I suppose Esperanza’s mother was right after all; Bernabé would have been an awful husband. At least this is the initial feeling I had after witnessing Bernabé’s atrocious behaviour and violent actions. However, were these the reasons why Eufrasia did not want Bernabé to marry Esperanza, or were the reason more to do with social class and money?
Esperanza, the ‘hijuela Primera’, was essentially a new hope for this depressed family. She had the potential, according to her mother, to turn things around by finding a good man with ‘mayores posibilidades’ than the average peasant or labourer. Esperanza’s mother threatened to disown her if she should marry this brutish man. Then, quite suddenly, Esperanza fell terribly ill and died. With this poor family left in shock, Bernabé transformed into a monster and physically attacked both the grandmother and Venancia. This angry rampage is cut short, when Bernabé is struck dead with a stone to the head by the mother.
It is somewhat hard to determine whom we should sympathize with in this tragic series of events. We discussed this in class, looking at both Esperanza and her mother as victims. Esperanza, who was not permitted to marry Bernabé, is removed from the story so quickly, that I do not see her as that important a character. Mother Eufrasia, on the other hand, has worked so hard her entire life, and wanted nothing more than to see her eldest daughter succeed, is sadly left in the same pathetic place as she started. Venancia and the children are also victims, of poverty and of abuse.
This leaves only Bernabé, who is the absolute least likely person one would sympathize with. I would never attempt to argue that he behaved in a reasonable way, nor would I defend his actions, however, Bernabé is what I consider a tragic hero. He desired only to live happily with Esperanza, whom he evidently loved, and to have children of his own. Bernabé was clearly not an educated fellow, nor did he have a promising job, and Esperanza’s mother surely did not respect him. Esperanza’s death left Bernabé in ruins and with nothing worth living for. At this point, Bernabé resorted to the type of behaviour he knew best, that of a savage animal and most likely the product of a rough childhood. Bernabé sought to control the family, possibly in a desperate attempt to have his own family in the void left by Esperanza’s passing.
Regardless of his motives, this ruthless tyrant portrays men as cruel beasts, which might not be that far from the truth in many cases. Bernabé’s death unfortunately provokes a sigh of relief from the reader (at least I was relieved when the stone hit his skull) because the family was saved. However, one cannot help but pity this pitiful creature.