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Freedom of the Flesh

The two short stories ‘El Verdugo’ by Honore De Balzac and ‘Mateo Falcone’ by Prosper Merimee address issues that are related to bodily expressions and feelings such as love, wrath and lust among others. This write up seeks to compare and contrast the two stories by illustrating the manner, in which the seven deadly sins have been brought out.

The first sin evident in ‘El Verdugo’ is sloth. At the beginning of the story, the audience can quickly see that the young French soldier lazily leans on the parapet. This is not the position you would expect a soldier at war to be in. Soldiers are supposed to be alert for any eventuality. The second evidence of sloth is demonstrated when a young commander run to the General and said “I bring you my head!”(Balzac,1977). Even though soldiers are supposed to be respectful to their Generals, it is not right to present yourself to be killed. In fact, you expect a soldier to be strong and battle with all sorts of obstacles to save his life. On the other hand, ‘Mateo Falcone’ does not exemplify the sin of sloth as much ‘El Verdugo’ does. Nonetheless, the sin of sloth can be witnessed when Gianetto tells Gamba to carry him to the city (Merimee, 1993). This is a clear sign of laziness.

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The second sin is envy. ‘El Verdugo’ is full of envious scenes. This sin is firstly evident at the beginning of the story when the young soldier looks at the sea and sees sparkling waters. He is envious of the view and wishes he could enjoy it longer. He is also envious of the sweet flowers and balmy trees in the garden that he felt like he was having a perfumed bath. The two instances show that the sin of envy in the ‘El Verdugo’ is about a peaceful and beautiful environment (Balzac, 1977). On the other hand, the sin of envy in ‘Mateo Falcone’ is about a prestigious lifestyle. For instance, the narrator asserts that when he was young, Mateo Falcone lived a noble lifestyle by simply sitting and benefitting from the sweat of his flocks. In fact, all his daughters were married and the son had promising attributes at the age of ten.

The third sin is lust. There are various cases of lust in ‘El Verdugo’. The first example can be traced when the young soldier wished that the noise he heard while in the field was of a woman walking behind him. Secondly, when Victor goes to untie Clara, he softly touches her hands as he admires her hair and beauty (Balzac, 1977). This is a clear demonstration of lust. On the other hand, ‘Mateo Falcone’ does not exemplify lust as the bigger part of the story and is in hush tone.

Regarding the fourth sin of wrath, both stories are full of its demonstrations. For example, in ‘El Verdugo’, it is clear that the Frenchmen were hated. Moreover, there were cries of war in several instances. When the officers trail individuals carrying a lantern, a man was shot and died on the spot. Clara also cries out and tells the soldier to run for his life, since she had lost his brothers and fellow soldiers in the fight. In addition, the General orders Marquis to strike without fear and kill the son (Merimee, 1993). This hush environment demonstrates wrath and hatred in the story.

Similarly, ‘Mateo Falcone’ is full of wrath. Right from the beginning, the narrator asks anyone who has killed to go and live in safety in the maquis. He even asks them to carry hoods for protection from the cold. Another scene of wrath is when Mateo orders the wife to put down everything she was carrying and be ready. This is a very commanding tone that you would not expect a loving husband to use on his wife. In addition, he does not call his wife by name but by the title “wife’ (Merimee, 1993). Furthermore, wrath is demonstrated when Falcone seizes a watch from Fortunato and smashes it in pieces and even asks whether he was his real son. However, even though both stories exemplify wrath, Mateo Falcone demonstrates wrath in his own family, while the sin in El Verdugo is related to other people outside the family.

The fifth sin of greed is another common sin in both stories. For example, in ‘El Verdugo’, when Clara looks at the young officer in a suggestive manner, all that he thinks of is her family’s wealth (Balzac, 1977). Similarly, in ‘Mateo Falcone’ the son asks for a bribe from Gianetto Saupiero in exchange for his safety. Immediately he was given a five franc piece, Fortunato changed the tone and became very nice (Merimee, 1993). However, when the soldiers are looking for Saupiero appear, he also wants more bribes from them, so that he could show them where the man they were looking for went. In fact, his eyes brighten when he was promised a silver watch.

The sixth sin of pride is also evident in the two stories. The fact that the narrator in El Verdugo talks of “the proud family of Leganes” indicates pride (Balzac, 1977). Similarly, when the officer asks Clara to marry him so that the General could set her free, she gives him ”a look of pride and contempt” (Balzac, 1977). On the other hand, Mateo Falcone also demonstrates pride when Fortunato sneers at Tiodoro Gamba when he inquired if he had seen Saupiero (Merimee, 1993). Moreover, he brags about his father’s cabinet being full of guns.

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The seventh sin of gluttony is also part of the stories even though it is the least common. In ‘El Verdugo’, Victor goes to the General’s place and finds him having fun with the officers. Some of the officers had taken so much that they were becoming hilarious. This indicates gluttony because one should only take enough for his body to sustain. On the other hand, Mateo Falcone also demonstrates gluttony, when Fortunato wants brides from both Saupiero and Gamba.
As it has been demonstrated, both stories clearly describe the seven sins. However, some sins are more intense in one story than the other. For instance, in ‘Mateo Falcone’ not much greed is demonstrated like in ‘El Verdugo’.

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