Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Gonzalo is closely based upon his creator. (Gadda was an engineer in Argentina from 1922 to 1924.) While the self-pitying protagonist is a target of satire to some degree, Gadda clearly shares some of his character’s views. Acquainted with Grief reflects Gadda’s disillusionment with greed, vulgarity, hypocrisy, violence, and Fascism. He attempts nothing less than a subtle examination of the philosophical, psychological, and historical factors which transformed twentieth century Italy.

The novel’s title is an ironic allusion to a biblical passage (Isaiah 53:3)often interpreted as a prophetic description of Christ: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief....” Through the experience of Gonzalo, a far from heroic “man of sorrows,” Gadda depicts the process of learning about emotional pain. Gadda sees this process as the essence of life, as simultaneously pitiful and hilarious. He is concerned with the difficulty of knowing the truth about human behavior or of truly understanding any partial truth when confronted by it. Gonzalo considers himself all-knowing, but he is capable of very limited perception. One of his numerous deficiencies is the inability to communicate with others, his mother in particular. Gadda presents this barrier as an archetypal modern problem. Gonzalo tries to ignore the flaws in his character but cannot; as a result, he experiences unresolved guilt.

Much of...

(The entire section is 599 words.)