Critical Evaluation

(Essentials of European Literature)

Outside of Italy, Luigi Pirandello has been much better known for his dramas than for his novels, although his fiction has always been highly regarded in his native land. In this particular case, part of the plot of the novel was also used in a play, as the first part of the novel formed the basis for Pirandello’s Sicilian comedy, LIOLA (1917). When the novel appeared, some critics objected to it, saying that the action was impossible in terms of real life. In 1921, Pirandello wrote a preface to the book in which he pointed out that a similar happening had actually occurred in Buffalo, New York, in that same year. He went on to state that in his opinion this type of criticism should not be used in evaluating a work of the creative imagination; he said that the novel, like any other medium of art, dealt not with individuals but with mankind and all the incidents and individuals which make up the total composite of man. He felt that the illusion of the present might very possibly be the reality of the future.

Themes and images present in other works by Pirandello are fully integrated in this tale of Mattia Pascal who attempts to become someone else by creating his own life, only to be confronted with the realization that the form one’s life takes is created for one by time, circumstance, and chance. A related theme in this novel depicts the dilemma of contemporary man and is presented through two images: the “hole in the sky” and the “lantern.”

Anselmo, a character Mattia meets in his “new life” as Adriano Meis, tells Mattia of a puppet show depicting the tragedy of Orestes. Anselmo muses on the possibility...

(The entire section is 676 words.)