Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Francesco Ingravallo

Francesco Ingravallo (frahn-CHEHS-koh een-grah-VAHL-loh), also called Don Ciccio (CHEE-kee-oh), a Roman police inspector in charge of a robbery and homicide investigation. Don Ciccio is a bachelor but is perhaps a little in love with his good friend, Liliana Balducci, who is murdered. Don Ciccio is a complex figure; his patience, determination, hidden feelings, and skepticism are revealed only through his struggles to find Liliana’s murderer. Despite his cynicism, Don Ciccio does not think like most people at his level in society. He always tries to give the poor a chance to defend themselves, rather than assume that they are automatically guilty because of their class.

Liliana Balducci

Liliana Balducci (lee-lee-AH-nah bahl-DEW-chee), an emotionally and physically barren middle-aged woman. She is found in her apartment with her throat cut and her jewels stolen. To Don Ciccio, Liliana symbolized perfect femininity. During the murder investigation, however, a surprising side of Liliana is revealed. Unable to have children, Liliana had poured her affection on some young orphan girls, whom she had employed as housemaids and then helped to make good marriages. Although she was cheated and disappointed every time by those reprobate young women, Liliana always found the strength to continue in her faith in them, helped by the tacit support of her husband, Remo. It seems probable that Liliana was murdered by one of her former protégées.

Corporal Pestalozzi

Corporal Pestalozzi (pehs-tah-LOHZ-zee), a carabiniere, or member of the national police. A coarse and spiteful man, Corporal Pestalozzi succeeds primarily through use of brute force. It is he (with his men) who brings the case to a head when he locates the jewelry stolen from the apartment building on Via Merulana.

Zamira Pacori

Zamira Pacori (zah-MEE-rah PAH-kohr-ree), a laundress and former prostitute. Zamira is a grotesque old woman whose current occupation is a cover for her activities as a bawd, a sorceress, and a faith healer. She surrounds herself with poor, unfortunate young women just as Liliana did, though for more sinister reasons.

That Awful Mess on Via Merulana The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The nearest character to a protagonist in the kaleidoscopic world of the novel is Inspector Ingravallo. A tough, cynical policeman, his world-weary view of human nature expresses Gadda’s own cynicism. His affection for the murdered woman involves him emotionally in the investigation, while his plodding approach seems the only rational way to pick apart the tangled, sordid threads that make up the convoluted action of the novel.

The novel, however, is not really about the perceptions and destinies of significant individuals. Although Ingravallo does serve as an organizing intelligence within the world of the novel, he is nevertheless merely part of the action. Indeed, there is little practical difference between the major and minor characters, whether in terms of the descriptive space allocated to them or their worth as human beings. None of them is a figure against a background so much as a piece of a mosaic.

All of them, though perhaps to a lesser degree in Ingravallo’s case, are presented satirically. Gadda’s Romans represent humanity at its most fallible and least attractive. They are motivated by greedy, hormonal drives; they speak and think in cliches; they are mutually suspicious and self-serving yet compulsively gregarious. Even the murder victim herself generates little sympathy. A pathetic, sexually attractive but childless woman approaching middle age, she takes in young women as maids to fill the place of the children she...

(The entire section is 534 words.)

That Awful Mess on Via Merulana Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Caesar, Michael, and Peter Hainsworth, eds. Writers and Society in Contemporary Italy, 1984.

McConnell, Joan. A Vocabulary Analysis of Gadda’s “Pasticciaccio,” 1973.

Pacifici, Sergio. The Modern Italian Novel from Pea to Moravia, 1979.

Ragusa, Olga. “Gadda, Pasolini, and Experimentalism,” in From Verismo to Experimentalism: Essays on the Modern Italian Novel, 1969. Edited by Sergio Pacifici.