Galdós's El 19 de marzo y el 2 de mayo (1873), his third episodio nacional, depicts two celebrated incidents of 1808 which immediately preceded Spain's War of Independence. It also continues the primary love story of the First Series between Gabriel Araceli, narrator and protagonist, and Inés de Santorcaz. The novel begins as Gabriel recalls, in his «autobiography», his Sunday visits to Inés in Aranjuez, where she lives with her uncle, the kindly old priest, Don Celestino. Gabriel idealizes his memories of the days in early 1808, writing of the harmonious convergence of the Tajo and Jarama rivers as a metaphorical expression of his and Inés's bonding and love.135
The novel's initial scene functions chiefly as a counterpart and an ironic prologue to its central fictional and historical plots. It also introduces one of the key metaphors of the episodio, the two merging rivers. Like any term in the text, the river metaphor is open to contrasting interpretations. This and other prominent metahpors in the novel's first chapters, like those converging around darkness and light, prison and liberty, poetry and the grotesque, inform the entire narrative in various guises and capacities. They weave a unifying thread through the different plots, juxtaposing or merging them for comment on each other through relationships of similitude and contradiction. Like the rivers, the plots and characters meet at critical junctures in the novel where their distinctions become submerged. And while the rivers in Aranjuez seem to reflect happiness and harmony in Inés and Gabriel, in other scenes the same metaphor foreshadows discord and death.
Inés and Gabriel's idyll in Aranjuez is short-lived. She is claimed by her deceased mother's relatives, the physically and morally deformed siblings, Mauro and Restituta Requejo.136 They have heard of Inés's yet-to-be-acknowledged aristocratic descent, and plan to force her into marriage with Mauro to possess her inheritance, much as France forces a union with Spain. Taking Inés from Don Celestino, Aranjuez, and Gabriel, the Requejos make her a virtual prisoner in their house in Madrid. While Spain's «honeymoon» with France turns into war, Gabriel and Iné's bucolic romance becomes a nightmare. Gabriel's desperate attempts to rescue his beloved become increasingly deceptive and violent, so distorting his «real» character that he comes to resemble the twisted Requejos who oppose him. The lovers' struggles for freedom coincide with the entrance of Fernando «VII» and of the French into the city, and finally with the Spanish revolt against the foreign invaders. The various relationships among Gabriel, Inés, the Requejos, and other characters parallel, in their interplay of domination and subordination, captive and prey, those between Spain and France. The plots and characters converge, like tempestuous rivers, in disaster and death at the end of the novel. All these interwoven narrative elements suggest an explanation and interpretation of events leading up to and following May 2, 1808. The episodio revises the popular and apparently unquestioned legend of Spain's glorious patriotism on that date. Galdós's —158→ «historia» here and throughout the First Series demythifies traditional versions of this and other renown episodes in Spanish history, and with them commonplace, idealized, notions about the composition and character of historical truth and discourse.
Gabriel works as a typesetter at the Diario de Madrid. When Mauro. Requejo places an advertisement for a servant, Gabriel sets the copy, answers the ad, and takes the job. Hoping to find and free Inés, Gabriel makes himself into the very copy that he prints. By allowing the Requejos to write his text, to type his character, he renders himself almost powerless to control his own identity or to liberate Inés. The Requejos impose strict rules on Gabriel and their ward. Gabriel cannot even speak to Inés, whom they lock away in a dungeon-like room, forcing her to sew shirts all day, «desde las cinco de la mañana hasta las once de la noche, trajabando sin cesar en beneficio de la sórdida tacañería de sus tío?» (400).137 Inés was a Penelope-figure in the previous episodio, La corte de Carlos IV (264-65). She is now a prisoner seamstress, caught in the warp of a fabric she weaves for others, not for herself Unlike Penelope, she does not guide the thread of her own destiny. Restituta's harsh restrictions completely overrule her freedom: «Una orden expresa de doña Restituta le impedía salir de aquel cuarto; [...] no se le permitía asomarse a la ventana; no se le permitía cantar ni leer un libro; no se le permitía distraerse de su obra perenne, ni mencionar a su tío, ni recordar a su madre, ni hablar de cosa alguna que no fuera la honradez de los Requejos [...]» (400). Singing, reading, remembering, and speaking are signifying acts analogous to writing and the textual process, and thus to power and control over self and others. Restituta's prohibitions make Inés an inarticulate object for others' manipulation; her only speech must be an «echo» of the grotesque narcissism of the Requejos. Living in near darkness, Iné's is a text that cannot be read.
The narration of Inés's captivity is the bleaker for its juxtaposition to a passage just preceding it: Gabriel's momentary glimpse of her when he first approaches the house. Seeing her at a window covered by a «mugrienta cortineja», he says:
Inés's light, her eyes, spirit, and all that she poetically symbolizes for Gabriel are veiled behind the Requejos' dingy curtains. The curtains are a physical barrier, like her room, that mark her captivity, her torment, and her separation from Gabriel. Mauro subjects Inés to crude entreaties while he tries to force her to marry him. Gabriel must lie and humiliate himself, literally echo the Requejos' words and imitate their behavior -make himself into a miserly and petty copy- in order to gain proximity to Inés, behind her locked door. The walls between Gabriel and Inés are among numerous literal and figural obstacles that manifest the division between self and other, Gabriel and his desire, Spain and liberty, and so on, until the conclusion of the First Series.
