Dona Barbara: Cervantine or serpentine? Gallegos's recuperation of the exemplary heroine.
Other heroines are cast aside as undeserving wretches, picaresque waifs and harpies whose reputations are tainted by a propensity for misfortune. The "picara" in Francisco Lopez de Ubeda's La picara Justina (1604) is the antithesis of the Cervantine exemplary heroine. Female characters like Lamia (3) in the Greek Myths complied by Robert Graves, in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (1811) by Flavius Philostratus and in John Keats's nineteenth-century poeta "Lamia" are allegorical symbols of evil. Elsie in Oliver Wendell Holmes's novel Elsie Venner (4) (1861), Perfecta in Dona Perfecta (5) (1876) by Benito Perez Galdos, and finally Zoraida in Jose Eustavio Rivera's contemporary novel La voragine (1924), are perceived as anti-heroines, though they are often mistreated and misunderstood.
There is, then, a heroine who emerges asa dual archetype, i.e., as a female protagonist who exhibits traits of both types of heroines. She is a complex personage characterized by pastoral innocence, idealism, and beauty blended with nostalgia, mistrustfulness, occultism and malevolence. Cervantine exemplary heroines are among the first literary characters to demonstrate this complexity. The exemplary heroine experiences a transformation in the modern novel as authors place more emphasis on psychological development. In some cases, she evolves from a good pastoral heroine into an anti-heroine consumed by vengeance and nostalgia.
In this study, we focus on Barbara, the protagonist of Romulo Gallegos's Venezuelan novel Dona Barbara (1929), a Spanish-American regional "novela de la tierra," or novel of the soil (Shaw 9). If the aforementioned characters can be considered prototypes for her dual character, Barbara may be said to exemplify the Spanish-American anti-heroine of "Criollismo"/Naturalism. She is often seen as an allegorical figure (Alonso 117) who embodies the barbarism of the Venezuelan plains. However, further analysis of her role in the novel reveals her Cervantine traits. While her exemplary characteristics are observable at the beginning of the novel, we are intrigued by her demonic evolution as she rejects kindness and morality.
Is Barbara the lost Cervantine heroine in search of her pastoral roots or does she suddenly transform into a symbol of evil? As a fictional character, Barbara is impressive because she is taken from her pastoral life to experience the harsh reality of the Venezuelan plains. The analysis of her Cervantine, picaresque and demonic traits characterize this modern anti-heroine, but it will also explain why this formula has surpassed the earliest attempts to create a captivating female protagonist in the Hispanic novel.
Dona Barbara begins with the return of Santos Luzardo to Altamira ranch. El Miedo ranch, under the spell of the evil Barbara, had expanded at the cost of the Altamira property. Luzardo learns that Barbara is the product of the rape of an Indian maiden by a white adventurer. She was abandoned and raised on a boat headed for Rio Negro where she met a kind man, Asdrubal. He was hired as a cook on the boat where he attracted the pretty fifteen year-old Barbara. He was a fine mentor, teaching her to read and write as they laughed and sailed the river. She fell in love with him, but one day the crew murdered him, raped her, and planned to sell her to a Turkish sultan.
An old Indian, Eustaquio, rescued Barbara, taught her sorcery and took her to El Miedo ranch where she met Lorenzo Barquero. Lorenzo's relationship with Barbara resulted in the birth of a girl, Marisela, whom Barbara refused to nurse. Barquero became a drunkard and could not marry her. Colonel Apolinar advised Barbara on how to acquire the Barquerena property. Barbara rejected Marisela, whom Lorenzo then took to live on La Chusmita, in Altamira.
The Barbara of the past is barely recognizable as the anti-heroine she becomes. As a child, Barbara is abandoned in a threatening world. Her early character recalls Chloe of the Greek pastoral romance, Daphnis and Chloe (Longus, c. 200 A.D.). The story takes place in Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos (289).
A goatherd discovers the abandoned infant boy Daphnis while a shepherd finds the abandoned girl Chloe. As the attachment Chloe has for Daphnis strengthens, he becomes her mentor. Daphnis tells Chloe the story of Echo, a Nymph who met a terrible fate in the woods (327). Chloe responds obediently when Daphnis asks her for ten kisses if he teaches her the story. Chloe is nurtured, respected, and protected by her pastoral hero. Similarly, Barbara is an exemplary orphan when she first meets and falls in love with her mentor Asdrubal.
