The Holy Innocents is a novel by the renowned Spanish writer Miguel Delibes (1920-2010), who was appointed in 1973 as a member of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language and was awarded among other literary recognitions with the Miguel de Cervantes and Prince of Asturias Awards for the letters.
Most of his works have been translated into more than twenty languages among which stand out: English, Russian, German, Italian, French, Swedish, Czech, Irish, Japanese, Israeli, among many others, which tells us about a writer of universal stature.
The Holy Innocents tells the story of a family of low-income peasants who live in misery and to survive they dedicate themselves to working for a wealthy family who, in addition to exploiting them, treat them in a despotic way. This makes one of its main characteristics as a literary work the author focuses on the differences of social classes.
This novel belongs to the literary current of Spanish social realism and its social intention is remarkable throughout its six chapters or books.
Such social intent is accompanied by descriptions loaded with lyricism and emotion that give an aesthetic character to the realism of The Holy Innocents, which are not details that isolate or mislead the crude feelings that are exposed as a result of the drama of the aggressions, to which the hard and long-suffering peasant life is exposed.
The theme of the novel is associated with the social helplessness that peasants suffer from the injustices of the landowner world. In this way, The Holy Innocents is shown to us as a novel that instills compassion for the humble, in this case, for the peasant class.
In this passionate novel, Miguel Delibes describes the peasants by reason of the treatment they receive from their landowners, in a hierarchy that places them between animals and the landowners. The former are exploited, standing out between two key characters Azarías and Paco el Bajo, while the master masters are the exploiters.
Readers will be able to emphasize that the purpose of The Holy Innocents
is to reveal the abuses of the landowners before the humble peasants.
Exploitation has no sympathy for the poor, they hardly survive, resisting with their illiteracy, their miserable wages, their constant helplessness and lack of protection, their precarious housing conditions and their insecurities against power.
The author seeks readers of The Holy Innocents to understand that one way to be realistic in the face of the social drama of injustice is to enter that world populated by innocent, humble and exploited beings and make us live from within.
The Holy Innocents, apart from being constituted in a novel as such, the author separated it into its general structure through stories, that is, Delibes managed to isolate the work from the set and be presented as stories. Each book, as the author himself identified its chapters, gave them a narrative with its own existence.
This speaks of a structured work in which each of the parties had autonomy.
This double consideration of the structure of The Holy Innocents requires Miguel Delibes’ way of narrating, since his literary texts are, on the one hand, administered by a clear structural unit and, on the other hand, in each of his chapters he endowed them with a certain independence thus achieving a significant value of their own.
In Los Santos inocentes the titles of the books are: first book “Azarías”, second book “Paco, el Bajo”, third book “La Milana”, fourth book “El secretario”, fifth book “El accident” and sixth book ” The crime”
The author organized Los Santos Inocentes through a complex structure that sought to make the meaning of the narration denser. In this sense, the novel highlights the following contents: The human profile of the characters, The landscape where the events are located, The confrontation of passions.
Readers in this novel will have the opportunity to encounter the following themes: Social injustice, class differences, the accepted submission of innocent peasants, individual revenge as a way of doing justice.
Another theme present in Los Santos Inocentes, contrary to the previous ones, is Education, where the person from Regula values the importance of educating his children as a way of emancipation against the injustices of the landowning exploiters.
The importance of religious formation is presented as another key theme in Delibes’ novel.
In Los Santos Inocentes the narrator identifies himself with the characters, he speaks from the thoughts of the characters and in the way of expressing himself in their speech.
Readers will be able to corroborate in Los Santos Inocentes that a rural-type language predominates in many of the fragments of the novel, however, the use of a cultured language is required, for which Delibes establishes a literary treatment of the language.
The Holy Innocents is a short novel written in prose. As a literary work it is characterized by its realism, its poetry and by the description of the tragedy as a special feature
Señor Iván and old Azarías reach the category of symbols of injustice in the work. On the one hand, there is Señorito Iván who symbolizes cruelty, selfishness and unconsciousness at its highest level, while innocence, marginalization and weakness are concentrated in Azarías.
Since the innocent suffer from everything, from land, from houses, from the future, they have no choice but to cling as subjects to a harsh hierarchy, to follow the path of the regime of resignation.
This denial as subjects, the author leads him to show how people end up accepting charity from their masters and at best they are proud to be the object of the preferences of the owners of the hacienda.
Therefore submission is symbolized as vassalage or loyalty to the lords.
- Azarias: He is a key character in Los Santos Inocentes, he as a consequence of his mental retardation imprints the condition of an innocent being, which makes him worth the central feature of the novel.
His delay is behind each performance of this character, therefore he appears to us as devoid of conscience so he does not need a distinction between good and evil.
His actions are motivated by natural and primary instincts, which leads him to assassinate Señor Iván. This act of murder is the most prominent and determining in the work, and that Azarias performs motivated by revenge for the death of Milana.
- Señor Iván: He is the master of the farm where Azarías, Paco el Bajo and his family work. There are two essential aspects of this character that draw attention in The Holy Innocents, his fondness for hunting and the despotism used in dealing with his peasant employees, a characteristic added to a sinister use of power.
La Niña Chica is the eldest daughter of Paco and Régula. The peculiarity of this character is that as the eldest daughter she is treated as the youngest daughter due to her illness.
“If I take charge, young man, but you see, there, at home, two pieces, with four boys, not to stir.”
“And the young man Ivan crossed his thumb over the index finger, kissed it, and made a face of circumstances, I am serious”
“Paco, I swear, you know me and you know that I’m not kidding about these hunting things”
“But what the hell do you want, Azarias? Have you not seen the cloud of zuritas over the Holm oak groves of the Chicken, you fagot? ”
“So the Azarías passed the end of the rope over the camal above his head and pulled him with all his strength, growling and drooling, Señor Ivan lost his footing, suddenly felt hoisted, released the cage of the pigeons and God!…”
“A town that lacks literature is a dumb town.”