House of Bernarda Alba

Topics: Carl Jung, The House of Bernarda Alba, Unconscious mind Pages: 21 (7079 words) Published: January 5, 2014
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Some critics have felt that a psychological analysis of Lorca’s work is improper since it is not an appropriate form of literary criticism.1 However, I agree with Rupert Allen that because of Lorca’s intense interest in the personality of his characters, a psychological commentary is often required.2 For this reason, I intend to study Lorca’s last play, La casa de Bernarda Alba, from a Jungian perspective. As I do so, I am indebted to Richard Seybolt whose article, “La casa de Bernarda Alba: a Jungian Analysis,” has provided a foundation for the present study. However, instead of using Seybolt’s broad approach, I will give special attention to Jung’s theory of psychological types, as well as what he has referred to as the “process of individuation.” Before I look at the play itself, therefore, it will be necessary to give a brief introduction to some of the ideas that will provide a background for this study.

Jung’s theory of psychological types is based on the notion that each individual can be categorized according to four psychological functions, which are thinking, feeling, intuition and sensation. These four functions are mutually exclusive; for example, if the predominant function is thinking, then feeling is always submerged in the unconscious, or else the situation is reversed. Likewise, if intuition predominates, then sensation is unconscious; or the opposite is true.

In addition to the four functions, Jung also distinguishes two basic attitudes —extroversion and introversion—one of which is conscious, while the other is relegated to the unconscious. According to Jung, extroversion is characterized by a strong relation to the exterior object, while introversion is a reaction that is mainly determined by subjective factors. Since the extrovert orientates himself predominantly by what lies outside himself, he is more likely to follow the external, collectively valid norms. For the introvert, the subject is the starting-point and the exterior object has at most a secondary or indirect value.

As she appears in Lorca’s play, it is clear that Bernarda Alba is a woman who is preoccupied by the established values of her community and that her thinking function is repressed, while her feelings are predominant. Therefore, in the first part of this study I will examine the character of Bernarda Alba as an example of the extroverted feeling type whose thinking function is controlled by the unconscious. In his study of psychological types, Jung has observed that “The extrovert’s feeling is always in harmony with objective values” (Psychological Types, 207). However, in cases where the personality identifies with the object, feeling can become cold, arbitrary, egotistical and sterile. Jung says most examples of this type are women who are excellent mothers, as long as their children behave according to the norms of conventional values. We will see that all this fits the character of Bernarda Alba.


Armand F. Baker

At the beginning of the play, Bernarda Alba is presented as a person who is so preoccupied with the outside world that she asks her servant, la Poncia, to spend hours spying on the neighbors. Underlying this obsession with the Other is her fanatical preoccupation with the concept of “decency” as it is determined by the centuries-old code of honor that has become a tradition in Spanish life. As Sumner Greenfield has expressed it, Bernarda Alba represents “a Spanish prototype whose sole motivation is an untarnished reputation. . . Every attitude and every reaction of Bernarda Alba is directed by a fanatical adherence to an archaic principle of honor contingent upon unconditional submission to every extreme of conventional morality and social behavior that her indomitable will dictates in the name of Decency” (457).3

Jung has found that...

Cited: Allen, Rupert C. The Symbolic World of Federico García Lorca. Albuquerque:
University of New Mexico Press, 1972.
Cirlot, J. E. A Dictionary of Symbols. New York: Philosophical Library, 1971.
Cobb, Carl W. Federico García Lorca. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1967.
Doménech, Ricardo. La casa de Bernarda Alba y el teatro de García Lorca. Madrid:
Cátedra, 1985.
Greenfield, Sumner M. “Poetry and Stagecraft in La casa de Bernarda Alba,”
Hispania, 38 (1955): 456-461.
Jacobi, Jolande. The Psychology of Jung. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949.
New York: Viking Press, 1974: 178-269.
–———. Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. Princeton: Princeton University Press,
Morris, C. B. Critical Guides to Spanish Texts: La casa de Bernarda Alba. London:
Grant & Cutler, 1990.
Newberry, Wilma. “Patterns of Negation in La casa de Bernarda Alba,” Hispania, 59
(1976): 802-809.
Rubia Barcía, J. “El realismo ‘magico’ de La casa de Bernarda Alba,” Revista
Hispánica Moderna, XXXI (1965): 385-399.
Seybolt, Richard A. “La casa de Bernarda Alba: A Jungian Analysis,” Kentucky
Romance Quarterly, 29 (1982): 125-133.
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