The House of Bernarda Alba

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Rachel Viets
Intro to Comparative Literature
Midterm Essay

The House of Bernarda Alba is a drama depicting the lives of women in villages of Spain during the 20th century. The play begins by the mother, Bernarda, issuing a seven-year mourning period upon her family of five daughters after the death of her beloved spouse. The isolation inside this house causes tensions to rise, and a thematic struggle between freedom and captivity becomes apparent as emotions start to snowball out of control. Without a spouse in the home, Bernarda takes on a patriarchal role and enforces her daughters to do the same. While Bernarda constantly suppresses her daughters to focus on household, patriarchal chores, their emotions shift
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Throughout the play, Bernarda not only takes on a patriarchal role in controlling her daughter’s lives, but also plays God; She gives life and takes it away. Bernarda has the power to allow Adela to get married before her other daughters, even though during that time it was custom to marry off your daughters in order by birth right. However, Bernarda is so concerned with the facade of her family to the public eye, that she would rather Augustias be unhappy throughout her marriage knowing how much Adela loves Pepe. Bernarda not only has control over her daughters, but also over the servant, Poncia. Poncia is like a surrogate mother to the daughters, often offering advice and personal opinions. Bernarda holds control over Poncia because she showed her respect given her past life, and employed her sons, giving them a better life. For this, Poncia is also held in captivity. Poncia lives in fear that is she were to leave, Bernarda would expose to the public the history of her mother and shame her from any respect she has gained being Bernarda’s servant. By giving Poncia a job knowing her family’s reputation, it is viewed to the public as an act of kindness and respect, just as Bernarda would want. However, behind the walls of the home it puts her in a position of more control and power. As
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