As any of my AS Spanish classmates are well aware, the end of Spanish AS came as a relief. Now we don't have to worry about grammar or excessive knowledge of vocabulary (or lack of it) until next June. Of course, we all had to return to school anyway so as to prepare our personal statements and university applications, but it also means that lessons stretch beyond the syllabus and allow us as students a little leeway to enjoy, for example, Spanish literature and culture as opposed to solid blocks of specification lists.
So, in Spanish, we have just finished reading La Casa de Bernada Alba by Federico García Lorca (who also wrote Blood Wedding for those of you who saw our school play). La Casa tells the story of a mother and her five daughters after the death of their father, set in a rural village in a repressed Spain. Lorca himself was shot during the Civil War and never saw Spain under General Franco the dictator, but from this play especially we can easily see he knew what was coming.
Bernada Alba, the titular character, is an old mother who thinks of one thing and one thing only: honour. In this Spain, only the older daughter may marry since she carries the dowry of the family, whilst any other daughters must stay at home to help their mother, all the while staying chaste and respectable. It is very much a society of "what would the neighbours think", and the repression is unbelievable.
The symbolism in La Casa de Bernada Alba is overwhelming. Bernada herself holds a walking stick. From her first line to her last line she demands silence while banging the stick on the ground: ultimate authority, and also that no matter what the course of events may be, her attitude never changes. Colours are another source of symbolism for Lorca; the white lace that all the girls wear marks their purity whereas the green dress that Adela wears brings an omen of death. And just Adela's name itself: it sounds like the Spanish word 'adelante' meaning 'forward', for she is the daughter who signifies the progression of movements against the dictatorship.
I shan't spoil any of the plot of this play, but I definitely think you should all find out what happens for yourself. Not only will you learn about Spanish history and culture but you will improve your Spanish along the way! For those who read in translation, never fear. Though some of the language techniques may be lost, the story stays the same as does any symbolism you may wish to pick up on. Enjoy!