Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As in many of his other stories, Alberto Moravia is concerned here with the twisted values of the Italian bourgeoisie. Giacomo, despite his pretensions to individualism, is a prisoner of his own class and a prisoner of his conception of the lower classes, to which he feels superior. The bloody sheet incident shows his determination to convince his wife that a ritual defloration has been accomplished, but it also shows that Giacomo is little different from a primitive peasant who hangs such evidence on the balcony the next morning to show off for the villagers.

Moravia tells the story, in his lean and sparse style, from the standpoint of Giacomo. In doing so, he more effectively reveals the devastation that Giacomo visits on his wife. Through his eyes, the reader sees Simona’s anxiety turn into guilt and her guilt into doubt of her own sanity and thoughts of suicide. The reader observes her attempting to escape, through petulance, by conversation with Livio, and with physical resistance. All are unsuccessful. Moravia uses Giacomo to show the vapidity of the Italian middle class, especially in its tendency to view people as property. Giacomo’s alienation with his wife is presented as a disease that probably will never be healed.

Part of the problem lies in humankind’s inability to establish a proper relationship with the natural world. In “Bitter Honeymoon,” this failure is symbolically rendered in Moravia’s descriptions of nature, his use of climate to establish mood, his depiction of natural surroundings to reflect the characters’ attitudes: “the odours of meadows and sea had given way to those of scorched stone and dried dung.” The relationship of the story’s characters to nature is most effectively dramatized in the account of the storm, which links fear and sexuality. The thunderstorm becomes a deus ex machina, but the release it produces is as transitory as the tempest itself; humanity is linked to nature but forever estranged.