Pepita Jiménez

by Juan Valera

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Pepita Jimenez is a 19th-century Spanish novel about love and duty by Juan Valera. In the story, a young widow is courted by a man training in seminary to be a priest, which is a forbidden love story. This trope has been parodied many times since, particularly in novels like The Thornbirds.

Pepita is a young, twenty-year-old widow. She was married to a very wealthy moneylender who was in his eighties and passed away, leaving his fortune to her. She is now betrothed to marry Don Pedro, a local man whose son, Don Luis de Vargas, is studying to be a priest in a nearby seminary. Luis returns home, learns of their imminent marriage, and gets to know Pepita.

Luis begins to spend more and more time with Pepita, accompanying her through the countryside and meeting with her in her house, and he feels his affection grow for her. This affection strikes fear in his heart because, as a future priest, he is supposed to separate himself from marital life and remain a bachelor. The Dean of the seminary at which Luis is studying becomes suspicious, and Luis begins to consider leaving the town and returning to seminary. He sees his father as an adversary and grows distant from him.

When he finally plans to depart and return to seminary because he believes he is falling into a great sin, Pepita pretends to fall ill. By doing so, she forces his hand, making him reveal his feelings for her and promise to speak with his father about them. Luis confronts his father, who reveals that he had been working behind the scenes to bring the two together, thinking they would make a good union but not wanting to disrupt Luis's training. In the end, Luis renounces his vocation and professes his love for Pepita, devoting himself to her instead of the church.

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