Alberto Moravia

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Gigi, the leading character of Moravia's short story "Il Sorpasso," is divided between the love for his girlfriend, Ines and his car. Is this division the symptom of broader social and psychological changes and development in Italy at the time?

In "Il Sorpasso," Gigi’s fondness for his car could be a symptom of the economic boom happening at the time. Gigi’s love for his car might also be seen as a continuation of Italy’s general history with indulgences, automobiles, and fascism.

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It’s reasonable to claim that Alberto Moravia’s Italian short story, which translates to “Overtaking” in English, is symptomatic of Italy’s psychological and sociological changes in 1959—the year that Moravia published the short story in his short story collection More Roman Tales.

During 1959 and the surrounding years, Italy's economy was booming. Due to American money and the Korean War, Italy was able to rebuild its society after it was devastated by World War Two.

To justify America's initial involvement in World War Two, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president of America at the time, gave a famous address to Congress about freedom, in 1941. The soaring American rhetoric appears to have transcended decades and countries and infected the psyche of Gigi.

For Gigi, his car is coupled to freedom and the promise of a prosperous, liberal post-World War Two world. Gigi brags about how his car is always waiting for him, ready to take him to wherever he wants to go.

Then again, it might be misleading to restrict Gigi’s psyche to a specific post-World War Two condition. Cars were a key part of Italian culture before World War Two. Many major Italian car manufacturers predate World War Two, including Fiat and Maserati.

More so, while Gigi’s psychological desire to dominate and “overtake” other cars could be connected to Italian Fascist ruler Benito Mussolini and his emphasis on dominance and control, Italy, as with other European countries, has a long history of fostering a domineering culture.

Remember, Italy is entwined with Vatican City, the independent city-state that serves as the headquarters for the Catholic Church. Just as Gigi tries to overtake cars on the road to flex his might, many popes, throughout history, have overtaken kings and queens to showcase their strength.

Finally, Gigi’s fondness for his material possession reflects certain stages in the church when higher-ups became more concerned with earthly goods than spiritual attainment. The selling of indulgences during the Middle Ages, for instance, is not unrelated to the materialism evinced by Gigi near the latter half of the twentieth century.

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