Edmondo De Amicis was known primarily as a prose stylist; he was famous for his books of travel and for his ability to picture a landscape with words. Despite his great popularity at the end of the nineteenth century, his reputation has now all but disappeared. His later works were written under the influence of Emile Zola; his powers of observation were particularly suited to the naturalistic style. The plots of his novels were loosely constructed, and THE ROMANCE OF A SCHOOLMASTER is no exception; its plot is little more than a slender thread connecting a number of scenes in the schoolmaster’s life. The book is written in a somber style, unlike the buoyant mood of his early works. De Amicis did not investigate the historic causes of the conditions he exposed; he simply showed what they were, attempting to paint the situation so as to call public attention to the evils that he felt must be changed.
The class structure in the schoolmaster’s town is mercilessly shown, as is the lack of concern among the population for genuine education or culture. Individuals who cling precariously to bits of social status are shown to be the cruelest to those below them on the social scale. Nearly everyone, it seems, can manage to feel superior to the poor schoolmaster. The title is more ironic than not; neither the style of the work nor the story of Ratti’s existence suggests anything noble or romantic about his life.
The inner motives of De...
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