In the pastoral novel by Jorge Montemayor, La Diana, there is another exemplary heroine, Felixmena, who may have influenced the characterization of Barbara. Besides the beautiful shepherdess Diana, two other characters in the novel, Felix and Felixmena, have a relationship that ends in suffering. Felixmena is a woman of nobility until she is forgotten by the ungrateful Don Felix whose parents send him to a princess's court. Felixmena abandons the city and lives the pastoral life, dressing as a shepherdess and lamenting her past. In this case Felixmena does manage to save the life of her lover when he is attacked by three evil men, but then tells him of her suffering. He begs her forgiveness and their bucolic happiness resumes thanks to Dianas protection.
La Diana, spared from the fire in the Don Quijote book burning, revitalizes the pastoral heroine. In the works of Miguel de Cervantes we encounter her along side those picaresque types who seem so unsuitable to love stories. However, just what kind of heroine evolves from the exemplary, pastoral beauty to the unhappy, greedy and cruel harpy who occupies the streets of Golden Age works?
More suitable perhaps are the Cervantine heroines as prototypes for exemplary beauties turned into shrews and it is this class of heroine who comprises the majority of those popular protagonists. According to Francisco Lopez Estrada's (6) prologue to La Diana, the unification of these two character types in the works of Cervantes is what creates the independent quality of the types we encounter in the novel. The observation here is that the absence of one or the other, i.e., the exemplary heroine or the "picara," is what causes the story to become a discourse worthy of novelistic designation. A true novel does not succeed as an allegory, and I further suggest that Barbara could not have succeeded as an exemplary or picaresque heroine exclusively.
A brief analysis of Cervantine works, then, invites some speculation about the exemplary heroines as well as the picaresque anti-heroines. This dual personage is not developed in pastoral novels like La Galatea (1585) or tales found in Don Quijote twenty years later such as the stories of Grisostomo and Marcela, Cardenio and Luscinda, and Dorotea. Other characters like Dulcinea have nothing in common with the women in the tales, yet she is the most important female figure in Cervantes's novel.
In La Galatea, the ideal woman is a pastoral figure. She is renowned for her beauty and wisdom, traits that allure the shepherd Elicio who dwells on the banks of the river Tagus. Aurelio, her father, prefers that she marry the rich shepherd, Erastro. Though Elicio and his friends gather to beg that Galetea not depart to marry Erastro, we do not discover the outcome because Cervantes ends the novel. However, additional material containing friends of Elicio introduce numerous subplots about shepherds and shepherdesses. The pastoral setting idealizes Galatea who whimsically disappears from the scene.
At this point, critics observe that Cervantes experienced some difficulty finishing the novel, La Galatea (Duran 80). It is also tempting to construe that the monotonous development of the Platonic shepherdess Galatea had some influence on his hesitance to finish the work. A character in a novel whose evolution is quintessential to the success of the story requires mood and depth. Pastoral heroines demonstrate qualities that can remain static under any circumstances. Which heroine can be innocent and wise at once without experiencing some misfortune or cruelty to explain her newly encountered sagacity? Any woman may be as innocent as a doll, yet her life would be void of action were she to remain
just as shallow. An exemplary heroine, then, may be incapable of dramatic interaction if the result of such conflict alters her mood or blemishes her beauty. If she does not interact, she cannot be involved in the plot of a novel, thus rendering her useless to the genre.
Galatea as a character may not have been the only obstacle to the novel's completion, but I suggest here that Cervantes's attempt to write a novel was influenced by his insight into what kinds of characters to include in the Quijote. His portrayal of exemplary heroines in a novel does not end with Galatea. In the Quijote, his "cuentos interpolados" or interjected tales contain other pastoral heroines. In Chapter Twelve of the first volume of the Quijote, the story of Grisostomo the shepherd and Marcela, the demon possessed daughter of the wealthy Guillermo who disguises herself as a shepherdess, recalls La Galatea.
