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The Parallelism between the Principle Characters in the Zarzuela La Bruja and the Story Afra Research Paper


Introduction

The interpretation of the work of literature always depends upon the peculiarities of the readers’ perception, their background knowledge, and the allusions which they can find in the text. The intertextual dialogue between the short story Afra by Emilia Pardo Bazan and the zarzuela La Bruja which is reflected in the parallelism of the principal characters, the similarities of setting and plot lines helps the feminist author to criticize the patriarchal norms of the nineteenth century’s society.

Pardo Bazan’s intention to criticize the existing social and inability to do it directly predetermines the choice of the techniques, including the use of traditional male narrative patterns and the structural framing techniques which require readers’ involvement into the literary world of the story and stimulate their critical thinking.

Resonances in plot and characterization

The intertextual dialogue between the short story Afra by Emilia Pardo Bazan and the zarzuela La Bruja is reflected in the parallelism of the plot lines, similarities in setting and the manner of characterization of the principle personages. Though the zarzuela is only accidentally mentioned by the narrator at the beginning of the story, the link between the two works is much deeper than a mere allusion and can be seen in numerous instances of resonance between them.

The peculiarities of setting

Intentionally mentioning the zarzuela before the beginning of the development of the events, the author aims at influencing the reader’s perception of the following text, implying that the plot of the story should be viewed in much wider context than the events of the short story only. The author’s attempt to make readers see between the lines and implement their background knowledge for processing and interpreting the information instead of understanding the words in their literal meaning only was crowned with success.

Reasonable readers would be able to draw a lot of parallels between the zarzuela and a short story by Pardo Bazan. The plot of both works depicts a woman who is accused of being a witch and directly or indirectly justified and unveiled by the authors. Both heroines are isolated in their community and have contacts with foreign cultures.

As an element of the development of the events, both women swim in sea or river. Along with the similarities in the plots, there are some mirror reflections between them which are rooted in the intertextual links between the literary works all the same, such as the juxtaposition of the titles, for example.

Besides, this list of the similarities and associations does not claim for comprehensiveness and can be expanded with a number of examples of parallelism between the plot lines and settings which either were intentionally incorporated into the literary world of the story or were eventually found by the reader in the process of independent interpretation of the intertextual dialogues and the links between the zarzuela and the short story Afra by Pardo Bazan.

The characterization of the female characters

The characterization models of the female characters as the main protagonists of the stories have much in common but differ in some points at the same time. Drawing the parallels between the common features of these women and the events in their lives, readers should pay attention to the process of their unmasking and the techniques which were implemented by the authors for achieving this end goal of unveiling the so-called witches and criticizing the misconceptions and the ignorance of the public opinion.

The unveiling of the zarzuela witch is much easier than the analysis of the personage which was created by Pardo Bazan and does not require any additional efforts of the audience because the author and the narrator do all the necessary work for them. The main protagonist of the zarzuela is a daughter of a nobleman who died fighting for his motherland. Leaving her parents’ house, the woman tries to win glory and honor for breaking the enchantment as she explains to Leonardo, the young man who is in love with her (Ashworth 109).

Though the superficial abilities of the main female character are obvious in the plot of the zarzuela, she is depicted as a kind witch who helps others and does not use her power for doing any harm. On the contrary, her charity and magic tricks help some inhabitants of the village. Crating the image of a good witch, the author criticizes the ignorance of Inquisition and the repressive atmosphere of Spain of the times in which the development of the events is set.

The characterization model which was used by Pardo Bazan in his short story Afra is much more complicated. Afra, as the main female protagonist of the story, is a rather enigmatic character which cannot be interpreted unequivocally.

The mystery and reality are tightly bound in the work, leaving much space for readers’ critical evaluation of the depicted events and drawing the line between the truth and fancy. For example, the episode in which Afra and Flora go for a swim and then the latter does not return and people find her body ashore with a head injury, it is up to the reader to believe the main protagonist or not while the situation is rather mysterious (Pardo Bazan “Afra”).

Readers are expected to involve their imagination and ability to decode the intertextual links and author’s indirect messages for understanding this episode and taking a particular position as to the correlation of truth and invention in the story and the patterns of binding them. The principle characters of the zarzuela and the short story can be defined as femme fatale. This enigmatic mysterious element is characteristic of Pardo Bazan’s works (Gines 133).

The characterization of the male characters

The evidence of the intertextual dialogue between the zarzuela La Bruja and the story Afra by Pardo Bazan can be found in the characterization of the principle male characters of the two works.

Leonardo as the main male character of the zarzuela falls in love with the main female character after he sees her swimming in the river at night. He is ready for everything to win her reciprocity and deciding to join the army, he goes to fight in Italy. The military motive is romanticized as the symbol of dignity and heroism without getting deep into the details of some concrete historical events, the soldier’s role in them and the risk of being killed at war.

