Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

That the plot of the novel remains unresolved is in itself thematically significant. A manuscript version of the story discovered posthumously (and evidently intended as a possible film treatment) shows Enea Ratalli to be the thief and murderer. In the published novel, Gadda deliberately suppressed the expected plot resolution in favor of an open-ended, ambiguous conclusion. Despite the obvious affinities with conventional detective fiction, this novel is not a whodunit. Rather than the solving of a mystery, Gadda’s concern is with the convoluted mysteries of life itself. A tidy ending might gratify the reader’s expectations, but it would be false to Gadda’s fictional purposes.

The lives of Gadda’s characters are interlocked in complex, often obscure ways. In Gadda’s view, what is called “destiny” or “fate” is also the product of unseen correspondences, of overlapping fields of psychic force generated by proximity, or intention, or merely blind circumstance. It is the ironic interconnection between ostensibly unrelated lives that forms the real thematic core of the novel: a web of significance not amenable to a simple unraveling, even by the most skilled detective.

Gadda’s convoluted, digressive style not only mirrors the substance of his philosophical vision; it actually constitutes that vision. Self-conscious and elaborate to an extraordinary degree, Gadda’s prose is an amalgamation of various contrasting elements:...

(The entire section is 455 words.)