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Beneath the Fiction

The Contrary Worlds of Cervantes's "Novelas ejemplares</I>


Wiliam H. Clamurro

Cervantes's Novelas ejemplares rival Don Quijote in complexity and significance. This book analyzes all twelve novelas, seeking to illuminate the inherent tensions between the usually affirmative resolutions and lessons proposed by Cervantes's narrators, on the one hand, and the inescapable socio-cultural dissonances and ironies of story and language, on the other. This reading of the entire collection reveals the richness and complexity of many of the less-studied novelas as well as the striking modernity (or postmodernity) of the final text.


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Chapter Eight: Identity and Social Order: La ilustre fregona 191


Chapter Eight Identity and Social Order La ilustre fregona La ilustre fregona is one of the least studied of the Novelas ejemplares. Yet despite its apparent simplicity of action and its lack of an overridingly memorable image, it brings clearly into focus the issues of identity and social order that underlie all of the Novelas. 1 As in the case of the nove las discussed previously, a disturbance in society's rules and structures, along with a case of mistaken or displaced identity, provides Cervantes with his point of departure. This eighth text combines two of the principal plot devices common to the Novelas ejemplares: a woman who is kidnapped as a child, and thus temporarily robbed of her social and personal integrity, must regain or discover her true identity; two men in disguise, meanwhile, encounter adventures, detouring from their appropriate moral rectitude or social place. But they too will conform to the same requirement: that questions of social and personal identity be resolved as the novela concludes.2 In La ilustre fregona, as in so many of the other novelas, resolution means the restoration of the main 1 The following interpretation is much indebted to A M. Barrenechea, "La ilustre fregona como ejemplo de estructura novelesca cervantina," Aetas del Primer Congreso lnternacional de Hispanistas, 199-206; J. M. Diez Taboada, "La estructura de las Novclns ejemplares, Anales Cervantinos" 17 (1979-80): 87-106; J. Lowe, Cervantes: Two "Nove/as Ejemplares:" La gitmzilla and La ilustre fregona, especially 56-74; and F. Pierce, "Reality and Realism in...

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