Even while shut up in darkness, Inés illuminates others, like Gabriel. She is a figure for the life-giving sun, nourishing his soul and his desire. The benighted Requejos dwell in sullen obscurity, stifling the lives of others, spawning a living death. Where Inés is pure, honourable, and generous, the Requejos are shamefully duplicitous, miserly, and cruel. Their house is an extension of their characters; Gabriel describes its «vergonzante —159→ luz», repugnant and inharmonious odors, its Buscón-like kitchen where no one cooks or cats, and the staircase that blocks the transit of more than one person at a time (400). This dark and narrow corridor is the only way through the confining barriers that separate Gabriel and Inés. It prefigures many shadowed and dangerous passages they will undertake in this novel and the Series. The stairway is the tenuous connection between the inhabitants of the dark house and those of the daylight world: «Por ese túnel ascendente tenían que introducirse los que iban a empeñar alguna cosa, siendo en cierto modo simbólico aquel tránsito, y expresión arquitectónica muy exacta de las angustias del alma miserable en los momentos críticos de la vida. Bien podía llamarse la escalera de los suspiros» (400). Gabriel's own tiny room receives but meagre light: for only 15 minutes a day, he says, «entraban [...] algunos intrusos rayos de luz». He considers the house's gloominess fortuitous, however: «en cuanto a la densa y providencial lobreguez que envolvía la casa como nube perpetua, me parecía hecha de encargo para mi objeto» (400). The oxyinoron «providencial lobreguez» suggests the duality of Gabriel's character in the episodio. In order to realize his objective -the possession of Inés, daylight, freedom- he must lie, betray trusts, spy, and manipulate others. He learned these dark and hypocritical skills in the previous episodio from the Countess Amaranta, Indés's «real», yet still unacknowledged, mother. He now polishes them by copying the Requejos in extravagant detail.138 He performs the most ignoble tasks and redoubles his employers' grotesque avarice in order to penetrate the seemingly impenetrable barrier of their confidence (Chapter 20, especially). If his aim is honourable -saving Inés and her honour- his methods are not. He «plays the traitor» to the Requejos and to their retainer, Juan de Dios, «for real» this time, not on stage as in La corte de Carlos IV139 Gabriel seemed to reject such deceptive practices at the end of that novel, but now reenacts them for his own purposes.
Gabriel's equivocal morality emerges clearly when he witnesses Requejo's improper treatment of Inés. Requejo's behaviour has become aggressive and he dares to caress her chin. Gabriel observes: «Estremecióse la muchacha como al contacto de un animal asqueroso y rechazó bruscamente la caricia de su impertinente tío. [...] -Pues yo no me caso con usted [...]- dijo enérgicamente Inés, recobrando su aplomo, una vez dicha la primera palabra» (404). Cabriel reacts like an emotional spectator at a theater performance: «Inés estaba sublime. Yo lloraba» (404). Outraged by Inés's rejection of him in front of Restituta, Juan de Dios, Gabriel, and their guest, the odious and corrupt Licenciado Lobo, Requejo hurls Inés against the wall and is about to strike her. At this moment the blindly jealous Gabriel approaches a moral abyss more profound than that constituted by the Requejo's household:
The reader understands Gabriel's jealous protection of Inés, but the audience «within» the novel (Restituta, Juan de Dios, Lobo) does not know the complete script and only sees Requejo as the spurned lover. For them Requejo is a grotesque Othello-figure and, in a confusion of dramatic roles, Gabriel, knife in hand, is about to kill him. The self-conscious intertextuality of the scene underlines the novel's metafictional play. If Gabriel must pause to justify his reaction and analyze the precariousness of honour, then his «honourable», jealous, and protective «instincts» are also self-conscious and artificial. Not even the seemingly natural desire to protect his beloved is exempt from the artifices of representation, this passage indicates. Like all the elements of the Series, honour is a process whose meaning relies upon accident and interpretation. The «spontaneous», «patriotic», and «honourable» uprising of the Spanish against the French displays the same precarious significance.
The violent scene between Inés and Requejo is followed by a harmonious one for Gabriel and Inés during Fernando's triumphant entrance into Madrid on March 24, 1808. The alternation of the violent and the joyful occurs in the fictional and historical plots of the novel, interchangeably and interdependently. Under their watchful eyes, the Requejo's allow Inés outdoors to witness the spectacle. They, along with the «excentric» (414) and grotesque Juan de Dios,140 and Gabriel, await with the crowd, «la aparición de aquel sol hespérico, de aquel iris de paz, de aquel príncipe Fernando» (410). These epithets are especially ironic for Galdós's contemporary reader, because they are uttered without obvious irony.141 The metaphor of the sun, usually associated with Inés, highlights the antithesis between this idealized Fernando and the dénouement of the Napoleonic War and Fernando VII's cruel reign. Inés, the symbol of a Spain victimized in great part because of Fernando VII, also embodies illumination and peace.142 Fernando's «triumphant» entry takes place in the Puerta del Sol, «setting» the contradictions between the two characters described by the same metaphor. The Puerta del Sol has further significance because it is where Cabriel and Inés first go when they finally escape the Requejos, the dawn of May 2, 1808. There they view the blood-red colour of the sky, which is an ominous sign of the bloodshed to come (429). The Puerta del Sol is also where the most violent fighting between the Spanish and French occurs (435 ff).
