In this essay, I will discuss how Prosper Merimee’s mode of thought in appendix is reflected and the way the characters are demonstrated according to appendix in “Carmen”. The final chapter of the story “Carmen”, which is about the history, life style, Romany language, exclusive relationship manners and physical characteristics of the race called Gypsies, is added later to the story depending upon the point of view of the narrator. Thus, an ethnographic research dimension was added to this literary work.
The French historian, archaeologist and short story writer Prosper Merimee who knows the ways of the world in an academic sense, examines the world of Gypsies objectively through his travels and research in Spain. Merimee’s novel belongs to the realist genre and as a hopeless romantic; he has a propensity for exotic people and exotic lands. When we read the story, we learn the presentation of culture through the filter of anthropology. This particular way of life describes Gypsies as free, rebellious, and marginal community. “Carmen” is based on the narrator’s experiences and the chain of events during his travel to the southern Spain.
In the first chapter, Merimee himself as a narrator frames the story in Andalusia of 1830, and then he introduces the first oriental character, Basque Don Jose. When the narrator tells the physical appearance of Don Jose, according to appendix we notice that gypsies’ physical traits are different from the indigenous peoples of the same country such as dark skin, dark almond-shaped eyes, proud expression and so forth. Moreover, Don Jose grips his horse’s halter in his one hand, and in his other hand he holds a brass blunderbuss.
Considering the sentence in appendix, “The men make a living as horse dealers, horse doctors, or mule clippers; they supplement this work by occupations such as repairing saucepans and copper utensils, to say nothing of smuggling and other illicit activities. ”, we affirm that Don Jose has a relationship with gypsies as a Basque soldier. He is the naive victim of Gypsy treachery. Later on, the narrator’s first observation about Spanish culture was that the ritual exchange of cigars among men establishes relations of hospitality, “as does the sharing of bread and salt in the East”.
Apart from this, Merimee’s guide Antonio tried to speak with the narrator in private. After some efforts he had a chance to tell that Don Jose is known as Jose Navarro, and he warned the narrator about Jose Navarro that he is the most notorious bandit, robber, brigand in Andalusia. Antonio runs away to report the place where Don Jose hides to get the big reward, but the narrator saved Don Jose. So, Antonio thinks that the narrator prevented him from earning the reward. Afterwards, Merimee meets Carmen in Cordoba. His encounter with Carmen is marked by a reciprocal case of mistaken ethnic identity.
Firstly, he thought that Carmen is an Andalusian, and then he cannot tell whether she is Moorish or Jewish until Carmen explains to him her true identity as a Gypsy. Conversely, Carmen supposed Merimee as an Englishman whereas Merimee is a Frenchman. Carmen is a good looking woman with copper colored smooth skin, beautiful large dark eyes and delicate hands, lips and black hair. She had a strange wild beauty which makes her “femme fatale”. As a femme fatale, Carmen is seductive and cunning, dangerous and sweet, a loyal liar and a crook.
According to appendix, in Germany the Gypsy girls are often very pretty, but in Andalusia a few of the girls are rather more attractive than the rest, and take greater care of their personal appearance. Carmen is one of the rare ones in Andalusia. Due to her free-spirited Gypsy personality, she cannot commit to anybody but herself. She uses her charm to seduce Don Jose at the tobacco factory. Don Jose gets close to her and becomes jealous as she attracts other men around her. In addition, Don Jose learns that Carmen was married.
Carmen’s Rom Garcia the One-eyed was the ugliest, most ruthless, vilest, cruel and most wicked man Gypsy women ever gave birth to man alive. He joined the outlaw band of Carmen which also includes Don Jose; Don Jose agitates him with a knife and killed him. After the death of Garcia, Carmen becomes Don Jose’s wife according to Gypsy customs. Since Carmen is not a loyal wife, unlike the rest of Gypsy women, she is not able to give herself to Don Jose as a free spirited woman. After a while, she gets emotionally affected by an accomplished young picador called Lucas during the bullfight.
Don Jose was not able to take this situation, he begged Carmen to leave all the men behind and start a new righteous life in America. Don Jose chose to replace his position in military with becoming an acculturated Gypsy for Carmen. Unfortunately, he could not convince her and stabbed her to death. In my opinion, Don Jose aims to exorcise his own demons by killing Carmen. Despite everything, Don Jose was a good man until he met Carmen; he fell from grace into hell and became a robber and a murderer because of Carmen.
Don Jose became obsessive, jealous and destructive in which whole fault was Carmen’s. As we read the story, we see that Carmen takes Merimee to her home to tell his fortune. She is good at fortunetelling which had become a practice that Gypsy women engage in. In this regard, since they see this as a job, they sell charms and love philters, utter powerful spells, foresee the future successfully according to appendix. Furthermore, Carmen speaks many languages fluently. When she met Don Jose in the factory, she tried to pass herself off as Basque to Don Jose and talked him in Basque.
Basques have an accent that makes them easily recognizable to Spaniards, but Carmen understood that Don Jose is Basque because she knows the language well. “Today there are almost as many different Romany dialects as there are separate bands of their race. Everywhere they speak the language of their adopted country in preference to their own, which they seldom use except in order to communicate freely in front of strangers. ” by this statement in appendix, I infer that Gypsies don’t have a hard time adopting and speaking any language wherever they go.
To sum up, Prosper Merimee wrote Carmen to tell the exemplary story of a Gypsy woman Carmen and a bandit soldier Don Jose. Story is told by the narrator and Don Jose himself while psychological conditions of the characters are not emphasized. Each character, which is observed objectively by the narrator, is emotionally discussed integrated with the story. Hence, the author added the appendix part at the end of the story as he shows the history and life style of Gypsies in a more comprehensive way. Reference: Merimee, P. (1845). Carmen.
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