The House of Bernarda Alba: Chapter Notes – Act 3




·         The family have a guest over one night for dinner.

·         As the guest leaves, they mention Angustias’s engagement ring, which has 3 pearls on it.

·         Angustias goes to bed early after mentioning that Pepe is not in town.

·         As the family goes to sleep the maid and Poncia gossips about Adela and Pepe (everyone can see what is going on between them) and about how blind Bernarda is to the situation.

·         Maria Josefa is singing a song when Adela slips out and Martirio comes out during the night.

·         Martirio locks Maria Josefa back up and discovers Adela in the corral.

·         They have a big argument over Pepe.

·         Bernarda comes and tries to take control.

·         Adela breaks her rod, Pepe runs away, Adela hangs herself.



Themes and Motifs

Water: Wells, Rivers and Oceans:

·         One of the most obvious motifs that runs through this chapter.

·         “When you can’t fight the tide, it’s easier to turn your back, so you don’t see it.” [Pg161] A possible connotation would be to link the tide with the corruption in the family. This is talking about Bernarda closing her eyes on the friction between the sisters, that she is turning her back on ‘the tide’ and acting as if she can’t see what is going on. Here the tide, in reference with the sea, represents freedom of expression – that her daughters, especially Adela, are trying to break free from her control.

·         “I’d like to cross the ocean and get away from this house of turmoil” [Pg161] Poncia wants to leave the house and the turmoil, the trouble and the corruption. The Ocean here, once again represents freedom.

·         “He takes me into the reeds at the edge of the river!” [Pg166] A river can be seen here as the path to freedom. Adela says that Pepe takes her to the river, could also have a hidden meaning saying that being with Pepe gives her more freedom, that he is her path to being free of her family and her responsibilities at home.

·         “We will all drown ourselves in a sea of mourning.” [Pg169] I find this ironic, because throughout most of the play, the sea has represented freedom, and so when Bernarda tells her daughters to ‘drown themselves in a sea’, one connotation of it may be that she is saying how freedom brings death.


Bernarda’s Rod:

·         When Adela breaks Bernarda’s rod at the end of the play, it signifies the breaking away from the control Bernarda has over her. “[She seizes her mother’s cane and breaks it in two.] This is what I do with the tyrant’s rod!” [Pg167]




·         The engagement ring which has 3 pearls on it. Pearls are a symbol of tears. They have also been called ‘Tears of the sea’. Tears are usually negative images, and therefore it may foreshadow a bad event in the future concerning the engagement of Pepe, in which it does because Pepe is found ‘cheating’ of Angustias with her sister Adela. [Pg156]


·         “Now you’ve spilled the salt!” [Pg156] Salt is often associated with the bringing of bad luck. In this text, it can be seen as foreshadowing the death of Adela at the end of the play.


·          “I often stare very hard at Pepe, until he grows blurred behind the bars of the window, as if he were being covered by a cloud of dust like the one the sheep stir up.” [Pg158] The Window in this quote is the window to freedom, to seeing Pepe, but Pepe is often blurred behind the window, which may foreshadow that Angustias will not get Pepe (as he keeps disappearing being the cloud of dust). The cloud of dust may represent the relationship between Adela and Pepe, which is corrupting the possible relationship between Angustias and Pepe.


·          “Pepe El Romano is mine!” [Pg166] There is a lot of possessive imagery, used by Adela. It shows how out of control she has become, announcing to the world that Pepe is hers, even in front of Angustias who is his fiancé. Also shows how the motif of secrets is broken in this chapter as all the truths about Adela, Martirio and Pepe begin to spill out. Not only until the very end of the play is the motif restored by Bernarda, who lies about Adela’s virginity to keep a good image in society. “No one is to say a thing. She dies a virgin.” [Pg168]




The other less kind side of Martirio is seen by her sisters towards the end of the play “You’re a fiend!” [Pg168]


Bernarda remains to be blind to all the commotion in her household until the very end of the play when Martirio and Adela both openly argue with each other over Pepe. She finally takes tries to control of Adela but fails as Adela has grown stronger, more independent and freer. Although Bernarda recognises the truth that Adela has slept with Pepe, she will not accept it, and even as Adela commits suicide, she shows no remorse and instead, seems to regain control over her daughters through commanding them to hide the truth of Adela’s death. “I want no weeping… The youngest daughter of Bernarda Alba has died a virgin. Did you hear me? Silence! Silence, I said! Silence!” [Pg169]


Adela as a character has grown the most throughout the play. She was always more free than her sisters, stronger and more independent, but as she broke her mother’s rod, she escaped from the control that Bernarda had over the rest of her sisters. Although being the strongest and most independent character out of all her other sisters, her strength did also bring about her downfall and her death. Because she was a strong, fierce, wild character, she instantly assumed that Bernarda and Martirio had killed Pepe, and therefore hung herself, bringing about her own death.




Bernarda Alba’s house. Most of the scene takes place inside the house, and also at the corral.




This chapter brought about the climax of the play. We see the development of many characters (Adela and Martirio), and also the stability of others (Bernarda). Although the ending scene (the death) was foreshadowed many times in the previous chapters and scenes, it was still a big shock to all the characters in the play as well as the audience. We see how all the characters in the play were flawed in one way or another, and how nothing could be done in order to save Adela from her fate as she had gone too far. We also see how a character with a lower status (the maid and/or Poncia) knew what was going on, and how even though they knew, they could do nothing to stop it.