The Charterhouse of Parma

by Marie-Henri Beyle

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Fabrizio del Dongo is a young man who grows up on Lake Como in Italy and whose father is domineering and begrudging. Fabrizio has aspirations to join the French army, despite his family’s protests and his poor French. In a series of fluke events (including the use of false identity papers), he ends up routing a unit of Prussian soldiers after killing one in the historic Battle of Waterloo.

He is largely supported by his aunt, Gina, who comes to his aid on several occasions, including by rescuing him when he is charged with using a false passport and later, when he is imprisoned in Parma in the Farnese Tower. Fabrizio has several lovers throughout the course of the novel, including an actress, as well as the daughter of his former jailer, Clelia, who later bears his child. The novel is a Bildungsroman, as it depicts Fabrizio’s development and life’s journey: first as he becomes a soldier, then a bishop, and eventually a retiree in the Chartreuse of Parma. He is something of a tragic figure, as he appears unfulfilled, if ostensibly successful (as a soldier with beginner’s luck and later as a bishop whose sermons are popular). He survives his lover, Clelia, as well as their child. The novel is also a commentary on the court of Parma, which is viewed primarily through his aunt Gina’s time spent there.

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