The House of Bernarda Alba

The House of Bernarda Alba

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The play "The House Of Bernarda Alba" gives an interesting portrayal of a middle class home consisting entirely of women. The plot is set in a small town, middle class house in a society dominated by men. It is believed to be set somewhere in Spain in the 1930s. The play was written in a time when the suppression of woman was still strong. The mother, the head of the household, does everything she believes is necessary to keep her house within a good social standing in the town. The mother had become the master of the house after her husband died, which makes her work harder to keep a good reputation for her house of women. Looking deeper into the story one might find two sides to the dilemmas that cover the house. There are protagonists, principle characters in a story, and antagonists, characters that act adversaries or opponents to the principle characters. In this play one of the maids, Poncia, is forced to be in the middle of much of the drama consuming this house. She, Poncia, can be looked at as both a protagonist and antagonist. One might say that she fits into a back up role; helping support the main characters' roles, in the cast of characters.

In this story it can be easy to point out who were the protagonists, the mother (Bernarda) and Poncia. Poncia had worked for Bernarda for several years and became an important part of the household. In the first act Poncia is speaking with the other maid about how she has been with Bernarda for thirty years, washing her sheets, spending nights watching over her, peeking through cracks to spy on the neighbors to bring her the gossip (195). She has been a loyal servant, although she is just doing her job and doing what she is told. Poncia, later in the play, even tries to help Bernarda realize what has been going on under in her own house (253-256). Even when there was a lot of gossip on Bernarda's house that could have been spread through the town Poncia keeps it from spreading; as she told Bernarda; "I cover up more than you think" (275). Poncia is clearly a protagonist in this story, although she tries to pick sides.

Looking into the lives of these characters the obvious is this: the daughters are against the mother, and Poncia often fits in the middle.

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One might say that Bernarda has oppressed her daughters, in addition to them being women oppressed by men, thus rendering them the antagonists. Poncia could be considered an antagonist because of her slight betrayals toward her master, Bernarda. She has spoken ill of her master saying to the other maid "She tyrannizes everyone, she could sit on your heart and watch you die...without taking that cold mile off her damn face..." (194). When it came to the daughters Poncia seams to defend them when talking to Bernarda, telling her that she needs give them a little more freedom or they will hate her (253). Also, in the second act, as she is helping with the daughters' sewing, and in a way befriending them, she talks to them about her husband and gives advice to Angustias. Another antagonistic act Poncia performs is where she is talking with Adela about what she knows about her and Pepe as Angustias walks in. She could have told Angustias what they had really been talking about, or even go straight to Bernarda, but decides it best not to bring any more drama into the house. Poncia feels stuck in her service to Bernarda and finds herself indirectly defying Bernarda, becoming her opposition by cursing her behind her back and she doesn't tell her about some of the things that have been happening around the house.

"The House of Bernarda Alba" appears to have a very interesting set of characters that are all plotting against each other in some way. There are characters that are on the same side as another yet enemies of each other. Looking deeper there is even a character that is on both sides. Poncia does not like the woman she works for, yet goes beyond her call of duty to obey and help her master, Bernarda, keep control of the house. She befriends the daughters and turns on them, telling the mother what is going on in the house. Poncia is merely trying to keep the house within a good reputation in the town in more subtle ways than the master attempts. Poncia merely becomes the woman in the middle.

Garcia Lorca, Federico. "The House of Bernarda Alba." Trans. Michael Dewell and Carmen Zapata. Three Plays: "Blood Wedding," "Yerma," "The House of Bernarda Alba." New York: Farrar, 2001.

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