The House of Bernarda Alba: Chapter Notes – Act 2
· Through Poncia’s certainty and Martirio’s suspicion the reader becomes aware of the fact that there is something amiss with Adela.
· To add to this suspicion, there is a disagreement on what time Pepe el Romano left the night before, suggesting the presence of secret with the house.
· Poncia accuses Adela of having being with Pepe el Romano, however Adela is extremely defiant, which causes a quarrel between the two, where Adela’s feelings for her sister’s fiancée are revealed, just as Poncia’s true intentions to save the name of the house, in order to save her own, are revealed.
· The consequences of being born a woman in this society are discovered as the women express their desire to join the men on the fields.
· This atmosphere is then disrupted with the evident animosity between the sisters, when Agustias investigates in order to find the stolen picture of her fiancée. When the dust settles the culprit is identified to be Martirio.
· The animosity is then taken to another level, between Poncia and Bernarda, during their bitter discussion on the justifications of the actions taken by the daughters. Through their discussion the importance of a powerful status is also established.
· On page 153 a commotion erupt outside the house, it is discovered that Librada’s daughter gave birth, without being married. Meanwhile Martirio, having seenAdela in Pepe’s arms threatens to expose her secret. Librada’s daughter is being dragged through the town by a mob, establishing the penalty of disobeying society’s rules.
Motifs & connotations
Windows and doors:
· When Bernarda’s husband dies she tells her daughters to close all the windows and doors, suggesting that they are prevention from the outside world.
· However, in act two, we discover that windows and doors are not only prevention but also, reversely, a providence to an air of freedom. “Let’s go and watch them from the window in my room!” (Page 145)
· The windows and doors act as a keyhole to the exterior world and to the freedom of Bernarda’s captivity, where sexual desires are not repressed. This is reinforced in this act, as it is by the windows where Angustias awaits her fiancée every night.
· The windows and doors in this act are portrayed as a border between confinement and freedom. However, it is suggested that many fear to cross the border, despite their wishes too. “All the neighbours are at their doors” Libradas daughter scene
· Gossip is an essential element of this play, as without the presence of an official narrator we rely on it to inform us on the unobvious.
· However unlike a narrator, the reliability of the gossip relies on how it’s coming from and in this play it is evident that everyone but Poncia is influenced by their emotions. Therefore in this act, we learn the different perception of everyone, creating dramatic irony and tension, not only for the audience, but for the Alba family too when they discover that their perceptions contrasts.
This is evident when there is a clear build up of animosity
when an agreement cannot be made about what time Pepe el Ramano really left from Angustias’s window, the previous night.
The constant occurrence of gossip also reinforces the consequences of Bernarda’s suppression, as it creates a hostile atmosphere suggesting
that there is a limited freedom of speech.
· Connoting suppression, the heat within Bernarda’s house is a significant symbol in more than one way.
· During the scenario, when Angustias is in furry when she finds out that her fiancées photograph has been stolen, it is evident that heat builds the atmosphere. Not only is Angustias ‘heated’ in the sense that she is burning with anger, Bernarda actually refers to the temperature, “In the silence of this heavy heat” (page 147). However to the audience this can be interpreted as a subtle acknowledgement to the actual heat between her daughters, created by the friction of their need for sexuality, which in this case is Pepe.
· Heat is also an element used to build the environment, the suppression which is within the house suggests a claustrophobic atmosphere which the daughters cannot escape. “The heat makes me ill”. (Page 147)
· In a society where people are not permitted to pursue their desires and passions freely, expectations of the people surrounding you become the main source of conflict.
· In ‘The house of Bernarda Abla’ no action is taken before considering the reaction of society and when an action is taken before considering the result of it, the consequences are evident in act two, when Librada’s daughter compels herself to her death by giving birth before marriage. “She should pay for what she did” (page 154)
· Bernarda’s desperation to keep her family name clean and live up to expectations is what causes her to suppress and confine her daughters; we learn in this act that she is excessively concerned with marinating her level in society, amassing money and portraying an image of “family harmony”, never considering the suppression of her daughters. This is immensely explored during her conversation with Poncia, “My blood will never mix with that of the humanas family- not as long as I live! His father was a field hand.”
