Themes and Meanings

The narrative structure of Equal Danger is that of one variation of the classic detective novel, in which the criminal is known but his whereabouts are not. The method implicit in such a literary form allows for a density of meaning. On the simplest level, there is the implied parody of the form itself. Leonardo Sciascia uses the detective novel—with its trail of clues and dead ends and its laconic, unadorned style—to parody the detective novel.

On a deeper level, the story is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of a society whose system of justice has broken down. Sciascia has called his novel a “fable.” The fable here is the symbolic interplay of the characters within a toxic social system. The flat literary tone reinforces the theme of helplessness within the system—a system without honor, faith, or justice. Rogas’ murder and the consequent shift of the point of view to Cusan suggest a further complexity: The pursuit of truth will continue, despite failure and death, but such a pursuit must be conducted amid indifference, helplessness, and a sense of doom, as if the entire enterprise were meaningless.

The “equal danger” of the title points to a paradox. Society must be saved from the barbarians, but the saviors are equally barbaric, the injustice of the social system crying out that it is, in fact, not worth saving. The world represented by the fictionalized Spanish milieu thus hovers on the brink, awaiting the revolution that must come.