Examine the time, place, weather, mood and atmosphere as well as social condition in "The Colomber" by Dino Buzzati.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In terms of time, Buzzati's story takes place over an entire lifetime.  People are born, they die, they get older all within the time frame of the story.  Stefano's entire lifespan encompasses the time- based condition of the story:

Meanwhile, his father died through illness, his magnificent ship was sold by his widow, and his son found himself the heir to a modest fortune.  Work, friends, diversions, first love affairs- Stefano's life was not well underway, but the thought of the colomber nonetheless tormented him like a mirage that was fatal and fascinating at the same time.

Time is measured in the perceived understanding of the colomber, a force that Stefano believed he grasped completely.  The time frame of the story is one that defines Stefano's perceived sense of identity as one that appropriates the world in accordance to his own subjectivity.  There is a small window that Buzzati devotes to explore how Stefano recognizes his own futility, but it is futile for he dies with knowledge coming too late.

Geographical space is constructed in binary dualism.  Inland is defined as conformist notions of accepted social understanding.  The father develops this in the warning he gives his son upon spotting the colomber:

Listen to me:  we are going back to land now, immediately; you will go ashore and never leave it again, not for any reason whatsoever.  You must promise me you won't.  Seafaring is not for you, my son.  You must resign yourself. After all, you will be able to make your fortune on land, too.

The sea is defined as an area of total freedom and individual identity.  However, upon the spotting of the colomber, inland is seen as the place of security.  It is in this dynamic where physical space and place is clearly defined.  The father constructs a reality in which inland is safe and being adrift on the sea is where danger lurks.  This binary dualism of place helps to establish the failure to understand a transcendental notion of truth that emerges at the story's end.

Weather, mood, and atmosphere converge to create a diversion within the reader.  The initial spotting of the colomber takes place on a beautifully calm day, that is described as "splendid" and "sunny."  In the midst of this beauty, there is danger that is spotted. This is the same type of weather that embraces Stefano when his body is found.  The mood turns instantly dark in between these constructions.  Buzzati creates a foreboding and ominous mood because the perception of the colomber is a reductive one.  Stefano truly believes that he understands the nature of the colomber, a predatory condition that seeks to attack and isolate him.  However, upon hearing why the colomber sought him, it becomes clear that the foreboding and ominous mood was wrong, a condition that blocked out the radiance and illuminant nature of the sun's truth.  It is for this reason that Buzzati has the sun shining upon Stefano at the end.

Finally, the social condition of the short story is one that is temporary, seeking to prevent any real validation of truth.  Stefano is wealthy and powerful as he grows up.  He does his father proud in terms of making his fortune inland.  His social condition is reflective of wealth and power.  However, this social condition is secondary to the notion of the truth that is denied throughout his attempt to challenge or confront the colomber.  When the colomber offers the Perla del Mare, Buzzati shows how fleeting social condition actually is:  "... [The Perla del Mare] brought luck, power, love, and peace of mind to whoever possessed it. But now it was too late."  Social condition is shown to be a secondary reality to the truth of Stefano being a "poor man" at the end of the narrative.

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