· In this act it is also suggested that Pepe truly feels for Adela but not Angustias, however he makes a choice based on financial requirements. Suggesting that in this society is only expected to choose money over passion.
Oppression under the matriarchal rule:
· Typically most oppression is done by men. However, this play proves that women also do exercise their power when given a chance. The matriarchal rule Bernarda imposes over her five daughters, within her “domain”, as Poncia defines it, deprives them of their passions, by cruelly crushing their desires.
· Therefore her daughters, unable to accept this suppression, strive to find ways to escape the captivity. In the first act, figuratively and in this act more literally. “I’d fight my mother, to put out this fire that rises from my legs and mouth.” (Page 142)
· However, in order to fulfill their desires, these women distort the concept of a female domination, as they prove that they paradoxically struggle to escape a matriarchal domestic fascism, only to come under a patriarchal one.
· They demonstrate this every time repressed passions explode and they rebel against their mothers wishes. “…Because if I talk the walls will collapse in shame” (Page 149)
· The youngest, most attractive and rebellious of the Bernarda daughters. Adela is a character we do not witness a large change in, personality wise, but we learn more about as her character and emotions are exposed to a large extent in this act.
· It is already apparent in act one, that Adela is a boisterous young woman, seeking attention and trying to avoid feeling worthless, which her own mother makes difficult for her and her sisters.
· So when she finds out that the one man who she possibly expresses her sexuality to is her sister’s fiancé, she appears to be “restless, shaky, frightened” and suffering from envy.
· However, ironically Adela is constantly avoiding feeling vulnerable, even though she is in a vulnerable position, as she attempts to reverse this envy, by reminding her sisters that she is the most beautiful one of them.
· Although these attempts are successful most of the times, even when Poncia directly confronts her and threatens to expose the affair.
· We do get to witness Adela as distinctly anxious towards the end of the act, when she pleads her sister to “leave me alone” and when we learn the consequences of being giving birth before marriage. Her alarm and disagreement of her mother’s demands, during this scene suggests strongly that she too is sexually active and foreshadows her potential future.
· Through out this act it becomes obvious that Poncia is the only shred of sanity in this play. However, ironically unlike the Bernarda’s daughters although she has the opportunity to escape the confinement she feels that she is “stuck in this convent” to carry out a duty “so people wont spit when they come through that door”. This explains her exact intentions within the house, which we remain curious about in act one.
· However we are still uncertain whether she is trying to protect her own name or Bernarda’s name.
· Poncia is a diverse character and it is what she represents that differentiates her from the rest. She represents compassion, with the way she reacts to the actions of the daughters; she represents a conscience, when she suggests to Bernarda how to react to her daughter’s actions and she is Lorca’s representation of common people in Spain and how their rights are suppressed, when she is constantly reminded of her status “And you don’t because you know very well what you come from”.
· Despite that, as an audience you would tend to take a liking for Poncia as she also represents the neutral character, whose views are not influenced,because she is not a part of the family, therefore we tend to trust her the most, using her perception to build our own.
· The most complex of all the characters. Martirio’s true intentions and emotions are discovered in this act. Her envy for Adela “because she, too, loves Pepe” becomes obvious, despite her efforts to conceal her feelings. “But I adore underclothes. If I were rich, mine would be made of Dutch linen”, suggesting that the realistic, monotonous and person she feigns to be, is in reality someone who is too burning with passion and craving for pleasures.
· Initially she allows us to believe that she constantly monitors Adela’s actions because, influenced by her mother she wishes to protect her family name.
· However, we learn, through out this act that her real reason for scrutinizing Adela is hypocritical as she fears that Adela will make Pepe her own puppet.
· It is made evident that Martirio constantly attempts to hide behind ‘sacrificial victim’ image that she has created for herself but when we discover that it was Martirio who stole the picture, this image is distorted and it is suggested that she is not necessarily rebellious but is trying to assert control, over her sisters, which is a compromise for the fact that she is not able to gain what she wished too.
· Initially is it easy to believe Bernarda Alba is simply a tyrannizing woman, suppressing her daughters, as a way of venting her frustration.
