Her father, believing in the intellectual equality of men and women, [2] provided her with the best education possible, inspiring her life-long love for literature. She was fascinated by books about the French revolution. Her family would spend their winters in Madrid, where Emilia attended a French school sponsored by the Royal Family, [3] and where she was introduced to the work of La Fontaine and Jean Racine. Her frequent visits to France would prove to be especially useful later in her life by helping her connect with the literary world of Europe and become familiar with important authors like Victor Hugo. She refused to follow the rules that limited women to just learning about music and home economics. She received formal education on all types of subjects, with an emphasis on the humanities and languages.

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A story that highlights the disenfranchisement, brutality, and destitution of the lower classes, "El indulto" has traditionally been regarded as one of the best representatives of the genre in Spanish naturalism.

This concern for the representational aspects of fiction has created the impression that naturalistic poetics is simply the result of subjecting art to the demands of testimony: "According to this approach, naturalism is then an art from which conventions, genre, poetic codes and forms have all been expunged, a literature purged of literariness" Baguley Against such an understanding of these narratives there has been in recent years a considerable amount of research devoted to the literariness of naturalism.

Thus, "El indulto" has been read not only as a testimony against the victimization of women, but also as a reversal of the romance plot of Victorian narratives and their patriarchal imagery of family life. Susan Lanser has argued that feminist criticism, "given the ideological intent of its critical practice," has for a long time concerned itself with a somewhat exclusive attention to the mimetic aspects of narrative, and is therefore suspicious of the use of narratological analysis, which in turn has traditionally disregarded questions of pragmatics and gender in its study of the formal categories of fictional discourse "Toward a Feminist Narratology" In her manifesto for a critical program that would combine the formal and ideological concerns of both traditions, Lanser has called for a reconciliation of "the primarily semiotic approach of narratology with the primarily mimetic orientation of most Anglo-American feminist thinking about narrative" --an argument advanced also by Robyn Warhol, who argues that the descriptive potential of narratological inquiry could help develop "a poetics of gendered discourse" The possibility of a divorce is ruled out by a lawyer because of the lack of "clear proof" of mistreatment, since nobody but Antonia heard the threats But this rumor turns out to be a false one, and that evening Antonia finds her husband at home.

The last third of the story is devoted to narrating that fateful encounter: the menacing [End Page ] presence of the husband breaks the spirit of Antonia, who serves him dinner and has to share her bed with the murderer. The ending, congruent with the general deterministic tone of the story, raises nevertheless a number of questions. First of all, of course, the curious reader wonders what really happened that fateful night between Antonia and her husband, a crucial moment about which the narrative remains conspicuously silent.

Unable further to withstand the afflictions imposed on her by an insensitive male establishment, Antonia succumbs to death, as she submits to her husband, with "la docilidad de la esclava. The system wins again. In the case of "El Indulto," the explanation is already inscribed in the text, and the reader only has to go back to the story to find it.

The importance of closure in nineteenth-century short stories has been highlighted by Lou Charnon-Deutsch, who observes that storywriters sought to create an ending that would shock or surprise the reader and therefore present an unexpected perspective from which to reformulate a new interpretation of the narrated events.

In her opinion, however, "El indulto" fails in this regard because of its naturalistic style, which "was not entirely suited to the story as conceived by nineteenth-century storywriters. Determinism and notebook realism did not allow for surprise endings, fragmentary and impressionistic techniques and figurative language, or even the special effect that storywriters of the last century, beginning with Edgar Allan Poe, sought to achieve at the end of a work" 77; see also I would thus argue that the mystery of the ending in "El indulto" is not what killed Antonia, but how the reader is supposed to react to her death.

What indulto did the victims receive in this tragic tale? The answer is obvious--justice serves only the interest of men" If this is true--and I certainly believe it is--the narrator nevertheless does not say so. And here is where the real recalcitrance of the story lies: it is the very notion of truth that is disputed in the story. Rather than a form of mimetic resistance, I believe "El indulto" confronts us with the sort of ending where resistance cannot be resolved by rereading the story although it requires us to do so.

Instead, the reader is forced to take a stand that cannot be grounded completely in the narrative itself. There is no doubt that the diegesis is centered around the experience of victimization of the protagonist, and readers cannot help feeling both compassion for her fate and a sense of rebellion against a judicial system that has made her suffering possible.

A significant strategy in this project is the use of an unmarked narrative voice that is, one that does not display any indication of gender , which Bieder associates with the desire to appropriate the assumption of masculine authority, traditionally conferred upon heterodiegetic narrators, and grant legitimacy to the female perspective By the end of this first section, what begins as the subject of public, quasi-objective, knowledge, turns out to be a matter of subjective perspective, or--as the narrator puts it--a rumor.

Thus, while the story is told from the perspective of the washer women and Antonia, and we are led to sympathize with her suffering, the fact is we are never told that what she is telling is the only possible truth--after all, the judge did not think the evidence provided by Antonia was compelling enough to sentence her husband to death, a perspective the narrator never explicitly refutes.

While justice represented here by exclusively male voices: the judge, the legal expert, the government, the night watchmen, the mayor. That duality points to the fundamental distinction between two systems of justice clearly present in the story. Within this system--which is unaware of, or ignores, the violence of spousal abuse--the royal pardon is an act of generosity and charity: the manservant who informs Antonia of the possibility of a pardon to celebrate the birth of the infanta thinks he is "doing her a favor" by giving her what he believes to be good news On the other hand, there is the popular system of public opinion, the justice of the washerwomen and neighbors, for whom the true sentence is that Antonia must live under the constant threat of vengeance.

Thus, the very title of the story is revealed as problematic: not only are there two possible kinds of pardon, but they are also antithetical--the pardon of the husband means the death of the wife, and vice versa.

It would appear that this opposition, thus formulated, pits a masculine voice firmly grounded on reason against a feminine one [End Page ] tilted towards the force of emotion, and this could be considered a further step towards undermining the authority of the female voice. But such a dichotomy is problematized as we find out that male truths are also grounded in rumor--the sort of rumor that is legitimized by the power of the State.


Emilia Pardo Bazán



“El indulto”- Emilia Pardo Bazán.



El indulto




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