Last Updated November 3, 2023.
Christ Stopped at Eboli is Levi’s memoir, so he is naturally the book’s protagonist. In the narrative, Levi is exiled to the town of Gagliano in southern Italy by Mussolini’s government for political dissidence. Levi, who is a painter but has also studied medicine, is asked immediately upon his arrival in Gagliano to help a dying malaria victim. As Levi meets the authority figures of the town, he comes to realize that the town’s two doctors are unqualified. Although he assures the two doctors that he does not wish to steal their clients, and although he would prefer to spend his time painting, Levi agrees to provide medical help to the townspeople. He is faced with threats of imprisonment, but Levi continues to help the townspeople in secret. When he is released from exile at the end of the book, Levi promises to return to the people of Gagliano someday.
Don Luigi is the mayor of Gagliano. He greatly enjoys his role as warden of the exiled and takes pride in the fact that he has been described by “His Excellency the Prefect” as “the youngest and most Fascist mayor in the province of Matera.” Don Luigi tries to impress Levi, whom he sees as a gentleman, when they first meet. Though he originally enforces Levi’s ban from practicing medicine, Don Luigi agrees to turn a blind eye to Levi’s medical practices after Levi helps his daughter.
Dr. Milillo is one of two doctors in Gagliano and the uncle of Don Luigi, the mayor. He is an elderly man, well past his prime as a doctor: Levi’s first impression of him is that he “no longer ha[s] the slightest knowledge of medicine, if he ever had any.” Dr. Milillo feels threatened by Levi’s presence in the town, fearing that Levi—who is younger than Dr. Milillo and who has already been asked to see a patient—will try to take over Dr. Milillo’s position.
Dr. Gibilisco is the second of Gagliano’s doctors. He is younger than Dr. Milillo but equally unqualified for his job: though Gibilisco is younger than Milillo, Levi realizes that Gibilisco’s ignorance is “even deeper than that of old Milillo.” Gibilisco prides himself on the fact that the townspeople are dependent on him for healthcare and is “furious” at them because, according to him, they attempt to avoid paying for healthcare and have rejected his “feudal right” over their “life and death.”
Giulia works as a housekeeper for the Magalone family and, later, for Levi. She is a hardworking woman and a “witch” who is highly superstitious, believes in magic and spells, and greatly reveres the spiritual realm. Levi is able to learn about the traditions, beliefs, and superstitions of the people of Gagliano through Giulia. When Levi is banned from practicing medicine, Giulia encourages him to continue anyway: since he has learned magic through her, he could “be a sorcerer” instead.