· However, through act two, a diverse perception is built of her, especially during her conversation with Poncia. We discover that despite her efforts to assert control within the house, she in reality is powerless. Her vulnerability is exposed and we learn that Bernarda too is suffering from the exclusion of a man, in her life. However, she tries to replace the presence of a man. This allows us to sympathize with her to an extent as it half justifies why she keeps her daughters so suppressed.
· However, when it becomes apparent that Bernarda actually derives pleasure from the killing of Librada’s daughter, she can only be defined as a hateful woman, trying to preserve the name of her family.
· A flat character, whom we do not witness a real change in. Amelia remains timid, naïve and meager through out this act and specifically when it comes her surroundings and the whirl of envy, tension and secrecy that her sisters have created. This is emphasized on, when we discover that Amelia “sleeps like a log”, while her sisters are prying around the house at night.
· Her passive character is a contrast to Adela’s defiant attitude.
However, it is also suggested that
despite the fact that
· Oldest daughter and engaged to Pepe El Ramano, Agustias is depicted as a “rapidly ageing, narrow-waisted, unhealthy, and thin” woman. Angustias only realizes, within this act that her sisters are seething with jealousy because she is soon going to escape the confinement of the house. However, despite this fact she seems the least romantic, avoiding any questions about her relationship. “Nothing. What would he say to me? It was just talk”
· It is suggested through out this act that Angustias cannot and will never be happy although she is the only daughter who is approved the permission to get married by her mother, “I ought to be happy, but I am not”
· Although Angustias is the one granted the permission to get married, she is the least able to protect herself, this is made evident when she constantly hides behind her mother.
Images that Lorca creates in act two give us options on how we wish to interpret.
“A white inner room in Bernarda’s house”, a description, that opens act two, and which can be interpreted in two ways. In the literal sense, or in a figurative sense considering the colors, as white suggests purity of the daughters as “they are seated in low chairs, sewing” and carrying out the objectives of a women in this society.
This is a technique employed to build the atmosphere, without being too factual and is commonly done through the use of colors and their representations.
However, Lorca does not necessarily use just the typical representations of colors but even makes use of typical representations of light intensity, as it is evident that Angustias always meets her fiancée at night, when there is a sense of freedom around the house, not only because Bernarda permits it but because things can be done and yet not seen.
Located in a remote Spanish village,
the setting of ‘The house of bernarda Abla’ builds the reflection that Lorca
is trying to create of
· With a constant reference to heat through out this act, “The heat makes me ill” (page 145), a claustrophobic atmosphere is built, the heat connoting suppression.
· There are also the high levels of tension and concealment and secrecy, which are created with the presence of gossip.
· However, because of the awareness of secrecy within the house there is less privacy, as everyone, but Bernarda is constantly meddling around the house. This is strongly suggested when the conversation between Poncia and Bernarda is interrupted with first Angustias, “[entering]: That’s a lie!” The way she disrupts the conversation suggests that she was obviously listening before she commented. This is reinforced when Martirio does the same, “[entering]: I heard him leave at four, too”. (Page 152)
· The fact that everyone even feels the need to gossip also suggests that this is an environment where nothing can be easily said and there is less freedom of speech, building the atmosphere of an uncomfortable, uneasy, hostile home.
· As a drama text the atmosphere created heavily relies on the tone of the character, which Lorca evidently emphasizes on.With, for example constant exclamation marks, when tension is needed to be built and the use of powerful words to create the right imagery.
· However, a lot of Lorca’s ability to build tension and anticipation in this play and in this act specifically, relies on the structure he uses and the pace of the structure. This is evident, the most during the scene where the commotion is built about Librada’s daughter. Lorca structures it so that it is after Adela’s denial about her love for Pepe, so the consequences foreshadow her future. The pace of speech also builds a tension, suggesting the three are almost talking at once, not acknowledging each other fully. “Kill her, kill her!” (page 154) Which is a technique also used during the powerful battle between poncia and Adela. “You advice is useless- its already to late” (page 142)
Act two evidently consists of all the key events in this play, due to the fact that it is the point when the plot is thickened and the action takes place, we see developments in most characters and learn of their true intentions and the justifications of the actions taken by them, specifically with Adela, Martirio and Bernarda. A lot of also foreshadowed in this act, allowing the reader to assume what might come next in the masterful struggle between freedom and reputation.