Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 478

Arturo Gerace

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Arturo Gerace (ahr-TEWR-oh geh-RAH-chay), the narrator of the tale, who tells the story of his life up to the age of seventeen. He was born and reared on the island of Procida, in the Bay of Naples. His father, Wilhelm Gerace, was illegitimate, the product of an affair between an immigrant Italian and a German schoolteacher. Arturo seeks affection from this moody and distant man, who is often away. Arturo’s mother died shortly after his birth. When his father returns one day with a new wife, Nunziata, Arturo is dismayed. The new wife is young, barely older than Arturo. At first, the boy dislikes her, but he gradually falls in love with her. In the end, Arturo is disillusioned by his father, who turns out to be far from the romantic, heroic person Arturo has imagined him to be.

Wilhelm Gerace

Wilhelm Gerace, Arturo’s father, who grew up hating women and disliking the fishing folk of Procida. He inherited a house from a blind eccentric who befriended him and took his first wife there. She gave birth to Arturo at the age of eighteen and died shortly thereafter. Wilhelm seldom is home, leaving Arturo in the hands of various persons. His second wife, the youthful Nunziata, represents an attempt to recapture the image of his first wife, also a young woman. Nunziata is afraid of him. Wilhelm is attracted to a convict, Stella, who is in the penitentiary on the island, and he brings her home, thereby losing forever the loyalty of his son.


Nunziata (newn-ZEEAH-tah), Wilhelm’s second wife, a poor girl from the slums of Naples. She arouses resentment, then affection, in Arturo. She becomes pregnant with Wilhelm’s child, but for most of her pregnancy, her husband is gone. Rather prim for her age, she looks on Arturo as a strange, emotional boy and repulses his signs of affection. When Arturo injures himself while staging a suicide attempt, she nurses him back to health, earning his devotion.


Assuntina (ah-sewn-TEE-nah), a widow of Procida who becomes Arturo’s mistress. She is a willing partner to his advances and sees in him a poor romantic boy who gives her true love. She is, in a way, a surrogate for Arturo’s real love, Nunziata. It is through making love to Assuntina that Arturo comes to understand that his true love is for his father’s second bride.


Silvestro, a youth not much older than Arturo who is engaged by Wilhelm to watch over the boy while Wilhelm is away on his many trips. He swims and plays with Arturo, and he tries to shepherd him responsibly, not always succeeding. Silvestro is conscripted into the army, however, leaving Arturo on his own. He introduces Arturo to the many beauties and recreations of Procida, helping him appreciate the uniqueness of the island.

The Characters

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 711

The novel focuses on Arturo, for it is the inner being of the male adolescent that interests Elsa Morante. Arturo is not a typical teenager. He is, in many ways, an adult: He is alone much of the time; he is fiercely independent, without friends and without guidance; and he does not go to school. Nature and his own imagination are his teachers. Arturo looks at the other Procidians with disdain, because in his estimation they are inferior beings whose sole characteristic is “their everlasting dependence on the practical necessities of life.” In his own “Code of Absolute Truth,” the fourth law is that “No one living on the island of Procida is worthy of Wilhelm Gerace and of his son Arturo Gerace. For a Gerace to become friendly with a Procidian would be degrading.” Women are even more unworthy of his attention; his father has already introduced him to misogyny. Thus, as he grows up, his solitude becomes more pronounced.

(The entire section contains 1263 words.)

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