Many writers are inclined to focus on different aspects of the woman’s nature while presenting and discussing the female characters in their works, but these authors often choose between depicting women as agents of knowledge and as the objectified characters. Female characters presented as the agents of knowledge can often be discussed as the embodiments of wisdom and purity in the literary works.
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On the contrary, if the authors choose to focus on the stereotypical visions and concentrate on the definite female qualities, they introduce women in their works as the objectified characters. Focusing on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “Eleonora” and on Benito Perez Galdos’s work Torquemada at the Stake, it is necessary to answer the question about portraying Poe’s Eleonora and Galdos’s Tia Roma as agents of knowledge or as the objectified characters.
In spite of the fact that the characters of Eleonora and Tia Roma can be discussed as different in relation to the authors’ descriptions, these characters act and behave as the agents of knowledge rather than submissive objectified characters because the authors can find the balance in focusing on such women’s traits as wisdom and purity without negative objectification.
Both Poe and Galdos present their female characters in harmony with the settings in order to emphasise the inner power and beauty of Eleonora and Tia Roma reflected even in the surroundings. Thus, the nature of the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass is closely associated with Eleonora’s feelings (Robinson 44-45).
When Eleonora is happy “strange brilliant flowers, star-shaped, burst”, and the “tints of the green carpet” become deeper (Poe 146). However, the death of Eleonora caused the fact that the “star-shaped flowers shrank into the stems of the trees, and appeared no more. The tints of the green carpet faded” (Poe 147). Thus, the descriptions of the valley are correlated with the discussions of Eleonora’s delicate and even perfect character, and all the flowers of the valley cannot even reflect the inner beauty of the young woman.
The role of Tia Roma as the agent of knowledge can also be presented completely only in the context of the settings. The life of Tia Roma is directly connected with the family and house of Torquemada. In this house, Tia Roma is responsible for creating the positive atmosphere and comfort for all the members of the family.
Tia Roma performs her role as the advisor and supporter in the family when its members suffer from the most difficult times in their lives (Dudley 6161-6162). That is why, the events and situations associated with Torquemada’s family and house affect Tia Roma’s role as the agent of knowledge because she should be active and decisive in order to prevent the family from sufferings and loss.
The characters of Eleonora and Tia Roma can be understood completely with references to the vivid descriptions of these women’s words and actions which support the idea that these female characters are agents of knowledge.
Thus, referring to the important and impressing words of Eleonora, the main male character and Eleonora’s lover states that Eleonora “grieved to think that, having entombed her in the Valley of the Many-Colored Grass, I would quit forever its happy recesses, transferring the love which now was so passionately her own to some maiden of the outer and every-day world” (Poe 146).
Asking her lover about the possibilities to fall in love with another woman after her death, Eleonora demonstrates her ability to analyse and predict the situations. Moreover, Eleonora is not afraid of hearing the answer because she is rather confident and wise (Robinson 45-46; Sova 62-63). From this point, the power of Eleonora as an agent of knowledge is in her possibility to focus on the moments which are really important in her life and to act decisively.
Tia Roma also makes accents on her actions rather than on the words. When Tia Roma saw Valentin “gripped by that terrible illness, which according to her was a rupture of the talent in his head”, the old maid “went to inquire morning and afternoon”, she also came into the boy’s bedroom and “sat for long hours beside his bed, gazing at him silently, her eyes like two inexhaustible fountains that poured tears over the aging parchment of her face and neck” (Galdos 34).
Thus, Tia Roma chooses to demonstrate her wisdom and assistance through the real actions. She can even predict the actions of Valentin’s father.
When Torquemada is focused on his suffering because of Valentin’s illness, Tia Roma acts in order to relieve Valentin’s sufferings, and she draws Torquemada’s attention to the necessity to rely on God’s power and glory. Tia Roma assumes, “Maybe the Virgin will work a miracle. I’m asking her to, with all the devotion that’s in me” (Galdos 35).
These words accentuate the idea that Tia Roma can argue with Torquemada without being afraid of his reaction. The woman’s devotion in relation to God and the Virgin and her confidence are strong, and these factors cause Tia Roma’s just and reasonable actions. From this perspective, wise Tia Roma preserves the definite knowledge and acts according to it.
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Eleonora and Tia Roma demonstrate the significant inner power and confidence because they can predict the people’s actions or the further events due to their inner purity and devotion to the divine forces. That is why, Poe and Galdos are inclined to associate the female characters with the divine images of the Seraphim and the Virgin.
From this point, the female characters are agents of knowledge because they can be characterised by the specific wisdom and vision which can be compared only with the divine knowledge. Thus, Poe states in his tale that “the loveliness of Eleonora was that of the Seraphim” (Poe 146).
It is possible to note that the character of Eleonora is directly associated and compared with the Seraphim because of the young woman’s innocence and inner spiritual purity (Baskett 332-333; Sova 62-63). Developing this idea, it is important to state that the actions and thoughts of Eleonora as clear and innocent as the intentions of the Seraphim directed toward protecting the people’s souls.
If Eleonora is compared with the Seraphim in relation to her purity, Tia Roma’s character is associated with the image of the Virgin to whom the woman is devoted extremely. The image of the Virgin is important to emphasise Tia Roma’s character as the agent of knowledge because this woman is as decisive in her actions as the person who knows what to do.
Thus, Tia Roma’s character can be analysed through the image of the Virgin because this woman intends to protect Torquemada’s family as the mother for whom all the family’s members are children, and these people can lose their right ways. Tia Roma’s task, as it is the task of the Virgin, is to provide the family with bless.
Moreover, Tia Roma always refers to the divine power as the protective one to direct the people’s life. That is why, the references to the divine images and symbols add significantly to the development of the female characters in Poe and Galdos’s works. These images make the characterisations of Eleonora and Tia Roma deeper and more vivid; as a result, it is possible to speak about these characters as the real agents of knowledge operating significant inner powers.
The analysis of the textual evidences provided in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “Eleonora” and in Benito Perez Galdos’s work Torquemada at the Stake supports the idea that the female characters of Eleonora and Tia Roma serve as the agents of knowledge in the literary works, not as objectified characters, because the authors pay much attention to depicting the active characters oriented to justice and sympathy.
Eleonora and Tia Roma behave with references to their knowledge of the situations, and they make conclusions basing on their wisdom and experience. Poe and Galdos avoid objectifying the characters with references to exaggerating the definite female features.
Although the women’s purity and wisdom are accentuated in the characters of Eleonora and Tia Roma, these qualities work to create the positive image rather than the negative objectification. The divine images of the Seraphim and the Virgin also contribute to depicting the characters’ qualities with references to important and vivid symbols.
Baskett, Sam. “A Damsel with a Dulcimer: An Interpretation of Poe’s “Eleonora”. Modern Language Notes 53.5 (1958): 332-338. Print.
Dudley, Charles. A Library of the World’s Best Literature – Ancient and Modern – Vol. XV. USA: Cosimo, Inc., 2008. Print.
Galdos, Benito Perez. Torquemada at the Stake. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. Print.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Edgar Allan Poe’s Annotated Short Stories. USA: Bottletree Books LLC, 2008. Print.
Robinson, Arthur. “Cosmic Vision in Poe’s ‘Eleonora’”. Poe Studies 9.2 (1976): 44-46. Print.
Sova, Dawn. Critical Companion to Edgar Allan Poe: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work. USA: Infobase Publishing, 2007. Print.