Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Watcher” is told from the third-person-singular point of view, which facilitates approaching the protagonist objectively while still revealing his thoughts. The clearest impressions in the story are those of Amerigo’s mind. Other impressions are less detailed, or vague. Though the voting officials play dramatic roles in the story, their names are not mentioned, and they are drawn in only the harshest of outlines. The major character of Lia is never seen, and her voice is heard only over the telephone, accompanied by undescribed music. All of this serves to intensify the focus on Amerigo’s thoughts and swings of mood. The world of the story is, in fact, presented only as a perception of Amerigo’s. Even the rain at the outset of the story, rather than being presented objectively, independent of Amerigo, is presented as one of his perceptions: “It looked like rain.” Soon afterward is the image of Amerigo “tilting his umbrella to one side and raising his face to the rain.”

Paradox and symbol in this story are basic to Calvino’s theme, and are obvious rather than subtle. The significant symbols are well explained: Cottolengo represents human society as a whole, and the Cottolengo man who was reared in the hospital is homo faber—representative, that is, of the spark within a man that accounts for his humanity.

The most outstanding stylistic trait of the story is Calvino’s mirroring in his sentence structures the...

(The entire section is 515 words.)