Pedro Antonio de Alarcón Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

ph_0111207177-Alarcon.jpg Pedro Antonio de Alarcón Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Having served his apprenticeship in journalism, Pedro Antonio de Alarcón did all the kinds of writing that were normal in that métier: sketches of daily life (cuadros de costumbres), book reviews, theater criticism, political reporting, and even editorial writing, for he served as editor of several journals in his younger years. His ambition, however, was to be a literary man, and the short stories he published in various journals were the part of his youthful journalistic activity that he took most seriously. They are also the work which first earned him a reputation as a writer. Trading on that reputation, he published his first novel at the age of twenty-two and attracted still more attention with a controversial play when he was only twenty-four. He served as a war correspondent during the fighting in North Africa between Morocco and Spain in 1859-1860, and he published his war articles as a book in 1861. In the edition he prepared of his complete works, Alarcón included a volume of literary criticism, a volume of travel pieces, a volume of cuadros de costumbres, and a volume of occasional short poems, all culled from his years as a journalist. His true claim to literary importance, however, resided in his six novels and his more than three dozen short stories.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Although Pedro Antonio de Alarcón was not one of the outstanding writers of nineteenth century Spain, he made important contributions to the development of Spain’s short story. In Alarcón’s time, short fiction was limited to cuadros de costumbres, short sketches of popular customs, and the legend or fantastic tale. Alarcón introduced to Spain the techniques of the French short-story writers he admired, such as those of Honoré de Balzac and Théophile Gautier.

Although most of Alarcón’s stories are not the products of his imagination, he excelled as a storyteller. He is known principally as the author of El sombrero de tres picos (1874; The Three-Cornered Hat, 1886), based on a popular Spanish folktale. His Historietas nacionales, which narrate episodes of Spanish history, brought historical fiction into vogue, thus preparing for the Episodios nacionales (1873-1912; national episodes) of Benito Pérez Galdós. Alarcón’s achievement lies in having captured the spirit of Spain’s traditions and its people in his stories.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Atkinson, William C. “Pedro Antonio de Alarcón.” Bulletin of Spanish Studies 10 (July, 1933): 136-141. Written to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of Alarcón’s birth, Atkinson reviews several novels and concludes that Alarcón’s characters are types and that he never ceased to be a Romantic.

Combs, Colleen J. Women in the Short Stories of Pedro Antonio de Alarcón. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997. Examines Alarcón’s treatment of female characters.

DeCoster, Cyrus. Pedro Antonio de Alarcón. Boston: Twayne, 1979. The most complete source of material on Alarcón available in English. It provides a complete survey of Alarcón’s short fiction and also covers his novels, poetry, drama, sketches, and essays. Supplemented by an annotated bibliography.

Fernandez, James D. “Fashioning the Ancien Regime: Alarcón’s Sombrero de tres picos.” Hispanic Review 62 (Spring, 1994): 235-247. Discusses the story’s use of folktale, its emphasis on historical time and place, and its use of popular sources. Comments on the ambivalence in the story between Alarcon’s nostalgia and his modernity.

Hespelt, E. Herman. “Alarcón as Editor of El látigo.” Hispania 20 (1936): 319-336. Focuses on Alarcón’s brief career as a radical journalist and quotes extensively from the political and social satire he wrote for this short-lived periodical.

Quinn, David. “An Ironic Reading of Pedro de Alarcón’s ‘La última calaverada.’” Symposium 31 (1977): 346-356. Through a structural analysis of the text, David Quinn refutes the notion that the ending of “The Last Escapade” shows the benevolent intervention of divine Providence.

Winslow, Richard W. “The Distinction of Structure in Alarcón’s El sombrero de tres picos and El Capitán Veneno.” Hispania 46 (1963): 715-721. Argues that El sombrero de tres picos should be considered a short story, whereas El Capitán Veneno is in every sense a novel.