Date of Award

12-14-2015

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

Languages, Literatures and Cultures

First Advisor

Francisco J. Sanchez

Abstract

Generally considered a thesis novel and a primitive example of the author’s incipient Realism, Benito Pérez Galdós’ Doña Perfecta (1876) is a much more nuanced narrative. While certainly in the vein of Spanish tendentious, or thesis, novels —Galdós censures the intolerance and ignorance of the Spanish countryside and offers up the protagonist, Pepe Rey, as an example of the values of European liberal progress that have the potential to save the nation— at the close of the narrative, the author does not conclude (as is usually held) that one option (thesis) is better than the other. Written at a time when Galdós was acutely attuned to the currents of Realism circulating throughout Europe, the novel serves as a response to his desire to show the Spanish people what was wrong with its society. This didactic impulse implies a relationship between author and reader that is essential for a complete understanding of the work. In order to instruct the reader in the correct way to read Spanish history and to see the true nature of Spanish society, the author employs the techniques of irony and allegory. Obliging the reader to constantly revise what he knows of the fictional world during the course of his reading, these techniques make necessary a reconstruction of the novel’s meaning starting with the literal level of textual analysis, which considers the text as a series of verbal symbols contributing to an overall verbal pattern, and ending with a reflexive interpretation of the polysemy of words and how they contribute to the dense, symbolic import of the novel in its entirety.

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