Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Many of Moravia’s works, particularly his novels, exhibit a documentary style of writing. His short stories and novellas, however, generally are regarded by critics as more successfully dramatizing his recurrent sexual themes. Although reported primarily by a limited omniscient narrator, “The Fall” escapes the boundaries of reportorial writing because of the surrealistic, hallucinatory perspective of the overwrought adolescent protagonist. With the exception of its final few sentences, in which the narrator switches to the mother’s point of view, all the story’s events are seen from Tancredi’s perspective. The closed, airless, dark setting of “The Fall” provides a perfect incubator for Tancredi’s fantasies.

In “The Fall,” only Tancredi is a fully developed character. Although his mother is broadly sketched, she is seldom mentioned. His father, if he is even at the villa, is never mentioned. This is consistent with Moravia’s life and most of his fiction—in both of which the mother is the dominant parent. There is little description of Veronica, and no indication of who the mysterious man visiting her might be; he might be Tancredi’s father, a neighbor, or someone employed to work at the villa.

The ending cleverly points out that Tancredi is changing in ways that escape his mother’s notice. While playing cards with her friends—her main amusement while her son spends his days alone—she states, “I’ve strictly forbidden him ever to go near the electricity again. Boys are so reckless.” In the final line, “And the game began,” the narrator ironically emphasizes what the reader already knows: The woman’s reckless little boy undoubtedly will be playing with “electricity” again.