In the passages cited the sun metaphor performs dramatically opposing functions. The setting, the adjectives, the images, the juxtaposition of fictional and historical elements, all emphasize the multi-faceted irony of the novel. The irony reaches hyperbolic proportions at times as when, before leaving the house, Gabriel combs Requejo's hair so it will «competir con el sol» (408). This phrase underscores Requejo's grotesque difference from Inés's through the association and substitution of terms between characters; it also evokes Góngora's sonnet. Thus the famous competition between the Golden Age poets Góngora and Garcilaso, the contrast between literary epochs, between light and dark, and many other competing and incongruous elements, take part in the text's ironic intertextual weave of texts with texts, light with dark, joy with terror, fiction with history.
As with Requejo, the narrative portrays the populace -Fernando's idealizing audience- with grotesque distortion: «Los ancianos inválidos y gotosos» and «las viejas santurronas [...] con cl cotorreo de sus bocas sin dientes» (409). The spectators take on the appearance of some monstrous beast:—161→
Terms like «monstruo atado», «empuje», «invadido», «peligroso», «apelinazado», and «estremecía» augur the imminent eruption of violence, terror, and death in Madrid. The scene becomes more menacing and confused as a prelude to the violent reaction of the throng upon the entrance of the French General, Murat. Many interpret this event as the origin of the Spanish hatred for the French, the reader is told:
The loud, angry, and inharmonious («desconcierto») convergence and competition of bodies, and of the Spanish and French, along with the metaphor of the disquieted sea, set a forbidding stage for the tempest about to burst upon Madrid and Spain.
The image of two colluding rivers seems at first to have a function opposite to that which it had in Aranjuez at the outset of the novel. The overflowing waters or crowd generate a «distortion» and a «disappearance of the human personality». The metaphor suggests «losing one's identity», a process about to happen in Spain when the French seize the throne. However, the metaphorical expression of Spain's impending loss of national identity is not so different to what happens to Inés when Gabriel claims possession of her. The sentimental and idealistic value that Gabriel attributes to the merging rivers in Aranjuez disregards that one river absorbs and swallows the other. For Gabriel, when «el Tajo y el Jarama [...] se abrazan y confunden sus aguas en una sola corriente, haciendo de dos vidas una sola», they form an «exacta imagen» of himself and Inés (359). But only the Tajo emerges from that union, that marriage. The Jarama disappears, no longer having a course or even carrying a name. Inés has no voice in the scene in Aranjuez; neither does she when Gabriel embraces her in the Puerta del Sol. The fusion of Gabriel and Inés always empowers his voice and his discourse, but silences hers.
Chapter 18's depiction of the crowded scene in the Puerta del Sol precedes the literal pressing of flesh to flesh at the beginning of Chapter 19. The current of humanity sweeps Inés and Gabriel away from the Requejo's, establishing another juxtaposition of contrasting narrative elements. The undercurrent of violence and the latent bestiality of the bursting multitude that is swept along like overflowing rivers generate the passionate convergence of Inés and Gabriel. The horde drags the Requejos away from Inés, except for «un jirón de tela» that remains in their hands. She is hurled into Gabriel's arms and the young lovers are left bound together and alone: «Inés y yo nos abrazamos, y el —162→ gentío, comprimiéndose después, estrechaba a Inés contra mí, como si de nuestros dos cuerpos hubiera querido hacer uno solo» (412). Their forced and felicitous embrace momentarily satisfies Gabriel's desire:
The harmonious coalescence and indivisibility of the senses, thoughts, and bodies of Gabriel and Inés is Gabriel's interpretation. He alone writes their story. Inés utters no words to confirm or deny Gabriel's discourse. As his own textual creation, he claims sovereignty over her and speaks her mind.
In Gabriel's narrative of desire, terms like «prison» and «desert» suggest an agreeable, idyllic state. Under the Requejos' miserly authority -while Inés and Gabriel must represent their text- the same words tell of the most wretched conditions. Gabriel now forms a separate, self-contained discourse for himself and Inés in which the signs of others -their verbal or visual signifiers- leave no trace. The passage is a statement about interpretation in various «senses». It illustrates how strikingly contrary can be the functions of the same words in different texts. It reveals how the definition and value of words, like that of perceived reality, fluctuate according to the interpreter who sees or ignores, associates or disassociates, the heterogeneous elements around him, and thus defines his own symbolic system or significant world. Gabriel does not perceive the outside world now; it is completely meaningless as he privileges his own inner, more «desirable» and «suggestive» discourse. Ceasing to represent any others but Inés while caught up in his all-consuming desire, they are nothing, «nada», as though dead. The world, «in effect», is dead to Gabriel. The scene ironically prefigures the conclusion to the novel where Gabriel himself, without the object of his desire, becomes dead to the world. In the absence of the impulse to create images, to represent, to desire, there is no text, no self, «nada», which is the final word of El 19 de marzo y el 2 de mayo. As Gabriel doses out others now, choosing to write his own world, so, alone and lacking his Other -Inéss- this book will close on him.
