Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 298
The narrator, a twenty-year-old Jewish man, has left his native Ferrara to study literature at the University of Bologna. Distracted from his studies by political unrest, he is forced to acknowledge that Fascism is increasingly affecting Italian Jews, especially his family. The narrator tries to anticipate the future repercussions of the rampant antisemitism. His sympathy for Dr. Fadigati helps him understand that the discrimination leveled by the Fascists extends beyond religion to all those considered opponents of the regime.
Dr. Athos Fadigati
Athos Fadigati, a surgeon in Ferrara who is originally from Venice, is a gay man living under Italy’s Fascist regime who becomes a victim of anti-gay discrimination, accused of being a sexual predator of underage boys.
Eraldo Deliliers, one of the narrator’s young friends, becomes Fadigati’s lover. However, Eraldo manipulates the doctor, stealing Fadigati’s money to finance his escape from Italy to live in Paris.
Signora and Signor Lavezzoli
Signora Lavezzoli, the wife of an attorney, supports Benito Mussolini, because she believes that Fascism will be a stabilizing influence that can staunch the chaotic state of Italian society. Signora Lavezzoli is not only antisemitic but also anti-gay, as evidenced by her treatment of the doctor. Signor Lavezzoli, in contrast, understands the danger that the regime presents; however, he wishes things were different and attempts to turn a blind eye to the government’s discriminatory practices.
The Narrator’s Father
The narrator’s father is a businessman who tries to keep his head in the sand rather than acknowledge the increasingly widespread violence that the government is inflicting. As he attempts to protect his business interests, he detaches himself from his own Jewish identity and tries to ignore the implications of official antisemitism. The narrator feels pity rather than contempt for his weak father.