Throughout Benito Perez Galdos’ novel, Dona Perfecta, Galdos uses his ability to draw his characters, in such detail, that he allows the audience to relate with his main characters, Don Jose “Pepe” Rey, Rosario, and Dona Perfecta. By the order of his father, Pepe Rey has left his home to visit the small town of Orbajosa where his aunt, Dona Perfecta, lives. Pepe Rey has recently graduated as an engineer. He is a man of the new generation, inspired by Darwin, German philosophy, and the miracles technology promises. He has little time and less inclination for the stoic, small-minded Catholic zealotry of his aunt and of Orbajosa in general. While in Orbajosa, Pepe Rey causes conflict within the town and his family because of his modern thinking. This thinking has terrible consequences, especially later when Orbajosa becomes embroiled within a terrible uprising against the Spanish government. Ultimately, due to his beliefs and modern thinking, Pepe Rey is killed by the order of his aunt, Donna Perfecta. As the novel begins, the opening chapters spend some time describing the major characters in impressive detail. This narrative device could spell the doom of the novel almost immediately. The usual technique of writing a novel is to create fluency in order to allow the reader to remain interested in the plot. Therefore, nothing disrupts flow more than excessive description, particularly at the beginning of a novel. Yet Galdos masterfully provides the reader with a sense of tangential exposition. Consider the stunning paragraph describing Rosario as an example of Galdo’s skillful writing. Galdos tells, “Rosario was a girl of delicate and fragile appearance, that revealed a tendency to pensive melancholy. In her delicate and pure countenance there was something of the soft, pearly pallor which most novelists attribute to their heroines, and without which sentimental varnish it appears that no Enriquieta or Julia can be interesting. But what chiefly distinguished Rosario was that her face expressed so much sweetness and modesty that the absence of the perfections it lacked was not observed. This is not to say that she was plain; but, on the other hand, it is true that it would be an exaggeration to call her beautiful in the strictest meaning of the word. The real beauty of Dona Perfecta's daughter consisted in a species of transparency, different from that of pearl, alabaster, marble, or any of the other substances used in descriptions of the human countenance; a species of transparency through which the inmost depths of her soul were clearly visible; depths not cavernous and gloomy, like those of the sea, but like those of a clear and placid river. But the material was wanting there for a complete personality. The channel was wanting, the banks were wanting. The vast wealth of her spirit overflowed, threatening to wash away the narrow borders” (24). This quote, while long, illustrates Galdos’ illuminating ability with words. There is nothing more commonly described in novels than a beautiful female. Despite this common occurrence, Galdos is able to make what could be trite into something sublime. The author does not just tell the appearance of the character but shows a glimpse of the heart and soul of each character. Likewise, the other characters benefit from equally rich, evocative description. By providing these descriptions, the reader is able to create a connection with and relate to these characters. As the novel progresses, at first, the town of Orbajosa welcomes Pepe Rey. He is shown around, and introduced to the various inhabitants of the town. Dona Perfecta, having the reputation as being “perfect,” as her name suggests, loves the societal impact that her nephew is able to supply to her. However, this joy that Dona Perfecta experiences is short-lived due to brewing trouble. Due to his education, Pepe Rey clashes with one of Dona Perfecta’s first guests, Don Inocencio, the town canon. Both men are quite...
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