(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

On March 22, four days after returning to his home in Andalusia, Luis de Vargas writes the first of his letters to his uncle and favorite professor at the seminary. He reports that his father intends to fatten him up during his vacation, to have him ready to return in the fall to finish his training for the priesthood. He mentions in passing that his father is courting a twenty-year-old, attractive widow, Pepita Jiménez; his father is fifty-five years old. Pepita had been married for only a short time to an eighty-year-old moneylender named Gumersindo. Luis is not eager to see his father marry again, but he promises his uncle not to judge Pepita before he knows her.

Luis’ next letter, dated six days later, reports that he is already tired of the little town and anxious to get back to school. In the meantime, he meets Pepita. Having decided that she pays too much attention to the body and not enough to the spirit, he cannot understand why the local vicar holds so high an opinion of her. He hopes, however, that she will have a good effect on his somewhat unsettled father.

In his next letter, Luis continues to criticize Pepita for her coquetry toward his father. He tries to forgive her vanity about her pretty hands by remarking that Saint Teresa had exhibited the same fault. In closing, he apologizes for not at once fleeing the life that seems to be making a materialist of him, but his father begged him to stay on a while longer.

In a letter dated April 14, Luis expresses concern over Pepita’s diabolic power, shown by the manner in which she charms both his father and the vicar, and makes him write more about her than about others in the town. Meanwhile, his time is so occupied that it is May 4 before he writes again to describe a picnic his father had given for Pepita. Luis had ridden a mule. While the others rode or played games, he stayed behind to chat with the vicar and an old lady, an experience more boring than he had believed possible. When he took a walk and met Pepita alone, he could not understand his strange excitement. She reproved him for being too serious for his age and remarked that only very old people like the vicar traveled by mule. That night, Luis tells his father that he wants to learn to ride a horse.

In later letters Luis describes his embarrassment during evening gatherings at Pepita’s house, where he always feels out of place. Nevertheless, he does enjoy his riding lessons and the thrill of riding past her balcony on the day his father decides he can ride well enough to do so. He later confesses to his uncle that he is disturbed in his feelings over Pepita, and as a result he has stopped going to her house. He thinks that he would be wise to return to the seminary at once.

Luis is still more perplexed when Antoñona, Pepita’s housekeeper, scolds him for making her mistress unhappy. When Luis calls to apologize and explain, the sight of tears in Pepita’s eyes upsets him, and before he...

(The entire section is 1216 words.)