The crowd scene illustrates that for Gabriel to fulfil his desire, marriage with Inés, she must abandon her own identity, voice, and name. The lovers' binding embrace results in Inés's loss of self, the «disappearance of her personality». She is speechless, not even an Echo, as her character becomes submerged or «drowned» in Gabriel's. Like Narcissus, Gabriel searches for his own reflection in her eyes. The culmination of Gabriel's desires, his indivisible unity with Inés, is a form of domination and confinement, only more subtle and civilized than Requejo's. The isolation and merger of two into one that Cabriel describes, the erasure of difference and the creation of one identity, can be just as deadly a desire for both Gabriel and Inés as is that of Narcissus for himself and for Echo, and as France's appropriation of Spain is, ultimately, for both national identities. In the same way that France seeks to possess Spain, to eliminate the boundaries and differences between nations and to be coterminous, so Gabriel's desire to possess Inés —163→ would deny, erase, and blot out the difference between them. Until Inés finds her own voice, and becomes more than an echo, she is always possessed by others, on the very borders and at the limits of her self, her character, her text.
Requejo sought to dominate Inés through intimidation and violence. Only when she verbalized her absolute refusal to marry him was she freed, at least for a while, from her confinement in the dark room where she was unable to speak her mind. Her «no» temporarily changes Requejo's tactics. When he plays a more obsequious role (e.g. 413) he literally loosens his grip on her and thus loses his power over her, as seen in her escape from him in the crowd. Indés's «no», her statement of difference and of self, allows her to leave the Requejos' morbid house and to see the light of day for the first time since they brought her to Madrid. But that only turns her into the possession of another, Gabriel, as the above passages relate.
Gabriel sees only Inés's image in scenes like the above, yet paradoxically she ceases to represent herself. What Gabriel, the writer and interpreter, observes or overlooks is determined solely by his perspective and not by a «real referent». Even momentous events -the triumph of Fernando and the entrance of Murat- stop existing in Gabriel's reality, demonstrating how «fiction» can be as significant as «history» can be insignificant. The relative significance of history and fiction, remembered and forgotten events, joy and hatred, like that of any term in the discourse, is a function of the interpreter's decision to privilege some textual elements over others. Gabriel's perspective is too narrow, however. His belief that he and Inés are free of the Requejo's parallels the Spaniards' misinterpretation of the words and actions of the French. He tries to tell Inés about her noble parentage, but, familiar with his exaggeration at other times, she cannot believe his astounding story now (412). Gabriel's inability to convince Inés that she is an aristocrat, together with his mistaken belief that they are free, suggests that he cannot control their text, and so cannot yet possess her. His incompetence is reinforced when, at the moment she declares her eternal love for him (412), the Requejo's seize her (413). Inés again becomes their prisoner, shattering Gabriel's illusion of their inseparability, love, and liberty.
When Inés is once more in the hands of the misers, Gabriel redoubles his efforts to free her. An enamored Juan de Dios, who also wants to possess Inés, unwittingly helps him. Recalling Lazarillo's diverse machinations to get into the «clérigo's» bread box and the little «kisses» he gives the loaves in the second «Tratado» of the Lazarillo,143 they make wax impressions and duplicate keys, forge letters, and Inés and Gabriel even kiss the barrier that separates them (e.g. 221-23, 407, 417, 427, 431). Throughout these episodes, Gabriel repeatedly invokes «Dios», like Lazarillo does. This is particularly ironic in view of the important, if unintentional, role that Juan de Dios plays in the successful escape of Inés and Gabriel.
Juan de Dios is narcissistic and jealous like Gabriel and Requejo. He also constitutes a ridiculous and pitiful double of Gabriel. Like Gabriel, he is obsessed with Inés, whom he believes corresponds to his desire. He feels that he has seen her before, «Sin duda, dentro de mí mismo», and describes himself as «figurándome que hablaba con ella» (416). He visualizes Inés as a doll that he can possess, even dress, and carry off to a desert island (e.g. Chapter 22). His sentimental idealizations parody similar ones that Gabriel has, and make those seem less immature and more natural. The parody may encourage —164→ the reader to sympathize with Gabriel's efforts, and perhaps to ignore or dismiss the lies and deceit with which he carries them out. In comparison to Juan's, Gabriel's idolizing of and obsessive desire for Inés are relatively realistic, almost ordinary. When Requejo also wants to dress Inés, in a grotesque harlequin costume that she rejects (408), even Juan de Dios's desire seems comparatively normal, or at least less absurd. Thus, between the three male characters, each pursuing Inés, Gabriel seems more closely to resemble a conventional hero with whom the reader might identify, if only out of a reaction of antipathy to the others.
If Juan imagines dressing Inés, and Requejo tries to, Gabriel actually does dress Inés when they first try to escape. Waking her at night, he relates how: «la vi medio desnuda. Pero ni ella [...] cayó en la cuenta de que me estaba mostrando su lindo cuerpo, ni yo me cuidaba más que de ayudarla a vestir, poniéndole enaguas, medias, zapatos, ligas» (428-29). In this not so subtle erotic scene, Gabriel embodies all those other characters who would make the woman a doll, a wordless object of desire, a white page, and a private possession. His opportunity to see Inés (half) nude suggestively foretells that he will ultimately claim the «Woman behind the veil» (Derrida 47-55). Just as in the street scene when Requejo holds only a piece of Inés's sleeve, while her body is in Gabriel's arms (412), so Gabriel will triumph in his jealous desire, possess Inés, and, as here, once again replace her veil and silence her voice. At the conclusion of the Series the reader is told of their marriage, but the image and the words of Inés, even her name, are no longer written. The «bonds» of wed «lock» envelope and cloister Inés, finally and forever, within Gabriel's narrative of desire.
