irony in benito perez galdos la de bringas

Irony in Benito Perez Galdos’ La de Bringas Irony is frequently and commonly defined as saying what is contrary to what is meant. This definition is usually attributed to the first-century Roman orator Quintillian.[1] However, this is a very general and simple.

Irony may also arise from a disagreement between expectations and action. This is often striking, and known to a later audience. A certain kind of irony may result from the act of pursuing a desired outcome, resulting in the opposite effect, but again, only if this is known to a third party. In this case the aesthetic arises from the realization that an effort is sharply at odds with an outcome, and that in fact the very effort has been its own undoing.

More generally, irony is understood as an aesthetic valuation by an audience, which relies on a sharp discordance between the real and the ideal, and which is variously applied to texts, speech, events, acts, and even fashion. All the different senses of irony revolve around the perceived notion of an incongruity, or a gap, between an understanding of reality, or expectation of a reality, and what actually happens. There are different kinds of irony. For example: [2]ü  Tragic (or dramatic) irony occurs when a character onstage is ignorant, but the audience watching knows his or her eventual fate, as in Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King.

ü  Socratic irony takes place when someone (classically a teacher) pretends to be foolish or ignorant, but is not (and the teaching-audience, but not the student-victim, realizes the teacher’s ploy).ü  Cosmic irony is a sharp incongruity between our expectation of an outcome and what actually occurs.La de Bringas or That Bringas Woman is a Spanish classic novel of 1884 by Benito Perez Galdos. This novella is an informal observation of everyday life, interspersed with colloquialism in detail – a novel about everyday objects which Galdos brought to ruthless scrutiny.

He is a realist who seeks to reform and modernize the old structures of his country, and wanted to do so using the criteria of the progressive bourgeois class to which he belonged.The plot of the novella revolves around a woman, Rosalia Bringas, wife to a middle-class civil servant Francisco Bringas. Rosalia lives in the Royal palace with her whole family.  It is in a manner a morality tale grounded in a historical perspective, cultivated with realism and a lot of irony.

The use of irony in this masterpiece is so consistent that one will need to have some understanding of how the milieu in Spain was at the time of the writing to be able to grasp the meaning and the thoughts of Galdos. The main character in the novel, Rosalia has the desire to rise in the social ranks. This in Spanish society at that time obviously involves dressing up – wearing expensive and frivolous clothes. The problem is Rosalia’s husband does not have the money nor is the type of man who would want to spend or go into debt to buy clothing.

So the lady takes the matter in her own hands. She obtained some loans without the knowledge of her unconcerned and busy husband and buys herself the clothes that she wants. Rosalia maintains this secret to her husband until one loan leads to another. Soon she was in a river of debts and has no way of paying them back.

She was left with no choice but to ask money from her sister or sleep with one of her husband’s rich friends. The problem with her sister is that she is living with a rich gentleman in sin and has brought all kinds of shame to her family. Ironically, her surprise wrongly predicts her reaction (at this time she was unaware of the scandal which she herself was capable of committing), ‘There’s not a catastrophe left that could surprise me.’ Her decision definitely reflects her character – the central thought in the novella’s climax.

In the first few chapters of the novella describe the character of Francisco. This speaks of Francisco’s artistic temperament, his weakness where Galdos used great irony but surprisingly still was able to command respect to the character at the same time. Since most are ironies this leaves most interpretations of the novella purely based on assumptions thus tentative and vague. Francisco remains a strong character in the reader’s eyes despite his meekness simply because he is what his wife is not.

He is the antithesis described as: tartamudeó, no sin emoción, temblando, balbuciente, con espasmo de artista, and temblequeante. His temperamental character makes one think the strong male character has been deleted but then again this could just be irony.Rosalia’s character on the other hand is spread in an eclectic fashion before the audience’s very eyes. This contrast between the two characters is also an irony in itself.