Marcela appears to be Cervantes's attempt to create an even more captivating shepherdess, i.e., one whose ability to draw the opposite sex is so effective that she far surpasses the Platonic ideal. By doing so, Marcela becomes like a siren, leading men to their doom as they approach her merciless realm. Just as the "belle dame sans merci" (Fass, 15) entices men with her beauty and charm, Marcela seems to enchant such suitors who slowly die of the mere thought of her rejection. Though she is at first kind toward the men who disguise themselves as shepherds just to be near her, Marcela is accused of driving each of them away as one would toss a catapult into the air:
Que, puesto que no huye ni se esquiveade la compania y conversacion de los pastores, y los trata cortes y amigablemente, en llegando a descubrirle suintencion cualquiera dellos, aunque sea tan justa y santa como la del matrimonio, los arroja de si comocon un trabuco. (I, 114)
Her disdainful nature, appearing here to be merciless and unjustified, is reputed to have caused the death of Grisostomo. According to the illiterate goatherd Pedro as he tries to finish the story for the impatient Don Quijote:
Por ser todo lo que he contado tan averiguada verdad, me doy a entender que tambien lo es la que nuestro zagal dijo que se decia de la causa de Grisostomo. (115)
Marcela's role shapes a new breed of shepherdess not just because she has the power of enchantment, a prominent theme in the novel, but because it is with this feature that Cervantes subtly crosses the line from the mundane, bucolic scenes of La Galatea, to passages that lure us from our world into Don Quijote's magical realm. Marcela's dark side is not only fascinating to shepherds, but to readers who are willing to follow the knight to his next adventure.
This magical ingredient is sure to characterize several more pastoral heroines to come. Throughout the novel, each interjected tale reveals an alluring heroine. However, Cervantes varies these types of heroines to include noble ladies and princesses, presumably because he is able to give them a more memorable cast than was achieved with the unassuming pastoral Galatea.
In the next tale, for example, Don Quijote meets el Roto de la mala Figura (224) who later identifies himself as Cardenio. Unfortunately, Cardenio goes mad and is unable to finish telling the story of Luscinda, who waits patiently when she is told that he must go off to the royal court. Luscinda's complacency does not present any intrigue until we discover that Cardenio's friend Don Fernando, is also interested in her. From this point on, Luscinda becomes a more dynamic character. She still writes to Cardenio, but her parents have been persuaded that Don Fernando is the better suitor. Meanwhile, Cardenio reveals to Don Quijote that Don Fernando has been involved with a beautiful peasant girl, Dorotea, but that he has broken his promise to marry her because he has already had his way with her. Since he does not feel honor bound to marry Dorotea, he becomes taken with Luscinda. Luscinda is forced to accept Don Fernando's request to marry her. This is the start of Cardenio's madness since he is said to have attempted to murder various members of the wedding party and been forced to flee. Luscinda does not marry Don Fernando, but decides to become a nun. The complication in the plot arrives when Cardenio accidently stumbles upon Dorotea, who, disguised as a man to protect herself in the wilderness, informs him of Don Fernando's unfaithfulness.
The adventures to follow feature Don Quijote as their leader, but we have to believe that unrequited love causes madness in order to appreciate the ending of the interjected tale. Cardenio finds Luscinda accompanied by Don Fernando when the unhappy couple arrives at the same inn occupied by him, Dorotea, Don Quijote and Sancho. When Dorotea, impersonating a princess for the benefit of Don Q., sees Don Fernando she convinces him that he should leave Luscinda and recognize her, Dorotea, as his true wife. After some dueling and talking, the deed is done and the couples are restored to their rightful spouses.
Without the careful intermingling of plots, Luscinda and Dorotea might have been simple victims of the men who brought them such misfortune. Yet their character development draws them away from classic roles and affords them both active roles in an enchanted ambience. The fairytale always features an active heroine, whether she be cruel of merely perceived as such, who captures our imagination.
