Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Spanish & Portuguese

First Advisor

Ricardo Landeira

Second Advisor

Javier Krauel

Third Advisor

Juan Herrero-Senés

Fourth Advisor

Juan Pablo Dabove

Fifth Advisor

Harriet Turner


This dissertation explores the function of the child in the Novelas españolas contemporáneas (1881-97) by Benito Pérez Galdós, Spain's foremost nineteenth-century author. Children play a central role in the genre of realism, from Charles Dickens, to Emily Brönte, and Henry James. Galdós follows in this tradition, but sets his work apart by placing the child at the margin of the stories he tells, rather than as protagonists. While critics have tended to view these marginalized children as either verifications of social issues contemporary to the novelist or as symbols that underscore themes, this dissertation analyzes children by considering how they socially affect adults and how characters perceive them. In this respect, this project takes a narratological approach, and argues that narrators and adult characters in the Novelas produce the child figure, a living vessel that contains the social identities and structural positions of those that observe children. The dissertation examines how the absence, presence, and death of children impact Fortunata y Jacinta (1886-7), the Torquemada tetralogy (1889-95), La de Bringas (1884), and Miau (1888).

The dissertation contributes to studies on Galdós by demonstrating that the adult-child relation organizes plot and impacts the characterization of characters, which fills the gap in the literature between humanist and structuralist readings. Galdós capitalizes on the child figure's aesthetic distance, and stresses the significance of the child--especially the male heir--as a part of the survival of the bourgeois family in Madrid. These novels renovate the figure of the child and situate Galdós alongside other major European novelists.