Compare and contrast the role of religion in any TWO of the novels you have read in this module.
In The House of Ulloa and No Way Back, the depiction of religion, defined as “strict fidelity or faithfulness; conscientiousness; devotion to some principle,” greatly differs in gendered representations. For the male and masculine, religion is an asset, earning praise and rewards. For the female and feminine, however, religious fervor often earns derision and causes inner turmoil. The impersonal narratives and “tragicomic” genre examine this bias within the setting. By juxtaposing the gendered depictions of religion in characters, events, and prose, Emilia Pardo Bazán and Theodor Fontane underscore the partiality of gender relations in the nineteenth century.
The female protagonists of each novel, Marcelina (commonly known as Nucha) and Countess Christine, qualify as religious characters as they devote themselves to principle. In fact, clergymen in the novel describe them as “religious,” “noble” women in direct speech, although other men do not share such positive sentiments. The adjective “strict” in the definition also describes both women, as Christine and Nucha’s respective husbands, as well as Christine’s brother, express their apprehension, if not outright derision, of extreme religious devotion. Furthermore, Don Pedro exploits Nucha’s religiousness for his own amusement by behaving amorally in her presence. In each novel, men evaluate and manipulate a woman based on her religious traits. Conversely, as a result of Christine’s devotion, Asta describes her mother as the “best” of her parents and Fräuline Dobschütz calls the Countess an “angel.” Although these female characters view Christine favorably, they, like Christine, do not feature heavily in the novel, while Fontane foregrounds Holk, who frequently laments his wife. By exploring the male perspective almost exclusively, Bazán and Fontane emphasize male power in society, particularly in regards to religion.
As previously touched on, the direct speech of male characters often judges female characters. Similarly, in The House of Ulloa, Bazán uses free indirect discourse to pass negative judgments on several female characters through grotesque imagery, including Sabel, Nucha, and the wet nurse. By exploring Pedro and Julián’s perspectives, Bazán problematizes her depiction of women, shaping them into Freudian stereotypes, such as Sabel the “whore,” “an unchaste or lewd woman; a fornicatress or adulteress,” and Nucha the “Madonna,” “a woman regarded as resembling the Virgin Mary.” Contrarily, Fontane does not employ grotesque imagery or personal narrative voice, remaining objective in his prose. Still, both authors emphasize the limitations of the male gaze, as Holk and Arne also reduce Christine to a “strict,” “severe,” “moralistic,” stereotype, much like the Freudian archetypes Pedro and Julián endorse. In this way, women are limited again by constructs related to religion,...