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El arte narrativo de Galdós: 'Lo prohibido.' (review)

From: Anales Galdosianos
Volume 46, 2011
pp. 133-135 | 10.1353/ang.2011.0007

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

This book is an insightful and well-conceived scholarly work about Lo prohibido, one of the Novelas Contemporáneas of Benito Pérez Galdós, which analyzes, with arguments fully and accurately documented, the thematic and discursive structures of the novel. Vivero (Medgar Evers College of The City University of New York) analyzes the structure and studies the main categories of the narrative discourse of Lo prohibido: time—considering categories of order, duration, and frequency and their connections with canonical narrative forms—and voice—which comprises an in-depth analysis of the novel's principal voices.

Vivero's starting point regarding structure is that there is a purposefully elaborated coherence between the thematic and the plot structures of the novel. He points out, convincingly, that the first chapter of the novel not only proposes the principal thematic oppositions of the text but also advances the development of the plot and the principal traits of the main characters. The development of the story confirms Vivero's idea that the textual organization of the novel—both thematically and as a highly organized narrative discourse—responds to a perfectly calculated plan that the author develops with a coherence that shows mastery of the genre.

Vivero posits that the tension generated by the novel's plot results from the opposition between the protagonist—who is an outsider—and Madrid's Restoration society, represented mainly by the social milieus of his three cousins—whose voices are metonymies of the social classes they typify. An elaborated and progressively reductive summary of the plot (which rests on a convincing analysis that summarizes the two volumes the novel comprises) reveals that the opposition between the protagonist and his cousins can be reduced to the pair transgression/non-transgression. Such transgression is of a social nature and Vivero argues that even the division of the book in two volumes responds to that thematic opposition. The most insightful conclusion regarding thematic development is that the Madrid experience of the protagonist shows that his fate (his death) is determined primarily not by his transgression of the social norm but, paradoxically, by his failure to do just that. Ultimately, this fact reveals that in Madrid's Restoration society moral and social transgression is the norm, and that moral health, social responsibility and, ultimately, the future of society is, on the other hand, a desideratum which presupposes that society has to overcome fundamental inadequacies to achieve the social change that will allow it to survive.

After a clear analysis of the discourse regarding order—chronological differences between plot and story—, Vivero's principal contention regarding the relationship between chronological time and discursive time is that the plot of Lo prohibido is an accelerated accumulation of events. He points out that mentioning of calendar dates becomes more frequent as the plot advances and that such references to time are significant. However, the essential fact concerning the time category of duration is that the accumulation of events is what registers both the psychological and physical undoing of the protagonist and the changes of the novelistic world as a whole, which mirror those of José María Bueno de Guzmán. According to Vivero, such conception of how the discourse registers time justifies the necessity of studying the canonic forms of narrative discourse. I find of great interest two of Vivero's assertions regarding the study of canonic forms of fictional representation. The first is that the form of the discourse corresponds to the main stages of development of the plot: in the first volume, dedicated mainly to the relationship of José María and Eloísa, the canonic form that dominates is the summary; in the second volume, dedicated principally to the relationship of the protagonist with Camila, the discursive form that dominates is the scene of dialogue. The second is that the liberty with which Galdós manipulates the canonic forms of fiction in this novel is an important sign of the mastery of narrative discourse the novelist has achieved.

Vivero arrives at two conclusions regarding voice that make the last three chapters of the book original and important not only for an incisive reading of Lo prohibido but also for the analysis of...

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