Carmen de Burgos’s novella La Flor de la Playa explores themes of consumption and social mobility in early-twentieth-century Portugal and Spain. Elisa, the novella’s working-class protagonist, is a seamstress who travels with Enrique, her office-worker boyfriend, from Madrid to Portugal on a summer vacation. During their trip, the lovers pretend to be a middle-class married couple. Elisa and Enrique facilitate their social transformations within the foreign linguistic, spatial, and social contexts of Portugal through the consumption and production of fashion, language, and the touristic space of the beach. Despite their belief in the socially transformative power of consumption, the couple is unable and, in Elisa’s case, unwilling to adopt the conventional and stifling model of middleclass marriage. Ultimately, their relationship collapses under the strain of a foreign and incompatible “grammar” of bourgeois marriage, restrictive middle-class values, and illusory social mobility.


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pp. 25-46
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