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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An analysis of the hero in the novels of Benjamin Jarnes Wood, Judith Mary

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to examine the characterization of the hero in the novels of Benjamín Jarnés. The novels considered are those written and published in Spain before the author's emigration at the time of the Civil War. The method used is direct analysis of the novels combined with reference to Jarnés' writing in other genres, particularly his criticism. The first-part of the thesis introduces Jarnés and his background. The main influences were his classical and theological education, the avant-garde movements of the 1920's, and the ideas of Ortega and Gasset. Jarnés rejected religion, metaphysics, puritanical morality, Romantic abstractions, and sentimentality in favour of humanism, sensual enjoyment, and a desire for lucidity and precision in intellectual activity and art. He was interested in psychoanalysis as a literary device for revealing character, and proposed that fiction should deal with all levels of consciousness. In presenting his characters Jarnés uses both an objective approach, which shows man's appearance and external behaviour, and a subjective approach, which penetrates inside the mind of individual characters. The psychological revelation is usually reserved for the main character of the novel for reasons of authenticity: the hero thus reflects everyone's inability to know others more than superficially. In Chapters III, IV, and V the main characters are studied in relation to three themes: love, intellectual activity, and the insignificance of the individual. Love is treated without sentimental idealization. Relationships are often temporary and nover perfect. The lover has two distinct attitudes to his mistress's body -- sexual and aesthetic; he derives pleasure both from detached, cerebral contemplation and from renunciation of the self in sexual passion. Intellectual activity is of great importance but it should be used in the service of vitality, not as the negation of it. Jarnés deplores pedantry. Introspection is necessary for discovering one's true self and remaining faithful to it, but if it leads to despair the mind must be diverted into more positive channels, or the senses must take over. The intellect becomes sterile unless combined with full use of other human attributes, for example, in a love affair. Reason has limitations, which must be admitted. Jarnés’ heroes are threatened with standardization and loss of individuality as their circumstances urge them to conform to set patterns. They resist by withdrawal into the self, but this is only a partial solution: true vitality requires positive interaction with one's environment. Jarnés uses various techniques for showing people's impotence or insignificance, for example, humour, irony, dehumanization. In Locura y muerte de nadie he takes as main character "someone or other" instead of a defined individual. The last chapter summarizes the characteristics of Jarnés’ heroes. They have in common a desire for freedom, a determination to make their own way independently of established customs and institutions. As well as rejecting tradition they struggle to retain their individuality in contemporary society, which relies more and more on mass culture and automation. They seek to avoid identification with the crowd but are not misanthropic or cynical: they favour intimate contact with other individuals. Although these characters are insignificant in a worldly sense and although, even within their novels, they may enjoy a marginal pre-eminence over their fellows, they do emerge as heroes of a kind, distinguished by their tenacious affirmation of the spiritual values of liberty, generosity, and vitality.

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