Pedro Antonio de Alarcón developed an impressive variety of narrative techniques over the course of his career by which he could entice his readers into an intriguing story and still reserve for them the kind of surprise he found to be essential to the short-story genre. The most famous story of his younger years, “El Clavo” (“The Nail”), first published in 1853 when he was only twenty, illustrates how early he learned the skills of the artful storyteller. To entice the reader into this rather wildly romantic tale of ungovernable passions, Alarcón used two separate narrative voices, recounting three apparently separateincidents, each involving a different woman of mystery.
The curiosity of readers is promptly piqued. They begin to wonder where lies the connection that unites the three separate incidents. The first incident is the narrator’s account of the woman who rejected his love; the second is the account by Zarco, the narrator’s friend, of the woman with whom he fell in love and whom he made pregnant, but who failed to appear for their planned wedding; and the third incident is the discovery by the narrator and his friend Zarco, in the town graveyard, of a skull with a nail driven through it, which strongly suggests the murder of a husband by his wife. Since Zarco is a judge, he sets out to bring the murderess to justice, with the help of his friend Felipe, who is the narrator of the story. Eventually, a tense trial scene reveals that...
(The entire section is 1790 words.)
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