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The expression of social criticism in Ana María Matute’s Primera memoria : a study of themes, characters and images Collins, Diane Yvonne

Abstract

Ana María Matute is known to have a critical attitude towards the Franco regime, and has declared that she writes in order to protest against oppression, hypocrisy and injustice. How she manages to do this and still survive literary censorship as a publishing author in post-war Spain is the problem discussed in this thesis. I propose that Matute has made use of imagery as the most subtle means of conveying this criticism. Primera memoria, which received the Nadal Prize in 1959, and is considered by most critics to be her masterpiece to that date, appears to be the culmination of this form of expression; I have therefore chosen to study Primera memoria in this thesis. The thesis is divided into three main parts: the study of themes in order to show general targets of Matute's criticism, the study of characters because they embody different aspects of Spanish society, and the study of images. Since themes and characters are largely revealed through imagery, images must inevitably be discussed throughout the thesis. Because the three main themes of Primera memoria recur throughout Matute's works, in the first chapter I shall introduce these themes -childhood, isolation and Cain and Abel - as they are presented in all her other novels. Chapters II, III and IV deal with these themes in Primera memoria. Chapters V to IX discuss the characters in the novel. In chapter V Doña Práxedes is shown to represent the preservation of Spain's monarchic, Catholic, feudal past: the status quo, and in chapter VI her dubious link with the Church is examined. In chapter VII Borja is studied as a representative of upper class hypocrisy, materialism and conformity and in chapter VIII Lauro is examined as a member of the meek, oppressed lower classes. Chapter IX deals with José and Manuel Taronjí as representatives of the lower classes' rebellion against oppression and injustice. Chapter X shows Matute's use of nature imagery - sun, flowers and wind - as a vehicle for her social protest and moral judgement. In the conclusion I shall briefly mention social criticism in the other two novels of the trilogy Los mercaderes.

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