"Consejos, limosna y algun palo": La novela decimononica y la violencia domestica

Erika Maurine Sutherland, University of Pennsylvania


Many Spanish realist writers proclaimed their novels to be instruments of social change, guides towards a more moral or healthy society; their critics echoed these sentiments, though often out of fear rather than praise. In the early, polemical stages of the realist movement, causes were explicitly set out and espoused. As the narrative means of promoting a cause grew hackneyed, writers abandoned techniques such as narrative interventions in favor of a less tendentious, more introspective form. Domestic violence, while never the main focus of novelistic debate, is one social issue that continues to appear throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century. A progressive sensitivity to its seriousness as a problem can be traced to women authors writing about family violence. A study of the narrative strategies used in this progression reveals some perhaps surprising results. In some texts, those most highly regarded by critics, violence fulfills a clearly aesthetic or metaliterary function; in other novels, classified as second- or third-rate literature, domestic violence is graphic, even pornographic, and is directed at a specifically male reader; a third category consists of novels written by women, in which the all too real problem of battered spouses is presented as such. In this group of novels, some critically well-received, others now fallen into obscurity, the violence is masked through metaphors and, similarly, extraliterary messages of the author are hidden by the apparently conventional narratives. Women writers, wary of the negative morality associated with nineteenth century realism, created a complex hybrid genre by combining suasive techniques and sentimental conventions of the novel with an frequently acute awareness of social injustices. When domestic violence is the issue at hand, it is women rather than men who provide the impetus for social change through their novels.

Subject Area

Romance literature|Literature

Recommended Citation

Sutherland, Erika Maurine, ""Consejos, limosna y algun palo": La novela decimononica y la violencia domestica" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9331845.