In fact, the interjected tales and their unusual heroines present a rather plausible excuse for Don Quijote's claim to madness. If the heroes who find these attractive women so unobtainable can proclaim madness whenever it suits them, then would it not be likely for Don Q. to explain away his madness in a similar fashion? No one could fathom reading Don Quijote without his obsession for Dulcinea del Toboso. When Don Quijote first decides that Dulcinea will be the captor of his heart, she is a common laborer called Aldonza Lorenzo. Though traditionally a name of ill repute, Don Quijote nevertheless decides that since she comes from Toboso, her name should be the more sonorous "Dulcinea del Toboso." From this moment on, Don Quijote believes himself to be in love with this picaresque character and tells everyone he will defend her virtue no matter what the cost. Yet there is no evidence of either her beauty or virtue, for these, he tells us, one must simply believe it to be true:
--Si os la mostrara--replico don Quijote--,?que hicierades vosotros en confesar una verdad tan notoria? La importancia esta en que sin verla lo habeis de creer, con-- fesar, afirmar, jurar y defender; donde no, conmigo sois en batalla, gente descomunal y soberbia. (I, 59)
Dulcinea is presented to us as a princess, every bit as exemplary as any of those heroines we have met in a book of chivalry or will continue to meet in Don Quijote. Therefore, it may be inferred that the heroine who functions best within the novelistic setting, here illustrated by the Quijote, does not appear to be the idealized, pastoral heroine, but one who stands out among the typical characters encountered in everyday life.
Cervantes extends the possibility of social classes from which he may select his characters, depicting them either as pastoral, noble, picaresque or a combination of these types. It is this class of exemplary heroine who will reappear in later works of Cervantes such as the Novelas ejemplares. Romulo Gallegos, whose complex characterization of Dona Barbara includes beauty, innocence, disdain, avarice, malevolence, and jealousy in one character, has combined most of these Cervantine traits to create much more than an allegorical representation of the Venezuelan plains.
In contrast with her exemplary disposition as a child, the adult Barbara resembles a picaresque character. She oversees a ranch on the Venezuelan grasslands. She escapes her loneliness through witchcraft and becomes cruel until Civilization, personified by Santos Luzardo, invites her to change her demoralized nature. Barbara speaks to an imaginary demon who warns her of a plot to murder her. She becomes superstitious, cruel, and materialistic. Santos Luzardo's cultured manners and honesty attract her, but her cruelty toward Lorenzo and Marisela repels him. Barbara is motivated by a need to please Santos, yet she is cynical and does not believe him to be better than men in her past.
Barbara is jealous of Luzardo's love for Marisela, concealing her own romantic interest in him. When she discovers that Santos has no interest in her, she is momentarily enraged. Ultimately she returns the Altamira property to him and accepts his marriage to her daughter, remembering her own love for Asdrubal. We have a sense that Barbara, free from her unhappy past, has resolved a deeper conflict and thus recuperates her self-image. Barbara is neither exclusively pastoral, noble nor picaresque, although we may view her as a picaresque heroine for various reasons.
In La picara Justina, attributed to Francisco Lopez de Ubeda (Damiani 15), Justina embodies the dilemma of the exemplary heroine. The experiences of the impoverished Justina appear to anticipate Barbara's picaresque nature. Her unfortunate circumstances make her the victim of others, which, she tells us, excuses her propensity to become greedy, jealous, and even cruel. Justina compares herself to such animals such as the fox, cat of serpent that must somehow defend their cursed existence. She is frightened by the serpent appearing on her writing paper:
--Jesus, mi bien! ?Que has traido aqui, Marina? Buena sea la hora que nombre culebra, pues veo con mis ojos lo que con la boca nombre. Mas, ?si es dragon? ?Si me ha mordido? ?Si me morire? !Hay Dios! Al rotro me mira. Debe de ser salta rostro. (33)
Justina decides not to fear the painted symbol of the snake, but senses that she is not safe. Four lyrical stanzas predict an event that will change the course of her life. Justina refers to a band of seven students led by Pedro Grullo who plan to abduct and seduce her. As cunning as a fox, Justina outwits them by consenting to a sexual liaison with Grullo, but then prepares a surprise wedding ceremony for the two of them in order to humiliate him. In more lyrical stanzas ridiculing Grullo's figurative title of "bishop" she says:
Hizo cetro de un garrote el obispote, Y a guisa del rey Mono, hizo su trono, Y para mas abono, dijo en tono: Amigos, cese el cote y anda el trote. Hoy se casa el monarca con su marca, No quede pollo a vida ni comida Con que no sea servida mi querida. Hamalda en la comarca polliparca. (117)
Justina delights in having the last laugh and she now embarks on a course of vengeance against men.
