Style and Technique
The story makes use of the details of setting to dramatize its meanings. For example, in Monte Carbone where Bascomb lives, there are springs that feed the fountains in his garden. He finds the water distasteful, for it is very cold and noisy. The noise is unlike the pure, controlled music of his poetry, but the water’s coldness symbolizes his own. The same image of water occurs near the end of the story when Bascomb encounters the waterfall on his way home from Monte Giordano. The waterfall is as cold and noisy as the fountains, but this time the water represents baptism. The noise is a kind of poetry to which Bascomb adds his voice, and the coldness is his own spirit purified through pain.
Other details of setting work in the same way. The signs of age in the buildings in his environment point to Bascomb’s own advanced age. The crumbling churches, however, with their still intact artwork, rich and earthy, represent a tradition of human contact with nature and the divine to which Bascomb eventually commits himself. In Rome, the public toilet where the male prostitute exhibits himself echoes Bascomb’s own soul at that point, the art gallery represents his mind haunted by obscene images, and the concert hall symbolizes his poetry furtively debased by his lust. Finally, as the thunderstorm dramatizes the turmoil in Bascomb, the sunlight that follows it is an image of his hope, his acceptance by the mysterious forces that govern life, and the generosity he ultimately brings to life.