Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Professor Paolo Laurana

Professor Paolo Laurana (pah-OH-loh lahew-RAH-nah), a middle-aged teacher of Italian literature and history. He is a resident of a small Sicilian village, unnamed in the story. When two prominent citizens of the town are murdered mysteriously, Laurana takes up the investigation on his own. A scholar and a longtime bachelor, he is attracted to Signora Roscio, the widow of one of the murdered men. He pursues clues that lead him to Palermo, where he learns that Dr. Roscio was about to reveal a scandal about a prominent citizen of the region. Laurana, a bit timid but curious, pursues the clues until he falls victim to the murderer of the two men.

Dean Rosello

Dean Rosello, the dean of the church of Sant’Anna in the town, a scrupulous churchman who is the uncle of the murdered Dr. Roscio’s widow, Luisa. Luisa was reared in Dean Rosello’s house, as was his nephew Rosello, who is now a lawyer. It is in the dean’s sacristy that Laurana sees the edition of the newspaper L’osservatore Romano containing the word Unicuique and confirms his suspicions that the death threat sent to the pharmacist, the murdered Manno, was cut from this paper. Rosello, a down-to-earth clergyman beloved by his parish, dislikes his nephew the lawyer, whom he considers unscrupulous.


Rosello, a lawyer, the...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Laurana is not the stereotypical detective. Although he shares with his fictional counterparts a talent for organization and persistence, he has taken to sleuthing primarily out of a sense of academic arrogance and a need for diversion. He has lived in his village his entire life, in a house with his mother—an imposing woman who still rules over her offspring—whom he refuses to leave even to move closer to the school where he teaches. Despite being a local, it is clear that he does not know much about the community in which he lives, specifically about the village’s power structure or about the personal relations of its inhabitants, common knowledge in a community of that sort.

Although Laurana’s prime suspect is someone whom he encounters routinely in his daily life, the detective has to be told about Rosello’s activities by a priest. His criminal investigation is a model of the scholarly detachment befitting his occupation, but it lacks comprehension of human nature. It becomes a manifestation of hubris that, as in Greek tragedy, leads to fatal consequences. Laurana is in over his head and completely unable to appreciate the villainy of such a man as Rosello or the languorous amoral complicity of Rosello’s mistress, Luisa. This village, after all, is a society in which the women are not actors but do the bidding of men. Laurana’s search for truth comes too late to save him or affect the society of which he is a victim.


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(Great Characters in Literature)

Cattanei, Luigi. Leonardo Sciascia, 1979.

Jackson, Giovanna. Leonardo Sciascia, 1956-1976: A Thematic and Structural Study, 1981.

Mauro, Walter. Sciascia, 1970.

Mitgang, H. Review in The New York Times Book Review. LXX (May 12, 1968), p. 40.

Motta, Antonio. Leonardo Sciascia: La verita, L’aspra verita, 1985.