The Bridge of San Luis Rey

by

Thornton Wilder

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Doña Clara / Condesa Clara Character Analysis

Doña Clara is Doña María’s daughter. In response to her mother’s oppressively intense love, Doña Clara becomes emotionally unresponsive and attempts to distance herself from her mother as much as possible, even marrying a Spanish nobleman just so she can move far away from home. In contrast to her mother’s eccentricity, Doña Clara’s pursuit of conventional respectability and social success makes her pretentious and vapid. It’s only after her mother’s death that Doña Clara’s latent goodness reveals itself through her conversations with the Abbess and her sympathy for the older woman’s charitable works.

Doña Clara / Condesa Clara Quotes in The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The The Bridge of San Luis Rey quotes below are all either spoken by Doña Clara / Condesa Clara or refer to Doña Clara / Condesa Clara. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Collins edition of The Bridge of San Luis Rey published in 1927.
Part 2: The Marquesa de Montemayor Quotes

At times, after a day’s frantic resort to such invocations, a revulsion would sweep over her. Nature is deaf. God is indifferent. Nothing in man’s power can alter the course of law. Then on some street-corner she would stop, dizzy with despair, and lean against a wall would long to be taken from a world that had no plan in it.

Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

She was listening to the new tide of resignation that was rising within her. Perhaps she would learn in time to permit both her daughter and her gods to govern their own affairs.

Related Symbols: Churches and Abbeys
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 5: Perhaps an Intention Quotes

“All, all of us have failed. One wishes to be punished. One is willing to assume all kinds of penance, but do you know, my daughter, that in love—I scarcely dare say it—but in love our very mistakes don’t seem to be able to last long?”

Related Symbols: Churches and Abbeys
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
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Doña Clara / Condesa Clara Character Timeline in The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The timeline below shows where the character Doña Clara / Condesa Clara appears in The Bridge of San Luis Rey. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2: The Marquesa de Montemayor
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
When Doña María gives birth to her own daughter, Clara, she “fastened upon her with an idolatrous love.” However, Clara responds to her mother’s... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
...to herself on the street, constantly playing out imaginary scenes in which she and Doña Clara lovingly reconcile. Because of her mental anguish, she prematurely ages into an old woman. People... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Four years after Doña Clara’s marriage, Doña María visits Spain. Both women vow to behave well, and both fail; the... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Art and Memory Theme Icon
From this point on, Doña María confines her love to the letters she writes Doña Clara. Even though she’s strange and awkward in person, Doña María’s letters are miraculously beautiful. The... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
...posterity” while writing the letters, but in fact Doña María was completely focused on Doña Clara’s approval and would have been astonished to find herself so famous. (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
...to some physical growth. One day, she includes this musing in a letter, and Doña Clara replies harshly that she is “making a cult of sorrow.” (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Doña María’s knowledge that Clara will never return her love makes her a deep skeptic. She doesn’t believe in God,... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
The narrator then paraphrases one of Doña María’s letters to Doña Clara. In it, she writes of a gold chain that she’s enclosing as a present to... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
...entertain him. Doña María continues to include passages critical of powerful figures, even though Doña Clara warns her that the letters are probably opened during the sea journey. (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
...no longer attractive (the narrator interjects that Doña María was simply trying to flatter Doña Clara, and that in fact the actress is very beautiful). She concludes by noting that the... (full context)
Art and Memory Theme Icon
...begins to improvise nasty verses about her strange appearance and her strained relationship with her daughter. Everyone understands whom she’s alluding to and laughs, but Doña María doesn’t even notice what’s... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
...Doña María treats Pepita warmly, but when she becomes preoccupied with her letters and her daughter, she becomes cold and reserved, which is hurtful to Pepita. She only remains with Doña... (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
One day, Doña Clara writes that she is pregnant, hoping to forestall her mother’s worry and advice by announcing... (full context)
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
...the church, a message boy runs up to her bearing a letter from her Doña Clara. The letter is “full of wounding remarks rather brilliantly said,” but the mother simply reads... (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
...change her behavior and “begin a new life.” She begins a new letter to Doña Clara, in which she is more generous and less demanding than ever before. By the time... (full context)
Part 3: Esteban
Art and Memory Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...He’s famous throughout Lima, and Doña María has even introduced him by letter to her daughter. She intuits that his passion for traveling stems from the fact that he once lost... (full context)
Part 4: Uncle Pio
Art and Memory Theme Icon
In a letter to Doña Clara, Doña María describes Uncle Pio by comparing him to a messenger ant she sees carrying... (full context)
Part 5: Perhaps an Intention
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...allows her into the garden. Tall and beautiful, the stranger explains that she is Doña Clara, and has traveled across the ocean to mourn her mother’s death. She immediately makes “long... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
The Abbess speaks to Doña Clara of her own grief, and of Camila’s simultaneous visit. She says gently that they have... (full context)
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
The Abbess asks permission to show Doña Clara her work and leads her around the abbey, showing her the orphans and the ill.... (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
Dogma vs. Altruism Theme Icon
After Doña Clara leaves, the Abbess visits the sick people. Thinking of Esteban and Pepita, she talks to... (full context)
Acts of God and Individual Will Theme Icon
Love and Obsession Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...one else on earth even remembers Esteban and Pepita. After she and Camila and Doña Clara die, no one will remember those who died on the bridge. However, it seems to... (full context)