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The Character of Bernarda Alba in Lorca’s “The House of Bernarda Alba”

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Bernarda Alba conveys an array of distinctive characteristics, however it is her stubborn conservative nature that enables the illustration of the oppression of women created by equivocal Spanish traditions in Lorca’s dramatic play, House of Bernarda Alba. The character of Bernarda becomes acquainted with readers through the method of indirect presentation as Lorca gives the reader no analysis or exposition regarding her. Essentially, Bernarda’s eccentric traits are thrust upon the reader by means of her physical and verbal actions. This can be seen with the case of her notion of superiority to others when she says “The poor are like animals-they seem to be made of different stuff.” As the plot progresses, the reader discovers that Bernarda is a static character, one who’s personality remains constant throughout the course of the play. Bernarda also seems to exhibit the attributes of an antagonist as she..

Lorca immediately utilizes his ability to build up tension with the anticipated arrival of Bernarda as her servants introduce her as being a “tyrant over everyone around her”. Bernarda under the shadow of the church and the tyranny bred from a need to protect the reputation of the family represses her daughters by enforcing an eight_year mourning period. “For eight years of mourning, not a breath of air will get in this house from the street.” Bernarda exhibits strong traditional values and uses her autocratic status to instill these values in her five daughters. “That’s what happened in my father’s house_and in my grandfather’s house”. Throughout the play it seems that Bernarda is a dictator that is consumed with keeping her daughters in line.

Her controlling nature is prevalent throughout play and is especially seen with regard to her restrictive attitude towards the love lives of her daughters. “For a hundred miles around there’s no one good enough to come near them. The men in this town are not of their class.” She endows the duty of choosing husbands for her daughters upon herself It is Bernarda’s conceited temperament that pervades the house consuming the everyone around her. “My blood won’t mingle with the Humanas’ while I live! His father was a shepherd.” The daughters know and blame this type of supercilious act for their deterioration, “but we rot inside because of what people might say”. Bernarda’s arrogance is also the cause of her dismissing the daughter’s acts of disobedience. Poncia, Bernarda’s close maid, states “She’s so proud! She herself pulls the blindfold over her eyes”, later stating, “But, your children are your children, and now you’re blind.”

Bernarda is merely a sheep, enslaved by the regulations of society. It is her primitive principles combined with her submission to an oppressive society that allows the daughters to believe in such antiquated statements as “needle and thread for women”. Bernarda is a character filled with rage. She constantly resorts to violence when the outcome of a situation is not as she desired. This can be seen when she strikes her oldest daughter Angustias for simply looking at men. “Is it decent for a woman of your class to be running after a man the day of her father’s funeral?” Not only this, but when she found out that a woman had premarital sex, she promulgated that “…whoever loses her decency pay for it!”

The idea that Bernarda is a product of society is substantiated by the occurrences at the end of the play. Adela had premarital sex with Pepe el Romano and committed suicide. Bernarda proclaimed to the family that “My daughter died a virgin.” She demanded that all the women “Take her to another room and dress her as though she were a virgin.” Without the slightest hint of grief, she attempted to mask her daughter’s death with the intention of preserving the integrity of the family name. This can be viewed as selfish, or it can be seen as the effect of an oppressive society. The motives of Lorca appear as he attempts to express the oppression of women through the character of Bernarda.

She regulates the household by imposing the strict commandments by which women must abide by under the traditions (namely religion) under Spanish society. Perhaps the reason for Bernarda’s aberrant traits lies in the notion that Lorca desired to challenge the norm in society and inflict reform. His three “peasant trilogy” plays revolving around women (Yerma, Blood Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba) all depict the harsh lifestyle women had predestined and the consequences that would result if deviation from these expecations occurred. The fuel for the dismal society has its roots in Catholicism. Numerous discrepancies existed as created by the principles of the religion and it was this that ultimately consumed the daugthers.

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