Carmen by Prosper Merimee | Prosper Mérimée

Summary of: Carmen by Prosper Merimee
By: Prosper Mérimée


Delve into the captivating world of Prosper Mérimée’s Carmen, a tale set in 1830s Andalusia, as the narrator embarks on historical and geographical research across Spain. Along the way, he encounters the dangerous yet captivating Carmen, a beguiling gypsy who entices him into her web of deceit and intrigue. Throughout the book, watch as Carmen’s story intertwines with that of José, a military man seduced by Carmen’s charm, ultimately leading him to pursue a life of crime. The narrative explores themes of love, deception, fate, and morality with Carmen’s complex character as its heart. Expect an engaging and vivid historical tale as you journey through Andalusian society and witnesses the rise and fall of its various characters.

Encounter with a Wanted Man

In Andalusia in 1830, a narrator and his guide meet a strong, savage-looking man who is suspected to be a smuggler or brigand. After sharing a meal, the travelers and the man arrive at a decrepit inn, where the innkeeper greets him as Don José, the wanted highwayman.

In this book excerpt, we follow the narrator on his journey through Spain, accompanied by his guide Antonio. While on their mission to carry out historical and geographical research, they encounter a man sleeping by a refreshing stream. The man’s initial savage appearance quickly transforms as he enjoys a cigar and a shared meal with the travelers. However, the narrator’s suspicion gradually mounts that the stranger might be a smuggler or even the notorious highwayman José. The travelers ultimately arrive at the Venta del Cuervo inn, which turns out to be a shabby establishment with a welcoming innkeeper who greets their companion as Don José.

This summary showcases the narrator’s inner dialogue and speculations about the stranger’s true identity. The author vividly portrays the scenery and the characters’ interactions, creating a tense atmosphere that builds up to the revelation of the man’s identity. This brief encounter with the wanted man challenges the narrator’s assumptions and highlights the unpredictability of human nature.

A Mysterious Maneuver

The narrator persuades Don José to play the mandolin, which leaves him feeling gloomy. Antonio asks to speak privately with the narrator near the stable, but Don José follows them and suspects foul play. The narrator refuses Antonio’s request, and Don José returns alone, claiming that Antonio plans to spend the night with the horse to make it sweat.

Saving Antonio

In this snippet, the narrator leaves his house due to the overwhelming presence of bugs and ends up meeting a guide who reveals that he saw the notorious bandit, Antonio, heading towards the military post. However, he also warns that Navarro, on whose head a bounty of 200 ducats is placed, might come with lancers before daybreak. Despite the guide’s warning, the narrator decides to go back and warn Antonio, a new friend he recently made. While he’s still grappling with the ethical dilemma of betraying Navarro to save Antonio, horsemen show up. Asserting that Navarro has fled, the narrator saves Antonio.

In this passage, we see an inner conflict within the narrator as he questions his morality. The story also highlights the importance of standing up for what is right and extends the overarching message that sometimes our conscience pushes us to choose the path less taken.

Encounter with Danger

In “Encounter with Danger,” the narrator visits a convent in Córdoba in search of a manuscript. At the river bank, he meets Carmen, a captivating and beautiful gypsy woman who he invites for ice cream. Carmen’s dwelling is visited by Don José, who violently shoves her away when he recognizes the narrator. Carmen becomes agitated and suggests that the narrator should have his throat cut. Later, the narrator realizes that his watch, which Carmen had been fascinated with, is missing.

Convent Visit

While traveling in Andalusia, the narrator stops in Cordoba to visit a convent where the monks thought he was dead due to a stolen watch belonging to him found at the scene of the robbery. He learns the thief, a nobleman named Don Jose, has been caught and is due to be garroted. The narrator visits Don Jose in prison and brings him cigars. Don Jose asks the narrator to have a mass said for his soul after his death and begins to open up to him, telling him his life story.

The Tale of Don José and Carmen

Don José Lizzarrabengoa was initially intended to become a priest, but instead became addicted to playing real tennis. After a violent altercation, he joined the Almanza Cavalry Regiment and eventually found himself guarding a tobacco factory where exclusively female workers, including Carmen, worked. Despite being repelled and fascinated by Carmen’s provocativeness, Don José is drawn to her. When Carmen gets into trouble and Don José arrests her, she tries everything to convince him to let her go, eventually lying in his native Basque tongue. Don José is dazed and angered, allowing Carmen to escape, resulting in his demotion and imprisonment.

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