Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


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.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Unlike nineteenth century novelists who used the story to display character change and development, Cesare Pavese’s concept of character is that of “static essentials.” Character does not change but is revealed for what it is. Trapped by events and by his despair and indecision, Corrado is estranged from himself and from those around him. The war does not change him, nor is it the source of his problem, he realizes; it has only removed his already-fading scruples about living alone. It frees him to live for the moment without regrets for lost opportunities and without dwelling on future defeats: “The kind of dull bitterness which had hedged in my youth found a refuge and a horizon in the war.”

Corrado’s reacquaintance with Cate provides much of the drama of the novel. He loves her but is afraid to recognize his feelings and fears she will attempt to resume their love affair. Elvira loves him and takes risks for him that he could never take himself. He loves Dino but cannot assume a father’s role. He cannot commit himself to involvement in the war that has consumed so many of his friends; it seems to be only a cruel and implacable force from which he tries to find a safe haven. He understands better than any of his partisan friends what is at stake, but he cannot act on his understanding, partly because of his intellectual need to resolve all contradictions before he acts. He cannot even blame the Germans for what they are doing; evil was loose in Italy before the Germans arrived.

Corrado only wants peace, a place of refuge, sanctuary. He fears the open horizon, wishing that the college at Chieri was walled in like a tomb. He fears even Dino,...

(The entire section is 688 words.)