Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Arturo Gerace

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...

(The entire section is 478 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

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.

Despite his solitude, Arturo lives very happily in a magical world of his own creation, a world of pirates, knights, and conquerors. He is proud to have the name Arturo because it is the name of the great king who was lord of the knights of the Round Table. His second law states that “A man’s true greatness consists of courage in action, scorn of danger, and valor in combat.” For Arturo, his father is the embodiment of the true heroic figure, and when Wilhelm leaves the island for any period of time, Arturo imagines that his father is going forth on a glorious and heroic adventure. He imagines that sometimes his father is the scourge of pirates and bandits and that at other times he is a pirate or a bandit himself.

It seems that Arturo has everything, yet he lacks one essential...

(The entire section is 711 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Caesar, Michael. “Elsa Morante,” in Writers and Society in Contemporary Italy: A Collection of Essays, 1984. Edited by Michael Caesar and Peter Hainsworth.

Evans, Annette. “The Fiction of Family: Ideology and Narrative in Elsa Morante,” in Theory and Practice of Feminist Literary Criticism, 1982. Edited by Gabriela Mora and Karen S. Van Hooft.

McCormick, E.A. “Utopia and Point of View,” in Symposium. XV (1961), pp. 114-130.

Mitchell, Julian. “Absolute Beginner,” in Italian Quarterly. III (1960), pp. 70-74.