Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Giacomo’s relationship with his wife is shaped by his sense of what is proper. He believes that love, especially marital love, is above all an act of submission that begins with his wife letting him deflower her on their wedding night. The prescribed copulation has not been accomplished, and Giacomo is extremely bitter. The feelings of his wife matter little, whether she was tired, or seasick, or anxious, or terrified. Giacomo, brooding on the consequences of his failure, fears that his whole marriage was a mistake. To get even for this insult to his masculine pride, he begins to badger his wife, accusing her of not caring about him, taking her to task for her political beliefs, which he says could lead to his betrayal.

Giacomo’s sexuality cannot be separated from his ingrained belief that sex is an instrument of male domination over women, a device for the achievement of total possession. A wife is there for constant reassurance that the husband is the only person who matters. Livio is therefore immediately seen as a threat. Livio is part of his wife’s life to which Giacomo has not, and probably will not, be able to gain entrance. The shoptalk of Simona and Livio appears conspiratorial and sinister. Giacomo’s resentment of Livio is increased because Livio is also a symbol of the very virility that Giacomo apparently lacks. Giacomo sees Livio as “a bronze statue on a stone pedestal” and observes his “trunks pulled tightly over his voluminous...

(The entire section is 425 words.)