Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 631
Mattia Pascal (maht-TEE-ah PAHS-kahl), a young Italian who undergoes the experience of living two different lives. Forced into an unhappy marriage with Romilda Pescatore, he flees on impulse and in Monte Carlo makes a sizable coup at the gaming tables. On his way home, he hears that the body of a dead man has been identified by his wife as his own. Thus he is free to become another man, and he decides that this man will be called Adriano Meis (ahd-REE-ah-noh mayees). A large portion of the novel concerns the failure of “Adriano” to achieve a sense of identity. As “Adriano,” Mattia is both a legal and psychological nonentity, but his anomalous position can be corrected only by assuming the hardly more real identity of the “late Mattia Pascal.” Returning to his village after staging a fake suicide, he learns that Romilda has married again. Not wishing to create new problems in this domestic situation, he settles down to a quiet, retiring life. Mattia’s chief quality as the teller of his own story is ironical detachment from both of his identities.
Batty Malagna (mah-LAHN-nyah), the cheating steward of Mattia’s widowed mother. He is chiefly responsible for thrusting Mattia into his unhappy marriage.
Signora Marianna Dondi-Pescatore
Signora Marianna Dondi-Pescatore (DOHN-dee-pehs-kah-TOH-ray), the old harridan who becomes Mattia’s mother-in-law. Having driven Mattia away on his adventures, she is dismayed and alarmed by his return after he has been presumed dead.
Romilda Pescatore, Mattia’s wife and after his supposed death the wife of his best friend, Gerolamo Pomino. She is a beautiful woman of no moral integrity, and in spite of the law and her marriage vows, she has no desire to take up with Mattia after his reappearance.
Don Eligio Pellegrinotto
Don Eligio Pellegrinotto (eh-lee-JEE-oh pehl-leh-gree-NOHT-toh), an aged priest and librarian who encourages Mattia to write the account of his startling adventures.
Roberto Pascal, Mattia’s brother. He marries well and has no desire to help either his widowed mother or Mattia. After Mattia’s reappearance, he underlines the legal problems facing a man who has been legally declared dead.
The Cavaliere Tito Lenzi
The Cavaliere Tito Lenzi (TEE-toh LEHN-zee), a chance acquaintance of “Adriano.” The fantasies of the older man and his useless learning warn Mattia of the emptiness of a rootless life.
Adriana Paleari (pah-leh-AH-ree), a virtuous and devout Roman woman. She is attracted to Mattia but cannot understand the ambiguousness of his position. Not knowing that it is impossible for Mattia to go to the police because of his false identity, she is dumbfounded when he refuses to prosecute her brother-in-law for theft.
Anselmo Paleari, Adriana’s father and Mattia Pascal’s landlord. A confirmed spiritualist, he is behind the séances that lead to Mattia’s final catastrophe in his life as “Adriano Meis.”
Terenzio Papiano (teh-rehn-ZEE-oh pah-pee-AH-noh), Adriana’s scoundrelly brother-in-law. He robs Mattia to get the money he needs to repay the dowry of his dead wife.
Silvia Caporale (kah-poh-RAH-lay), a middle-aged Roman music teacher. She is the confidant of Adriana and tries, by persuasion and séance, to bring Mattia to the point of proposing marriage.
The Marquis Giglio d’Auletta
The Marquis Giglio d’Auletta (jee-LYEE-oh dah-ew-LEHT-tah), Terenzio Papiano’s employer. He hopes to refound the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Pepita Pantagoda (peh-PEE-tah pahn-tah-GOH-dah), the granddaughter of the Marquis Giglio d’Auletta. Her vanity almost involves Mattia in a duel.
Manuel Bernaldez (mahn-WEHL behr-NAHL-dehs), a Spanish painter. He paints a portrait of Pepita’s dog and threatens to fight a duel with Mattia.
Francesco Meis, a supposed relative of Adriano Meis. Meeting him frightens Mattia Pascal.