Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Cesira (cheh-ZEE-rah), the narrator. Readers learn about her not only from her direct descriptions of herself but also from all she has to say about others. Her ability to articulate her feelings and her impressions of landscape and characters are remarkable; critics have objected that the author blurs the line between what a woman of little formal education would be capable of and his own intensely literary and intellectual powers. The times when the author takes Cesira out of character with an inappropriate figure of comparison or piece of knowledge are few; and readers come to accept Cesira’s inner monologue as authentic and her vocabulary as one of an inner life that can make itself known through means other than words. At her most primitive and undifferentiated Cesira is a peasant from a region noted for its sturdy, feisty stock, steeped in tradition. At a more sophisticated level, she is a Roman shopkeeper, meticulous about property and money. Much that a reader is likely to find unpleasant about her—as small-minded, mean, or snobbish—results from these layers of her personality. Cesira is much more than this, and the depths of her understanding and her ability to reconcile herself with devastating hardship give her impressive stature as a kind of Everywoman. Certain values endure in her, including her standards of decency and her sense of justice.



(The entire section is 562 words.)