Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, who is never named. His father worked for the railroad company, but this information is the only distinctive point about the narrator. He is an ordinary Italian who mourns for the past and discusses the changes wrought by the Fascist regime and World War II.

Uncle Agrippa

Uncle Agrippa, Siracusa’s wandering father, an older man who is retired from the railroad company. For years, he has traveled throughout Italy, searching for his daughter. After many years of journeying, however, the object of his travels is no longer finding Siracusa but what he calls “the reunion”: a perfect dimension in which human beings will understand one another without conflict. In addition, Agrippa’s travels underline the subplot of the novel, which can be divided into three themes: the need for knowledge, the role of the individual in society, and the utopian “reunion.”


Ventura, also known as Ugly Mug, a former Fascist officer who lives anonymously in the village. He cannot forget the past, however, even while he is trying to adapt to the present. After Siracusa undergoes her “Teresa” transformation, Ventura is identified merely as “Teresa’s husband.”


Siracusa (see-rah-KEW-zah), Ventura’s lover and Uncle Agrippa’s daughter. She ran away during the war to search for a better world. Siracusa knows about Ventura’s past and has forgiven him. With him, she undergoes a symbolic metamorphosis, acquiring a new identity as Teresa.

Carlo the Bald

Carlo the Bald, a former Fascist who is now working for the Italian government and who represents the new law. Carlo the Bald forces the addressing of the postwar moral dilemma regarding the punishment of former Fascists. His softer side is revealed when he listens sympathetically to Uncle Agrippa’s tale of his search for his missing daughter while the two men are on a train together.

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Vittorini leaves his major characters only partially defined. His main concern is with their psychological states, but these are often related by a narrator who is a vague, unnamed person. This narrator, who knows some things about village life as well as about Uncle Agrippa’s life, is an Everyman character. He seems to represent all of Italian life after World War II. He evaluates how daily living has changed from prewar times to 1945 and 1946. He feels nostalgia for the innocence and beauty of the simple way of life, close to the earth, that his nation lost during the war. He also misses his relatives who have died during the harsh war years; in this way, he resembles Vittorini himself.

Several interesting minor characters make appearances in the village and on the trains. One outstanding minor figure is Barberino, an old woman who is a visionary or seer. She can view scenes in detail at great distances that no one else in the commune can discern; she may represent the best of old Italy looking forward to a new age. Among the villagers she befriends is Siracusa.

Siracusa is a strong woman who manages to live with the often remote and sometimes disturbed Ventura. Ventura keeps his past a secret from his lover, yet he is a powerful and quiet force in bolstering the morale of the villagers. He was an officer during the war on the side of the defeated Fascists, and he still commands respect among men by his bearing.

Two young partisans,...

(The entire section is 604 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cambon, Glauco. “Elio Vittorini: Between Poverty and Wealth,” in Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature. III, no. 1 (1962), pp. 20-24.

Heiney, Donald. Three Italian Novelists: Moravia, Pavese, Vittorini, 1968.

Lewis, R.W.B. “Elio Vittorini,” in Italian Quarterly. IV (Fall, 1960), pp. 55-61.

Pacifici, Sergio. A Guide to Contemporary Italian Literature: From Futurism to Neorealism, 1962.

Schott, Webster. “Elio Vittorini’s Hoping and Nonhoping,” introduction to Women of Messina, 1973.