The Path to the Nest of Spiders Characters

Italo Calvino

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Pin, a teenage boy. Living alone with an older sister, he is streetwise, rebellious, and apparently self-assured. The thin and fragile appearance of his body are in sharp contrast with his deep, gravelly voice, with which he delights in hurling insults to everyone. Both his appearance and his attitude embody the image of the street urchin. Beneath his independent façade, however, he is a child very much in need of guidance and affection. All of his actions in the novel are prompted by his self-acknowledged desire not to be ignored any longer by the adult world he so longs to be a part of and to understand. His daring theft of a German soldier’s gun, an escape from prison, and his adventures with a group of partisan rebels are the escapades in which Pin involves himself, in what is his search for friendship and acceptance. Only with a true friend will he share his greatest secret, the place where spiders make their nests.


Cousin, a partisan. Disenchanted and hardened by the war, he speaks with indifference about killing the enemy: For him, it has become almost routine, a duty that he must carry out. Patriotic fervor and enthusiasm seem, in this man, to have been replaced by weariness and disillusionment. His true enemies, however, are women, toward whom he feels bitter and antagonistic. Not only does he blame them for his own unhappiness, he also accuses them of being the cause of all evil, including war....

(The entire section is 534 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The central character of The Path to the Nest of Spiders is Pin. All the other characters and events of the novel are filtered through his perceptions. These perceptions are skewed, however, because of Pin’s situation and personality. Living without a father or mother, and with a sister whose morals are distinctly casual, has hardened and coarsened Pin. Beyond this, Pin seems to be suffering from severe anxieties relating to sexuality; partly, no doubt, these stem from his own developing sexual nature, but the severity and depth of his condition often seem much more than can be attributed to adolescent uncertainty.

Pin is well acquainted with the mechanical aspects of human sexuality; during the escape with Red Wolf he irks the young Communist by drawing obscene pictures on the side of a wall, instead of the proletarian propaganda Red Wolf expects. Elsewhere in the novel, Pin is able to score cruel and ac-curate hits on others with his jokes and songs aimed at their sexual foibles or frailties. He clearly has a thorough, if gutter-level, education in the topic of sex.

Yet the relationships between men and women baffle him. He cannot understand why the two desire each other, and this ignorance leads to fear and a vibrant hatred of females. The main appeal of the young partisan known as Cousin is that he, too, scorns women. Cousin wastes no occasion to disparage women, and at one point concisely states his philosophy to Pin: “Of...

(The entire section is 596 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Andrews, Richard. “Italo Calvino,” in Writers and Society in Contemporary Italy: A Collection of Essays, 1984. Edited by Michael Caesar and Peter Hainsworth.

Calvino, Italo. The Uses of Literature, 1986.

Carter, Albert Howard. Italo Calvino: Metamorphoses of Fantasy, 1987.

Olken, I.T. With Pleated Eye and Garnet Wing: Symmetries of Italo Calvino, 1984.