Study Guide

The Argentine Ant

by Italo Calvino

The Argentine Ant Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Acting on the advice of his uncle, a man moves his wife and infant son to a small rented cottage in a Ligurian coastal village in Italy. At first, all seems idyllic, but on their first night, as they prepare for bed, they discover that their kitchen is swarming with ants. “Argentine ants,” the narrator informs his wife, and he remembers being told that this is the country of the Argentine ant. After the narrator calms his wife, they retire to bed; they are awakened by the cries of their baby and find his bed is filled with ants.

The next day, the narrator considers the situation, noting that the yard, which he had planned to convert to a garden, is alive with ants. He visits Signor Reginaudo, their nearest neighbor, for advice, and finds that the old man and his wife have used, and found practically useless, every ant spray, poison, and powder available. Still, the Reginaudos are not discouraged and actually laugh at themselves, the ants, and the ridiculous situation. They arm the narrator with a variety of concoctions, carefully chosen to be harmless to the baby, and return him to his family.

The narrator then rushes off to see Captain Brauni, another neighbor with his own way of fighting the ants. Captain Brauni has transformed his house and yard into a maze of ant traps. Some ants are destroyed when they fall off a narrow wire into a can of gasoline; he kills an average of forty ants a minute, Captain Brauni says with almost comic...

(The entire section is 582 words.)