Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As one of five fragments that constitute an unfinished continuation of the novel La coscienza di Zeno (1923; Confessions of Zeno, 1930), “This Indolence of Mine” treats many of the same themes: signs of health and disease, the aging process, preoccupation with death, and human motivation. Much of the narrative deliberates over medical theories and health regimes. Such deliberations dominate not only Zeno’s musings but also his conversation. He even interrupts his narrative to check his blood pressure.

The marking of time is a related concern, as its loss is a reminder that one is approaching death. Zeno unsuccessfully tries to “claim” his due from Felicita before the end of his paid-up month. Following her evasions, his futile attempt to find solace in music reinforces his betrayal by time, the art of music depending on temporal relationships. Instead of the joy and harmony that he expects from listening to the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, he senses only violence.

Presumably influenced by Freudian psychology, Italo Svevo delineates his characters by their drives: Zeno’s thoughts and actions are taken up with “hoodwinking” Mother Nature into allowing him to remain alive; Felicita’s every move is calculated to ensure her material well-being. Svevo also humanizes his characters, however, as he reveals the vulnerability showing through the cracks of their singlemindedness. Zeno, convinced that...

(The entire section is 494 words.)