Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pipes all over the place! - another dream, more patterns in Fortunata and Jacinta

Jacinta’s dream, early in Fortunata and Jacinta, is matched by Fortunata’s dream late in the novel.  A reminder, Jacinta is the angelic wife who is dying to have a child; Fortunata is the wild sometimes mistress.  At this point, Fortunata has worked herself up into a hysterical state about Jacinta and is currently not seeing the rakish Juanito.

Galdós plays a dirty trick by 1) not directly telling me the passage is a dream, but 2) letting me know it is a dream using verb tenses:

… her thoughts blurred in grief and pain and drowsiness finally overtook her.

She has a strong urge to go out, heads for Magdalena Street, and stops in front of the pipe store, obeying that instinct that tells us if we have a happy meeting at a certain place we can have it again if we go back to the same place.  Pipes all over the place! (¡Cuánto tubo!)  Bronze faucets, spigots, and a multitude of things to conduct water.  (III.vii.4, 609)

I have been reading the short fiction of Arthur Schnitzler, the most cleanly Freudian author I have ever seen, so I may be a little over-sensitive, but c’mon, right?  At this point, I remember, I had noticed the switch to present tense but did not understand that Fortunata was dreaming.  Here’s where I figured that out:

On Barrionuevo Street she stops at the door of a shop where there are bolts of material unwrapped and hanging in waves.  Fortunata examines them and touches some with her fingers to feel their texture.  “This cretonne is really pretty!”  Inside there’s a dwarf, a monster, dressed in a red cassock and a turban, a transitional animal, halfway along the Darwinian road, where the orangutans become man.

There’s that fabric again, always fabric.  Juanito’s family is wealthy due to their success as fabric retailers.  The dwarf is perhaps a stand-in for Fortunata’s impotent, unhealthy husband, although one could go in other interpretive directions.

Next comes “a huge grill for roasting chops, and underneath it the enormous flames.”  That might be symbolic of something.  Some piano music – that’s foreshadowing.  Seven mules “strung together like rosary beads” – no idea.  More fabric.  Here’s the culmination of all of this strange stuff:

The ground is damp and slippery.  Suddenly, oh!, she feels as if she’s been stabbed. (610)

And just a few lines later

Fortunata looks at him [it’s her beloved Juanito!] and feels such intense pain that she might as well have had a dagger driven into her.

If I duck back to Juanita’s dream, the one with the chalky baby, I find:

A long time passed in this way, the child-man looking at his mother, and slowly melting her firmness with the power of his eyes.  Jacinta felt something tearing inside her.  (114)

And now I will leap to the end:

Shortly after being left alone, Fortunata felt something strange happening inside her.  Her vision blurred and she could feel a mass breaking away from her that reminded her of when Juan Evaristo came into the world… (800)

When I think about the art of Fortunata and Jacinta, I do not always think of passages like these, which take a turn to the bizarre, or carefully planned patternings that span the novel, recurring nearly seven hundred pages apart from each other.  The novel did not always feel so tightly woven while I was reading it.  The more I look back on the book, though, the less I trust that feeling.


  1. I kept waiting for a dwarf talking backwards to show up in that dream...that's about the only thing that was missing. I look back on my outline to see what I put: wandering the streets in a dream, or in a dream wandering the streets? Or, as the narrator says in one place (I don't have my book handy), dreams are lies that tell the truth.

    As far as dreams go, I don't know whether or not to include Mauricia's alcoholic haze as one or not. It definitely felt like one at the time. Regardless, there are some strange things going on in the subconcious of these characters.

    And yeah...don't trust that feeling.

  2. I know what you mean - a Twin Peaks precursor.

    I would call Mauricia's alcoholic experience a vision rather than a dream. Close relatives, at least in this novel.

  3. "A multitude of things to conduct water." I couldn't get the line from "My Favorite Year" out of my head after reading that, the scene where Swann walks into the women's restroom:

    Lil: This is for ladies!
    Swann (unzipping fly): So is this, ma'am, but every now and then I have to run a little water through it.

  4. I remember that scene - from where, I can't say, since I never saw the entire movie. O'Toole is so much fun.