Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The She-wolf is dominated by a single, overriding passion that ultimately destroys her and those closest to her, yet it is a passion that remains true to its own nature throughout, giving her an exalted role in what might otherwise be an undistinguished rustic domestic drama. Nanni stammers out his final curse; he is unable to cry out with the same strength of resolve that characterizes the sure, determined movement of the woman who faces him. Does he kill her? The author does not say, because ultimately it is not important. What is important is that the She-wolf has no power over the forces that have brought her to this point, nor can Nanni resist her. They are both victims of a tragedy that is played out over and over again in every age and in all socioeconomic circumstances. There are crucial differences, however, between the two: The She-wolf is as proud in her strength as she is unswerving in her purpose; Nanni’s weakness is as inevitable and inexorable as is the She-wolf’s obsession.

Adhering to the Verist canon of impersonality, Giovanni Verga insisted that the work of art must rise spontaneously, naturally: It should appear “to have made itself,” the hand of the author never seeming to interfere. It must be a human document, direct, unadorned, plunging directly into “the necessary development of passions and facts leading to the denouement, which is thus rendered less unforeseen, less dramatic, perhaps, but not less fatal.” This...

(The entire section is 564 words.)