What Do We Learn From the Writers of the Vendetta Stories About Another Culture?
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The vendetta stories consist of three short stories that are set in Corsica, The Vendetta, A Corsican Bandit and Mateo Falcone. They were written in the 19th Century by Guy de Maupassant and Prosper Mrime. These stories feature revenge as the main theme, and from it one can learn many things about the distant culture of Corsica. Through the words of the author one may extract many tidbits of information that helps us as readers to form an idea of Corsica. There are some traditions of Corsica that seem blood thirsty at first, such as the idea of mirror punishment (lex talionis), but the authors de Maupassant and Mrime reveal the deep logic behind it.
The reader learns through the stories of a different society, one that is a patriarch one, where males rule. There are many subtle hints to this, for example “Paolo Saverini’s widow lived alone with her son”, which implies that the widow is owned by Saverini. Another indicator of patriarchism would be “no man was there to carry on the vendetta. Only his mother”, which indicates that as a woman, the mother may not be capable to fulfill the task. One also learns that the Corsican society receives the birth of males with pleasure, whilst female children are undesirable, “his wife Giuseppa first bore him three daughters (to his fury), then finally a son”. This is typical in male dominated societies, where females are seen as weak and useless. “[His wife was] bent beneath the weight of an enormous sack…while her husband ambled along with only a rifle in his hand…it is unbecoming for a man to carry any burden but his weapons” indicates that the Corsican males are slightly vain and controlling, which may be socially bred through a patriarch society where males are praised.
Also through the Vendetta stories the reader may extract that the Corsican society is also an extremely religious one. They are tied to religion and it is also part of their culture, prayer and mass is part of their everyday life “She fell to her knees before an image of the Virgin and prayed fervently”. “”Say your prayer…May God forgive you!” the child… fell like a rock- dead” indicates that no matter how ruthless the situation, they allow one to recite their prayers before death. “He [killed son] died like a Christian; I shall have a mass sung for him” and “[he] invited his victim to say a prayer, and then shattered his skull” again demonstrates the importance of religion. It seems to be very important that they die like Christians, as can be seen through the examples the victims are invited to say a prayer before their deaths. To foreign eyes this can be seen as illogical, but in a skewed aspect it makes sense.
Another custom which is skewed to foreign eyes is the Code of Vendetta, which is a large issue in Corsica. It is practiced commonly and is seen as a way of punishing the wrong doers through the form of lex talionis. From A Corsican bandit, Guy de Maupassant shows with “Following an old Corsican custom, his outraged sister took away all his black clothes so that he could not wear mourning for a death that was not avenged” that it is traditional to avenge the murdered before mourning. One can tell immediately through the language that there is an obligation to avenge the dead. This obligation has a long history, as vendetta is an Italian word for vengeance and quite common. The quotation “all his relatives sought him [son of murdered] out and pleaded with him to seek revenge”, this implies that the responsibility to maintain the vendetta usually falls on the closest male relative, which in this case is the son. It rarely falls on a woman; “no man was there to carry on the vendetta. Only his mother, an old woman, brooded over it” from The Vendetta and thus indicates a patriarch system, which was evaluated previously.
“We must live by the Code”, demonstrates how the Corsicans are bound to this Code which is deeply rooted into their customs. One can see how the Corsicans follow the Code of Vendetta, as the western society follows the Golden Rules of Ethics. They do it because they believe that it is right, after all if “That night she [old woman] slept well” after a successful vendetta against the murderer of her son, she must believe that it is correct. “I felt I had to do it [revenge], that in spite of everything I would not be able to stop myself…” expresses how the Code is something uncontrollable that is programmed into one’s instincts. ” [the young man who didn’t avenge his father’s death] not daring to face the scornful glances of the local young men” shows that one is treated with derision when one doesn’t follow tradition. The reader realizes that vendetta it is a natural action, and when not done it leads to rejection. From these quotations, the reader can assume that the Corsicans are a rather vindictive folk, which battles with the aphorism “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”1. At first glance the saying may appear to be brutal and primal to the reader, but the reader soon realizes that it is full of honor and justice.
From the many subtle hints and tidbits of information, as the reader we can learn of a culture which seems brutal, primal and illogical at first glance. Later through reflection and thought, we begin to realize the Corsican culture is full of passion, justice and honor. We learn of the just Code of Vendetta, the patriarchism and the religion which supports the Corsicans through life. Though we each may interpret the stories differently, de Maupassant and Mrime are able to lead us and show us the great wisdom behind the savage culture.