It is significant that the principle male character of the story Afra is a military man too. Using this feature for creating their personages, the author of the zarzuela and Pardo Bazan express their views of soldiers as noble men the military code in general which predetermines particular behavioral patterns of those who believe in it.

Along with the military background of both principle characters, the common motives of love at first sight, attempts to win the women’s reciprocity and readiness to oppose the whole community for the sake of their true feelings and happiness are common for the principle male characters of both works.

Though the characterization models of the principle female and male characters have much in common, including the binding of the realistic and imaginative components and the inner strength of the protagonists who opposed the whole society, Pardo Bazan’s model is much more sophisticated. As opposed to the zarzuela, the literary world of the short story Afra requires readers’ active participation in the process of interpretation and decoding the intertextual links and Pardo Bazan’s messages.

The narrative patterns used by the author

The gendered patterns of narration are used in the story Afra because the author implies that the men’s and women’s perspectives on the same facts can differ significantly. Though the two narrators which were chosen by Pardo Bazan were men, the author with her recognized feministic views aimed at criticizing the male narrative tradition and leaves space for another reading of the story, according to which Afra is innocent.

The interpretation of the plot lines and Pardo Bazan’s message is impossible without taking into account the intertextual dialogue with the zarzuela La Bruja. Readers need to make a long way of creating the associations, decoding the symbols and messages and interpreting the instances of allusions and intertextual links for reading between the lines of the short story and understanding the true meaning of words.

Pardo Bazan distances herself from the two implicitly male narrators of the tale – the nameless narrator and his friend Castro who tells a part of the story. This technique is recognized as the author’s metafictional comment and criticism of the art of novel of the times when Afra was written (Ashworth 111).

Thus, following the narrative tradition which she inherited from her predecessors, Pardo Bazan manages to shed light upon an important social problem of the inequality of the sexes and the oppression of women in the nineteenth century. The male narration of the story and the author’s attempt to show her readers the bias of the story-tellers and the way for another reading of the text is aimed at demonstrating the difficulties which a female author experiences because of the limitations of the male narrative tradition.

The readers’ problems with decoding all the author’s symbols and interpreting the meaning of the intertextual dialogue with the zanzuela La Bruja are expected to shed light upon the sophistication of the methods which a woman writer has to use for delivering her messages to readers.

The first male narrator represents the masculine power and is put at the merge of the real world and the fictional world of the story. He emphasizes his military background and membership in the masculine fraternity in the past.

In this sense, the military motive can be interpreted as the symbol of power and violence, attempts to use the strength and to impose authority. On the other hand, this plot line can be regarded as the link of the narrator with the real world with its strict rules of the military code as opposed to the fictional world of Marineda to which he arrives.

Balancing between the fiction and reality, this narrator tries to represent a sensible view of the events and his perspective on reality, but the sophisticated plot lines and the literary world of the story become hurdles for drawing a line between the truth and myth. In this sense, the allusion of the zarzuela is a valuable element which contributes to the merge of reality and fiction worlds.

When this nameless narrator comes to the theatre at the beginning of the story, he comes to the world of art and fiction. Showing little interest in the zarzuela itself, the narrator pays much more attention to the audience and especially the pleasant looking women. In this sense, the manner of author’s narration depends upon his gender and corresponding views and position.

Thus, the narrator expresses his opinion of female beauty from the male point of view. He makes attempts to analyze particular psychological characteristics of the women he observes: “Debajo del elegante maniqui femenino, escondo el acerado resorte de un alma” (Pardo Bazan “Afra”).

Thus, he tries to get to the roots and see the inner self of women but his perspective is still limited and does not allow him doing it. The glasses which the narrator uses in the theatre can be interpreted as the symbol of the limitations in his views because through his glasses the story-teller can see only separate fragments while the whole picture remains unclear.

The main plot line starts after the narrator focuses his glasses on Afra. At this point readers need to bear in mind that the woman who can be seen through these glasses is only an object, and her image depends upon the narrator’s perspective and opinion. This technique distances the real author from the nameless narrator, pointing at possible biases in the male pattern of narration and allowing readers to accept the story-teller’s point of view or oppose it.

Along with other symbols and techniques which were used by Pardo Bazan for delivering her messages to readers, the intertextual dialogue between the zarzuela La Bruja and the short story Afra is significant for understanding her criticism of the male narrative tradition and the position of women in the nineteenth century society in general. The intertextual links between the zarzuela and the story are expected to influence readers’ understanding of the plot lines and help them in justifying Afra and concluding that she is innocent.

Structural framing technique

The framing technique or the so-called story in a story is used by Pardo Bazan as one of the methods of criticizing the patriarchal social norms and the traditional novel aesthetics of the nineteenth century.

The story which is told by Castro, the second male narrator is aimed at increasing the distance between the author and the narrator because the readers are expected to be much more knowledgeable and perceptive than the listeners of Castro’s story due to their awareness of the intertextual links and the variety of associations and personal interpretations.