Her flaws are a product of her refusal to acknowledge the traditional submissive spousal role which she cannot think of herself to become. She rejects her husband’s authority but instead bows to the marquise of Garcia Grande, her advisor in the art of fashionable dresses. This is due to her sensual pleasure in luxurious clothing – ribbons, lace, clothing, and other sartorial goods.  To her this is an escape from the boredom and tastelessness of her existence with Francisco.

She seeks to find meaning of her existence by ascending the social ladder or at least trying to do so. She strives to appear less destitute than she is as her husband strives to do exactly the opposite. Traditionally, her actions are interpreted as egotism, social ambition, and/or the cause of her moral decline.[3] Her succumbing to desires of luxury in the process gives her important lessons about virtue, self-esteem, avarice, greed, humiliation, friendship, power and freedom as they all relate to her deeds and misdeeds.

Nadie en el mundo, ni aun Bringas, tenía sobre la Pipaón descendiente tan grande como Milagros. Aquella mujer, autoritaria y algo descortés con los iguales e inferiores, se volvía tímida en presencia de su ídolo, que era también su maestro.[4]Rosalia’s downfall then is her appetite for luxury – an appetite she can no longer satisfy with the simple purchase of a new ribbon. She has lost forever her innocence, here equated with her resignation to poverty and wifely duty: Aquel bendito Agustín había sido, generosamente y sin pensarlo, el corruptor de su prima; había sido la serpiente de buena fe que le metió en la cabeza las más peligrosas vanidades que pueden ahuecar el cerebro de una mujer.

Los regalitos fueron la fruta cuya dulzura le quitó la inocencia, y por culpa de ellos un ángel con espada de raso me la echó de aquel Paraíso en que su Bringas la tenía sujetap.[5]Although Rosalía is physically present in her home playing her role of submissive wife and dedicated mother, the happiest times in her life, we are told, have nothing to do with the intimacy of her house, marriage, or motherhood, but with the world outside, with clothing and shopping:Ratos felices eran para Rosalía estos que pasaba con la marquesa discutiendo la forma y anera de arreglar sus vestidos.  Pero el gozo mayor de ella era acompañar a su amiga a las tiendas, aunque pasaba desconsuelos por no poder comprar las muchísimas cosas buenas que veía.  El tiempo se les iba sin sentirlo.

[6]As most novels about woman are Rosalia in this novel also lost her innocence. But her innocence gets redefined at various stages. At first, as her sense and desire for power and freedom grow, she loses, one by one, such virtues as once she possessed which made her a fit spouse for the frugal, honest and sentimental Francisco. Secondly with deceit, Rosalía illustrates deceit being able to seep into other daily activities once it is allowed to satisfy a strong desire.

It simply consumes the person. Once Rosalía is given the opportunity to deceive her husband in trivial situations everything else follows. It becomes easy to deceive him in more consequential matters like the deception with the family funds; Rosalía becomes driven to higher level of deceptive behavior eroding her innocence further. Needless to say Rosalía’s passion for luxury brings her to this terreno erizado de peligros, but the key to understanding her drive is not her love of finery so much as her desire for self-determination and, to some extent, power over others.

From the beginning of the novel Rosalía struggles from a lack of a given power base. Her personal dilemma results from a recognition of a convention which assigns her husband the right to control the family funds together with her conviction that she would make better use of them than he. On the one hand she is proud that Bringas knows how to keep the family free from debt and yet disgusted that he finds it necessary to amass money that is not immediately needed for the family’s daily needs. But because she recognizes Bringas’ right to control the flow of money, she does not stage an open rebellion, in fact, she would prefer to be obedient and her campaign to gain more control over the finances begins with straightforward appeals which fall on deaf ears.

Her desire to dress the part which corresponds to her imagined dignity stems from a fear of social ridicule and an exalted sense of her personal worth. Thus, she rationalizes her eventual rebellion by representing Bringas as the obsessed and she, deslucida y olvidada as the proper guardian of the family’s dignity:Y no era ciertamente porque careciese de medios, pues Bringas tenía sus ahorros, reunidos cuarto a cuarto. ¿Y para qué? Para maldita la cosa, por el simple gusto de juntar monedas en un cajoncillo y contarlas y remirarlas de cuando en cuando..

