Robert Louis Stevenson Olalla Review

The works of Robert Louis Stevenson always present a good, deep read, with symbolism, and rich poetic language. Olalla is of no different stature and magnificence, in fact like The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I can read the story over and over again, countless times, without getting tired. It is truly a work of genius!download

Set in a small town in the coast of Spain during the war, the story tells of a young soldier, who hurt from the war, is taken ill with a bullet wound, and housed by a doctor in an inn, who introduces him to a Padre, who suggests he recovers in a large home known as the Residencia up high in the mountains with a family of three. The young soldier, the Commandante, eventually learns of the evil that lurks in the old castle, despite his feverish love for the charming and chaste (1)

Events as they Unfold in Olalla by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Commandante is a young handsome soldier, who has been hurt by a bullet in war. He is housed by a doctor, who feeling pity for him, introduces him to an old friend of his, a Padre. The man of God sends the young soldier to recover in the Residencia, a large castle that sits alone miles away from the town, and is owned by a family that once used to be rich and noble, but of late has been impoverished and keeps to (2)

Felipe comes for the Commandante with a mule drawn cart, and both of them set off for the castle, and past River Kelpie, they reach the big old house towards dusk, and are welcome by a worker peasant. The wounded soldier is ushered into a fire light room with three large windows that has old pictures hanging from the wall, (which he admires greatly) with a table set ready for dinner.

The Commandante stays in his room until he recovers, as Felipe attends onto him. For days he sees neither Felipe’s mother nor Olalla, however one day the Padre comes to check up on him. On another day he challenges Felipe to a walk, to which both of them go under the fine weather for a short excursion, where Felipe finds a squirrel and begins to torture it. Mad with fury, the Commandante grabs the creature, smashes it to death, and reprimands the young man for his action. Felipe goes on his kneels to apologise for his unruly behaviour to which the Commandante forgives him, and he runs away. As the Commandante walks back to the Residencia, he meets with Felipe’s mother for the first time busking in the sun.images

For days whenever he goes for walks, the Commandante always meets the Senora sited at the same place busking in the sun. However, one day when the sky turns grey with rough winds, he notices that she paces up and down, wall to wall, in agitation like some dark thought haunts her, and that evening around mid night, a wild howl startles him awake. He goes for the door, but he finds it locked from outside. The mad cries continue until morning. The next day the Commandante spends his time exploring the house, getting into one room to the next. He enters a big room that is full of books, and he guess that it can only belong to Olalla, and when the Padre comes to see him later on in the day, he asks him about her. He learns that she is a saint of noble character. This fascinates the Commandante greatly, therefore longs to meet her in person. His wish is granted, for one day he stumbles onto her when coming from the gardens, opens the door, and sees her. Instantly he falls in love with her. This commences their love affair.

One day Commandante accidentally cuts himself, and goes to the Senora to seek aid. She pounces on him like a wild animal, and bites deep into his hand like a vampire. He hurts with fear, and screams for help. Olalla comes to his aid; she grabs her mother, and locks her in a separate room. She howls and cries like a sick animal. The Commandante is attended onto by Olalla, and taken to his room. That night he confesses his love for Olalla, who tells him about their unfortunate demise of their fortune, her mother’s mental disease, (which drove her to bite him, and howl like a hurt animal) and how it has been passed from one generation to next.images (1)

Olalla begs the Commandante to leave the Residencia, and the following morning Felipe takes him back to the village. He loses his consciousness, and for days he lays in a coma. When he comes about, he finds the Padre by his side. He asks him questions about the Senora. He says to him that that family is cursed, and that it is possessed by the devil, and that him, the Commandante, should leave the village right away, for he stands a chance of being burned by the villagers, if they learn that he has been bitten by the Senora, for they believe that he too might be infected with the vile evil. He becomes indifferent to his decree, for he cites that he loves Olalla, and that her mother is just sick, and needs medical help. The Padre goes away without hearing him out.


The Themes of Evil versus Love in Olalla by Robert Louis Stevensonimages (2)

The Commandante continues to love Olalla despite the fact that her mother, the Senora, has bitten him like a hungry beast. It does not seem to have any impact on him, this act by her mother, and he observes that she should be taken to the hospital, rather than be victimised that she is evil and possessed by demons. The allusion that Olalla is chaste could only indicate that indeed her mother is just sick, and not what the Padre and the whole village believe. Robert Louis Stevenson has managed to bring the themes of love and evil parallel, and shown that truly the two go hand in (3)

There can be no true love, if its opposite does not exist. In life we go on expecting love to be perfect, yet in truth the path of love is full of hardships, trounces, and vast evil. To love is to accept the malevolence that comes along with it. To love is to surrender to that which is beyond our intelligence. Olalla, loving her mother, accepts that sometimes she does indeed go mad, and seem to be out of her mind possessed by some dark evil. She lets in the Commandante to her family secret, and advices him to go away, for there is nothing he can do to help her and her family. She is a saint, who spends her time praying under the crucifix: She shows us that to love is to let go, to accept what is, and leave everything to the Creator, for it is only Him, who can deliver us from our anguish, and counter evil.




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