The opening and ending of Castro’s story are Pardo Bazan’s parody of the typical short stories of the late nineteenth century. As opposed to the rest of the straightforward story about Afra, this unexpected framing leaves the story open-ended without a logical conclusion.

By the way the opening and the ending Castro’s phrases alert readers about his bias as to the story and his unwillingness to take the responsibility for his words, thus, decreasing the trustworthiness of the whole narration in general. The closure of the story is a general phrase : “el corazon del hombre…selva obscura.

Figurate el de la mujer” (Pardo Bazan “Afra”). This statement makes the narrator’s intention uncertain and shows his own doubts as to Afra’s guilt. “He [Castro] avoids directly answering the question while pointing smurkingly to the unavoidable conclusion” (Ashworth 113). The open-ended story-within-a story provokes motivates readers to evaluate its content critically, not relying on the male narrator’s words blindly.

The structural framing technique aids the author in criticizing the existing social and literature standards and shows the insufficiency of understanding the text of the short story for decoding the author’s messages, emphasizing the importance of the intertextual dialogue with the zarzuela for understanding the true intention of the author who is distanced and in some episodes even opposed to the narrators. The shift from the analysis of the intertextual links with the zarzuela to the links with a detective story was offered by some critics for better understanding of the nineteenth century’s discourse and supporting Afra’s innocence (Gilfoil 7).

Intentionally presenting Afra’s story from the point of view of two different male narrators, Pardo Bazan implements a wide range of methods for producing the impression of bias in the story and stimulating readers to object to story-tellers. “Afra is here an absence, and what is offered as presence is a patriarchal pastiche made up of rumor, convention, innuendo, prejudices and fears” (Ashworth 114).

The framing technique and the two stories about Afra make readers compare the two versions and return to the beginning of the story, looking for the real life character that was seen through the first narrator’s glasses and contrasting it to the mystified witch of the second story. Mentally returning to the theatre where the zarzuela La Bruja is played, readers draw the parallels between the two stories and subconsciously trust the dramatic work even more than the opinion of the second narrator.

The use of the framing technique for exploring the issue of gender dynamics and criticizing the patriarchal social customs is characteristic of Pardo Bazan’s prose (Walter 11).

The story-within-a story technique in Afra by Pardo Bazan shows the inconsistency of the narrators’ opinion and the necessity to consider the historical and literature context as well as the intertextual dialogue with the zarzuela La Bruja and the parallelism of the principa characters in the two works for better understanding of the plot lines of the short story and receiving Pardo Bazan’s messages.

Conclusion

The intertextual dialogue between the short story Afra by Emilia Pardo Bazan and the zarzuela La Bruja helps readers to interpret the plot lines of the story and understand the author’s main ideas.

The parodies on the use of the traditional male narrative patterns and the structural framing technique create the distance between the story-tellers and the true author, demonstrating the insufficiency of the bare text of the story for understanding all the meanings which were implied by Pardo Bazan. The parallelism of the principal characters and the plot lines of the short story and the zarzuela play an important role in delivering the author’s messages to her readers.

Works Cited

Ashworth, Peter. “Of Spinning Wheels and Witches: Pardo Bazán’s Afra and La Bruja.” Letras Femeninas 18, 1-2,1992: 108-118. Print.

Gilfoil, Anne. The Science of Crime and the Crime of Science in Emilia Pardo Bazan’s “Afra”. Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, 2009. Print.

Gines, Isabel. “Los Secretos de las Damas Muertas: Dos Reelaboraciones de lo Fantastico en la Obra de Emilia Pardo Bazan”. Cuadernos de Investigacion Filologica, 26: 125-135, 2000. Print.

Pardo Bazan, Emilia. “Afra”. Albalearning Website. Web.

Walter, Susan. “The Use of Narrative Frames in Four Tales by Emilia Pardo Bazan”. Hispania 2007: 10-20. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, January 20). The Parallelism between the Principle Characters in the Zarzuela La Bruja and the Story Afra. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-parallelism-between-the-principle-characters-in-the-zarzuela-la-bruja-and-the-story-afra/

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"The Parallelism between the Principle Characters in the Zarzuela La Bruja and the Story Afra." IvyPanda, 20 Jan. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-parallelism-between-the-principle-characters-in-the-zarzuela-la-bruja-and-the-story-afra/.

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IvyPanda. "The Parallelism between the Principle Characters in the Zarzuela La Bruja and the Story Afra." January 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-parallelism-between-the-principle-characters-in-the-zarzuela-la-bruja-and-the-story-afra/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Parallelism between the Principle Characters in the Zarzuela La Bruja and the Story Afra." January 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-parallelism-between-the-principle-characters-in-the-zarzuela-la-bruja-and-the-story-afra/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Parallelism between the Principle Characters in the Zarzuela La Bruja and the Story Afra'. 20 January.

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