Document Type


Date of Award



Pérez Galdós, Benito

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Romance Languages and Literatures

First Advisor

Marina Bourgeal

Second Advisor

E. George Erdman, Jr.

Third Advisor

Rigo Mignani


Throughout his career, Galdós' preoccupation with the relationship between the individual, and the society in which he lives, remains constant. The interaction between society, and the members who compose it, can be observed at times as confrontation, at other times as cooperation, compromise, or submission of the individual to society. A close reading of the novels of Galdós suggests that he had his own personal vision of what society, and life in society, signified. In this vision, "society" embraces all the elements of the varied groupings of a collective nature in which the individual finds himself or herself, and consists of individuals bound together in units of different types: political parties, religious sects, families, military organizations, and social classes, with even a mob representing a significant social grouping. Each of these social units is invested with its own peculiar vitality, to the extent that we can justifiably categorize a particularly Galdósian social group as a kind of "group-organism" within which the individual completely surrenders his personal integrity to become one mere "organ" or "cell" of the larger organism.

The present interpretive study is limited to the Novelas de la primera época, a designation created by Galdós himself for this self-contained group of novels which reflect the earliest years of Galdós’ development. No analysis of these novels as a unit has yet been made. An examination of the Novelas de la primera época shows that Galdós' concern with the theme of the individual and society was present in his thinking from the outset of his writing career. Furthermore, in the course of this examination, we can observe the varying experimental approaches adopted by Galdós the novelist in his formative years as well as come into closer contact with his thought-processes in an effort to learn something more of the still enigmatic personality of the man himself.

One aspect of Galdós' personal life which seems to be reflected in his novels is the fact that he never married. An examination of the novels of the "primera época" demonstrates certain aspects of Galdós' attitude toward the supremely social institution of matrimony. His thinking on this subject ranges from a distaste for the marriage of convenience, evidenced in his earliest novel, La sombra, to complete rejection of the institution as an abuse of authority, on the part of society, upon the individual. The individual is viewed as impelled to reproduction of the species by Nature but as not intended to remain bound to another individual for a lifetime. This conclusion is reached definitively in the last novel of the "primera época," La familia de Léon Roch, and undergoes further elaboration in the more mature Novelas contemporáneas.

Two seemingly independent concepts, opposition to the marriage of convenience (La sombra) and fear of absorption by the group-organism (La Fontana de Oro), arise in these earliest novels of Galdós to merge and develop through El audaz, Doña Perfecta, Gloria, and Marianela, reaching fully integrated expression in La familia de Léon Roch. The latter is a novel of transition leading to the Novelas contemporáneas into which the unbroken threads traced through the Novelas de la primera época extend even further. The institution of matrimony, and the group-organism, each involve and symbolize the individual's subservience to society; as such, they are viewed by Galdós as entities to be avoided, since they threaten the preservation of individuality.