Pepita Jiménez

by Juan Valera

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The novel Pepita Jimenez by Juan Valera is a heartwarming, deeply psychological story about the blossoming love between a young widow and a priest-in-training who chooses to renounce his vows and declare his love for the young woman. Thematically, this book takes a very interesting look at human emotion and nature.

Denying Earthly Pleasures

This story deals heavily with the idea of denying oneself. Luis is training to be a priest, and one of the most important tenants of the clergy is to "deny thyself." Luis interacts and ultimately falls in love with Pepita, but he continues to refuse his feelings for her because of his duty to the church and his respect for his father. His father, as well, is later revealed to be experiencing similar feelings of denial. He claims to be pursuing Pepita for his own betrothal, but in reality, he is working to arrange the union of his son and Pepita. Finally, Pepita refuses her own life and livelihood by revealing her love for Luis. She acts sick and essentially refuses to carry on with life or a wedding if Luis denies his love for her.

Emotion Triumphing Over Duty

The novel also deals with the power of natural feelings to usurp one's duty and responsibility. Luis has a sworn duty to the church and carries on with every intention of becoming a clergy member. However, as his father recognizes later in the work, his love for Pepita grows too strong for him to give her up, and his "chosen" calling ultimately is trumped by the "natural" call to be with Pepita.

The Power of Love

Love makes people do crazy things, and this sentiment is certainly displayed through the characters in the novel. Luis gives up his entire vocation because of his burgeoning love for Pepita. Additionally, we see the power of the fatherly love that Pedro has for Luis when it is revealed that he has been manipulating events from early on push Luis and Pepita together. Pepita is the one who acts madly out of love in a literal sense—she pretends to fall ill and locks herself away—all to encourage Luis to reveal his love for her. Despite the sometimes odd behavior each character exhibits in their pursuit of love, in the end, they are each made better for having loved.

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