Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Dino Buzzati’s worldview has been likened to that of Franz Kafka. What they both reflect is a universe in which certainty has been lost, the absurd universe of modern humankind. Certainly Buzzati’s world is strange and perhaps incomprehensible, filled with mystery and threat. His general intent is, however, clear enough in “Seven Floors.” This is a kind of satire of organization. Because any organization is both human and universal, and because wherever there are human bureaucracies there is also fate, humans are caught up in both.

This story is a satire, but also something more than satire; it is a kind of allegory on individual lives as members of humanity and as beings in the universe. That is, it is a recognition of the conditions of human existence, of human refusal to accept those conditions, and of the pointlessness of individual refusal.

On an immediate level, Giovanni Corte is a victim of the hospital staff, continually tricked and manipulated in order to get him from one floor to another. This mirrors the outside social world in which people are victims of dishonesty, inefficiency, carelessness, and insensitivity. The hospital staff does not seem inefficient or careless, however, and they may not be entirely dishonest or insensitive. On the surface at least they are providing the treatment that seems best for Corte and they may be hiding the truth about his disease out of compassion. In short, they are simply other human...

(The entire section is 464 words.)