(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The villagers have given Giuseppina the nickname “the She-wolf” “because she never had enough—of anything. The women made the sign of the Cross when they saw her pass,” and even the parish priest lost his soul for her. Maricchia, her daughter, bemoans her own fate: No one would want the daughter of such a woman as his wife, even though her dowry and landholdings are the match of any young woman in the town.

When Nanni, a young man of the village, returns from his compulsory military service, the She-wolf falls desperately in love with him. Much older than he, with the telltale pallor of malaria on her face, she nevertheless presents an imposing and handsome figure that belies her age, with piercing, black eyes and lips that devour men with their intense color. Her passion for Nanni, however, is thwarted. Nanni will have the daughter, not the mother, and so he tells her, directly and laughingly. A few months later, she offers Maricchia to him; the dowry is discussed, and the She-wolf tells him to come at Christmastime to arrange the marriage.

Maricchia is repelled at the sight of Nanni when she first sees him, oily and dirty after his labors, but her mother imperiously forces her to marry him, threatening to kill her if she does not. After some years have passed, Maricchia is occupied with her children, while the She-wolf, almost destroyed by her continuing passion for Nanni, seems to have lost her energy and will. Nanni, now quite...

(The entire section is 529 words.)