character are not imitating the same books or music. This places Galdós at a «safer» distance from his characters than Cervantes chose for himself, a distance which allows for a sharpening of satirical intensity. Also, when one considers the moral depths to which Galdós' characters descend, the presence of Cervantine allusion can be perceived as an attempt to salvage some shred of idealism in an otherwise bleak world. However, the presence of Cervantine allusions and symbols at the surface of the text also masks the underlying structural model in such a way that La desheredada does not engage the reader fully in the Cervantine paradox (of approval of artistic mimesis with parallel condemnation of vital mimesis). For all its intricacy the text of the Quixote stands on its own; the mimetic paradox may be explored entirely from within the text itself. Galdós' overt imitation of Cervantine elements suggests an ambivalence in attitude in setting out in a new direction. Allusion to the imitative process in which Galdós seems to have been most completely involved is approached gingerly -and ironically- through constant allusion to and imitation of the Quixote which provided an archetypal creative pattern.

In the more limited area of character development Galdós seems to have had a more clearly defined conception of the negative consequences of «vital mimesis». To some extent this appears to be a consequence of the same readings in Plato which contributed to the development of the «Arithmetic motif» studied above. However, there is little possibility that Galdós can be perceived as one with Isidora (as seems to have occurred with Don Quixote and Cervantes), for Galdós' concern with ideological point of view is still strong.

Although Galdós explicitly and implicitly invites comparison of his characters with those of the Quixote, he seems more aware than his critics that there is little similarity between Isidora and Cervantes' protagonist when he makes of her a «Sancho Panza» about to receive instructions from the mad Santiago Quijano-Quijana. In the measure that each tries to impose literature upon life, that each is poor yet generous and that they are mad there are similarities. But Isidora is a victim of her father's criminal intentions; and her dreams are primarily egocentric and materialistic. And, although her dreams and the literature which sustains them are perhaps «impossible», they are closely tied to common aspirations in a society shown to be ever more sordid and unjust as one ascends the social scale (with some exceptions). Isidora allows herself to lie. She goes from one liaison to another in order to satisfy «needs» which are little more than her insatiable hunger for luxuries. She shows little perseverance -except in the lawsuit- nor constant striving towards an ideal. Her literary heroines are virtuous   —48→   and hardworking; she is neither. And when she is «cured» there is not revealed the equivalent of an Alonso Quijano, el Bueno, but a woman who goes to Gaitica and then to prostitution. One must conclude that Isidora is one with the worst of her society.

In the Republic literature is considered part of «music». And in Isidora's case the consequences of experiencing mimetic or imitative literature are quite the same as those foreseen by Plato. In the ideal state there would be allowed only those works which lead to the development of truthful citizens firmly in control of their lives:

And for the multitude are not the main points of self-control these -to be obedient to their rulers and themselves to be rulers over the bodily appetites and pleasures of food, drink and the rest?

(REP, 389d and 389e)                

The danger of the imitative genres, such as tragedy and comedy, is that they lead him who experiences them to imitate that which is beneath him. And what a person imitates becomes second nature to him. Negative examples include such behavior as that presented in bad novels:

If then we are to maintain our original principle that our guardians, released from all other crafts, are to be expert craftsmen of civic liberty, and pursue nothing else that does not conduce to this, it would not be fitting for these to do nor yet to imitate anything else. But if they imitate they should from childhood up imitate that which is appropriate to them -men, that is who are brave, sober, pious, free and all things of that kind- but things unbecoming the free man they should neither do nor be clever at imitating, nor yet any other shameful thing, lest from imitations they imbibe the reality. Or have you not observed that imitations, if continued from youth into life, settle down into habits and second nature in the body, speech and the thought.

(REP, 395b and 395c)                

We will not then allow our charges, who expect to prove good men, being men, to play the parts of women and imitate a woman, young or old, wrangling with her husband, defying heaven, loudly boasting, fortunate in own conceit, and involved in misfortune and possessed of grief and lamentation -still less a woman that is sick or in love, or in labor.

