The House Of Bernarda Alba Essay, Research Paper
Federico Garcia Lorca was born in 1898 and died in 1936, he lived through one of the most troubling times of Spain’s history. He grew up in Granada, Spain, and enjoyed the lifestyle and countryside of Spain. His father was a wealthy farmer and his mother was a school teacher and encouraged his love of literature, art, and music. He was an extremely talented man. A respectable painter, a fine pianist, and an accomplished writer. He was close friends with some of Spain’s most talented people, including musician Manuel de Falla, and painter Salvador Dali. Lorca was a very liberal man who lived un dictatorship for most of his life. However, in 1931 Spain turned into more of a democracy, and was called “The Second Spanish Republic.” However, fascist leader, Francisco Franco, was trying to gain control of Spain. Known as a leftist, Lorca was killed by Franco’s forces. What are considered to be his three most important plays, referered to as folk tragedies were: Blood Wedding, Yerma, and the House of Bernarda Alba. They really drove home his feelings of the Spanish culture, and, in particular, its treatment of women.
“The House of Bernarda Alba” is set in Spain in the 1940’s. It is definitely a very dramatic and very tragic play. Bernarda Alba is the tyrannical mother of five girls: Angustias, Magdalena, Amelia, Martitio, and Adela. At the opening of the play, we find out that Bernarda’s husband has died, and the family is supposed to be in mourning for eight years. The trouble is that only Magdalena actually loved her father. The main focus of this play is to show just how unfair and unjust life was for Women in Spain during this time. Of the five daughters there is only one man who fit the bill according to Bernarda. His name is Pepe el Romano. He is supposed to marry Angustias, simply because she is the oldest and that’s the way things are supposed to be. She is also the one to inherit her father’s money. Pepe would come to the house and meet with Angustias, but we soon find out that he had something going on with another sister. He would meet with Angustias for a little while and then go and spend time with Adela, the youngest and most attractive of the sisters. This comes out when the other sisters say they hear Pepe leave at four in the morning, but Angustias insists that she only talked with him until midnight. Adela is the tragic hero in this play, as it would take a heart of stone not to feel badly for her. Not only can she not have Pepe, but she can’t have any man. She must stay in mourning and take care of her mother until she dies. Bernarda is a nasty, mean, unsympathetic lady, and having to spend all your time loced up with her for the rest of her life is about as bad a punishment as I can think of. The meetings with Pepe continue until inevitably, things start to get out of hand. The sisters tell Bernarda that Pepe has been coming and staying late at night, and Angustias insists that it’s not with her. One night, Bernarda catches Adela with straw on her skirt and realizes that she has been out with him. Bernarda goes out and shoots at Pepe. She shoots at him, but as Bernarda says herself, “It was my fault. A woman can’t aim.” Adela believes that Pepe has been shot and kills herself. All things considered, I can’t blame her at all, in fact, I very well may have done the same. The only other woman in the town to have an affair, Paca la Roseta, came back with, “her hair loose and a wreath of flowers on her head.” She was killed, as was her child as she had become impregnated. Adela was in alomst the exact same boat, as we find out that she too was pregnant, however with Pepe’s child, and her punishment would be similar to that of Paca’s. However, I believe that she wasn’t afraid somuch of being publically chastized, but by knowing that she would never be able to have a life with Pepe, the man she loved with all of her heart.
Although no specific time sequence was given, based on the events of the play you get the idea that the whole stroy unfolds over a couse of a few days to a week. It flows logically from beginning to end, there are literary devices that make it anything other than strait realism. Lorca himself said, “Not a drop of poetry! Reality! Realsim!” It was meant to be as real as a “photographic document.” The locale of the play is very specifically done. It all takes place inside of Bernarda’s home. She demands that all of her daughters remain away from the world and mourn their father’s death for eight years. It is her way of keeping away disparaging remarks towards her or her family. It is a play that only deals with women, and hos truly awful their lives have been histroically. They were not looked at as individuals, but entities which should be molded into one specific thing. They were basically prisoners of their own homes. Forced to either stay home and take care of their mother, or forced to stay home for another circumstance. There are many allusions to bars in the play, which suggest at a prison like atmosphere.
There isn’t much known as fact concerning the background of the story before the play begins. We do know that the father was alive and that with the exception of Magdalena, no one really seemed to care about his death. Even Bernarda’s mourning seemed more like an obligation than anything else. With Bernarda being such a tyrant, I assume that the father was a pushover. That he just went along with what she said and had no impact on his daughters lives. The only daughter that he could relate to was Magdalena, who has the same kind of passive demeanor. It can be assumed that these girls lives were similar to as they are now. They never got the opportunity to get out and experiment. The “Poncia” or the maid gives a lot of background information at the opening of the play. A great impression of what life is like with Bernarda is given by Poncia, “Tyrant over everyone around her. She’s perfectly capable of sitting on your heart and watching you die for a whole year without turning off that cold little smile she wears on her wicked face.” She also says, “One of these days I’ll lock myself up in a room with her and spit inm her face-a whole year. ‘Bernarda, here’s for that and the other!’”
Everything that goes on throughout the course of this play is completely serious. There isn’t a comedic moment, unless you’re laughing out of jest. Right from the start you get the image of what a horrible person is and how awful she makes her daughters lives. The main subject is made very clear from the beginning; the tragedy of being a female in Spain in the early parts of the 20th century. The play is told from a neutral standpoint, not necassarily from anyon’e point of view, but more like you’re there watching it unfold. If it favored anyone though I would say it’s the Poncia, she is the only character that you get to see all sides of. You hear her talk candidly about her feelings, which makes her the most real character to the reader. The reader never really gets to know more than one side of Bernarda. We see her when she’s yelling and screaming and raising hell, and that’s it. The reader is left to believe that she has only one side, which may be true, but takes away any chance we may have towards generating positive feelings for her.
One aspect of the writing of this play that stood out in particular was that it never took sides. I’ve discussed this play before, and I’ve never spoken to anyone who didn’t absolutely hate Bernarda and sympathise with Adela. However, the play itself doesn’t take a side. The story unfolds in a very neutral and unbiased manner. We see things happen and get to make our choice as to who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist. I have no doubt in my mind that Lorca very well knew what he wanted the reader to think, but he didn’t force anything down our throats. We hate Bernarda for what we saw her do, and how others acted around her. She truly was a woman that throughout the play failed to show one redeaming quality. It can be argued that she did what she did out of love for her family and respect for her husband, but I don;t buy it. She did what she did out of fear. She was afraid of what the public would say. She gave off the aura of a big powerful woman, but in reality she was small and weak. She demanded that her family mourn for eight years not because she felt that was proper or because she couldn’t face the world without her husband, but because she felt that it would give her family the best reputation. She did this in spite of all of her children’s happiness. Those are the reasons we hated Bernarda, we didn’t need to be told, we saw it with our own eyes. That is the sign of a good playwright; the ability to show without telling.