Critical analysis of ‘The Marquis of Lumbria’


“The Marquis of Lumbria” by Miguel de Unamuno is an exquisite work of literature that cleverly utilizes various techniques to showcase its underlying theme. Unamuno was a valuable advocate of the Generation of 1898. The values they championed are made apparent in “The Marquis of Lumbria.”
1898 heralded the end of the Spanish-American War, when Spain’s defeat entailed losing its last colony. Unamuno was among the group of intellectuals who criticized Spain’s corrupt restorative attempts. The Generation of ’98 thought that Spain was more isolated than it should be. They contended that Spain should associate outside its own borders with all of Europe. In doing so, trivial conflicts could be remedied with communication.

They also sought to redefine patriotism with quiet elegance rather than inflated terms, charging that true patriotism grows from sincere love of one’s country. They collectively detested fake patriotism. The Generation of 1898 founded the Centre de Estudios to further their movement for good writing (el movemiento de beuno escribir). Education reform, as they saw it, would combat ignorance and futile attempts at restoration that fostered further corruption of Spain.
“The Marquis of Lumbria” was written during the height of the Generation of 1898’s rebellion. Set in “the gloomy city of Lorenza” (149), the story begins with intricate detail of the palace that articulately likens it to Spain. Although townspeople know the palace to be occupied, its windows and balconies are always closed. Its inhabitants apparently have no desire to see out or allow others to see in.

It is soon learned that the patriarch of the family, Don Rodrigo Suarez de Tejada, loathes sunlight and fresh air. His loathing stems from an innate fear that allowing anything new or transitory into the palace would inevitably warrant undesirable results. Much as Unamuno and his cohorts viewed Spain and its resistance to change, he symbolically mirrored the circumstance of the country in his description of the palace. The ivy that covers the outside walls of the palace is admired by the Marquis because he deems it “a family tradition”: tenaciously unchanging.
Having no male children, with his current wife unable to bear any, the Marquis trudges onward in his dull, senseless, unwavering routines. His routine allows other thoughts to enter besides the painful ones of not having anyone to carry on the family name. It isn’t until a suitor begins to court his youngest daughter, Luisa, that hope of a male descendant generates.

Unamuno is subtle in the mention of the older daughter, Carolina, ever being left alone with Tristan. However, the consequence of the Marquis notwithstanding their time together renders much bickering between the sisters. The bickering breaks the long silences that were once so characteristic of the palace and family. The inattention that Spain gave to its surroundings inevitably fueled consequences of unsuccessful reformations. With Spain having lost its last colony with unnecessary bloodshed provoked the Generation of ’98 to rebel against the dull, senseless routines of fake patriotism and lack of education. As one sister betrayed the other, so did the Spanish government to its citizens in the form of corruption.
Despite the betrayal, Luisa and Tristan marry and conceive a child. On his death bed, the Marquis uninhibitedly displays much disdain for Tristan as he simultaneously demands a male heir from his daughter’s womb. With much potential to change and eradicate governmental corruption, Spain nonetheless suffered due to political ignorance. Unamuno illustrates the consistent pull for change, yet Spain rebelliously remains stuck in its ways for a season. For example, the birth of a child should render hope and exciting change. It is the ultimate representation of new beginnings and life. However, the child’s presence yields gloom and persistent darkness throughout the palace. His life isn’t enough to sustain that of his mother’s.
When Carolina and Tristan do marry, the child born to them dies as well. Unamuno later introduces the first child of the couple as an adopted son. The adopted son who was born out of wedlock brings with him a purpose of joy and companionship to the child already at the palace. However, it isn’t long until Carolina insists upon making their son superior to the one of her deceased sister.

The title “The Marquis of Lumbria” suggests an heir or illumination. It is a dark contrast to the actual events of the family. Unamuno used the palace as a place resistant to change and new ideas. The house itself is representative of Spain during that period. The palace draws the life out of everyone within it. Its inhabitants are to be consistent, compliant and quiet. Rebellion is frowned upon.

Unamuno pens “The Marquis of Lumbria” with an existentialist tone. He successfully depicts the consequences of making unwise decisions. Within the tone, he also illuminates the corruption of Spain by comparing it to a reclusive family that does, in fact, make unwise decisions. Epitomizing the government of Spain, the families’ decisions directly affect generations that succeed their own.


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