(REP, 395d and 395e)                

As the ultimate realist Plato held that artists deal only with phantoms thrice removed from the «real», creating imitations of the imitation of the Idea. And such artists, ignorant of the true nature of the thing copied, must rely for judgment of their success on the multitude: «But, as it seems, the thing he imitates will be the thing that appears beautiful to the ignorant multitude» (REP, 601b). Art dealing with a third remove from the truth is related to that element of man's soul most removed from that «which puts its trust in measurement and reckoning (and so it is) the best part of the soul» (REP, 603):

This then was what I wished to have agreed upon when I said poetry, and in general the mimetic art, produces a product which is far removed from the truth in the accomplishment of its task, and associates with the part of us that is remote from intelligence, and is its companion for no sound or true purpose.


Mimetic art, then is an inferior thing cohabiting with an inferior and engendering inferior offspring.

(REP, 603b)                

In this way the theme of rationality and arithmetic are joined to that of the mimetic arts and irrationality. Art and irrationality are thus inimical to the virtuous life:


[...] you are also aware that we plume ourselves... on our ability to remain calm and endure, in the belief that this is the conduct of a man, and [in art] what we are praising in the theatre that of a woman.

(REP, 605d and 605e)                

However, whether one be man or woman, the effects are likely to be similar, at least in the mind of a modern moralist. And in Plato's view the effects of the imitative arts can be seen as all pervasive:

And so in regard to the emotions of sex and hunger, and all the appetites and pains and pleasures of the soul which we say accompany all our actions, the effect of poetic limitation is the same. For it waters and fosters these feelings... and it establishes them as rulers when they ought to be ruled, to the end that we may be better and happier men instead of worse and miserable.

(REP, 606d)                

From these ideas Galdós seems to have derived a framework for the treatment of the role of art in his characterizations. Both protagonists, Mariano and Isidora are given to bad literature, and both live, in some measure, in imitation of it. Although Isidora is also the victim of her father's deceit, the problem is exacerbated by her readings. Although she does not lead the virtuous life of her heroines, she expects their rewards. And if she were to receive her expected inheritance there is no reason to expect that she would be morally better as a marchioness. Mariano's love of romances de ciegos and aleluyas and the speech and actions of pícaros and bullfighters seems to have a more specifically «platonic effect», as he lives only for money and fame and dies a celebrated criminal. Isidora's experience in prison and life with Gaitica also lead through imitation of speech and action to a similar picaresque transformation. The «side of virtue» is also treated within this framework. Through his association with Mariano and Majito, Bou takes up the singing of aleluyas; and as he does he begins to lose his perspective on the «bloodsuckers» and attempts to marry Isidora. Miquis, the just practitioner of a single profession has, of course, the author's love of Beethoven... although in fairness it must be admitted that this includes the mimetic Prometheus.

A more detailed study may produce further insight into the relationship between Galdós' value system and that of Plato. However, it appears that the principal motifs of arithmetic and literature (music), owe much to Plato's writing. Even cursilería can be seen as a form of imitation. In the end, cursilería, poor arithmetic and addiction to bad art are shared characteristics of the would-be «tyrants» of Envidiópolis, where satisfaction of the appetitive principle of the soul reigns near supreme.


La desheredada reflects a serious concern for the question of the role of education in society. The structure of the novel is rooted in that of the Prometheus Ballet, the plot of which deals specifically with the theme of education. In addition, the psychological pattern of development of the protagonists closely parallels that found in the picaresque novel in which miseducation or the lack of education, combined with other factors, leads to bad example, but bad example used by the author to instruct others in virtue. In moving away from the «ideological novel», Galdós needed to revise his value system in order to be able to deal with   —50→   a broader panorama of characters whose identification as good or evil would not longer be so readily discernible. Readings in Plato seen to have provided -at least in the case of La desheredada- a means to this end. At the same time he gained further insights into the question of life as imitation of literature. The sustained interest in Beethoven appears to have provided the point of departure for bringing together in a single novel what have to appear a mass of heterogeneous elements -perhaps even more heterogeneous than those occupying the thoughts of young Miquis.

Boston University.

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