Money and power go hand in hand; both Frederico Garcia Lorca and Anton Chekhov agree with this statement in their plays The House of Bernarda Alba and The Cherry Orchard, respectively. Garcia Lorca’s House of Bernarda Alba, set in rural 1800’s Spain, follows the lives of four sister under the tyrannous rule of their mother Bernarda. However, conflicts arise with the arrival of the young and handsome Pepe el Romano asking Angustias’ hand in marriage, in a seemingly peaceful household which later causes the youngest sister, Adela to take her own life in the end of the play. Chekhov sets his play in a 19th century Russian estate and portrays the lives of Ranyevskaya’s economically (and socially) distraught family. The play concludes with Lopakhin, a wealthy merchant buying the estate to turn into summer homes, and the traditional family is left to come to terms with their drastic socio-economic changes. In both plays, there is an “outsider” sister, who have specific roles in each play, but differ in character greatly. Garcia Lorca has geared Angustias, the 39 year old unmarried sister and Bernarda’s first born under the oppressive household of her mother. Chekhov on the other hand explores Varya’s character as the housekeeper and a physical support to her mother, Ranyevskaya. This essay will look into how Angustias and Varya are vital in understanding the idea of money and power in both plays by exploring their dialogues, and attitudes and economic significance and their respective polarized characters.
Angustias and Varya are similar in terms of economic roles and their comparison with their polarized characters however their difference are highlighted through the usage of dialogue and attitude. Garcia Lorca has Angustias show signs of desperation and curiosity with men, from the start of the play. Reasons for this attitude could due to the fact that she is an unmarried thirty-nine year old and is faced with Bernarda’s constant sexual oppression. Right after the guests leave the funeral at their house, Adela reports that Angustias was last “…peeking through a crack in the front door [at the men]”(207). This characterization is reinforced again when Bernarda describes her as taking after her aunts and “making sheep’s eyes at any little barber who flatter(s) them” (210). Playing on her coquettish attitude, she re-enters Act One with her face powdered. It is a custom in the Spanish culture that while during the period of mourning, the women in the family are not permitted to wash their face for three days because they are ridding themselves of their father’s remains. However, she defies this tradition by not only washing her face but also applying powder on her fact. Her obsession with beauty surfaces when she interrupts Adela and Poncia for her “powder and perfume” (238), unaware of their heated argument, ironically about her fiancé. This mere act is significant as throughout the play, Angustias is associated with the powder. It underlines her desire to appear as a beautiful and an ideal woman. Powder is used by women to conceal blemishes and to make their skin appear smoother – Angustias uses this to her advantage and uses the powder to conceal her age. However, on a symbolic tone, the powder also hides her underlying frustration with Bernarda’s authoritarian rule. Throughout the play, it is also noted that Angustias appears to be inconsiderate and indifferent to her stepfather’s death. When Bernarda asks her to respect her father, she retorts “he was not my father! Mine died sometime ago, don’t you remember him anymore?” (222). This quote, although a normal reaction, implies that Angustias is ungrateful to her stepfather, even though it was him who “secured [her] future” by leaving her an inheritance. It is also apparent that Angustias does little to empathize with her sisters; she does not feel even a grin of remorse for leaving her sisters behind. Instead she says, subtly directed at Adela, “and anyone who doesn’t like...
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