Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 464

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.

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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 beings. They thus may be victims of the system themselves, and perhaps even potential patients.

The hospital workers certainly do not control that system. The head of the hospital, Professor Dati, is said to plan everything that takes place. Nothing, indeed, seems to be left to chance; however, Dati is more than the head of the hospital. He is also a kind of god figure, the creator and ruler. Because Corte never actually sees Dati, one cannot be certain that Dati himself even exists. Perhaps, then, the planner as well as the plan do not exist, either. Perhaps no one has any idea of what the plan is and what it all means; perhaps the hospital staff are only blind functionaries.

One must add that all the people in the story are members of the middle classes; there is no plain statement about the economic organization of this society. There is certainly no mention of money. This is deliberate; to put any emphasis on money would make the story merely a criticism of the political and economic human world and thereby suggest a possible cure. Instead, Corte becomes a kind of Everyman, not just Economic Man.

Corte is all of humanity. His fate is everyone’s, for human existence does not make sense. It is inescapable and death is its inevitable end.

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