Before the lovers' short-lived liberty, their flight through Madrid, and the details of the Spanish revolt, there is an axial scene which portends the deadly dénouement of Gabriel's desire, recasts key metaphors of the novel, and calls attention to the text as process. The passage demonstrates clearly how the discursive practices of the narrative comment on the other textual elements -characters, plots, themes, symbols which themselves epitomize their own and the novel's signifying process. This self-reflective reciprocity reiterates the mirroring metaphors of the rivers and the lovers in Aranjuez. It also reveals, as do those metaphors and others, the menacing meaninglessness, absence, and death that the narrative, like the Requejos, enshrouds and conceals.
Inés and Gabriel's first attempt to flee from the Requejos fails when they are stopped at the door by the despicable Lobo; a furious Restituta then imprisons Gabriel in the basement where she keeps her horded money (427). The ostensible hiatus in the fictional and historical plots, and between captivity and freedom, provides a fascinating «exposure» of the text as process. Gabriel describes how, in the basement,
Just when the reader might be tempted to suspend disbelief in Galdós's representation of love and war, so Gabriel, in the absence of «real» stimuli, conspicuously demonstrates how he fabricates reality with words. In one of the most suspenseful —165→ chapters of the volume, the narrator reminds the reader once again that this text, all its plots and characters, are illusions.
Gabriel interprets in silence and darkness, an endeavour which underlines how meaning in discourse is interpretative, not necessarily referential or true:
The prison is not the house or the crowd, but Gabriel's mind itself. The anaphora «pleno» reiterates his sensation of existing only within the confines of his mind, and foreshadows his increasing use of anaphora for emphasis. Gabriel's mental incarceration is an emblem of this text as memory, interpretation, and language. There is no escape from the representations that compose and enclose discourse -fiction, history, or any other genre or style. Alone in pitch darkness and absolute silence, Gabriel's perceptions, the discourse of El 19 de marzo y el 2 de mayo, clearly exhibit themselves as imaginary processes. He produces images even without «real referents». Without external stimuli, Gabriel can still write a text in the prison of his mind:
This synesthetic passage is only a more unusual and distorted description of the signifying process than others.145 It contains more obtuse, not functionally different, elements than the rest of the novel through its likenesses and contradictions, its strange associations of dreams and reality, of the physical and the moral, of the verbal and the visual. The «palabras» of Gabriel's nightmarish text are merely more «incomprehensible» than are those of his «every day», more «lucid» narration. Impressions and ideas, objects and figures, senses and sensations become confused and fused, and ultimately indistinguishable. Gabriel's rhetorical inclusion of the reader in his fantasies questions our ways of making sense of our perceptions, our ways of interpreting and of distinguishing reality from illusion, dark from light.
Following these reveries, Juan de Dios (as though answering Gabriel's repeated invocation of «Dios») accidently rescues Gabriel and allows him to flee with Inés. The lovers' successful escape from the Requejos early on May 2nd coincides with the increasing violence between the Spaniards and the French. During Inés's last days with —166→ the Requejos, their «táctica de amabilidad y de astuta dulzura» became «un sistema de terror» (420) to force her to their will. The French domination likewise becomes oppressively frightening and cruel. Away from the Requejos' house, Gabriel misinterprets their success as a liberation, personalizing the day, May 2nd, as a «risueña mañana» (429). Yet this moment of liberty and happiness, like that of Fernando's entrance into Madrid, is a prologue to tragedy, as the last lines of Chapter 24 imply: «Inés y yo nos detuvimos un instante a contemplar el cielo, que por aquella parte se teñía de un vivo color de sangre» (429).
As Gabriel and Inés race through the turbulent streets of Madrid, he sees little but through the eyes of his imagination, still a captive of his obsessed mind. His consuming desire for Inés and disinterest in the patriotic impulse, except at odd moments, predict his many self-interested actions in the Series.146 Moreover, if Inés is Cabriel's spirit, his desire, and his Other, then his identity is complete only when he imagines her reflecting him. His image of himself is not externally verifiable; it is like the illusory figures and associations he formed in the Requejos' dark basement. Gabriel's self-consciousness fluctuates, like the meaning of history, according to his interpretations of what he perceives as reality. What he perceives, interprets, imagines -like Inés- is his only reality; what he does not represent or interpret -like the events in Madrid- does not occur or signify for him. Gabriel's equivocal participation in the novel's historical events tends to demythify traditional accounts of Spain's spontaneous, unified, and undivided patriotic opposition to the French on May 2, 1808. His disinterest highlights the relativity of the definition and value, and even the existence, of «patriotism». At the conclusion to the volume, Gabriel's obsession with Inés resembles insanity as he histrionically searches for her after she is again taken away and about to be executed. In the end, El 19 de marzo y el 2 de mayo essentially becomes a mockery of the legend of the glorious and self-less rebellion of Madrid.