Justina survives by swindling money from men. Barbara swindles her cohorts at El Miedo ranch and confiscates all of the Altamira property. Both Justina and Barbara develop into anti-heroines who seek material wealth in order to compensate for their deprivation as children. Barbara feels justified in depriving Lorenzo and her daughter because she has been deprived. She resembles the picaresque heroine because she is selfish, cynical and wicked toward those who have disappointed her, especially men.
In adolescence, Barbara finds companionship and kindness, but they are replaced with cruelty and mistrust after she experiences the brutal rape by the crew. Barbara becomes the anti-heroine of her story as the malevolent side of her nature consumes her daily life. It is as if she has acquired an evil visage, a serpentine mask she must don in order to control her ranch and the people who work for her.
Why does Barbara appear to embody evil? The allegory of a cruel female ruler can be traced to the same roots as the picaresque Justina. Justina wears a grotesque Baroque mask symbolizing her disposition (Damiani 132).
In Greek mythology, Lamia is a goddess, and Queen of Libya, known for her adulterous affair with Zeus. (7) She bears Zeus several children, but Hera, Zeus's jealous wife, punishes her by reclaiming him and murdering all of Lamia's children. Lamia murders Hera's children, behaving so cruelly that her face turns into a serpentine mask. Since Lamia is considered to be the first devourer of men of "man eater" (Ramos Calles 9), Justina and Barbara share this trait. Barbara does not wear a real mask, but she does conceal her feelings and shows disgust for men who have mistreated her by being cruel and callous. Barbara's experience with the crew on the river boat echoes Justina's incident with the students.
Justina's attitude toward religion may also have inflenced Barbara. Justina engages in paganistic rituals and marries to imitate the mythological Graces associated with nuptial feasts (Damiani 32). Justina's wedding ceremony features an abundance of guests, wine, gifts, and an enchanted ambience. This pantheistic wedding recalls Lamia's nuptial ceremony dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite, as she seduced her suitors to the brink of marriage.
In Los personajes de Gallegos, Raul Ramos Calles compares Barbara with Lamia. Like Lamia, Barbara is provoked into taking revenge on all men because they have mistreated her. Lamia idolizes Zeus, but her relationship with him is made impossible by the jealous Hera. Similarly, Barbara idolizes the first man she loves. When Asdrubal is murdered, Barbara becomes disillusioned and cruel. Her nostalgia for the past leads her to become a bitter sorceress.
Lamia, in The Life of Apallonius by Philostratus (403-9), tells Apollonius's pupil Menippus that she is a Phoenician woman who is in love with him. Menippus never realizes she is Lamia, but insists on marrying her. Guests inform him that the woman is Lamia and a follower of the goddess of erotic love, Aphrodite. Lamia reveals to Menippus her ghastly mask and frightens him. In the same way, Barbara's behavior frightens Santos Luzardo.
Similarly, in Keats's poem, Lycius wants to marry Lamia. On the wedding day, Lamia notices Apollonius, a wise old god who recognizes her, causing her face to again become a deadly serpentine mask. Like Lamia, Barbara hides her wrath in the presence of men until she ensnares them emotionally. In fact, the name Colonel Apolinar recalls Apollonius in the Lamian tale. Barbara also demonstrates her profound hatred for men: "Un profundo desden por el hombre habia reemplazado el rencor implacable" (36).
Barbara demands that Lorenzo Barquero leave her home. He is the first suitor to experience Barbara's disdain for men. Before Luzardo's arrival, Balbino Paiba is Barbara's choice of an overseer for the Altamira ranch:
..., si alguna razon de pura conveniencia --la necesidad de un mayordomo incondicional en un momento dado, o, como en el caso de Balbino Paiba, de un instrumento suyo.... (36)
As with Barquero, Barbara behaves like Lamia toward Balbino Paiba. At first, she is interested in Paiba as a lover, but after his prolonged absence, she dismisses him. Lamia and Barbara mistreat their victims because they have been victimized, masking disillusionment behind callousness.
Barbara is also similar to Lamia because her attitude toward her daughter is negligent, abandoning her because she was abandoned. It is difficult for Santos to win Barbara's confidence until she understands her errors regarding her daughter. When she finds that she cannot control Luzardo, she accepts his concern for her, signifying that a change in her attitude is possible.
