THE UNCONSCIOUS IN THE NOVELS OF MERCÈ RODOREDA
ARTICLE OF LORETO BUSQUETS. A SPECIAL CASE OF MIRALL TRENCAT
(Publicat a CATALAN REVIEW; volum II number 2, December 1987.
Published by NORTH AMERICAN CATALAN SOCIETY [NACS] YALE U. USA)
In Mirall Trencat, terms are identical to those in Carrer de les Camèlies, but they are inverted. What in the work we have just examined is prostitution, illegitimate love, love tout court, here is to be found at the margion. The elements that are peripherial to El carrer de les Camèlies –society and more concretely the bourgeoisie as an emblem of Western civilization-, here become the center. Mirall trencat is, then, the story of the bourgeoisie, made up by a façade of respectability, normality, and decorum, and a hidden substance that leads inevitably to the brothel to the maids’ entrance, tot the equivocal theaters of the Paral·lel. Consequently, it is the story of the cultural, moral, an psychological dissociation we saw in the previous novel. Sense of guilt and inferiority complex are still the mechanisms of a neurotic behavior which fakes the appearence of normality.
All the characters of Mirall trencat, at some point or the other in their lives, follow the dictates of instinct and desire, regardless of the laws that govern societym, which condemn sex as mere libidinal satisfaction and sanctify it in its reproductive function within the institutionalized state of matrimony. Nevertheless social morality, internalized as moral conscience and Super-ego, soon brings about an interior obstacle to the fulfilment of a desire that appears as a transgression. Teresa will always see in her son Jesús the objectification of a guilt that se would like to erase from her memory, becoming in this the embryo of a guilt feeling which will haunt her until the last minute; Eladi manifests, in his voyeuristic tendency, his moderately sadistic behavior and his attraction for prostitutes and maids, the guitl due to a sexuality which he feels as a betrayal of his mother; Salvador feels the weight of guilt for the purely mental infidelity which he is commiting against his legal wife; Ramon and Maria would abandon themselves to a natural and innocent love, to pure instinct, if the law of sexuality and incest a sin, and overwhelm their innocent soul with the ancestral burden of Guilt.
The moral conscience and the distorsion inherent in a culture that has diverted its libido into the values of money and prestige,lead all the characters to direct their lives into the ways of legitimacy and convention, without entirely renouncing their desires. Like Cecília’s clients, they live love as transgression and shame, on the fringe of a life full of frustration and conjugal dullness, full of hate and scorn, resentment, interest and revenge. They live out their sinful love in the shut rom of brothel, in the back. The concessions that they make to the heart donot compromise the stability of the system or the dignity of its façade. But heir submission to the laws whixh are contrary to nature, and their enslavement to interest and comfort, pays the ultimate price of their own mental sanity and, in the final analysis, of their own happiness. Their interpersonal relationship, as before in the confrontation with Cecília, reveal the kind of intensity of their neurosis.
Teresa’s guilt-complex regarding the ilegitimacy of her sexual relationships, and the compromises to which she had to subjecte her conscience, literally crosses the whole work as leading theme from which, like secondary ramifications, other conflicts sprout and interweave, dictated by interest and other guilt feelings. Teresa’s guilt complex, taking the form of self-punishment through paralysis and through shutting herself up inside her troubling question (“Am i bad?”), lies heavely like a curse upon the family and their inner events. Her positive counterpoint, like Cecília earlier, is Maria dressed in white in a white room, like Colometa in the dance before knowing Quimet.
Maria goes back to being Eve before the Fall, sex without any conception of intuition of guilt, exactly in the same way as primitive imagination has brought together in the myth of the Virgin Mary: is the fusion of what the culture conceives as an antithesis. The union of Ramon and Maria becomes, in effect, similar to the union of Cecília with Andreu “in the open”. I say sexual union without adding “symbolical”, because the infantil and archaic consciousness the symbolic gesture is the real one. “Did you that your eyes and mine are made of water? It woul be nice if the water of your eyes and mine minglec... I would become you, and you me. Would you like that?” (XII). It will be the adults, as I was saying, who will transform an innocent act into guilt through censorship, degrading it to the level of the “ugly things” of senyoreta Rosa: “all this filth that they have inserted inside”. The myth of Paradise ahd the Fall enters, thus, the innocent collective consciousness as a heritage which is passed down from one generation to another, carrying with it the concepts of Evil, of Corruption and of Death. Here, as in La plaça del Diamant, flies and mosquitoes and the rat of the last chapter express remorse and the consequences of divine punishment –loss of immorality- inflicted on the sin of Concupiscence.
Nostalgia for the lost Garden brings Maria, nevertheless, to accomplish a gesture which shows her desire to return to the Totality and Harmony of the origins. Her crucifixion on the laurel, a tree doubly eternal because of the ciclicity and everlastingness renews the sacrifice of the Innocent of the Tree of Knowledge, which, with Death, becomes the Tree of eternal Life. After the unconscious has brought to the surface of cosciousness a sequence of memories connected with guilt –recriminations and prohibitions of senyoreta Rosa, the grandmother, the Japanese chest, the diamond brooch- Maria, repeting the rite which condenses the moral history of the West, projects the ancient longing of humanity to return to innocent happiness and retrieve lost Eternity.