. no sabía colocar a su mujer en el rango que por su posición correspondía a entrambos…

llevaba cuenta y razón de todo, y hasta el perejil que se gastaba en la cocina se traslucía en guarismos en su libro de apuntes… y la minuciosidad de él en la cuenta y razón era tan extremada, que se veía y se deseaba para poder filtrar un día tres reales, otro dos y medio; y a veces, nada podía hacer [7]What makes the rebellion difficult for Rosalía, and all the more scandalous, is the fact that Bringas has but this one fault, his obsession for saving money is his only flaw as a husband in Rosalía’s eyes; in every other respect he is kind and gentle, honorable, faithful and submissive como no le tocaran a sus presupuestos.

She is not, as some would have her, a woman without principles, rather her moral sense is deficient and she is lacking in fortitude.Later in the novel, Rosalía will have to listen to what Refugio, the sister of the despised Amparo, thought of Madrid and many of its women. As Alda and Carlos Blanco have noted, the narrator to whom Refugio refers in this quotation is Galdós himself: ‘My, what a fine place is Madrid, where everything is based on appearances.’Although for some her world seems completely in chaos at end of the novel, Rosalia was able to show that reaching for and gaining some measure of self-determination she has break free from her husband’s tutelage and is able to stand by herself against the grubby world of which she previously had very little knowledge.

This portrayal of Rosalia with her insatiable vanity and passion for fashionable dresses and accessories is ironic and challenges the traditional 19th century image of middle-class women as domestic angels. This depiction is ironic in the sense that traditional criticism of women’s attraction to fashion and the display of luxury as synonymous with female depravity and moral corruption.[8] This use of fashion to enrich the cultural images of the characters portrays in realism and challenges the stereotypical representation of gender in nineteenth-century society and literature.                BibliographyBooksAldaraca, Bridget A.

 El Ángel del Hogar: Galdós and the Ideology of Domesticity in Spain.Chapel Hill: North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures, 1991. 96-102. Galdos, Benito Perez.

La de Bringas 1884, Ed. Alda Blanco and Carlos Blanco Aguinaga(Madrid: Catedra, 1985). Jagoe, Catherine. Ambiguous Angels: Gender in the Novels of Galdós.

Berkeley: University ofCalifornia Press, 1994. Montesinos, José F. Galdós. 3 vols.

 Madrid:  Castalia, 1968.  JournalsGold, Hazel. Francisco’s Folly: Picturing Reality in Galdos’ La de Bringas. Hispanic Review,Vol.

54, No. 1 (Winter, 1986), pp. 47-66 Deutsch, Lou Charnon- La de Bringas and the Politics of Domestic Power. Anales galdosianos[Publicaciones periódicas].

Año XX, 1985, Núm 1 Palley, Julián.  “Aspectos de La de Bringas.”  Kentucky Romance Quarterly 16.4 (1969): 339-48.

 Online Referenceshttp://www.cervantesvirtual.com/servlet/SirveObras/12383874243470495321435/p0000006.htmhttp://www.

gep.group.shef.ac.

uk/caudet.htmhttp://www.dissidences.org/Ladebringas.

html [1] C. Colebrook, Irony, Routledge (UK), 2004, p. 1.[2] http://en.

wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony#_ref-0[3] See Montesinos, Palley, and Jagoe as cited in the bibliography[4] Benito Perez Galdos. Ladebringas 1884, Ed. Alda Blanco and Carlos Blanco Aguinaga (Madrid: Catedra, 1985) p57.

[5] Galdos, p57-58.[6] Galdos, p97.[7] Galdos, p82[8] Bidget A. Aldaraca.

El Ángel del Hogar: Galdós and the Ideology of Domesticity in Spain. Chapel Hill: North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures, 1991. 96- 102. 

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