When Barbara relinquishes Altamira and Barquena land, she appears to become a different person: "Momentos despues, cuando regreso en compania de Luzardo, ya la actitud de dona Barbara era otra" (117).
This superficial change does not last once Barbara realizes that Santos is actually in love with Marisela. She returns to incantations and plans to murder the happy couple. Barbara has a reputation for demonry and expresses her scorn for men through the occult:
Mas, Dios o demonio tutelar, era lo mismo para ella, ya que en su espiritu, hechiceria y creencias religiosas, conjuros y oraciones, todo estaba revuelto y confundido en una sola masa de supersiticion, asi como sobre su pecho estaban en perfect armonia escapulatios y amuletos de los brujos indios ... (36). Marisela observes her mother and calls her a witch: ... mientras con una voz ronca, de indignacion y de llanto contenido, rugia:--!Bruja! !Bruja! (200)
The furious Barbara almost murders Santos and Marisela:
Despacio y con fruicion asesina, saco el arma de la canonera de la montura y apunto al pecho de la hija, que hacia blanco a la luz de la lampara.... (276)
Barbara discovers she is capable of doing harm to those close to her. She is portrayed as evil through the use of large birds known as "rebullones" (129). Gallegos refers to them as "una materializacion de los malos instintos de Dona Barbara" (129). Toward the end of the novel, Barbara is associated with a serpent that strangles a calf, the symbol of the life she has been destroying:
Una, mas grande, se quedo a flor de agua dentro de una ampolla amarillenta, como un ojo tenido por la ictericia de la colera. Y aquel ojo iracundo parecia mirar a la mujer cavilosa. (278)
Barbara discovers a new virtue and renounces her past:
--Sere otra mujer--deciase una y otra vez. Ya estoy cansada de mi misma, y quiero ser otra y conocer otra vida. Todavia me siento joven y puedo volver a empezar. (228)
Though she despairs of her evil actions, she does not change her ways until it is too late to reform her life. Colombian author Eustasio Rivera wrote La voragine in 1924, five years before the publication of Dona Barbara. Its modern picaresque heroine, Madona Zoraida Ayram, may have influenced Barbara's adult character. La voragine is a literary denunciation of the Amazonian rubber trade. Arturo Cova, like Santos Luzardo, breaks with his life as an urban intellectual when his friend Fidel makes him an attractive business proposal. He and Fidel embark on a journey through the Amazonian jungle. The men witness cruel treatment of the Indians by the rubber industry. A wealthy rubber trader pays a sum of money to the Turkish business woman Madona, or Zoraida Ayram. At first, Cova admires Zoraida's resourcefulness. Though he knows that the middle-aged harpy is manipulative and lures men, he becomes her lover during the journey. Zoraida fascinates Cova just as Barbara fascinates Lorenzo Barquero and Balbino Paiba. As Zoraida demands attention and money, Cova becomes repulsed. Her only reason for participating in the journey is to obtain more money. Like Barbara, she is a greedy character.
Zoraida's character is picaresque, but Cova idealizes her. He describes Zoraida as curious and seductive:
Aquella actitud no tenia mas fin que el de fascinarme, aquellos ojos dirigidos a alturas querian que los contemplara, aquel pensamiento que fingia vagar enla noche estaba conspirando contra mi reposo. (199)
Santos is aware of Barbara's attractive but dual nature, comparable to that of Zoraida:
Cierto era que por un momento habia experimentado la curiosidad, meramente intelectual, de asomarse sobre el abismo de aquella alma, de sondear el enigma de aquella mezcla de lo agradable y lo atroz, interesante.... (141)
To men who meet Barbara and Zoraida, they are as repugnant as they are exotic. Yet there is an undeniable disparity between the picaresque Zoraida, and the "evil" Barbara. Once we understand that Barbara suffered from a miserable past, we are inclined to forgive her temporary cruel and vengeful nature. Zoraida, however, appears never to have been an exemplary heroine and her influence on other characters does not have much depth. Barbara, once an exemplary heroine, has an acquired depth, a relevance that lends to her complexity as one of the most captivating heroines of the Spanish-American novel.
