Characters Discussed

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Barnabo

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Barnabo (bahr-NAH-boh), a young forester and the only one of his guard not called by a last name. Although proud and somewhat quick-tempered, Barnabo is also sensitive and considerate, as demonstrated by his pretense of allowing another forester (Pietro Molo) to win a fight rather than be humiliated. Later, he stops to help a wounded crow, not having the heart to kill it, unlike his comrades, who kill and pluck crows to be cooked for dinner. Barnabo is disgraced and his career ruined when cowardice overcomes him and he is unable to help his fellow foresters in a battle with the brigands. His only solace in exile is his special relationship with the crow that he rescued shortly before the battle. When Barnabo does have a chance to redeem himself many years later, he finds himself once again unable to kill, though for a different reason: It is not cowardice but compassion that makes Barnabo allow the brigands to escape.

Giovanni Berton

Giovanni Berton, another young forester and Barnabo’s friend. the son of a carpenter, Berton is fascinated by the mountains and can spend hours merely watching them. It is he who sees the smoke of the brigands in the mountains and convinces Barnabo to join him in an expedition in search of the bandits. Berton covers up for Barnabo when Barnabo is accused of cowardice, saying that Barnabo was not near the scene of the battle. Many years later, he urges Barnabo to return to San Nicola from exile and resume his life there, though not as a forester.

Antonio Del Colle

Antonio Del Colle (kohl-lay), the commander of the foresters when the novella begins. He is a short, elderly man who is still sprightly enough to carry heavy loads and hike through the mountains, and his eyes are still keen enough that, when he shoots his rifle, he does not miss a target at a hundred meters. He is murdered by the brigands, and his body is buried on the same mountain where another forester, Darrìo, died. It is Del Colle’s death that sparks the foresters’ obsession with capturing the brigands. Del Colle is succeeded as commander by Giovanni Marden.

Angelo Montani

Angelo Montani, another forester. A suspicious and dour man, Montani neither likes nor trusts Barnabo. Montani is very efficient and regimented, and he does not talk much. Sometime after Barnabo leaves in disgrace, Montani has a run-in with a bandit who, astonishingly, knows Montani’s name. Obsessed with this mysterious stranger, Montani returns several times to the mountains to try to either capture or kill the bandits, but he never succeeds.

The Characters

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Buzzati’s characters are invariably closer to being types or symbols than real people with individual characteristics or psychological depth. Unlike the other forest-guards, Barnabo is not given a last name in the novel; in the roll call of the forest-guards, he is the last: “they call him only by his name and he will later become Barnabo of the mountains.” This lack of a family name emphasizes his isolation, the gap existing between Barnabo and the other forest-guards, the villagers of San Nicola, and later, the nebulous figures of his cousin and the other farm workers. His overwhelming characteristic is his close affinity with nature, with the mountains, which can be interpreted as the symbol of spiritual ascent toward an ideal. The initial punishment for dishonor is expulsion and exile. Once this exile has run its course, Barnabo can overcome and expiate his fault only by returning to the mountains.

The other forest-guards are equally undefined, lacking psychological delineation. They are figures that surround the central character. Berton, his closest friend, plays the role of Oliver to Barnabo’s Roland: a companion and foil in the qualities he exhibits. Molo, a very minor character, serves to highlight Barnabo’s heroic sensitivity and generosity when the latter fails to win a fight so as not to humiliate Molo. Montani is the forest-guard who encounters a brigand in the dark, in the deserted Mardens’ House—an encounter narrated to Barnabo by Berton. Although the forest-guards have individual names, ultimately most of them are not much more clearly defined than the anonymous brigands who oppose them. Much more distinctive is the setting: the mountains in their beauty, in their variety of moods, whether friendly or menacing, and in their timelessness.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 69

Gianfranceschi, Fausto. Dino Buzzati, 1967.

Lagana Gion, Antonella. Dino Buzzati: Un autore da rileggere, 1983.

The New York Times Book Review. Review. LXXXIX (October 28, 1984),p. 32.

Panafieu, Yves. “Aspetti storici, morali e politici del discorso sull’impotenza,” in Dino Buzzati, 1982. Edited by Alvise Fontanella.

Publishers Weekly. Review. CCXXVI (August, 1984), pp. 75-76.

Spera, Francesco."Modelli narrativi del primo Buzzati,” in Dino Buzzati, 1982. Edited by Alvise Fontanella.

Veronese-Arslan, Antonia. Invito alla lettura di Buzzati, 1974.

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