Gabriel and Inéss, joined by Don Celestino, find a temporarily safe harbour in Gabriel's old lodgings. They gaze from the window, observing the agitated crowd. Gabriel sees the outside world now, but only through a self-serving perspective. He seems unaware of the real deaths he witnesses. Instead, he uses the scene to proudly display his knowledge of war tactics to Inés. The naturally erudite Inés of the previous episodio (264) becomes more girlish here in her role as a non-participating reader. She is the passive audience for Gabriel's hyperbolic and self-aggrandizing discourse. For example, he invokes experience in the Battle of Trafalgar, at the age of 14, rewriting his role in it: «Esas balas se meten en los cañones que están allí junto -dije yo, queriendo mostrar mi erudición-. [...] Hace un ruido, chiquilla, que se vuelve uno loco. ¡Si vieras cómo me lucí en el combate de Trafalgar! ¡Si tú me hubieras visto! [...] Lo menos maté a 1.000 ingleses» (430). The already exaggerated two dozen vanquished English with which Gabriel hoped to impress his first love, Rosita, in Trafalgar (Chapter 2: 233) become a thousand, three volumes and «four years» later. Gabriel's remarks parodically exemplify the distortions inherent in recalling the past, both in autobiographical and historical discourse. The evocation of Trafalgar invites a comparison between the demythifying narration of that legendary battle of 1805 and this account of the «glorious» rebellion of May 2, 1808. The first episodio also reexamines the ideal of patriotism, and ultimately reinterprets it.147 Like Trafalgar, El 19 de marzo y el 2 de mayo exalts, rationalizes, and —167→ trivializes patriotism by juxtaposing contrary roles and words of Cabriel and other characters, allowing them to comment on each other. This demythifying strategy is well-illustrated in Cabriel's encounter with his friend, Chinitas.
When Gabriel attempts once more to lead Inés to safety from the fighting, now directly beneath their window, he continues to ignore, even disparage, his countrymen and their cause. He rationalizes: «El lector comprenderá que, no importándome gran cosa que se fueran o dejaran de irse los que lo tuvieran por conveniente, intenté seguir mi camino. Poco había adelantado cuando me sentí cogido por un brazo. Estremecíme de terror [...] pero no se asusten ustedes: era Pacorro Chinitas» (431). Chinitas was the only individual in Madrid who predicted this result from the Spaniards' trust of the French in La corte de Carlos IV. When Gabriel, tells him that he does not care about the rebellion, Chinitas says: «Tú no eres español. [...] Pues entonces no tienes corazón, ni eres hombre para nada» (431). Gabriel follows his own inner-directed course, oblivious to the patriotic actions outside him. His refusal to take part in the revolt, even after Chinitas's insults, has several significant functions.
First, Gabriel claims that the reader will understand that saving Inés is more important than patriotism. If the reader is sympathetic to this view, then he or she is like Gabriel, not patriotic and not Spanish, according to Chinitas. Yet the novelistically guided tendency eagerly to follow the love plot, much as Gabriel follows Inés, is a conventional, if folletinesque, response. Gabriel's role questions the validity of such a conventional and pleasure-seeking manner of reading. A «readerly' reader (Barthes 4), like Gabriel here, would prefer fiction over history in the historical novel, and would be considered a passive reader. Yet if historical discourse is constituted through representation and interpretation, just like fiction, refusing to focus on the historical scenes, even when «momentous», only ignores another fiction, not historical truth. Neither discourse -of love and Inés or war and patriotism- can claim privilege over the other, since both texts are composed by the same narrative practices.
Chinitas finally convinces Gabriel of the seriousness of the events, that Spain has no king, and that Napoleon has usurped the throne. After a lengthy discussion, while Gabriel weighs the consequences of his divided loyalties, he responds in kind: «¡Oh Chinitas! Me haces temblar de cólera. Eso no se puede aguantar, no, señor. Si las cosas van como dices, tú y todos los demás españoles que tengan vergüenza cogerán un arma, y entonces. [...]» (432). Gabriel's sense of shame prompts his feelings and acts of valour here and through much of the First Series. The reciprocal relationship between honour, courage, heroism, and shame plays a prominent and key role in the portrayal of the rebellion of May 2, 1808 (see also 435, 436, 437, 438, 442, 448). It raises another question about the paramount importance ascribed to ideals like honour, if they have function and value chiefly out of the fear of shame.
The dialogue between Gabriel and Chinitas serves as a guide for the reader's interpretation of Gabriel's actions and of the patriotic impulse in Madrid. Gabriel describes the populace:
Such a conception of patriotism does not belie the legendary pride that Spain takes in the events of the day. Yet while the overt linguistic markers of irony are absent from the passage, there are other more covert strategies which create ambiguity and devalue the patriotic ideal. The process of idealization subverts its own effect in the narrative; juxtaposed to the idealized patriotic uprising are contradictions which undermine its univocality and diminish its beauty.