There is some formula, in fact, some direction in which a novel must unfold that creates the necessary tension for the evolution of the exemplary heroine. Barbara evolves, initially recalling the innocent Chloe. She then experiences a rape and mistrusts men. Once her Romantic idealism is destroyed, she has a sense of moral deficiency. Like Lamia, and the characters who recall this leitmotif, Barbara desires vengeance. Her reluctance to change is demonstrated by a retreat into the occult, which she uses to avoid liberating herself from the infectious memories of her past.
Barbara's sweet, unassuming nature becomes dominating and masculine. The picaresque Justina and the harpy Zoraida suggest that Barbara's greed compensates for her moral deficiency. As the novel closes, Barbara retreats to the same river on which she arrived. She comes full circle, realizing she has gained little from her non-exemplary life as the merciless devourer of men, the witch, the courtesan and the unhappy harpy merge to this place, where "las cosas vuelven al lugar de donde salieron" (273). Her sense of moral deficiency is appeased when she reconciles with her painful memories and accepts Santos's love for Marisela as good. By renewing her innocence and trust, she becomes the antithesis of the picaresque heroine, freeing herself from the prison of a demoralizing past.
The question then remains: is Dona Barbara a Cervantine or a serpentine character? Real characters, it seems, characters with whom we can identify, can never be ideal. However, Dona Barbara can never truly be cast aside as the embodiment of evil. Her complexity results from the evolution of her character through the stages of a fictional life whose disappointments have broken her exemplary image and at the same time revealed to her the truth about her place in the world. Just as Dulcinea was Don Quijote's princess, Asdrubal, later replaced by Santos Luzardo, was Dona Barbara's imaginary knight in shining armor, allowing her to have once again what she rightfully deserves, the recuperation of her exemplary identity. We have only to look to Don Q. to remember that the human experience might have to be justified at times if we are to maintain our sanity.
(1) The pastoral heroine Marla's idyllic relationship with her cousin makes her the perfect exemplary heroine. Her tragic death enhances her idealization. Exemplary heroines who precede her include Chloe in Daphnis and Chloe, Costanza of the La ilustre fregona and Preciosa of La gitanilla in the Novelas ejemplares (1613), Virginia of Paul et Virginie (1787) by Bernadin de Saint-Pierre and Atala of Francois de Chateaubriand's Atala (1801).
(2) Not all of Cervantes's heroines may be considered exemplary, i.e. model heroines. My focus is on transitional characters essential to the development of the modern novel.
(3) Lamia characterizes the tradition of the beautiful but merciless woman, according to Barbara Fass (15).
(4) Another Lamian heroine is Elsie in Oliver Wendell Holmes's novel. Bernard arrives in Rockland where Elsie attends the Apollinean Female Institute. She attracts him because she is exotic. The people of Rockland disapprove of Elsie and say that she is demonic. Fearing Elsie's powers, Bernard studies her carefully, but she is a tempting sorceress. Elsie offers him her virginity, but he rejects her. Then he learns that she is said to have been damned from birth as her mother was bitten by a snake when Elsie was in the womb.
(5) Benito Perez Galdos's evil Perfecta precedes Gallegos's Barbara. Perfecta marries Manuel Maria Jose and later learns of his infidelity. Her brother Juan has a son, Pepe. When her husband dies, Perfecta raises her daughter Rosario alone. Maria and the cleric, want Rosario to marry Jacintillo, but Perfecta and Juan prefer that she meet Pepe. The cleric persuades Perfecta to turn against Pepe, attributing to him anti-clericism and atheism. Perfecta prohibits Pepe from seeing Rosario, but he intends to marry her. Perfecta orders him murdered.
(6) Esta dualidad estrepitosa, en la que aparece desviada la narracion nacional (de caracter filosofico en ultimo termino), se unifica en manos de Cervantes con el Quijote, en el que todos caben como en una inmensa arca de Noe: pastores y picaros, caballeros andantes y asentados, Dulcinea, Marcela y las mozas del meson. (LXIV)
(7) Bruno M. Damiani observes that Justina is referred to as Io, who like Lamia, arouses Hera's jealousy. Zeus transforms Io into a white heifer to hide her from Hera (31).
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Nancy Maria Blain
McNeese State University
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|Title Annotation:||author Romulo Gallegos|
|Author:||Blain, Nancy Maria|
|Publication:||Confluencia: Revista Hispanica de Cultura y Literatura|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2004|
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