Corrado (kohr-RAH-doh), the narrator, a science teacher in a private school. He is a forty-year-old, self-absorbed bachelor. He is addicted to solitude and agrees with a friend who says that he is bad-tempered, proud, and afraid. He is afraid above all of commitment, either to the people who love him or to the political causes for which his friends and acquaintances are dying, such as Fascism, anti-Fascism, and Communism. The action of the novel is generated as Corrado moves between the city of Turin and the surrounding Piedmont hills, trying to escape the opposing armies and the civil war that begins after Benito Mussolini’s fall. Corrado finally escapes to his peasant parents’ home, where he ends his narration. Although he finds some feeling of peace in his understanding that he can honor the dead for their sacrifice for their beliefs, Corrado still lives in fear and shame, isolated and alienated.
Cate (KAH-tay), a nurse and anti-Fascist activist. About eight years before the period covered by the novel, Corrado had a love affair with Cate, then an awkward, thin working girl. Her dreams of the future encompassed little more than learning to type and getting a job in a big store. Corrado broke with her in a rather brutal fashion. Eight years later, she is an attractive, courageous, self-possessed woman. She is able to risk her life in...
(The entire section is 581 words.)