Places: Pepita Jiménez

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Pepita Ximenez, 1874 (English translation, 1886)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: c. 1870

Places DiscussedVillage

Village. Pepita JiménezTypical community of the Andalusian plain in southern Spain to which Luis de Vargas, a young man studying for the priesthood, returns in order to visit his father Don Pedro, the community’s reverend vicar. Having been away from the village since he was a child, the adult Luis observes that everything in it now seems smaller; his father’s house pales into relative insignificance by comparison with the seminary in which he is training for the priesthood. The orchards and flowery streams of the surrounding countryside initially seem more beautiful, although Luis soon begins to weary of their monotony and lack of intellectual stimulation.

Beyond the orchards are the vineyards and olive groves that provide the staple crops of the region. A sanctuary consecrated to the Virgin Mary, the patroness of the village, sits on the summit of a neighboring hill, while another small hermitage crowns a smaller hill called Calvary. The ruins of the ancient convent of Saint Francis de Paul are two miles away. The mountains of the Sierra Nevada form a backdrop to the scene.

In spite of all the ostentatious trappings of Roman Catholicism that surround the village, its inhabitants are not entirely disconnected from their ancestors’ pagan past. The festival of Saint John’s Day, which replaced more ancient celebrations associated with the summer solstice, is still tainted by paganism and primitive naturalism; the whole population moves out-of-doors, moving among little tables laden with confections and booths selling dolls and toys. The village clubhouse is thoroughly secularized; men go there to read newspapers, play cards and chess, and to watch cockfights, while wine-buyers from Xeres strike deals there. It is in the clubhouse that Luis confronts the count of Genazahar, beating him at cards and then wounding him in a duel.

Pepita’s house

Pepita’s house. Home of the young widow Pepita Jiménez; a fine house situated in a small estate that became prosperous due to the exceptional thriftiness of Pepita’s uncle and her late husband, the petty capitalist Don Gumersindo. The house is in two parts, each with its own door. The door of the “dwelling-house” opens into the paved and colonnaded courtyard, giving access to the parlors and other family apartments, while the door of the “farmhouse” opens to inner yards, giving access to the stable and coach house, the kitchens, the mill, the wine press, the granaries, the storerooms and wine cellars.

The dwelling-house is very clean, modestly furnished, and filled with houseplants and caged canaries. At the beginning of the story the main room has a small altar bearing a carved image of the infant Jesus, about which a great many wax tapers are always burning. Pepita, who regularly entertains the local doctor and notary, as well as the vicar, hosts a social occasion at the Feast of the Cross, involving a solemn ceremonial dance.

Pepita’s personal retreat is a “study” or “library” on the upper floor, adjacent to her bedroom. It has a mahogany bookcase and table as well as a writing desk set on a smaller table; its walls are adorned with religious engravings. It is there that Pepita’s crucial confrontations with Don Pedro and Luis take place. After their triumph over convention, the room in which Pepita and Luis first meet is transformed into a “temple” with a portico and white marble columns; it contains two sumptuous pictures, one representing Psyche’s discovery of Cupid, the other a scene from the ancient Greek Longus’s pastoral romance Daphnis and Chloë (which Valera translated into Spanish), but pride of place is given to a copy of the Venus of Medici, with an inscription taken from the Epicurean poet Lucretius.

Pepita’s garden is a tract of land at the foot of a waterfall in a sheltered ravine, where Pepita cultivates strawberries, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peppers, walnuts, and figs. She hosts a seductive banquet there.

Don Pedro’s villa

Don Pedro’s villa. House on the bank of the Pozo de la Solana, two leagues away from the village, which is approached by a bridle path. The sight of Pepita on horseback on the way to the villa inspires Luis with a strong desire to learn to ride.

BibliographyBianchini, Andreina. “Pepita Jiménez: Ideology and Realism.” Hispanofila 33, no. 2 (January, 1990): 33-51. An examination of the novel’s relationship to ideology and idealism. Discusses the three-part structure of the work.DeCoster, Cyrus C. Juan Valera. New York: Twayne, 1974. A very good resource for study of Valera’s works. Contains an overview of Juan Valera’s life and literary career and analyzes his literary characters and themes. There is a chapter devoted to Pepita Jiménez.Lott, Robert. Language and Psychology in “Pepita Jiménez.” Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1970. A well-regarded study of the language and psychology found in Pepita Jiménez. The first part is an analysis of language, style, and rhetorical devices. The second section is a psychological examination of characters.MacCurdy, G. Grant. “Mysticism, Love and Illumination in Pepita Jiménez.” Revista de Estudios Hispanicos 17, no. 3 (October, 1983): 323-334. This article is an original approach to studying Valera’s treatment of mysticism, love, and illumination.Turner, Harriet S. “Nescit Labi Virtus: Authorial Self-Critique in Pepita Jiménez.” Kentucky Romance Quarterly 35, no. 3 (August, 1988): 347-357. Examines the omniscient narrator, the writer, the use of irony, and the relationship to virtue.
Categories: Places