Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 235
Read Part I of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Inequality, paying particular attention to the theory of ‘‘the noble savage.’’ Compare Rousseau’s idea of the primitive and the pre- or non-civilized with the depiction of Corsican montagnard life presented by Merimee in ‘‘Mateo Falcone.’’
Discuss the concept of justice both in the abstract and as it relates to Merimee’s ‘‘Mateo Falcone.’’ Pay particular attention to Mateo’s killing of Fortunato. If the killing strikes you as intuitively unjust, what then is the precise definition of justice? What is the just punishment in this case?
Research the history and ethnology of Corsica. Use an encyclopedia and other sources, if they are available. Does Merimee give a generally accurate picture of Corsican life? If not, where does his depiction diverge from reality?
Read the ‘‘Exordium’’ and the ‘‘Eulogy on Abraham’’ in Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling (1843), in which Kierkegaard discusses the test of Abraham and Isaac that is related in the Old Testament. Compare the story of Abraham and Isaac and Kierkegaard’s commentary with Merimee’s story of Mateo and Fortunato Falcone.
From the Chicago mobsters of the 1920s to today’s drug cartels and street gangs, the ideas of ‘‘honor’’ and ‘‘treachery’’ have been used to justify brutal acts. Compare the code of the mobsters and drug cartels to the code of the Corsican montagnards as depicted by Merimee.