In the first place, Gabriel the «hero» of the Series, surely does not experience such a spontaneous reaction, as the subsequent paragraph indicates: «Estas reflexiones se me ocurren ahora recordando aquellos sucesos. Entonces, y en la famosa mañana de que me ocupo, no estaba mi ánimo para consideraciones de tal índole» (432). Further, the «concordancia», «condensación colosal», and «unidad sin discrepancias de ningún género» of the people are miracles that can be witnessed only in contrast to overwhelming obstacles, just as honour takes on more value in opposition to shame. Words like «inspiration», «miracle», «mystery», «type», or «unformulated» reinforce the inexplicable, unrepresentable, and illusory significance of the sentiments of patriotism and national conscience. Such feelings or phenomena cannot even be suggested in ordinary or «official language», but only in a «balbuciente lenguaje de la inspiración». The harmonious beating of patriotic hearts in Madrid is no less a narcissistic ideal for Spain than is an indivisible union with Inés for Cabriel.
Instead of making more realistic the patriotic urge, Gabriel's narration idealizes it further, seeming to remove it from the text: «La calle Mayor y las contiguas ofrecían el aspecto de un hervidero de rabia imposible de describir por medio del lenguaje. El que no lo vio, renuncie a tener idea de semejante levantamiento. Después me dijeron que [...]» (433). If the scene is impossible to describe in words, it cannot be part of, represented in the narrative. Gabriel himself only vaguely comprehends it in retrospect, he says, through the perspective of time, interpretation, and the versions of others. Similar statements abound in the novel, for example: «Nadie podrá imaginar cómo eran aquellos combates parciales» (435). If Gabriel cannot write them, and no one can imagine them, those experiences have no role -no lines in his memoirs, this text. Clichés like these may emphasize the wonder of the spectacle, but they also call attention to the essential and irreducible difference between words and things.
Gabriel's incapacity to portray the street battle and the bloody suppression of the rebellion by the French (444) parallels his inability to describe his personal odyssey as he searches among the bodies of the executed for Inés: «Cómo se presentaba en mi alma atribulada aquel espectáculo en la negra noche, aquellos ruidos pavorosos, no es cosa que pueda yo referir, ni palabras de ninguna lengua alcanzan a manifestar angustia tan grande» (447). If Gabriel was present at this heinous tragedy but cannot represent it, then —169→ it is indescribable from any perspective in any language. The text's constant reminders of the impossibility of conveying meaning or describing the world in language indicate that even a first-hand account of events is an association of words whose sense or truth, whose referentiality, is a figure in the imagination of the observer, interpreter, or reader. At times Gabriel does look around with the eyes of a «patriot»; at others he disregards or is unconscious of the same events before his eyes. His narration of the memories of what he believes he perceives only increases the distortion between «reality» and representation», the historical past and discourse.
The foreboding, expressionistic, visual imagery employed throughout the depiction of the street battles and executions evokes Goya's black paintings. It contrasts with the bright, joyous, and impressionistic imagery of the first chapters of the novel, which paint the lovers' interludes in Aranjuez. The change from light and impressionism to menacing darkness and expressionism through the novel emphasizes the contrast between the «univocal» and «glorious» Spanish revolt and its brutal dénouement. Chapters 30 and 31 relate the agonizing and lingering deaths of the executed Spanish. These passages exhibit and comment on the interplay of domination and subordination through history, where one individual or nation appropriates and changes the rules of diplomacy and war in order to assume power over the other. The scenes also prefigure Gabriel's own death by firing squad, and make his later «resurrection» in the next episodio verisimilar, since some of the executed Spaniards do survive, the reader is told. Gabriel observes that
|(444; the emphasis is mine)|
Narration, discourse, and representation are no longer possible as violence and bloodshed take over communication, and language becomes unintelligible to both parties, the dominator and the victim. Gabriel cannot interpret history now because he cannot understand the text or express its language.
The depiction of events that follow the French suppression of the Spanish in Madrid, and almost to the very end of the First Series, shows Spain's loss of control over its identity, its text, until the country can once more appropriate the rules and call the plays, as in the Battle of the Arapiles. Indescribable violence takes over when language is unintelligible, and even partial representation becomes impossible. Society and culture disintegrate until the only meaning is the absence of meaning and alienation. Thus Gabriel «dies» at the end of the novel, powerless to control his text, his conscious or even unconscious images, just as the Spanish cannot make their voices heard or their desires met when they do not know the rules, the language, of Napoleon's game. From the French perspective, all is in order; their language of war makes sense. From the Spanish perspective, all is in disorder; they have lost control of signification itself, and therefore of their national identity.—170→
In the chaos that reigns in Madrid Gabriel runs through the streets, oblivious to all but the pursuit of his object of desire. His frenzied search evokes and reiterates his experience in the Requejos' basement and earlier chaotic passages through the streets with Inés. Chiaroscuro imagery is ubiquitous. Numerous references to darkness (e.g. «La noche era obscura, fría y solitaria», «la negra noche», ) blend with equally forbidding images of light (e.g. «agonizante luz», , «siniestra luz», ). Light, life, and spirit flicker ominously at the frontier of darkness and death. The opposing functions of light and dark observed earlier in the novel are not evident here. The metaphors have merged so that their symbolic values are largely indistinguishable. Intent on overcoming whatever obstacles exist between him and Inés, Gabriel is momentarily submerged in the dark unconscious:
Chapter 32 concludes with a «senseless» transition between scenes, marking the arbitrary, if conventional, movement of the storyline. Like that in the Requejos' basement, this transition reinscribes the novel's representations as constructs of Gabriel's (both the writer's and the reader's) imagination. «Sólo sé» is another anaphora that rhetorically underlines Gabriel's self-absorption in his own text, and that prefigures the lengthy anaphora of the final lines of the episodio.
