Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Milan. City in northern Italy’s Lombardy region. Stendhal evokes the atmosphere of this region to explain Napoleon’s romantic impact on the novel’s main character, Fabrizio del Dongo. Napoleon entered the city on May 15, 1796, the head of a young army destined to change the face of Europe. It is this Napoleon that awakens Fabrizio’s ambitions to fight in what becomes Napoleon’s last famous battle at Waterloo two decades later. Milan also represents, in Stendhal’s ironic prose, a foil to the jaded sophistication of his French readers. In introducing his cast of passionate characters, Stendhal comments that in Milan, a “region quite remote from our own, a man may still be driven to despair by love.”


*Como. City in northwestern Italy not far from Milan. With its charming lake of the same name, it is one of the most beautiful sites in the country and in the novel is the home of the del Dongo family. Stendhal presents Como as the secluded, stifling setting in which the naïve Fabrizio grows up with visions of sharing in Napoleon’s glory.


*Waterloo. Belgian village south of Brussels, where Napoleon fought his last, losing battle in 1815. Stendhal effectively evokes the country atmosphere and the confusion of battle, including Fabrizio’s ludicrous attempts to join Napoleon’s forces. Traveling under false papers he is arrested as a spy. His incarceration is the first of several imprisonments that ultimately lead to his self-incarceration in the Charterhouse of Parma.


(The entire section is 658 words.)