Narrator, an unnamed man who grows up in a small village in the Piedmont of Italy, goes to the United States, and, as the novel opens, returns to his Italian village as a wealthy man. The narrator, a forty-year-old bachelor, reviews his life on three levels: his youth as an illegitimate child and as a poor farm laborer, his early manhood as a successful but rootless man in the United States, and his return to Italy and the scenes of his childhood. His return forces him to confront the personal loss that he feels because he cannot fit back into the village life that he knew in his youth.
Nuto (NEW-toh), a carpenter. To the narrator, Nuto represents the wisdom rooted in the life of the villages and hills of the Piedmont. He is three years older than the narrator, with piercing eyes, emotional intensity, and consuming concern with social justice; he is unable to bear injustice and cruelty. He represents what the narrator would have been if he had stayed in his village. On one hand, Nuto refused to leave the Piedmont and expand his horizons by facing the challenges of the outside world; on the other, he retained his sense of place and ancestral heritage, which the narrator has lost.
Cinto (CHEEN-toh), Valino’s son, a peasant boy. Tense, wary, and crippled by hard work and a poor diet, Cinto, who lives on the farm where the narrator grew up, reminds the narrator of himself as a boy. The narrator feels close to...
(The entire section is 640 words.)