The penultimate chapter begins with Gabriel's recollection of happier times:
In Gabriel's narcissistic reverie, he again merges with Inés, his desire projecting their united image onto that of the two rivers in Aranjuez. Now in Madrid, his desire calls up the rivers that exist only in his memory, redoubling the representational and self-reflexive conceits of the introductory scene of the novel. Gabriel's memories contrast sharply with the volume's last lines, where his pursuit of desire ends in discord, violence, and death, just as does the one-time alliance between France and Spain.
At the conclusion of El 19 de marzo y el 2 de mayo Gabriel, having found Inés, faces execution with her and Don Celestino. Inés is rescued at the last moment, however, because Juan de Dios intervenes. Gabriel's imminent execution gives him less anguish than his separation from his reflecting image, Inés. As she is untied from Gabriel and dragged away, Gabriel is unable to find words to express his sentiments now, or to remember those they spoke to one another then:—171→
The inexplicable, unwritable, pain of separation simulates insanity or death, states that induce distorted, unrepresentable images, or the complete absence of perception and thought. The forgotten words exchanged between Inés and Gabriel do not exist since there are no terms, no signifiers, to represent them. Representation is existence; its absence is a nothingness like death. The separation of self from other, signified from signifier, seems worse than death for both Inés and Cabriel. Gabriel's mental torture prefigures his execution by firing squad, the closing words of the novel, and his silence. Like the past resurrected out of the mind of the ancient narrator in Chapter One of Trafalgar, such passages as these reinscribe the illusory processes of signification.
The novel ends after Gabriel narrates his execution:
Gabriel's hyperbolically self-conscious death scene is the final comment in and on the text and its version of May 2, 1808. It cannot help but demythify, through parody and anaphoric trivialization, the story of the heroic deaths of the Spanish patriots.
In addition to «demeaning» the legendary deaths of the patriots on May 2nd and 3rd, the conclusion to the novel parodies a «folletín». The reiterated «después» evokes a histrionic stage death and undermines the sense of an ending, since it seems as though Gabriel's death will never end. Moreover, if the discourse of history or fiction has no origin and no end, beginning in previous texts and continuing in new ones, then there can only be an «after» and a «before». not a first or a last. The scene is ironic also because Gabriel, of course, cannot die; like many representations of the Episodios, his death is a blatantly deceptive simulation of a verisimilar event.
Gabriel claims that his sensations are «inexplicable» and «incomprehensible», but goes into great detail explaining them until forgetfulness and oblivion (like senility and death) put him out of the reader's misery. The last paragraph of the novel recalls and reiterates, through much of the same imagery, Gabriel's experience in the Requejos' basement and in the streets of Madrid. Gabriel's life -and death- is once more confined within his mind. The passage also evokes the numerous narcissistic episodes where he imagines that Inés is inside of him. Now she is not only analogous to the sun —172→ illuminating his darkness, but she is a virtual galaxy of light. Metaphor again becomes hyperbole, as when Requejo's hair was compared to the sun. The final metaphors of the novel, while not making a grotesque comparison, nonetheless demythify Gabriel's idealized imagery through the folletinesque style of the narrative. These lines also encompass and demythify Gabriel's self-conscious «autobiography», the «selfengendering» narrative of the First Series.
Gabriel's final word, «nada», names the contents of the last Chinese box in a series, each containing a name for an «inexplicable sensation», i.e. «estruendo», «zumbido», «debilidad», «palpitación», «inconsciencia», «agudísimo dolor», «vago reposo», «extinción rápida». The sequence of histrionic words within words, images within images, texts within texts, parodically reinscribes the series of narratives within narratives that constituteEl 19 de marzo y el 2 de mayo and the First Series. It epitomizes and encapsulates the novel's illusory structure of representations, its words, ideas, and desires. Previously, when Gabriel ran through the turbulent streets of Madrid, he did not see «reality» but looked only inside himself He did not search for a point of reference as he pursued the absent Inés, but generated his own direction and desire from within. He is a willing captive, creation, and character of his mind, oblivious to all but his own selfreflecting Other. Gabriel's mental incarceration is voluntary, unlike his physical captivity in the Requejos' basement. Both types of confinement have the same function, however, as do the self-contained, dungeon-like, and deadly world inside the Requejos' house, and Gabriel's death itself.
The novel offers many specific parallels between its different instances and images of enclosure, incarceration, and entombment. Just as the architecture of the Requejos' house is a symbolic expression of the possessive and parasitical character of its owners, in the streets of Madrid Gabriel's internalized world and self-induced oblivion to exterior phenomena are an expression of his narcissism. He is not immured by physical walls now, but by the murals of his mind. His symbolic self-enclosure functions like the many places of darkness and confinement in the Requejos' house do. Gabriel's odyssey through Madrid epitomizes the course of his «history» and «autobiography» through the First Series. The narrative of his obsessive journey toward desire and death punctuates one of the primary lessons of Galdós's historical novel. Discourse is representation, and whether one conventionally seeks or reads, or rather if one compulsively desires, to find its meaning or its truth, representation always reveals that its end, its only end, is «nada».
Illinois State University—173→ —174→
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