UN VERUM SICULO-CAMPANO. VERGA E I VINTI DEL MARITO DI ELENA
The placement of Verga’s novel, Il marito di Elena, between his two other works, I Malavoglia and Mastro-don Gesualdo, appears significant, even if the attention given to it was alternate: critical consideration was crushed between the epos of the fishermen of Aci Trezza and the self-made-man image of the subsequent Mastro-don Gesualdo, with different ideological reserves. In Il marito di Elena, the femme fatale Elena cherishes worldly successes, while her husband Cesare Dorello pursues a legal career. Cesare is not just the young ’Ntoni, who in this novel appears educated and progressive: the protagonist leaves the Irpinia village, which is a dimension without history, and he goes towards the sprawling Naples, which was once the capital. If in the Irpinia village the voice of History is muffled, like an incomprehensible enigma to which everyone remains stranger, in Naples History seems to take the form of a looming shadow, affecting the daily actions of defenseless and weak individuals, until the family nest is shattered. In the novel, Il marito di Elena, Verga sanctions the passing from the ancient regime of a paternalistic monarchy to the lineage of the new masters: they are business foxes and industry captains and their power is based on the charm of possessing material goods, such as the ‘roba’ (the belongings) and the woman herself. The conquest is the result of cunning or of fatigue crowned with luck; thus the tragedy matures between the pleasure-loving Elena and the weak Cesare: Il marito di Elena can rightfully be enrolled in the Ciclo dei Vinti.
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